Back when I was at 6th form college I remember asking my teachers what my target grades were for my A-levels. I was in the middle of applying to university and as each course had varying requirements it would have been useful to know what my actual target grades were to make sure I was applying to places I had a reasonable chance of being accepted at.
My schools policy was not to allow students access to them. Obviously the stroppy 17 year old that I was then moaned and whinged, but they stood firm and to this day I don’t know what my school thought I should have got.
Oh, how times have changed!
I’m all for setting targets. I think its a great idea that pupils know roughly what they should be aiming for but for me the child comes before the target and I fear that education is losing sight of that.
Last night I sat at my faculty meeting and over an hour was spent discussing target setting. As a school policy we are now setting students “aspirational” targets. I won’t bore you with the finer details (to be honest I’m not too sure I understand them myself) but these are targets that the top 20% of schools in the country achieve with SOME of their students. Not all, some!
Again, I’m all for setting high expectations for students. I think it’s hugely important but what we are doing is giving students targets that we don’t actually expect the majority to achieve. Targets that these students will be given in Year 7 and spend the next 5 years trying to live up to.
This is where I start to have serious concerns. Three times a year I fill in interim reports on my classes and have to say whether they are on, border or below target. We are being told to get used to putting a lot of students as border or below! So for 5 years some of my lovely children will go through school being told they’re below where they should be. Not quite good enough!
Yes, we can explain these are very high targets. Yes, we can explain that we don’t necessarily expect them to achieve this, but they are kids. And the message we are sending out to them is that they need to do better. Some pupils they will take this to heart and will worry and get stressed, and this is not the education I want for my son or the kids I teach.
Children are more than just a target, and education is more than just exam results and it saddens me that those in charge seem to have forgotten that. When one student in sixth form was going through a particularly rough time at home, the response of one of our senior leadership team was, “Well, she won’t get her target grade now!”
I will always want the very best for my students, but I won’t put a target before their happiness and well-being!