It used to be easy to read the landscape in education. The horizon seemed a long way away but there were clear markers along the way and obstacles that would push you off course, a thorny bush across a pathway, a deep pond by the crossing. You set your pace to suit your journey, experience had taught you how to overcome these hurdles and you knew you could get there.
To change the metaphor, each term had an ebb and flow and the needs of different groups would pool around different stretches of the river. That is not to say you could ignore the needs of those who had not reached the surface, they still bubbled away like a strong current. In September, you worry about those making a transition into the school or across the key stages, then the cycle of open evenings and propaganda events, followed by mock examinations, Easter trips, exam preparation, study leave, activity week and so on. I am not being rose-tinted about things, I am just saying it was easier to go with the flow. I guess there was some belief or sense of natural justice that everyone got their turn.
When did it become so much more Darwinian. At times, it feels as though the different stakeholders (be they Departments or Key Stages) are left to fight it out Mad Max Thunderdome-style. I guess with the rise of accountability measures and managerialism it gets more difficult to hold onto the concept of the whole young person. With everyone focusing on ticking off their own PM targets, does it become more difficult to steer the ship. Now, teachers do not strike me as Wolf of Wolf street material, but I do sense a change in the air.
It is not acceptable for one department to run interventions which seriously disadvantage another. This is not a solution. It is not acceptable for the noise from one lesson to disrupt another student’s silent reading task. It is not acceptable that some maths classes are taught in food technology rooms and some English classes in the woodwork shop. Equally, it is not acceptable for schools to put their ‘best’ teachers with the top set and A-level classes. I know there will always have to be compromise with limited resources and on the whole, teachers are good at being accommodating and making things work. However, I wonder whose voices win and are we able to bear the opportunity cost of the decisions made?