A question of confidence

When we talk about the rise and fall of standards, it is worth remembering that high expectations are not imposed by teachers; they are imposed from within by children.

Children self-program. Improved results occur only when students raise their levels of aspiration, self-esteem and self-belief. Too much rhetoric from the UK government is aimed at teachers' role in raising standards, while they struggle to find a cure for the plague of exam pressure and hyper-stress inflicted on students.

In emphasising end-loaded memory testing to satisfy a political agenda, we take our eye off the ball, off the students, and off their innate needs and internal belief systems. The hothouse examination production line is the educational equivalent of factory farming.

Coursework used to make room for a more organic freedom of expression and creativity. All teachers will have experienced that magical moment when a child hands in an astonishingly thorough and creative piece of project research; a portfolio to be proud of. Why? Because they have engaged at a deep level with a topic of their own choosing. Because they self-programmed their own learning, and did so because they had confidence.

Education secretary Michael Gove promotes a one-sided view of our educational landscape. A "left-brain" view, full of local attention to detail but lacking a "right-brain" global perspective on what happens after the exams are over. Life happens next. And how prepared are our children to cope with that?

Paul Monaghan, Former academy vice-principal, now an educational consultant and clinical hypnotherapist, Coventry.

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