March 28, 2011

Form–ula for success? Nah mate

I have something serious to say.

Today marked the start of a big change for me at school, and it is really grating me.

As a year 11 associate form tutor, I have been assigned with 2 forms all year. The 54 students in those forms are the people I know best at school, are people who I have developed really good relationships with, and there have been incidents over the last couple of weeks which suggest a few of them see me as someone they trust to discuss topics they perhaps wouldn't with others. Over the 7 months, I have built an awesome rapport with every form ember, and I really enjoy the first half hour of each day.

Today I was greeted with 21 girls as my new form. 4 of them were from my previous form groups, 17 were completely new to me. These girls have been highlighted as having similar abilities/strengths/weaknesses etc, and like the rest of year 11, have been this week separated from their tutor groups they have been with for nearly 5 years. Apparently the idea is for these groups to develop similar goals, to make intervention easier, to get them out of their comfort zone. Now, I am someone who doesn't really get out of comfort zones as I am relatively laid back, and make a joke of everything. This has been my way all my life. Now I am acutely aware this is not the case for everyone, especially 15/16 year olds. They have arguably their biggest 3 months of their lives ahead of them, and it will be intense. Coursework being completed, lesson content getting more indepth as they cover the last bits of each course. Revision sessions will start, exam practise. This will happen in every lesson of the day. 5 days a week. And needless to say, a good majority will step up the work at home too, revising for their final GCSE exams.

So I am struggling to see the logic in taking away the more informal time of the day, which of course can be used to do intervention and revision, which has happened all year. Indeed I have been observed by the head teacher and deputy head teacher, both grading me outstanding for the intervention work I was doing during the form period. So if Outstanding intervention can happen, then why did it have to change? I know that members of my original form are disappointed to be split up from friends (they have been told being with their friends too much during exam period can lead them to falling out, so being split from your friends is a good thing), and also to change tutors too. Today was spent introducing ourselves and learning names. Surely this is wasting potential intervention time? The group of girls I was with today were lovely, and they are deemed a high ability group of girls. They will no doubt do lots of revision during form period, much like they would have done in their original form groups anyway.

Having come from a background where I would introduce an idea, saying what it is and why I want to research it, make some predictions on current literature, describe a method for testing something out, analysing results from which I draw conclusions, here at school there is a concerning trend of 'ideas' being enforced. There is no feedback stating why we are doing it, what the idea is based upon, any scope for testing it out and analysing if it is actually worth carrying out. If it falls flat on its face, then there are a number of year 11s whose futures are being messed with. I am sure it'll work fine with the high ability groups, as they'll achieve regardless. But low ability groups have been established, and the kids will know what is thought of them and I can only see it as a demotivating thing. 'Oh look, I'm considered stupid'. The underachieving category is amazing, where students have been placed based on the number of subjects in which their predicted grade is below their target grade. So someone who is getting A's and A*s across the board, but perhaps 3 of his A's were predicted A*s, is now in a form with someone who is predicted D's but getting E's. And such a student with A's and A*s is not considered a high achiever either. Perhaps immersing them with other high achievers might stimulate them enough to push for the extra grades.

CVA, results tables, Ofsted. They influence a school's decisions too much.

I hope I will be able to say come June, like a man in orthopaedic shoes. 'I stand corrected'

Have a good week everyone!! Steve :-)


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