Monday, 24 September 2012

Three Cheers For Sir Michael Wilshaw!

Bright pupils are losing out due to the ‘curse’ of mixed-ability classes, the head of Ofsted warned yesterday.
Sir Michael Wilshaw said thousands were failing to reach their full potential due to poor teaching methods. Inspectors will now be critical of schools that do not differentiate between high and low achievers.
… Sir Michael’s intervention is likely to make headteachers rethink their practice of mixed ability classes for fear of being marked down in future inspections.
Because if there’s anything guaranteed to concentrate their minds, it's an OFSTED inspection.
The chief inspector of schools said that of the brightest pupils at primary schools, about one in five did not go on to achieve top grades at GCSE.
‘It’s a combination of low expectations of what these youngsters can achieve, that their progress is not sufficiently tracked, and what I would call and have done ever since I have been a teacher the curse of mixed-ability classes without mixed-ability teaching,’ he said.
And there was even worse news for the ‘equality of outcome for all no matter what the cost’ comprehensive school fans:
Nick Clegg’s flagship billion-pound funding programme for disadvantaged pupils is having ‘no effect’ for many youngsters, teachers say.
The ‘pupil premium’ of £600 per disadvantaged child is for schools to use as they see fit, but was designed to help provide extra support, such as one-to-one tuition and homework clubs, for those who are in care or from low-income families.
Despite this, one in five head-teachers told an Ofsted survey that the extra funding had had no impact ‘at all’ on poor students since it was introduced last April.
And just why was it a failure?
Many teachers said it had simply been sucked into the main school budget and was being used to pay for teaching assistants, uniforms and trips.
Only yourselves to blame, there, then!


Anonymous said...

Well as you might say, at last. Someone has finally plucked up the courage to say, in so many many words

"We've been guilty of blithely accepting the mantra of saying 'mixed ability classes see the less able encouraged and brought on by the more able' without having either the sense or honesty to admit that it is equally likely that in mixed ability classes the more able will be held back by the less able, who may not possess the ability to be or indeed have any interest in being brought on and have a great antipathy towards the more able presence in their ranks."

Theory is fine, if amended and/or if necessary abandoned in the light of experience. 'Theory' which isn't treated in this way is actually dogma.

Anonymous said...

Remember that the increase in Pupil Premium was filleted from the general funding anyway.

Plus the best way to help a child from a poor background to succeed is to put them in a high achieving school, not to treat them differently to other children.

Fidel Cuntstruck said...

I'm beginning to have some respect for this fellow, al he needs to do now is to lay it on the line to those parents who use their "poor backgrounds" as the excuse for their kids being underachievers and there might be some real progress.

David Gillies said...

Thesis: Intelligence is heritable (this is demonstrably true).
IQ (as a proxy for intelligence) is the greatest single predictor of life success (also demonstrably true).
Synthesis: Poor people have thick children.

Yes, it's simplistic - bright kids can be born into disadvantaged backgrounds and the upper middle classes can turn out a complete cabbage. But in aggregate, simply pointing to material differences as the cause of disparate educational outcomes is putting the cart before the horse. It's a fact that about 16% of people have an IQ below 85 (normal distribution, μ = 100, σ = 15). Below 85 you can just about teach someone not to shit on the carpet, but in today's high-knowledge world they're like Huxley's epsilons. To get a decent degree in an academically rigorous subject from a decent university you need an IQ about 125 or higher, which is roughly 5% of the population. This is, of course, anathema to the educational progressives, which is one of the reasons why raising standards is so refractory to all their theorising. Throwing 'resources' (i.e. other people's money) at the problem is an appeal to magic.

banned said...

It's taken 30+ years for them to admit that mixed ability teaching is a recipe for disaster and they expect congratulations?

Anonymous said...

Exactly banned - they have always known, as we have. Cowardice, appeasement, political expediency and personal ambition ensured 3 decades of reduced standards.

JuliaM said...

"Theory is fine, if amended and/or if necessary abandoned in the light of experience. "

Spot on! It isn't working. It hasn't been for a long time. Why not accept it?

"Plus the best way to help a child from a poor background to succeed is to put them in a high achieving school..."

Bring back scholarships!

"This is, of course, anathema to the educational progressives..."

Because they are neither truly educated, nor making progress, I feel we need a new term for them!

ivan said...

Many years ago - before mixed ability classes were thought about - I taught in a school with ability streams from A to H.

One day one of the specialist teachers for the H stream was taken ill and I got the job of looking after one of his classes. Not having anything prepared - 5 minutes notice to take the class - I started talking with them, asking things like what did they want to do when they left school, did any of them want to get into a higher stream, did they work hard in school and so on.

The answer I got to the last question was interesting to say the least - just look at those in the A class, we'll never get like them so why should we try?

In my A stream physics class I had cause to chide them about not working hard - the answer I got was illuminating, why should we work hard, those in the H class don't?

I think the responses of those two classes sums up the problem and in mixed ability classes those attitudes would be more pronounced and not helped by the attitudes of the 'progressive' teachers, especially regarding the brighter pupils.