2B or not 2B?

I’ve spent a lot of time over the last couple of days thinking about a very timely and, as usual, beautifully written blog post by @nancygedge: “Testing Times“. From the perspective of a parent, I completely agree with the sentiments behind this. When my child was at primary, I wanted him to have good friends; be happy; enjoy going to school and behave well. I wanted that more than I wanted him to leave as a Level 5 in reading, writing and maths. Now he’s in sixth form, I still want the same (although I’d rather he got A*s than Level 5s). Of course I want him to achieve and work hard, but first and foremost I want him to be happy.

From a teacher’s perspective, though, things are a little different. I teach Y2/3, so end of Y2 levels are looming. I have very challenging targets to meet for my PM, including 100% of children making at least “good” progress. Of course I want all the children in my class to make good progress, but what I do not want to do is set them up to fail later on.

Last year, my first time in Y2, I had a small group of very able pupils who comfortably achieved 3Bs. I had some that were not so comfortably at that level but who, with lots of hard work and a following wind (and tracking grids ever present), achieved Level 3. With the system as it is, that means they were recorded as working at 3B.

Those Y2s are now my Y3s, and in order for them to have made the required amount of progress, they now need to be working at level 4C, and by the end of Y6, if they have continued making the same good to outstanding levels of progress they should be working at L6.

Some of them will, but I know that there are some who won’t. The ones who scraped a level 3 in Y2 by the skin of their teeth: the ones who now, at the end of Y3, are working as hard as they can but are struggling to tip into level 4. Level 4, at the end of Y3.

And now, it’s that time of year again when I’m looking to end of Key Stage assessment: when my pupils are working as hard as they can and when I simply can’t work any harder to help them achieve the levels they deserve. Again, I have a couple of able Y2s looking at 3Bs, but again, I have those less comfortable few who I am pushing hard. Am I setting them up to fail later? Am I doing my colleagues a disservice by setting these children on an achievement trajectory that is so steep it can’t be maintained?

Yes, I want all the pupils in my class to achieve their very best. But, ultimately, I want them to be happy children, not numbers.

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