Primary pupils in England could be ranked nationally at 11

OK seen as a couple of interesting articles have popped up in the news today, I thought I’d do a double post.

Primary school pupils in England could be ranked directly against their peers across the country, under government plans to change performance measures.

Pupils aged 11 would be ranked in 10% ability bands and parents told where their children are placed.

Deputy Prime Minister Nick Clegg said: “For children to achieve their potential, we need to raise the bar.”

But head teachers’ leaders described the plans, which could come in 2016, as “disappointing and destructive”.

Labour’s shadow schools minister Kevin Brennan said the plans were “confused and muddled”.

This follows on from the idea that Michael Gove and the DfE have proposed about trying to get children ‘secondary ready’. But I have a few issues here, as ever.

As it stands, children are still taking SATs as those haven’t been scrapped, although the leveling part as a measure of progress has been. Using SATs as a measure, if your child is hitting a level 6 they are in the top 1% and any level 5 puts them in the top 25%. Do parents want to know what bracket their children are in? I don’t see why they would want to know, particularly as if I was a parent, I would only be interested in my child and their development.

This ranking of pupils in 10% ability bans has a real effect on those who are disadvantaged, lower ability and children with SEN, who are less likely to achieve the same grades. If they are found to be in the lower bands, that could completely smash their confidence to pieces, making them even less prepared for the mental and physical demands of secondary school. This idea is echoed by Brian Lightman, head of the ASCL, who says: “I worry what will happen to those children who have tried hard yet are told that they are in one of the bottom bands. Children at that age mature differently and their confidence can be easily damaged.”

This idea of competing against others also provides another question: What are we trying to promote to our children? Should we be advocating them competing against each other, or competing against their potential? The answer for me personally is the latter. Everyone matures at a different stage in life, so putting the children against each other on a national scale makes no sense to me.

The last concern I have is that this process of making children ‘secondary ready’ more or less reduces schools to a spreadsheet. NUT leader Christine Blower rejected the idea that primary schools should be measured in terms of the idea of pupils being “secondary ready”, insisting the term would be “seen as offensive and insulting to so many hard-working teachers in the primary phase”.

“Education, from the earliest years, is not a conveyor belt to the end of secondary school,” she said.

What do you think about the new proposals? Are they sending the right messages or are we barking up the wrong tree?

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