With a new behaviour report launched on Friday, the focus of the education media is on recommendations for change. All 76 pages of the report deserve attention as it is very well-written and gives a good account of the evidence-base.
When reflecting on trends in behaviour it is important to consider the wider context of education. Current moves to a cheaper system of education are in danger of separating children at a young age and damning a significant proportion of each cohort to an early life of failing and being punished.
With a narrowing curriculum, driven by budget cuts and high stakes SATs/exams, increasing numbers of pupils are learning from a very young age that they are not good enough. Children are learning year after year that they do not match up to the expected standard in the only subjects that matter. Opportunities to discover that they have abilities in other subject areas are disappearing as the value given to the arts and humanities begins to fade not just in schools but in wider society.
In order to compete with Singapore, exams in the core subjects have been made significantly harder. KS1 SATs look very similar to previous KS2 papers and it is difficult to see the difference between Y6 expectations and GCSEs.
Children are finding out that the compliant who are good at memorising are deemed “intelligent” whilst everyone else sits in a category of “not good enough”. To an extent, this has always been the case but previously was mitigated by the breadth of the curriculum and the expertise of experienced teachers.
The moral purpose underpinning education used to include the development of a child’s talents. With academies no longer having to teach a broad curriculum and some MATs introducing apprentice teachers, the moral purpose of education has shifted through a need for a cheap model of delivery that drills and crams for exams in a narrow range of subjects whilst generating financial resource for third parties and CEO pay.
Children who struggle to memorise and those whose behaviour is not compliant are learning to fail and to be punished at a very young age. The cost to our future society of a significantly increased underclass is enormous (crime, lower tax revenues etc) and dwarves any benefits of a small proportion of pupils competing in a global labour market. The cost to the individual child whose talents are wasted is far greater. The education system is being created to repeatedly tell some infant children that they have failed and/or are naughty. People are good at living up to labels. That’s why, in St Matthew’s gospel, the sheep and goats are separated at the end of time not in Year 1.