What keeps me awake at night - Are some children just a lost cause?

6th July 2012 at 01:00

This year, I have had the pleasure of mainly teaching A-level classes and top-set GCSE groups. I escaped the dreaded BTEC groups again.

I try not to advertise this to my colleagues, especially those who have to endure lessons with the lazy and the disruptive, who couldn't care less about their target grades in any subject, least of all BTEC science. If it weren't for the "dim but nice" pupils in the groups, I am sure some of my colleagues would be tempted to lock the doors and windows and turn the gas taps on during their BTEC lessons.

Our headteacher was planning to scrap the BTEC altogether, since it no longer counts towards the English Baccalaureate measure of performance. However, it appears that next year there will be one "flexible" GCSE science group that could switch to BTEC if necessary - another intervention strategy to maximise grade statistics.

I am not sure how this will work in practice, but no doubt it will involve intensive mentoring of the pupils. And as soon as the A*-C percentage forecast falls to critical level, the head will press the panic button and call for the switch to BTEC.

What is keeping me awake at night is that my initials appear next to this exclusive group on the draft timetable. I don't particularly want to teach those who can't be bothered; those who ask if they can blow something up every lesson.

BTEC science covers the key stage 4 programme of study so, conceptually, it is not an easier option. The absence of an external exam and the heavy teacher input required to ensure high-quality pupil portfolios has helped to boost school results in previous years, but I fear the majority of the grades are inflated.

I am totally against doing the work for any child, despite the expectation that all BTEC pupils should pass. We shouldn't be helping pupils to gain a grade that they don't deserve. And, come September, the new BTEC will require pupils to sit an external exam. Will this lead to greater teacher input in the internally assessed units to compensate for any low attainment forecast in the external exam?

I have visions of the head "having words" or, worse still, my P45 landing on my desk.

But, hang on a minute: this is defeatist. I should rise to the challenge. I should take this group of ne'er-do-wells and mould them into motivated, hard-working and highly aspirational young people. Forget the BTEC: these pupils will be wishing they had taken triple science. They will be hungry for knowledge. They will sit the new linear exams and smash their target grades. Surely the only way is up?

The writer is a science teacher from Warwickshire. To tell us what keeps you awake at night, email david.marley@tes.co.uk.

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