This year, I was accountable for our results. It does change things.
It was, as I am sure, many experienced Head teachers will attest, an anxious and exciting time. It was also necessary to find a balance. Balance between my role as Head teacher and that of husband and father (it just so happened to be our 10th wedding anniversary on the 11th and it is always my son’s birthday on the 23rd). With some success, our staff prepared the data and I stayed off-sight, forcing myself not to make contact until after lunch. Together, we reviewed the data and established the headlines to ensure a consistant understanding and message.
I recognise that the additional weight of responsibility, or accountability, distracted me. As did my 9 Year old son. Not in a solivagantry way, just distracted.
I recognise the frustrations of confused parents (grading) and dismayed businesses. I do not think Education has presented itself well.
Post results, I was frustrated by the 4/5 debacle and missed the information and detail of 4Matrix in interrogating our data (paricularly looking at subject and student residuals. I was left speculating, seeking out the national picture as a reference point. Comparisons unwise, for a host of reasons (specification changes, removal of coursework, very different cohorts, no IGCSE, lower PA, separated English language and English literature GCSEs*, a significant swing in entry profiles in Maths 23% moving to the foundation paper, introduction of P8 and the frailties of shadow data) – and I am unsure how this aligns with Gibbs “years of decline and stagnation in the education system.”
Significant investment, minimal gain
I am left unconvinced there has been a benefit to such hasty reform, with students, parents and businesses all left deciphering a mixed grading systems (this and next year) and teachers overwhelmed by the sheer weight of simultaneous curriculum reform (especially if your deliver both GCE and GCSE) and exam boards faltering (exam papers errors / insufficient exam markers). Fewer lookup tables a tangible, yet minimal gain.
I suspect for many, closing the report 18 point gap in “standard” and “strong” passes is become the new target. Again, I foresee the borderline game re-emerging and I remind myself of Goodhart’s Law.
When a measure becomes a target, it ceases to be a good measure – Goodhart’s Law
As an aside, and I speculate here, we may be seeing the remnants of the former D/C focus in the GCSE English Language grade distribution, with a grade 4 mapped against a grade C, and the over-representation of grade 3.
For now, I need to step away from the data. I have my key evidenced assertions and I have my lines of enquiry. I need to seek out our internal subject residuals. Together with the examiner reports, our next step is to use this autopsy to improve our school.
Not forgetting… Educating is back. Educating Greater Manchester – Thursday 31st August at 9pm.