Naomi Fisher Profile picture
Apr 3 13 tweets 3 min read
"Student progress is a key priority because exam results often dictate future opportunities for young people". This is from our local secondary school and is used to justified their educational approach. Sounds good? Here's the problem.1/
It is not possible for everyone to do well in exams. GCSEs are graded by taking all the scores and dividing them up. Top scorers get the best grades, bottom scorers get the worst. Not matter how high or low those scores are. It's a ranking system.2/
What getting 'top grades' or 'excellent exam results' really means is 'doing better than everyone else'. It's not surprising that this is a good predictor of later success. It's true that future opportunities are often dependent on doing better than everyone else. 3/
The problem is that by definition everyone cannot 'do better than the others'. 50% of young people are going to get scores below the average, no matter how hard they work. That is what 'average' means. Half will do better than this and half will do worse. 4/
If everyone does exceptionally well, the pass mark will rise and the number who get each grade will stay more or less the same. 5/
Not every exam is like this.The Driving test, for example, is one which everyone can pass if they drive well enough.Failure means you have to improve & take it again. No one is going to take your first attempt and let it dictate your future(luckily for me, I failed 3 times). 6/
Young people mostly don't know this.Their parents often don't know this. It's rarely acknowledged that our exam system means it is impossible for everyone to 'do well'. We award opportunities to those who are seen as 'the best' & pretend that this could be the case for all.7/
When I was at school we sat an exam which was too hard for us. We all did badly. I got 47%. I got an A. Because whilst I did badly, mostly people did worse, and that was what counted. 8/
This competition at the heart of the system is hidden. This prevents us from asking difficult questions, like, if half of YP are always going to be 'below average', what can we offer them so they don't lose hope? Or, how can we stop these exam results dictating opportunities? 9/
Instead we locate the problem in YP and tell them they must work harder and make more progress and we don't tell them there is simply no way for everyone to be 'the best'. Even if one school raises results for all, that just means that in another school more YP have failed. 10/
What's the problem, you might say? Isn't this just high expectations and isn't that good thing? The problems is that these are expectations based on competition. Everyone cannot win, and we need to work so that the winning isn't the only worthwhile outcome of an education. 11/
We need to acknowledge this in our education system right from the start. We need to think about how education would look if we refused to accept that competitive exam results at 16 should dictate our YP future. We need to fight for better opportunities for all. 12/
Of course good exam results AKA 'winning' is related to all sorts of positive outcomes. The problem is that education shouldn't be a race because it's too important. We provide opportunities for all, rather than telling YP than winning the race is everything. 13/

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More from @naomicfisher

Mar 28
When children are refusing to go to school, adults will often respond by telling them how vital attending school is, and how, without school, they will amount to nothing. Here's why this isn't a useful approach. 1/
I work with children who are not going to school for many reasons. They are usually very unhappy. One of the things which make it most difficult for them to recover is what they have been told about school and what happens to those who don't go. 2/
Children tell me they believe that those who don't go to school will end up homeless, living under bridges. They tell me that the only hope of a good job (and a satisfying life) is 9 GCSEs at 16 and 3 A-levels at 18. They tell me there's no way to learn without school. 3/
Read 10 tweets
Mar 23
When a rigid school system meets highly variable children, problems arise. Our current system locates these in the children, with possible lifelong consequences. Here's how it happens. 1/
Today a psychologist told me she'd been asked to go into a class to observe a child who was 'behind'. In that classroom, the children were learning about subordinate clauses and struggling with fountain pens. They are aged 7 and 8. 2/
The child who is 'behind' has already experienced failure several times. Phonics screening test in Year 1, taken again in Y2 because that's what you do if you fail. Extra phonics lessons, even though it hadn't worked the first time. 3/
Read 13 tweets
Mar 21
There's a contradiction at the heart of how we educate our children. We take away their autonomy when we tell them that learning means doing what we tell them. We take away their purpose when we teach them skills out of context 'which will be important later on'. 1/
We take away their joy in their abilities when we rank them against others, and tell them that how well they perform matters more than whether they enjoy it. 2/
We use the things they love to manipulate them, telling them that they must prioritise the things we value, in order to be allowed to spend time doing the things they value. We tell them they are wrong to value the things that they do, as we consider those things worthless. 3/
Read 14 tweets
Mar 10
'We were told we had to force her to go, or she'd get more anxious and we'd cause long term school refusal'. Parents often tell me that professionals tell them that unless they force their child into school, their anxiety will get worse. Here's why this is not a good idea.1/
At first glance this is based on a basic psychological principle.When we avoid things, we often get more anxious about them.I've worked with people who have avoided going outside, spiders & even baked beans. In every case, they became more anxious about the thing they avoided.2/
Treatment is based on graded exposure - essentially, you get a chance to discover that the feared thing isn't as bad as you thought, very gradually over time.If you stay with a baked bean for a while, even if you are scared at first, it will soon become less scary. 3/
Read 10 tweets
Feb 26
I work with children who are unhappy at school. One family told me what a therapist told them to do with their school-refusing 5-year-old. 'Put on his uniform', he said, 'and don't let him do things he likes until 3pm. Don't interact'. Here's why that is a misguided idea. 1/
The idea behind this is that home will become so boring that they will choose to go to school, no matter how bad it is. It is essentially about making home worse, so that school seems better. 2/
Let's imagine the child. Unhappy at school for poorly understood reasons. Maybe they are scared of a teacher.Maybe bullied.Maybe they have a million and one better things to do than phonics.Maybe the lights, smells & noise all makes them feel prickly and uncomfortable. 3/
Read 15 tweets
Feb 12
Families often tell me that when their child protests loudly about going to school, teachers tell them that if they take them home, this will 'reinforce bad behaviour' and make it likely that they will 'throw more tantrums to get their way'. Here's why that advice is wrong. 1/
Let's imagine that child. They will have started saying 'No' much earlier, quite possibly the night before. Then it will have been quiet. 'I don't want to go to school tomorrow' they might say. Their parents persuade them it will be okay & it's time for bed. 2/
The next morning they say it again, a bit louder. 'I'm not going' they might say, and their parents coax them into giving it a go, and anyway their sister is going so they have to come in the car, so they need to put their uniform on. 3/
Read 17 tweets

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