Moments to be hated

The test of endurance becomes worse.

Third Year students have sat a two hour mathematics paper for their mock Junior Certificate exam. They then had a twenty minute break before returning to the examination room for ‘study time’.

Study time is meant to be undertaken with a silence as profound as that which pervaded during the exam.

Third Year students in Ireland are the age of Year 10 students in England. Many of them are not academic. Many find the idea of sitting reading school books a very difficult prospect.

Being responsible for supervising a room of thirty-six students for the second hour of the study time, a handful of restive students are not difficult to spot.

The preparation is for the history paper this afternoon. The examination is a common level paper. The writers of the textbooks have been aware of the need to challenge the most able students, and, thus, they have written excellent material, the vocabulary of which is beyond the weaker students in the room.

It is such moments as this that make non-academic students hate school. The one size fits all, mixed attainment approach is not doing a service to anyone.

I would not argue for a return to streaming, but instead an approach far more radical, an education system that is designed to equip the students instead of the administrators who regard grade inflation as a mark of success and who find it difficult to comprehend anyone from outside of their academic mindset.

It was the Conservative politician R.A.  Butler who had a vision for education in England that was focused upon the needs of those who sat in rows in the classrooms. After the Second World War, there was an idea of there being three strands. The secondary grammar, the secondary modern, and the secondary technical.

In Conservative-controlled Somerset, there was an attempt to create the secondary technical strand. There still exists one school where students go for a secondary education that is focused upon agriculture.

It seems odd that with the pervasiveness of technology, the technical schools have not been revived on a systematic basis. Schools that prepare students for particular industries or sectors, schools which students choose to attend.

Some academies have been rebranded as being focused upon particular disciplines, but the reality has been that the labels assumed were more appearance than substance. (The local academy for my village was branded as a ‘science’ college for a while, before returning to being a mainstream academy, and recently being placed in special measures after being judged ‘inadequate’ in an Ofsted inspection).

Anything has to be better than subjecting students to moments that they hate.



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