Tuesday 1 December 2009

Top of the class

I don't much care for school league tables in the same way I don't much care for hospital league tables, or any other league tables that the government has cobbled together in the last dozen years. Actually I don't like league tables full stop - given that my favourite football team is wallowing somewhere near the bottom of what I always used to know as Division Two. For me the Government's approach has led to box ticking, with a single-minded focus on achieving a good result irrespective of whether it achieves real quality or actually benefits the person going through the system, whether it's as a pupil or a patient. I've been told on more than one occasion by SOMEONE WHO KNOWS that actually the success or failure of a school is more to do with the number of parents who have middle-class attitudes to education and insist their children buckle down to the daily homework. Who knows, perhaps it's an urban myth....

I know at the boy's current school, they are limited in the number of GCSEs they can take because fewer A* grades is better than more subjects at a lower level of achievement...I'm not sure whether that is a good or a bad thing, but I know it meant the boy had to drop one subject he wanted to take further. In this case though, the restriction is nothing to do with government league tables, and more to do with the criteria that universities set for entry. Who knows, perhaps its just Oxford or Cambridge....

I happened to notice on the Beeb today I could check the primary school leagues...so I did, which is odd given that I have 15 hours work to do in less than eight, and I have no intention whatsoever of ever producing another mini-NB. And I can't help but admit that I was please to see that my primary school was in the Top 5 for Essex. I know you're not supposed to look at it like that. But I did. And I was pleased. This was my first primary school...the village one. The one that is now described as a 'community primary'...I don't know why they need to call it that...surely a village is a community?

I don't remember too much about it really...I think I left there for private education at about the age of 8. If I remember rightly, the termly fee was £45, and on one occasion I lost the cheque I was supposed to hand in. I think I was in a lot of trouble for that.

But back to my original school. There are only four things that come to mind. Once I left the classroom with a friend thinking it was play time. After hanging around in the playground for what seemed hours (but was probably two minutes), we decided we must be wrong and returned to the classroom, claiming we had gone to the toilet. I can't remember if we were told off for that.

Secondly I remember getting hit full in the face by a football. It stung beyond measure. I'm sure I didn't cry. Perhaps I did. I never enjoyed playing football after that. Nor rugby. Small things can be life-changing.

Thirdly I remember Mrs Newman. Or in fact Mrs Newman's classroom. Perhaps her name was Newcombe. It was a little while ago. The thing about her classroom was that it was a caravan. They call them Portakabins, but we all know that's a fancy name for a caravan. It was clean, modern and light and bright. Unlike the brick classrooms. What on earth I was taught I have no idea.

Lastly I remember during a noisy classroom session, someone put a drawing pin on my chair for me to sit on. A girl snatched it away at the last minute and saved me. I think I still love her for that. If only I could remember her name, what she looked like and her voice it would be perfect. Perhaps.


  1. It's amazing what we remember and what we forget. I can recall at my first infant school that there were a lot of incontinent little ones and the teacher used to hang their wet knickers on one of those old-fashioned enormous radiators in the classroom. I can't remember what we were taught - just the image of those steaming knickers!

    I agree with you about league tables for schools - I was told by a friend of mine (who by the way is an Ofsted inspector) that "value-added" is more important. ie what level does a child go into the school and what level do they go out, thus telling you what the school did for the child inbewteen.

  2. My three girls all went (one is still there) to the same Grammar School where they take 10 GCSE's and 5 O'Levels so I think I agree that it is better to do less to achieve higher grades in the ones you do take.

  3. Blimey, I went to so many different schools I can't remember much about any of them... I think that's why I became a teacher: unfinished business. Twenty years later, I'm over it. For good. (Bloody league tables...)

  4. I can remember loads about primary school - what every single teacher was called, who sat where in the classroom etc - in fact more than I can remember about the first place I worked! This is slightly worrying....


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