Deferring Success

THE concept of “failure” should be removed from the British education system and be replaced with “deferred success”, according to a motion being considered by a teaching union.
Manchester Evening News, July 2005

Most teachers I speak to seem to agree with me on this one. Pupils are no longer ‘allowed’ to fail. They can’t compete in sports competitions at primary school (they all ‘participate’ instead), we have to provide all sorts of support and make allowances for pupils at KS3 and then offer an ubelievable amount of extra-curricular support at KS4.

One of my Y11s asked me when he can drop RE to spend more time completing his coursework for me. And this was back in November! I told him that if he didn’t waste 45 minutes of each 60 minute lesson with me he’d be finished by now, but alas, to no avail.

That same class now has a dedicated mentor waiting on them with regular meetings and other bits of mentoring, a number of them are involved in the ‘Starbucks’ (1) scheme – whereby they get a free trip out for a coffee once a fortnight in return for an hour’s after school work on the off-week, we’ve extended the deadline from Easter (on account of not one of them would pass otherwise) and the latest plan is to get them back after the exams and simply miss the August results day.

I despair, I really do. Because the course doesn’t feature any exams they can’t blame it on an off-day. We either get the work out of them and submit it or… well, that’s just it. There is no ‘or’. Most parents are completely unsupportive, the kids bone idle (and why would they be otherwise? There’s no incentive to work!) and the staff increasingly stressed and harried.

And heaven forbid you actually challenge one of the pupils over their work rate – abuse, storming out, Cold War scale sulking and the inevitable irate phone calls from normally apathetic parents claiming we are bullying their innocent, fragile little darlings!

I just wish that we were in a position to actually allow some of the students to fail. Based on tracking data from KS3, some KS4 students will fail to achieve a C or above – and that’s fine. But this bunch of reprobates with an average predicted grade of a D are all expected to pass, no matter what. Maybe if students were able to see that not doing the work actually means you fail then maybe a few might decide to pull their fingers out…

(1) Disclaimer: Other overpriced, trendy, non-alcoholic drinking establishments are available.

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