The Plastic Hippo

August 5, 2011

There is no F in progress

Filed under: Education — theplastichippo @ 12:14 pm


Should you ever desire to melt the brain of a educational psychologist, ask them why the word “phonetic” begins with the letter P. Have no truck with talk of Latin, Greek, Norman or Germanic etymology and, for good measure, ask why the word “etee-mollo-jee” contains the letter Y, not once, but twice.

This week, the government has issued some rather selective data that proves beyond all reasonable doubt that an increase in attainment in reading, writing and mathematics secured by children leaving English primary schools has been achieved. By phocusing on the “three Rs”, the massive intellects at the Department for Education have produced a monumental rise of three per cent in the number of children classified as average. A whopping 67 per cent of the little darlings have reached Level Four mediocrity according to the universally discredited Sats pharce. The mathematical experts amongst you will have already calculated that 33 per cent of our future have not met the great expectations of their elders and betters.

It is worth looking carefully at the sample statistics that the department have so kindly decided to share.

84 per cent reached Level 4 in reading, up one per cent.
75 per cent reached Level 4 in writing, up four per cent.
80 per cent reached Level 4 in maths, up one per cent.

Whoop de doo dah day, primary education is improving under Michael Gove and his determination to concentrate on the core “three R” subjects. Unfortunately, as any 11-year-old will tell you, writing begins with W, arithmetic begins with A and statistics begin with a lie. The sample figures have been very cleverly manipulated to “prove” that government “policy” is successful and that schools are failing. More importantly, they allow the press to be outraged at poor standards and bellow “one in three children unable to read and write” and other such nonsense. What has gone unreported is that the percentage of children reaching Level 5, better than expected, has gone down. Perhaps the “three Rs” should be redefined as Writing, Arithmetic and Reading, or WAR, for that is what education has now become.

Sats are a bloody disgrace and are as much use as an Aztec dictionary in Lapland. Testing a child on a particular single day does not give an indication of that child’s ability, learning or any progress that has been made. Imposing an arbitrary standard that every child in the country should reach by Year 6, regardless of circumstance or background is a supposition as breathtaking as an assumption that all politicians are capable or, indeed, honest.

Even Michael Gove has a bad day now and again. It would be churlish to go over old ground about how he got his sums wrong on BSF, his speeches littered with grammatical errors, his failure to grasp the basics of geography and history and his writing prowess in the pay of Rupert Murdoch. Setting aside his unlawful actions in cancelling BSF and his big, new idea of inviting schools to enter a talent contest for the lucky 100 winners to be re-built, this product of the finest public schools and Oxford University would probably fail a Year 6 Sats test. A three per cent increase pulled out of a hat of conflicting statistics could only be viewed as a success by a government that thinks a 0.2 per cent increase in GDP is proof of economic growth. I`m afraid Michael, that your end of term report, along with those of your chums Dave and George, will be marked with an F.

It would be quite unfair to suggest that Michael Gove, Nick Gibb, Sarah Teather, Tim Loughton, Lord Hill of Oareford, John Hayes and the rest of the clowns at the Department were being economical with the truth or are, frankly, a bit thick. It would be more accurate to describe them as incompetent, bare-faced liars.

A child, recently arrived in this country with little or no English, or a child that lives in a home without books or aspiration, or a child that suffers abuse, is expected, in Gove`s warped world, to attain the same standard those lucky enough to be born into privilege. Attainment, though, is not achievement or progress. There are children in our society that will never attain Gove`s ridiculous tick box target, but they will achieve far more than anything he can ever aspire to. Imagine what these children could have “attained” if the Secretary of State had not decided to raise his stupid target by 10 per cent just before exam season.

So, Michael Gove, here is a question for you. Consider the words “Dog bark”. Does that mean a dog and a tree share the same outer coating? And when a dog barks, does it sound like “bough” or “rough” or both? After all, those words sound the same on paper. Is the bark on the bough of a tree rough or just some dogged irritation? If you answer incorrectly, you will be classed as a failure for the rest of your life. Now sit, stay and play dead.

Just one further question. Would a phoneticist or educational psychologist compare the collapse of a school building in a small town in southern Thailand to the department that you run?

The correct answer is a Phu King disaster.

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