66. Measuring the Marigolds…

There’s been shaking a-plenty in the staff-room this week and not just from yours truly.

We’re having our PDIs to set our target APS increase across the year; or, in the case of the EYFS, the percentage of pupils who reach the Expected level in the ELGs according to the new EYFS Profile.

I always think it’s a good idea to hook your readers right from the start with promises of excitement to come. Eat your heart out, Dick Francis.

Generally, I like numbers.  You know where you are with them.  They don’t mess you around.  The temperature either is or isn’t 20 degrees.  If all my class have turned up, I have thirty children.  No nuances.  Zero Shades of Grey.

But it’s the story behind the stats that intrigues.  Take my blog stats, for instance.  You’d be amazed at the precious planning time I can fritter away wondering who read my blog in Singapore, or Israel, or Brazil and what on earth did they make it?  Did they hit on me by mistake when searching for jelly recipes or Kanye West?  And what about the person who sat down on 29th September and read eleven of my back posts?  Why?  Did my mother pay you? I’d recommend the Chef’s Favourites, by the way.

But stats without stories; they are as lethal as bullets.  Which brings me to our Personal Development Interviews. 

But first, let’s try some maths.  Oh go on, humour me: I’m not a well woman.

Some twenty years ago, it was decreed that yer average child should achieve a National Curriculum level 2B at the end of Year 2: that’s at the end of the Infants when all children, apart from the Summer birthdays, are seven.  At the end of the Juniors – that’s Year 6, aged eleven – same average child should be level 4B.  Who can tell me how many later that is in years?  That’s right, Aunt Bess, four years.  Have a team point.

Now each level has what is called a sublevel: going up C, B, A. From 2B to 2A is one sublevel.  Can anyone then tell me how many sublevels there are from 2B to 4B?  Anyone?  Let’s not see the same hands every time.  LegoBoy? No?

Ok, we’ll count it together: 2B to 2A is one sublevel – put up one finger it if helps.  I find raising a finger or two very helpful when dealing with sublevels. 3C is two sublevels.  3B is three sublevels.  3A makes four sublevels.  4C is five sublevels.  So 4B makes… that’s right LittleBruv, six sublevels.  You should be an accountant.

So – just to recap, in case you drifted off there – the average child is supposed to go up six sublevels in the four years between the end of the Infants to the end of the Juniors. 

Now, it hath been further decreed that for the purposes of putting schools into league tables, a sublevel is worth 2 points.  So an average child should, in those four years, make how many points progress?  Six sublevels, two points each?  Aunt Bess again, I’m afraid.  I fear the rest of you are not trying.  Yes, twelve points in four years.  So how many points per year is that?  Twelve divided by four.  Good try, there – very close.  It’s three points a year.  The average child should, on average, go up by three points for every year to still be average at the end of Year 6.

All of which put Mr Headteacher in an impossible position when it came to setting the staff their targets at this week’s Personal Development Interviews.  For he is being urged by our elders and betters to set his staff the target of getting their class to move by an average of five points in the course of a year.  Five points a year over four years makes twenty points, last time I looked.  Ten sub-levels.  So an average child who is a 2B at the end of Year Two would be a 5A at the end of Year Six.  Which is, in fact, the average for a fourteen year old.  The vast majority of children would have to be well above average for the teachers to meet these targets.  How does that work?  Or has the definition of average has changed since I did my Maths A-Level?

Mr Headteacher was obviously embarrassed about this.  He tried hard to find a target that was realistic but wouldn’t leave him open to accusations of low expectations.  Part of what makes him a good headteacher, and a decent human being, is that he actually likes and gets to know the children in his school. 

As such, he knows that Mrs Karma’s class includes two children who have lost their mothers in the last eighteen months; that one of those children then came – with no English – to live with her father in Britain. Where are Mrs Karma’s points for the fact that said child now comes in smiling each morning?

As such, he has often filled vacancies with children who may not be the sharpest tools in the box but who, by joining our small school, would have a happy and safe place in their little lives.  But the powers-that-be are not interest in their stories.  Just load those stats into the gun.  No room for stories.

Mr Headteacher will be answerable if our results are not sufficiently ‘above average’.  And we, at the chalk-face, about to have our pay linked to the rise in our children’s Average Point Scores.  A real incentive for schools to take on needy children and for teachers to tackle the trickier classes.   

 But Mr Gove – our revered Secretary of State for Education – is committed to the idea that all children could be above average if teachers just worked harder.   And if Comrade Napoleon says it, it must be right.


3 responses

  1. David Mitchell managed to get a rather nice side-swipe in on Michael Gove last night on ‘HIGNFY’ which I expect will have cheered all teachers out there!

  2. Oh God! You’re so right! I have been on a course today where a borough big cheese has tried to tell us that the 7 points of an exceeding reception child can be converted into imaginary points of 5 upwards by a year 1 teacher!! In order to show progress! Its such Alice in Wonderland stuff. Depressed face.

  3. […] I have blogged before about the new pressures that schools are under, with impossible targets aiming to get all children to be above average.  And linked to pay, forsooth. If this has slipped your mind, check it out here. […]

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