Add your name. Condemn Gove’s plans to rank children in national league tables

Please comment below to add your name in support of this letter to the national press.

Initial signatories:

Malory Blackman, Children’s Laureate
Michael Rosen Children’s Author
Alan Gibbons  Children’s Author
Andy Seed Children’s Author
John Coe NAPE National Association Primary Education
Dr Terry Wrigley Leeds Met University
Clare Kelly Lecturer Goldsmiths University

Kenny Frederick, Executive member,  NAHT

Christine Blower Gen Sec NUT
Kevin Courtney Dep Gen Sec NUT
Max Hyde National Vice President NUT

Sara Tomlinson Lambeth NUT
Jess Edwards Coordinator Primary Charter
Dr John Yandell Institute of Education
Alex Kenny Inner London Exec, NUT

We are writing to express our concern over the announcement on Weds of an increase in primary school floor targets, an increase in the amount of testing for primary school pupils and the intention to place all pupils in a league table ranked on ability. Rather than a philosophy of every child matters, this is a world where only the person at the top counts. Any child struggling to pass tests due to a special educational need is automatically labelled a failure.
Last month we held a conference to launch the Primary Charter. This was a conference which brought together teachers, parents, governors and teacher educators. We have produced a ‘manifesto’ for primary schools, outlining how we think pupils learn best. This includes trusting the professional judgement of teachers, allowing children to learn at their own pace and through play, while taking account of their own experiences. It involves giving pupils an opportunity to develop a love of learning and nurturing their ability to interact with others. We have already seen the damage done to children in this country through over-testing. Research has shown that our
children are unhappy and more worried about tests than in any other developed country. Crucially this does not lead to
improved educational outcomes. There is no evidence to show that testing and ranking children improves their learning,
but plenty that demonstrates the effect being labelled a failure has on their self-esteem and confidence. We prefer to look to the model of education we see in Finland where no inspections, no punitive lesson observations
and minimal testing leads to consistently high standards, huge levels of teacher satisfaction, minimal social selection and an education sector that is lauded throughout the world.
Instead we see an announcement today that the attainment thresholds schools must reach is to be increased from 60% to 85%. The government want to test children earlier and force a more formal education, learning by rote and parroting facts driven right down into the early years. We suspect this is part of a move to hand publically owned education over to the private sector though an increase in the number of schools forced to become academies. The signatories of the charter reject this model of education and appeal to parents, teachers and support staff to engage in a dialogue with schools to reject Gove’s vision. The primary charter can be found on primarycharter.wordpress.com

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360 thoughts on “Add your name. Condemn Gove’s plans to rank children in national league tables

  1. I reject Gove’s vision of education both at primary and secondary level. I also condemn his selling of school playing fields to the highest bidder, when our children’s needs should be paramount.

  2. As a parent, grandparent and former teacher, I fully support Lambeth Teachers’ Primary Charter. Mr Gove’s proposed policies have the potential to be deeply damaging to the children of this country whilst he pursues his relentless neo-liberal ambitions. His agenda is clear – our children and their intellectual development are to be commodities in his profit-driven ‘education’ market.

    • Well said, Chrissie. I agree whe-heartedly. It’s got to bd the worst idea that any Sec of State for Education has ever had. So damaging to our children.

  3. A individual league table ranking is a completely artificial measure which only a politician (with a uniquely self-centred view of the world) would impose upon children. For everyone else, individual performance matters less – less than the team, the company, the client or whoever. No employer would dream of appraising their staff in this way – so why would we want to subject our children to it? The world will not pay them to sit tests and boost their rankings!

  4. I can only see demoralised disaffected children coming from this. Education should be a fun learning experience generating motivated learners.

  5. One cannot but be impressed by Gove’s intention to make 90% of the population feel like failures. As a retired teacher of children with specific learning difficulties I am sure that it will undermine the confidence of these pupils. My husband was a primary head for 40 years in many schools and is horrified by yet more destructive intervention into primary education. Sally Runham (retired teacher)

  6. The current obsession with testing young children within an inch of their lives is completely out of control. The British Education system, lauded worldwide when I did my teacher training in Sydney, Australia, *coughs* years ago, is being dismantled by the current, ill-informed, poorly thought out initiatives of the current government.

    Teachers and schools need to be allowed the space, the time and the support to get on with what they do best; to engage children of all abilities and all backgrounds, to do the very best they can and to believe in their abilities and their worth as individuals.

    Labelling children at such a tender age, or any age for that matter, is counter-productive – at both ends of the spectrum and for all those that fall in between!

    And do not get me started on testing children on synthetic phonics!

    It’s as though the current government wants to beat any original thought and aspiration out of great swathes of the youth: youth who are our future. How depressing.

  7. What is the point? Are we going to improve learning for all children by putting them in a league table? Look what’s happened to football with the premier league! Our children are more important than this!

  8. This is an absolutely appalling idea from from an absolutely appalling man. Our children and our country deserve a better future than this set of policies and attitudes can ever deliver. Wrong. Wrong,. Wrong.

  9. This is so desperately depressing. Which Government minister would like to be told they’re in the bottom 30% of the population and hence feel motivated to improve? I don’t think so, Mr Gove. Happy to sign and then consider leaving the teaching profession before I die of further depression.

  10. I agree wholeheartedly with the letter – and, having searched for a forum online where I can express my views, I am pleased to see this level of co-ordination. We cannot stand by and allow such a narrow-minded focus on academic achievement to distort children’s experiences of school.

  11. The old adage of being unable to fatten a pig through weighing it comes to mind; constant testing will not raise standards. We will live to rue the day if the children in this country are denied the respect they deserve.

  12. Please add my name. Concerned teacher, lecturer, student and mother to 10 year old, 14 year old, 16 year old. Sad times.

  13. For a child, another step to becoming a commodity.
    For a parent, another move to bring accountability and choice when in reality there is none (there aren’t enough primary places to go around – the government has spent all the money on free schools where they aren’t needed).
    For a teacher, another argument to drop art, music, PE – let’s teach literacy and maths until I know you’re going to do ok (and my pay won’t be affected).
    For Michael Gove, another way to force primaries to become academies in his misguided belief this will improve education (or will it just serve his own misguided ideologies?).
    AWFUL

  14. I always find it so strange that people like Mr Gove deny that teacher/child ratios have anything to do with attainment. Yet all private schools have much smaller class numbers than do state schools.

  15. Please please don’t do this….I don’t care where my children are ranked..I just care that they enjoy school and make the most of their childhood and creativity….

  16. This saddens me to think that children at the age of five years and up will be tested, children should be able to enjoy education, not feel pressured into passing exams. I am so against this proposal.

  17. I thought it was now recognised that the 11+ was a bad idea. It is obvious that we cannot all be above average. Ranking will make the majority feel they have not done well enough. I am most happy when a pupil I teach says they love maths or enjoy the lessons, this is success. I teach in a special school with children who have already been told they are ranked low and have two children of my own who know they are ranked high. I don’t think either is helpful to their learning, confidence or enjoyment of education.

  18. I failed the corrupt 11+ and went on to gain a joint honours degree (2.i) in Chemistry and Metallurgy before training as a teacher and making this my vocation. These planned tests on young people have nothing to do with education and everything to do with wrecking our school system and our children’s confidence and futures. Out with testing along with Gove and his biased ‘advisors’. Let’s fight for a decent, state owned, democratic, comprehensive model of education. Not on offer with the current government.

  19. Good work Mom in teaching your daughter to ignore
    rules and disrespect authority. Rules are put in place for
    reasons. Even if the rules change yearly, it is still
    a rule. I’m assuming the rules change frequently because the fashion changes frequently. I’ve a 17
    year old daughter and I’ll not allow her to break the rules no matter if I agree with them or not. Feel me, we have our share of clothing fights from the morning before college. Call me old fashioned, but I have been and will continue to raise my children to adhere to rules and authority. And, if my daughter was introducing her father on stage, she definitely would not be wearing such a sloppy outfit.

    • As well as being cruel, archaic and a barrier to genuine personal development, this approach to education doesn’t create the skills & behaviours that our organisations, communities & economy desparately need now and in the future….innovation, continuous improvement (self-driven), a passion for knowledge & understanding, System Thinking, synthesis, collaboration, peer support, teamwork, communication, inward communication, relationship building, self-determination, understanding diversity, behavioural flexibility, the ability to think and separate “map from territory”, etc. In many ways the education system creates the opposite tendencies.

      I work in the corporate world. Everyday, I see (and have to try to overcome) damaging behaviours which are the direct consequence of our current education system (e.g. competitiveness between managers, ego, greed, ‘perfuming the pig’, defensiveness, silo-working, lack of a desire to change & learn, command / control, trying to improve without improving capability, reductionist approaches to performance, classifying people & their behaviours, etc, etc). Making this worse has serious consequences.

  20. …and one more point…

    My 7 year old is already being exposed to constant testing, ranking (in actual league tables!), the need to memorise facts (rather than think) and competition against his peers (rather than collaboration & peer support). The teachers that I have met seem to be proud of this approach. I wonder if they are a product of the same system? This type of self-reinforcing causal loop is a significant risk.

    Increasingly we (like many parents) are left with the task of ‘undoing’ certain elements of my son’s learning, stimulating him to think and dealing with the damaging ‘self-fulfilling prophecy’ effect of terms like “fail”, “under-performance” and “high achieving”.

  21. I worry that we will return to the days where children did not want to go to school and certainly did not enjoy anything about school…my children absoluteley love school theyage are both normal eachievers and would hate future generations will not find schools an enjoyable and fun place to be.

  22. Writing to Gove got me a patronising e mail reply from his office trying to explain their awful policies away as though I was an idiot who didn’t understand. Striking next week probably won’t work and only serve to play into Gove’s hands to demonize teachers further although I feel so strongly I will lose pay fro this cause. I will put my name to any petition to get this man to see sense. Our education system is archaic and only becoming more so.

  23. Just stop meddling with Education and leave teachers to do the job THEY (not you) are QUALIFIED to do! The teachers really do know what is best for the children they teach. All you politicians are interested in are figures, tick boxes and this weeks “headline”.

  24. Pingback: A Primary Charter for the West Midlands | Campaign For State Education

  25. Let’s have a Secondary charter too please. decisions on qualifications should only be made in the best interests of the student – never to boost a school’s place in league tables. Gove should show respect for teachers as we do for students.

  26. Words fail me. I pity the children in institutional education in this country as things stand – and the situation just gets worse.

  27. In what possible way could a child benefit from being ranked nationally? It can only be harmful to children and the education system, and has been dreamt up by someone with no understanding of education whatsoever.

  28. Just cannot believe that such a deeply ignorant man can be allowed to have such an important position. He and his disgusting policies must go – absolutely hateful idea!

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