Thursday, December 15, 2011

On not being outraged at a head altering children's SAT papers

The road I live in was on the East Midlands regional television news yesterday because the headteacher of the primary school around the corner has left his job after admitting altering Standard Attainment Test (SAT) papers after the children had completed them.

I don't know Mr Grubisic and what he did was wrong, but somehow I find it hard to be too outraged.

Today at work I was talking to someone about a primary school in Leicester that always gets outstanding SATs results. The reason, she says, is that it does little else but drill the children to take the tests. Yes, they all pass, but do they get much in the way of an education in the process?

And the front page of today's Daily Telegraph continued the paper's exposé of the examination system for older children:
Secondary school teachers have alleged that they are under so much pressure to deliver high exam grades that they have been forced to adopt questionable tactics. 
The information given to pupils is so detailed that earlier this year a teenager disclosed a forthcoming question for an A-level law exam on an internet bulletin board after his teacher had a meeting with an examiner.
The whole examination system now seems questionable. As I wrote the other day when the Telegraph started publishing its revelations:
None of this should come as much of a surprise. Examination league tables are now pretty much the only way that schools are judged (by officialdom, though perhaps not by parents). And the setting and marking of those exams have become a multi-million pound business.
And primary school league tables have struck me as an expensive exercise in telling parents what they know already - that some school are better than others.

So, no, I find it hard to be outraged at Mr Grubisec's actions.

You may also enjoy a post on education that Richard Kemp made a couple of days ago. He takes much the same view as me. And this seems a good place to recommend David Boyle's book The Tyranny of Numbers: Why Counting Can't Make Us Happy.

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