Maths in Local Gov

Local education chiefs are being applauded for an increase in Key Stage 2 SATS results.

We have seen a remarkable rise from 71% of children achieving a set level to 72% of children.Maths

Far be it for me to suggest this isn’t a headline making event, and well done to the children who successfully jumped through the pre-requisite hoops. However, let’s think for a moment here about what the rise means.

Firstly, it could easily be a rise in performance from 71.4% to 71.5% and we’d still be celebrating the same news. Rounding the percentage points makes for easier reading but masks the true increase. If it was 70.6% to 72.3% we’d be reading about an “almost two percent” increase.

Secondly, the article clearly states national rates have risen 4%, so in fact we’re behind the curve. No, really. We’re celebrating an increase but it’s not as much as everyone else increased by on average. So children are getting brighter, or exams are getting easier, or our teachers are getting better. Or all three, or none.

Thirdly, SATS are statistically grey. The numbers do very little to address the overall attainment of students, and at best are a “rough guide” to success. Single digit variation could just as easily be an improvement in overall attendance at the tests as anything else, and if it falls by the same next year there will be a public flagellation exercise rather than observing three straight years on a level which is what it would be.

And lastly… I’d rather read the story of three or four kids from across the borough who achieved in the face of disaster, or worked hard to get the top marks, or moved here from abroad and still achieved in their new second language and so on. These marks are impersonal measures of a system. We need to hear how our schools are giving our young people a decent start and helping them on.

The reality is we have hundreds of dedicated staff working tirelessly each and every year to turn out well rounded, better informed and self sufficient individuals who have the confidence to find their place in the big bad world. How those kids did in a maths test at age 11 is nothing compared to the hours of investment by each class teacher through their school career getting to know them, identifying their weaknesses and strengths and helping them to achieve. That’s education. All the rest is point scoring.

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