Today’s Independent newspaper carries an article on an interview with the Education Secretary Michael Gove, which makes for perplexing reading. http://www.independent.co.uk/news/education/education-news/michael-gove-get-set-for-new-age-of-exam-failures-7282725.html .
It is obviously part of the responsibility of government steadily to raise standards and expect more from schools, teachers, heads, and, also, students. That can be done through the inspection framework, as well as by gradually updating examination requirements and making sure they are ever more rigorous. Personally, I have no problem with that. It is what I strive to do in my own professional life all the time.
What seems to me to be missing from the report of the interview is something along the lines of: “… and I have every confidence that the teaching profession will want and be able to rise to new challenges and demands and take pride, with us, in being part of a fast improving education system”. This might make fewer enemies and cause less demoralisation than threats of sackings and accusations of complicity in substandard performance.
Many people, in and outside the teaching profession, will agree with some or most of what the government is doing in education. But nobody, not least students, will be motivated by promises of rising failure rates, unless there is also confidence expressed in the ability of our teachers and students to tackle successfully and with appropriate support new and tougher challenges.
When I started teaching many years ago a wise old teacher told me that the most important thing to remember in dealing with children is that “sugar catches more flies than vinegar”.