Some things to say about this:
Simply put, these pupils, teachers and parents were not expecting that the standards the examiners demanded were going to be as they should have been. Added to that is something I’ve seen many times – someone with a marking guide in her [or his] hand tends to go all Hitler on correct answers and as English is a notoriously fluid language, there are often “least worst answers”, “OK answers” and “pretty close”, rather than right or wrong.
By far the biggest problem is that the children have been educated poorly to this point, are virtually illiterate and the teachers are made to be all touchy-feely about it, when they should be hard taskmasters on anyone at GCSE level. Plus the foreign children for whom it is not their first language.
The reason the children are illiterate is half and half. Half the quality of teacher, coupled with the curriculum branch, teacher training institutions and staff themselves, all contributing to a poor educational culture. Then there are the parents. Whilst many are relying on the teachers to guide them and they’ll willingly cooperate, there are so many parents from hell these days that don’t seem to care or who throw their hands up and give up. Junior rules the roost at home.
1. First step is to reintroduce academic excellence, plus physical training. Schools would not automatically induct pupils on academic testing but on attitude and behaviour at infant level and via interview by heads and support staff. Part of the assessment criteria are the attitude of the parents, their own level of English, their willingness to work with the child and so on.
Forget geographical criteria. Those pupils not accepted can try for another school the parents think they stand a chance getting him into and a similar process takes place. Those who fail in that then go to educational centres where there are no more than 12 in a group, taken on by SN teachers employed by the council, with lower expectations. It should be flexible enough, the system, to allow re-interview at a later time for the school of aspiration.
2. Meanwhile, at GCSE level, simply go to the ESOL Cambridge First Certificate exam, crank it down just a fraction and there is the standard you need, complete with programme. With my class in Russia, a bit over 80% at Year 11 level scored a standard grade or higher. I’d expect about 40-60% of English GCSE students would achieve the same at the first attempt. It’s a two year course.
Get teachers to either knuckle down with the text and forget all the soft feelgood and entitlement guff or send them packing and get in people from outside who have shone in other fields to do the job, paying them a good salary. The Teacher’s Guide is excellent for Cambridge exams and practically holds your hand. Slavishly follow it and the results will eventually come.
Schools would need to retain the teacher with the best academic record to stay on as supervisor for the new teaching group, doing in-service training etc.
This would produce results within two years, provided such new teachers could get to the children in Year 9 and work forward – it would at least produce a majority pass in the 2nd year. Gradually, as time goes on, bring these new teachers into the selection process for inductee trainee teachers and don’t tolerate the PCist rubbish from the rump that’s left over.
The obvious criticism is that the children come to secondary near-illiterate. Yes, they do but based on what can be done with foreign students within a two year period, then in an immersion setting, which England is, much of the damage could be repaired – to a point.
Students with good attitude who don’t initially achieve are persevered with, those with poor attitude are released and can try for other schools in the area – the final point being special needs groups. Ruthlessness in this would change a great many attitudes almost immediately.
3. Obviously the level to target, concurrent with the above, is the nursery school. Infant heads used to be the best teachers in the school so I don’t know what’s happened down there in the past decade. Maybe they went all PCist too. Assuming there are still some of these left across England, their task is to assess parent and child who aspire to join that school.
Parents: The best learners have parents who are interested and facilitate learning at home, demanding homework be done and withholding internet access until that work is done. Across the community, parents would need to extract the digit and the choice is free – if they and their child come up to scratch, the child will be accepted. if not, then they’re free to try elsewhere.
Schools will become known fairly quickly by word of mouth.
Teachers: Whilst many are dedicated in a sense – love kids, love the work – most need to buck their ideas up as more academic curricula come back in. Those who can’t move on. No place for the bleating PCist teacher who won’t demand excellence – in the nicest possible way and with individual aptitude taken into account.
Schools, with the new influx of professional people and new support services to retain them, will soon see they might need to change the way they teach. Children, in turn, will always adapt to new paradigms. You can demand excellence and still love the child.
I can’t see how else it can happen.