Most teachers have been there, avoiding a meeting at a time when we know our Year 11 class would need to be covered but happily leaving our Year7 classes to the mercy of a supply teacher to develop our professional selves at a CPD course. Leaving our younger pupils’ marking at the bottom of the pile and, when their turn finally came around, avoiding them for longer still, opting instead to plan for next week’s A Level class. Such acts of neglect have become all too common in our target driven secondary schools.
Key Stage 3, like it or not, is not a priority for many secondary school teachers. Unlike our Year 11 classes, Years 7 and 8 are not going to be cashed in as a golden ticket at the end of the year. Now that Year 9 SATs are a thing of the past, this year group will no longer be used for performance management statistics either, making them bottom of the pile too.
However, pupils who have been continually ignored throughout their Key Stage 3 experience suddenly become terribly important when their final years quickly arrive. They are suddenly expected to magically perform in controlled assessment tests and create pieces of written work that shine first time. These pupils have gone from nothing to everything in the space of a six-week holiday and we wonder at their attitude towards their studies. If we have been the perfect models of complacency for three years, then what we see in them is nothing but a mirror of ourselves and we shouldn’t really be surprised.
Teachers are not fully to blame! Lack of time and a society with a spotlight firmly on results can take the hit for this one. So what can we (tired, overworked and irritable teachers) do about it? Do something – anything. Turn the following angry questions into useful solutions and let’s start taking whatever baby steps we can make time for towards a better future for them!
What planet are they on?
KS3 pupils do not live in the same world as middle-aged teachers! No matter how hip or trendy the teacher might think they are, they are no match for how growing up and joining KS3 can ‘cool’ the enthusiasm for learning out of you. Visit their planet and find out what it is like; learn what makes them tick and keep them interested.
What’s the point in this?
I’ve seen primary teachers spoon-feeding their pupils to pass their SAT exams; everything else goes out of the window (bar a quick mandatory PE session before break) so that they can have their brains crammed with literacy and numeracy. If you don’t let go of their hand, they’ll never walk alone!
Having another 3 to 5 years before teacher accountability kicks in means that pupils might find themselves partaking in a lot of ‘ad hock’ learning. Puberty is a confusing enough time without having to participate in seemingly pointless lessons. Give their learning a point and give them some clear direction towards success.
How have I got time to mark their books?
These little fish in your big pond won’t tell anyone if you save marking their books until half term and then scribble a load of ticks onto them when you’ve got a second. You might get away with a book check that way but how is that going to help pupils to progress? Try time saving but purposeful techniques for assessment.
Are they all just destined to fail?
After having one accountable class teacher for the past seven years our KS3 pupils won’t be used to the lack of care that they are about to receive over their guessed National Curriculum grades. They are unlikely to fail their KS3 years as tired, over worked teachers can guess their results to avoid questions and pass them on. How are we planning for a clear progression for success if this is the case?