(Posted as written on Friday. Not something I’d usually post about but after 3 days it’s still on my mind so I’ve decided to post it anyway!)
Our Year 11s are working exceptionally hard. Granted it took a few of them until this week to realise they had to work exceptionally hard but stood in the exam hall today watching them tackle a 2 hour 15 minute English Literature exam their focus was impressive. And we were proud of them. But it was also a heartbreaking thing to watch.
Sat amongst the ones writing reams on An Inspector Calls and knocking out quotes from poems like there’s no tomorrow were students completely stumped but trying with everything they had to have a go. These weren’t the ‘academically able’ students. They were the students who struggle to write a sentence but can take apart a car engine and put it back together again without hesitation or who struggle to read a paragraph but can take breathtaking photographs. They were the students we have tried to encourage to read for pleasure to improve their literacy but being forced to learn quotes off by heart seems to have switched them off books and poetry for good. They were the students who have been going through school feeling like failures because they never quite seem to be good enough according to the government. They sit in the so called bottom half of their age group in terms of academic ability so they are likely to fail because, according to the normal distribution curve, the bottom 30% (ish – depending on which document you are reading or politician you are listening to) cannot be awarded a ‘pass’ grade of a 4. We’re not building their resilience. We’re not supporting them to achieve. We’re making them sit exams that a statistical analysis dictates they will fail. Something’s got to change – passing exams has to be technically achievable for all otherwise we’re always saying 30% of the population will never be good enough whatever they do.
Our Year 11s are working exceptionally hard and they all deserve recognition for doing their best. So on results day, I’ll be celebrating with the ones who, against all the odds, worked hard to achieve a grade 1, 2 or 3; I’ll just mask my heartbreak that their achievements still won’t be quite good enough according to everyone else.