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On Thursday I received an email from 38 degrees, requesting me to sign a petition asking the government to rethink its plans to rush schools all over the countries into becoming academies. The email says how many teachers and parents are already worried this is a step towards privatisation and how it is ignoring individuals views by turning schools into businesses. This got me thinking about our education system and the issues that come with it.
In general it seems that schools are becoming less about doing what is best for individual students and more about what is best for their position on the league tables. Not only are many schools letting their students down by placing so much pressure on them to achieve that their own personal well being and general health is disregarded, the exam boards and their embarrassing system of marking is meaning that students grades are often not reflecting the hard work that they put in. Exam boards ‘misplacing’ papers and wrongly marking them are jeopardising the students’ futures. Near on a year later, I am still waiting for one of my papers which I believe was wrongly marked to be ‘found’ by the exam board so the marking can be assessed.
All schools seem to care about are what grades their students are achieving.
But what about the students that can’t churn out these grades? I had the opportunity to spend some time in a school, speaking with members of staff who are working directly with students who are unable to access the mainstream curriculum, due to specific educational needs. The truth is, not everyone is capable of achieving A-C grades and, if you can’t, it seems that schools are simply setting up their students to fail whilst putting them under extreme amounts of pressure. These members of staff expressed how SEN students are not only not respected, but their needs are often not understood by mainstream teachers and senior leadership. These children are therefore being forced into a mould that they are just not going to fit. Is it fair then that these children are required to sit exams in things like science and maths, far beyond what they would need in everyday life, when basic life skills and things that would actually benefit them are being neglected? School shouldn’t only be about finance and grades, it should be about doing what is best for individual students rather than seeing them as just another number. In many areas, TAs in academies are being forced into taking cuts that aren’t fitting with the contracts that they signed, despite their role being fundamental. After my experience in the school, it was obvious to me that TAs were being used as cheap teachers, planning and delivering lessons, working with groups and not only offering academic support but also mental and emotional support. The importance of this should not be undermined but, unfortunately, it is. These members of staff are not being valued for their expertise leaving many of them with no choice but to leave behind their careers, simply because they can’t afford to stay. This is then leaving the most vulnerable students with no trained support that is so desperately needed.
By turning schools into businesses, all students are suffering and this needs to be addressed. Each student is an individual and should be treated in such a way. The skills that are being taught are not helping students prepare themselves for the outside world. By not respecting students and staff, our schools are going to struggle.
I may not know anything about finances, how to get a proper loan or a mortgage, how to even write a CV but hey, at least I know mitochondria is the power house of a cell, right?
Jamie Lee Jenkins (@JenkinsLeeJamie)