Just Plain Wrong
I had wondered if I could/should comment on the first year anniversary of this blog: it’s no big deal in the life of my or any other blog, and I wouldn’t intend to do so annually, but it has been a significant year for me in the amount I have posted, and especially in the earliest ones, focusing on Michael Gove and subsequently Nicky Morgan’s refusal to reconsider a decision to ban the study of American novelists for GCSE English Literature [including, to illustrate, my significant correspondence with responses and finally some acknowledgement of wrongdoing from the DfE]. I have also been proud of the amount of teaching materials regarding creative writing I have shared, though it is always difficult to gauge how much this has been used.
But I wasn’t sure about commenting on this inasmuch as my focus has shifted over time to including postings of my own poetry, advertising my writing [someone has to!], and most recently sharing reviews of prose and poetry from a few years ago. Then yesterday [seen by me today], Nicky Morgan tweeted a video of her desperate attempt to articulate a defense of her government’s and Department’s ‘primary assessment regime’ because this has come under critisicm and attack from teaching professionals. That is all the spur I have needed to celebrate my continued fight against all that is inept but also ‘just plain wrong’ [NM’s mantra] about this government’s educational policies and implementations, but especially anything to do with assessment.
I wrote ‘disdain’ in my title: I try, at times, to retain some level of civility. Watching Morgan’s video today here, I was struck immediately by the ennui of its platitudes. She essentially states that primary school students should learn the ‘basics’ [yes, a term requiring considerable scrutiny, but not here nor now] to prepare for secondary education, and that the attainment of this needs to be measured through assessment. What she fails to see is that no teacher or parent would disagree, so her knee-jerk defense against being criticised most recently by, amongst others, Mary Bousted [ALT general secretary], the NAHT, and the change.org petition signed by Michael Rosen with such knowing and convincing professional argument in support, is risible.
Put simply, the solution to students learning the ‘basics’ is through good teaching by good professionals and these same people carrying out regular formative teacher-assessment in order to support their students’ progress and well-being. Morgan’s horrendous mistake is to parrot – as so many before her – the panacea of national testing regimes to fulfill this, which most professionals dismiss as ‘just plain wrong’ for a variety of experienced reasons.
I have always focused on the English side of such assessment, and I have posted here and here my disdain [I am retaining that level of politeness…] for such. This is the critical problem. Whilst others have quite rightly focused on many factors like the lack of time to prepare for implementation and the detrimental impact on young students, I think as a teaching profession we need to continue to analyse and expose the nonsense of so much that purports to be the teaching and assessment of the ‘basics’, and beyond. That Morgan can persist with her happy endorsement of the ‘primary assessment regime’ where, for example, Key Stage 2 English tests ask students to make multiple choice selections on the use of modal verbs as if this is relevant to learning about, or ‘mastering’ a ‘basic’ skill, in Writing [especially, but not exclusively, at this level] makes me livid with her for her woeful lack of understanding.
Because I have analysed to a degree aspects of those sample Key Stage 2 English tests, I won’t repeat such here, but this is precisely what fuels my immediate anger when I listen to Morgan making her bold but bland claims in her video today. I should add that I feel I have been consistent in my dismay with anyone who deals in these kinds of platitudinous assertions, as I articulated in a recent posting about the disappointment of receiving Shadow Education Secretary Lucy Powell’s observations [or not] on this kind of testing and assessment regime.