'Let's stop blaming teachers for Sats results – they didn't sign up for this'

7th July 2016 at 14:21
vocabulary, grammar, key stage 2, sats, interim framework, kim clark
Classroom teachers don't enjoy ticking boxes. They acted out of fear, this deputy headteacher believes

I couldn’t agree more with most of Michael Tidd's argument, when he writes: "The DfE are not solely responsible for trashing children’s learning this year." But, let’s be clear, this is not the fault of teachers.

It’s no secret, or surprise, that teachers across the country engineered meaningless opportunities to include meaningless vocabulary and grammatical structures into children’s writing this year. Of course they did: that was the only way to tick the boxes. There is not one Year 6 teacher in the country who will reflect on the year gone by and say, "I really enjoyed finding opportunities for the children to get the words ‘yacht’, ‘privilege’ and ‘cemetery’ into their writing this year."

So why did teachers do this? They were scared. That’s why.

Culture of fear

Unfortunately, our education system is based on a culture of fear. Fear of Ofsted. Fear of categories. Fear of labels.

Personally, I hold leaders and unions responsible for this situation we now find ourselves in. We said it couldn’t be done, but, lo and behold, it has been. I was surprised at how much leaders complained about the interim framework – something that could make all their fears realities – to one another, yet how accepting they were of it. The mere mention of forced academisation, however, caused such monumental uproar from leaders and unions that a swift U-turn was made.

What was needed on the interim framework was a huge coming-together of the profession, led with confidence and rigour by the unions. There should have been strikes. There should have been boycotts. The right thing to do would have been to say, "We are not doing this; we are not engineering these meaningless opportunities."

But who’s going to do that on their own? Who wants to take the risk that their school will be the one that falls from grace? No one.

Bold, organised and strong

We needed the unions to be bold, organised and strong. They let us down, and they let the children down, too. Holding a teacher strike on the day that Sats results were published, in the aftermath of Brexit, is not the action I would expect from a bold, well-organised union.

We need to learn from this. Let’s take a leaf out of the junior doctors’ book – let’s come together more when we know things aren’t right. Let’s trust ourselves, and let’s take action. And please, let’s stop blaming the people on the ground: the teachers who never signed up for this.

Kim Clark is deputy headteacher at Fairlawn Primary

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