There's a "culture of low expectation" in secondary schools. Do you agree?

(712 Posts)
HelenMumsnet (MNHQ) Thu 13-Jun-13 13:01:49

Hello. You may have seen/heard on the news today that Ofsted is warning that thousands of bright secondary-school-age children are being "systematically failed" at school.

And we'd like to know what you think about this.

Ofsted says there is a culture of low expectations in England's non-selective secondaries - meaning that, according to a new Ofsted report, more than a quarter (27%) of pupils who achieved the highest results in primary school fail to achieve at least a B grade in both their English and their Maths GCSE.

The most academically able, says Ofsted chief inspector Sir Michael Wilshaw, arrive "bright-eyed and bushy-tailed" from primary school, but things start "to go wrong very early. They tread water. They mark time. They do stuff they've already done in primary school. They find work too easy and they are not being sufficiently challenged."

Do you think this is a fair reflection of life at secondary school? Do you think your child's secondary school has a low expectation of its pupils/your child? Does/did your child "tread water" in Year 7? Do you wish secondary schools did more to challenge their more academically able pupils?

Please do tell!

Hullygully Thu 13-Jun-13 15:35:51

I agree. Proper streaming but with room for kids to move up and down.

So you can always learn at your pace with others doing same. Fast in some subjects, not in others etc.

And don't always give the best teachers to the highest sets.

turkeyboots Thu 13-Jun-13 15:39:54

It feels true round here. All the feeder primaries are good, on just about every measure. But the local secondary is v poor. Has the same level of disadvantaged kids as the primaries, but fails them epically. Less than 30% get a-c including maths and English.

And school stops at 16 so there are no role models of continued education. We'll be moving before secondary applications come round, unless there is a massive unexpected improvement.

anInspectorcalls Thu 13-Jun-13 15:57:05

My local rural comp is exactly as Wilshaw describes. There is a relentless push in the middle. Resources are poured into getting those D grades up to a C. I know this because I am a governor and have watched over the years. I have always made a point of asking what is being done to boost the A*s and the answer is always a washy idea that if standards go up overall then an increase in A*s is a natural consequence.
I tried my best to have some help in stretching DS1 in Maths but to no avail. I asked them to consider FSMQs, Maths challenges but no. He spent 5 years bored to death in Maths and completely unstimulated.
Fortunately things are different at his sixth form, a different school, and he is now racing along with a renewed love of his subject.

I don't agree.

I think in general (which is what that arse Wilshaw is talking about) there's a culture that anything less than stupendous results (all a*s in GCSEs and at least 4 a-levels, an Oxbridge first, etc, etc) is utterly worthless so we should just stop bothering. This won't help anyone.

Also, given that gove is determined to reduce the grades given in secondary exams, I'd say we should expect to see more kids getting Bs and Cs. It seems a bit silly to pretend that exams and exam results are politically neutral.

I'd really question the assumption that those who do best at primary school will necessarily do the best at later stages of education. It doesn't necessarily work that way at all.

Goldmandra Thu 13-Jun-13 16:04:17

Thank you Bonsoir.

I have been told by a secondary teacher that she has been instructed to focus on those who are working just below a C and have the potential to improve. Those who don't are to be allowed to fail and those who are securely in the higher grades are to be left to coast. She seems to think it is a very common approach.

This is horribly familiar to those whose children were coached intensively in English Maths and Science as they approached Y6 SATs and then saw it all dropped once the tests were over.

curlew Thu 13-Jun-13 16:04:49

I don't think I quite understand- is he saying that every child who gets a 5 in year 6 should get A*s in GCSE? Or every child who gets 3 level 5s?. But don't something like 2O% get 3 level 5s ? Surely he doesn't think 20% should get all As and A*s? Or am I being thick........?

Talkinpeace Thu 13-Jun-13 16:10:23

Gove and Wilshaw are both so busy talking anecdotal crap for which there is no empirical evidence ....

Every day I become more convinced that the Belgium "no government for 16 months" is the answer.

anInspectorcalls Thu 13-Jun-13 16:10:31

In the run up to GCSEs there is intense activity, coaching, intervention and minute examination of the the cohort of DCs who could get a C but are just below.
There is nothing for those who tick the box as secure C or above.
This is why the English fiasco had such impact last year.

Ilikethebreeze Thu 13-Jun-13 16:12:25

A comp school that is already outperformong those around it, or those in its county, is afraid or not allowed to do better becuase it is already outshining others.
Plus there is compacency in said school.

As regards marks getting higher. The pass marks and marks needed to get grades are altered nationally year on year as far as I know.

curlew Thu 13-Jun-13 16:13:32

So when the league tables talk about "expected progress" does that mean Cs for the high achieving cohort?

curlew Thu 13-Jun-13 16:15:52

"A comp school that is already outperformong those around it, or those in its county, is afraid or not allowed to do better becuase it is already outshining others."

Evidence? In my experience, schools complete like hell with each other- one round here actually handed out leaflets to prospective parents detailing the results of other schools in the area and boasting about how much better theirs were!

I think he's just doing the general 'oh, our schools are utterly shit, let's demoralise everyone a bit more but ignore the fact that it is government policy for ranking schools that causes most of the problems in the system, probably because the teachers would actually agree with that.

NotDead Thu 13-Jun-13 16:17:17

its the best preparation for real life you could have!

TheOriginalSteamingNit Thu 13-Jun-13 16:19:45

No, I have not found this to be the case.

1310 Thu 13-Jun-13 16:23:32

I do not think this is a new problem. My son is now 33 but when he started school he did very well and loved learning. Unfortunately all those years ago I felt let down by the secondary system and paid a lot of money for extra tuition. He did get brilliant A level results but I think it was the peripetatic teaching and me making a nuisance of myself at the school. I was told not to be pushy and over expectant of my child. I have since heard that mothers of boys have the same gripe. My son is now doing very well in a job he absolutely loves. I certainly do believe there are good and bad teachers and many have such low expectations of their pupils. Why do we as a country put teachers on a pedestal without being realistic of their very varied abilities. It does not do our children any favours.

Ilikethebreeze Thu 13-Jun-13 16:30:01

curlew. To give you evidence I would have to take you into "my" school, and take you in time travel to a parents meeting about 3 or 4 years ago. You could then listen in to the parents evening and afterwards to private discussions with parents,with the Head and other teachers.
But it doesnt take brain of Britain to see how that is replicated around the country.
Each county is different.

PostBellumBugsy Thu 13-Jun-13 16:40:05

I feel like I have stepped into an alternate universe (slightly).

Have the days gone when the cool kids were the disruptive, rebellious ones with no interest in learning?

Do kids no longer refer to the more studious members of class as "nerds"?

If that is true, fantastic! However, I'm not sure that is the case. I think for some reason in the UK, school is still perceived by a fair percentage of kids as a bit of a waste of time. I don't know where this notion springs from or how you get rid of it, but I think that no matter how many great & inspiring teachers you have, how many changes & tweaks you make to the system, until you break down this long ingrained belief that school is "uncool", annoying and to be endured, then yes, a culture of underachievement for some pupils will remain in the UK.

motherinferior Thu 13-Jun-13 16:48:06

O^noooooooooooooo^, Bugsy, you have just opened the door wide to all the people who will now say this happens only in comps as opposed to selective and/or private schools where a culture of learning reigns supreme, leaving our kids to the feral jungle of comprehensives where any admission of literacy will lead to shame/GBH/social ostracism/rebellion, self-denial and self-harm/all of the above.

Hullygully Thu 13-Jun-13 16:49:38

That's the other thing I'd let teachers do: Give kids the choice to come to lessons and behave or piss off and let the others get on with it.

PostBellumBugsy Thu 13-Jun-13 16:50:30

grin not at all MI, I think there are as many kids with the same attitude at private school too! It is an attitude that has oozed through teens for years I think - but I don't really understand why.

Ilikethebreeze Thu 13-Jun-13 17:04:15

I have to say that Year 7 has always been about settling kids in and soret of gathering them together for Year 8, and seeing who knows what from the feeder schools hasnt it. Unless it has changed dramatically in the last few years.

As for school being uncool. It was ever thus I would have thought.
That age wants to rebel. School is about conforming.

The only thing I can think of to improve that is much much much better careers advise.
I didnt realise one of my DDs didnt know till late in the day of quite how good qualifications need to be in get into certain careers. When she found out, she was instantly a bit horrified. And says she would have tried harder a lot sooner- Instead of so much chatting with friends and lookiking out of the window. [As far as I knew, I thought she already had been trying her best, but apparently not].

TheOriginalSteamingNit Thu 13-Jun-13 17:08:55

I think that, understandably, schools see year 7 as in part for settling down.. Not like starting sixth form, or university, where the message is 'RIGHT, now for some hard work the likes of which you have never seen before'

Dd1 did spend a boring term in English reading Holes again. But both had much harder maths than they'd been used to. I think schools are very aware of who is clever and who might bring in the a*s... Not that they are any indicator, since they're so easy to get and so lacking in rigour.

Oh wait, that was Wednesday, wasn't it.

Anyway, I think the schools do know, and they do want the brightest to do well, but don't necessarily see year 7 as the time to get too intense about that.

NotDead Thu 13-Jun-13 17:10:46

Dog Whistle national advert for public schools!!!

wordfactory Thu 13-Jun-13 17:16:54

It's not a case of low expectation.

It's acase of which expectation.

Schools are judged on how many pupils can get 5 GCSEs so obviously they target their resources there. Which is the right thing for the majority of children.

But it does mean the very bright are sometimes not well catered for. It's a numbers game, innit?

LaQueen Thu 13-Jun-13 17:23:41

Message withdrawn at poster's request.

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