My sons use a phrase to describe someone giving up a game of cards when they’re angry about progress or they’re losing, they call it a “rage quit”. They also use the rather dubious sounding phrase of “Mountain-goating” and I’ll explain this term later.
My decision to defer our Teaching School bid is not a “rage quit”, although if you’ve read my previous posts you may think I “protest too much…”
The summer’s GCSE fiasco is still unravelling. Revelations from the TES that Ofqual did, despite protestation to the contrary, put pressure on exam boards to raise grade boundaries at the last minute undermined the faith of the profession. The ludicrous position of WJEC English students in Wales having papers re-graded while those just over the border will not is an embarrassing shambles.
Ofqual’s report also shone a bright light into the dubious statistical modelling used to “protect” standards. The idea that student achievement can be pegged back to KS2 “expectations” sent those who work tirelessly for young people into apoplexy.
During this grading debacle, The National College’s deafening, embargoed silence underlined their executive DfE status. There used to be another trusted, objective, professional voice balancing the political posturing.
There are shades of silence. I know that there are respected colleagues in senior positions in The College who will be watching with horror. I want to believe The College’s silence was a form of dissonant sotto voce because “Nothing” was said. Their strategy of investing in the human, social and decisional capital of the profession(with ref. to Fullan and Hargreaves), is correct. I want to believe in this.
But, in short, I couldn’t put Devonport High School for Boys in the invidious position of representing, and being accountable for, a system undergoing such rapid change -especially in a climate where floor targets are rising, grades are being deflated and norm-referencing appears to have replaced criterion referencing. Will colleagues feel as collaborative in a norm-referenced system, when one school’s success will be at the expense of another’s?
The decision to defer our bid wasn’t taken lightly. We have been working towards a successful Teaching School bid for well over a year and many of us have invested considerable time and energy in forming closer links aligned with the Teaching School brief.
And we have made significant progress; the collegiality that we’ve worked so hard to gain remains and the core business of working together more strategically for the benefit of Plymouth students through The Plymouth Learning Trust is more important than ever. We’ll remain partners to other local Alliances but do things our own way too.
Such a rapid volte-face looks like a rage-quit but I came to a decision over the course of a weekend. I knew when I picked up the bid again at the end of the summer that I felt differently about the system we were seeking to lead. If your idealism is dented, you have little to sustain you during the immense expenditure of energy in making things happen.
Today we will hear more about the changes to our exam system and I support strong debate about the move away from GCSEs. I’ll share my views on the proposals when official details emerge. However, a second leak on this issue, through the Daily Mail, did little to broker trust.
Initial system leadership questions have yet to be addressed. Will there be changes to accountability structures? To what extent have system leaders been involved in negotiating the proposed changes?
When my sons are “Mountain-goating” they are playing their cards at the last second to gain an advantage. It’s an expression of bluff and nerve on the edge of a precipitous ridge. It’s high-risk strategy. It’s going to be a busy autumn term for the education system and the Government is “Mountain-Goating” system leaders and the concept of system leadership.