'Teachers are all simply riding the “cohort fruit machine". Get lucky and your career is safe. Get unlucky…'

18th March 2017 at 18:02
Attainment scores
Teachers may as well sit back and relax, the new accountability system has already decided your teaching fate

Ah yes, that old chestnut! “We don’t grade your lesson”. Ofsted may not be grading teachers' lessons, but what the accountability system now does is much worse: it actually grades their entire careers – potentially years and years of work – based on some numbers on a piece of paper.

Welcome to the wacky world of the government’s latest accountability wheeze, Progress 8.

In a nutshell, Pupil X “achieved” a level 4 at key stage 2; every child should make at least three levels of progress to GCSE, so pupil X should get at least a C grade at a minimum. Pupil X didn’t work hard – doesn’t matter. Pupil X had a below par attendance record – doesn’t matter. Pupil X was taken out to sit on some whoopie cushions and drink hot chocolate – doesn’t matter. Pupil X had a really tough home life, his parents went through a tumultuous divorce, which at one point led to his homelessness – doesn’t matter. You can show them what you want, sing a song, showcase some third-world charity drive by your saintly students or point to Mr Fenwick, who has done two extra duties and acts as a cover supervisor, despite being deputy headteacher, to stave off school bankruptcy – it doesn’t matter.

Gang culture doesn’t matter, because Sir Michael did it “in an inner city”. Rural apathy doesn’t matter, because Sir Michael would have been able to do it in sunny Margate.

None of it matters. The highly changeable assessment picture at KS2 and the fact that, up to 2012, the majority of assessment was internally verified doesn’t matter. The strengthening, and then unstrengthening, and then strengthening of GCSE exams doesn’t matter. The fact half your teachers quit and had to be replaced halfway through a year doesn’t matter.

Multiply Pupil X by 50 and you get a “coasting” school. Multiply Pupil X by 100, you get a “failing” school.

The fact that Ofsted itself has recently admitted huge flaws in Progress 8? Well, it doesn’t matter.

Reasons are excuses – haven’t you heard?

But, breathe a sigh of relief, Ofsted doesn’t grade any lessons when they come. More than likely, their inspectors will have already decided whether you are any good or not before they even walk into your room. And just in case you disagree with me and think it matters. Please note – as of November 2016, there were only eight secondary schools out of 588 inspected that achieved a “good” rating where outcomes were “requires improvement”. Outcomes equals data, and data is what matters to inspectors.

Ultimately it doesn’t matter how you teach – like a champion, or like you’re on an electric bike – as long as you – sorry, they – get the results. In the end, if you’ve got the right kids, it doesn’t matter. (Footnote – attitude matters as much as ability when I use the term “right” kids. Another footnote – the word “right” is not suggesting that one group of children is more righteous than another.)

This is what I like to call the lucky dip. The cohort fruit machine. Smile! You may as well: your fate has already been sealed.

Thomas Rogers is a teacher who runs rogershistory.com and tweets @RogersHistory

For more columns by Tom, view his back catalogue

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