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The method of exams and assessing children was initially introduced in the 1870 Forster Act. This was also when the government started to provide free education for all children, however, with free education for all came the government saw that there needed to be a way to prove to the people of England that there money was being spent wisely: therefore methods of testing the children was instigated to show that the children were learning in schools. The way in which children were tested was via Her Majesty's Inspectors, they would visit schools in order to question the class on how much they had learnt in their classes. The government also gave teachers incentive to make sure that the children could answer these questions as they were being judged as much as the children. The better a class did in these inspections the more respectable the teacher pay would be. However this chalk and talk method was not without issue, as the children were assessed only on the questions that the inspector asked, which could be said to be an unfair testing method. Therefore schools jumped straight in with teaching to test rather than teaching to learn. (Ward and Eden, 2009:87-88)
Changes were brought about in 1902 with the Balfour Education Act, teachers were given more freedom to create their own pedagogy. The Early Years sector in particular was beginning to receive more freedom within their teaching. There are many influences which supported this ideal. Possibly one of the earliest was Aristotle, his view that knowledge came through experience was noted as early as 366BC (Pound, 2008b). Followed on by Jean-Jacques Rousseau who believed that children should think differently about teaching, he believed in freeing up the child's mind, encouraging people to try out new ideas. (Pound, 2008a:7) Maria Montessori believed that children learned throughout their lives from the moment they are born. Montessori was another believer, like Rousseau, that observation was the key to a child's learning experience, also she believed that children should not be pushed to learn but too let them learn at their own pace. Therefore from my view Rousseau and Montessori are opposing the idea of standardised testing as this is an impossible technique to verify good teaching if children learn at different ages and stages. They believe in guiding the child in their learning rather than 'teaching a child' what they need to know to complete examinations.
Once again the education system was changed dramatically; the 1944 Education Act introduced the tripartite system, which in turn brought about the eleven plus examination, once again testing the children at certain age/stages to determine what they have learnt. The 11-plus exam aimed to determine the intelligence of all ten to eleven year old children, to establish which school they should attend, those children that scored the highest would attend the grammar schools; to teach highly academic subjects, where as the children which scored the lower results would go to either the secondary technical schools; for mechanical and scientific minded student or the secondary modern schools; for children aiming for low skilled jobs and homecare. The children that attended the grammar schools were seen to be the most intelligent; the grammar schools brought in the better teachers therefore the children that were ahead were seen to be given the opportunity to get further ahead. Although, the teacher quality of the 'best' teachers should also be up for debate, the teacher deemed the 'best' were only so as they scored the highest on their exams.
These exams did not incorporate the collection of any knowledge of the person taking them. The testing does not enlist vital teacher quality issues such as whether the teacher has a good rapport with children, nor does it test if the teacher is considerate, kind or creative. Therefore it can be said that these children are not really accessing the 'best' teachers but merely being taught by an older generation of middle class people who has access to the materials to succeed in exams.
The eleven plus exam debate has many angles, it could be seen as fair in some ways as the children were tested on certain knowledge, each child was given the same test with no exceptions, however did each child have the access to the same materials and the same opportunities to successfully take such exams? Social class is a big issue which should be taken into consideration when discussing whether the exam criteria were a fair testing method. Children from middle class families; children of solicitors and doctors were more accustomed to the areas of interest within the exams. Such things as anagrams would be tested putting some middle class children at an advantage as their parents are more likely to have done things such as crosswords therefore the children are more likely to have come across this before, whereas the working class children are much less likely to have this experience. Concluding that the government of the time were still very much thinking of making the rich richer and the poor poorer therefore further dividing the social classes.
The 1967 Plowden Report once again changed the educational philosophies. The Plowden Report recommended that primary education became more like early years education, they called for more active learners, children should be learning through play. The Plowden report also called for the abolishment of streaming, bringing about topic based learning for primary education rather than subject based learning. This was possible due to the abolishment of the eleven-plus exam therefore a broader curriculum was possible, rather than the teacher to test method. (Ward and Eden, 2009:67/68) Parents protested the recommended changes as they wanted children to be taught specific lessons such as reading and writing, the idea of children going to school and playing was seen as inadequate teaching. This view was one of which the parents were familiar, their education was one of dictation and work sheets, therefore this is what the parents knew. This controversy around the parent's protests resulted in the government commissioning more research in the 1970's and 1980's. Even so, this testing was once again based upon exam scores. Neville Bennett (1976) tested children at the start and end of the academic year. Bennett's results found that the 'traditional' teachers produced better exam results; however Bennett's results have been criticised as he only tested the children on the core subject's maths and English. Another criticism of Bennett's study was his lack of observing classes that he was researching. The bases of these results were purely on the results they produced. This resulted in teacher quality again being judged solely on the results that they can produce. (Ward and Eden, 2009:92)
In 1988, the National Curriculum was introduced, it was at first very traditional but became more flexible with the introduction of vocational subjects. The national curriculum was implemented with no government intervention in teaching methods or pedagogy, giving teacher's freedom to create their own pedagogy and use their own methods of teaching. However the national curriculum was to standardise school education to make testing and assessment easier. Key Stage assessments were implemented at ages seven, eleven and sixteen. These standardised tests have been used to categorise children into ability groups.
Ball (2003) claimed that the National curriculum favoured middle class groups, it has been said that it was also bias against different cultural groups. For Example History lessons were based solely on British history and the school day was covered in Christian traditions; such as prayers before leaving school and in school assemblies. The curriculum has once again had a proposed change with the publication of the White paper 2010, this will be discussed later on.
Standards not Structures
New Labour leader Tony Blair in conjunction with the educational minister Barry Gardiner recognised the need to help working class children achieve. Blair believed in 'standards not structures'. Rather than emphasising on grammar schools and school choice, Blair found it more important to emphasise getting good standards out of all schools. Compulsory numeracy and literacy hours were introduced to make sure that all children were initially being taught to read and write properly, which in turn would further their skills in the future.
"Education should be about finding success in every child. When I talk about raising standards, I do not just mean what gets measured in external examinations. We have to be much more concerned about the quality and relevance of education our young people receive and with the range of opportunities to allow them to succeed in the world of work in the 21st Century."
Standards not structures is where children are what matter, it is said that putting children on the correct path to lifelong learning is where they will see true success. Gardiner recognised that the process, in which the child acquires these lifelong learning skills, is much less important than the making sure the child does attain these skills. Gardiner aimed for a more holistic approach to learning, also a need for more vocational subjects in schools. Although the curriculum was to be more holistic the children's achievements were scored on test. (Gardiner, 2004)
In the United States, the 2001 No Child Left Behind Act stated that all teachers by 2005-2006 had to be highly qualified, be a certified teacher and major in their specific subject therefore obtaining a certificate. Thus the centre of Assessment and Evaluation (CAEL) in student learning in America, noted in Tennessee, where there was an approach pioneered called the 'value added' approach. This was intended to evaluate the value teachers add to the students learning. Students are compared to their own learning: student's test scores are compared with their own previous scores rather than being compared to other student's scores, thus class or household income is not an issue. The teachers were judged on how the students they had had improved, also they defined the teachers of best quality gained greater achievement from the lower achieving students, rather than the higher achieving students in which it is usually assessed. However it was stated that there ought to have been some observation in classrooms to truly assess the student's improvement. (CAESL, 2004)
In Wales league tables were abolished in 2001, according to researchers at Bristol University this has badly affected the performance of students in Wales. In accordance to their research, this approach has decreased performance as there is no pressure for the students to improve. GCSE results have been compared with England by comparing similar schools from each country; this research showed that Welsh schools were getting up to two GSCE grades lower than the schools in England. Naming and shaming schools through league tables in England is seen to boost overall grades due to the pressure to keep league position. (Loveys, 2010)However the NAS/UWT teachers union has clearly opposed this position in citing that Wales's school performance is improving year on year. (BBC, 2010)
"It conveniently fails to highlight the fact that overall school performance in schools in Wales increases during the period covered by the report."
These teacher Unions promote the abolishment of League tables stating that schools are offering easier courses to improve their league position.
It has been said that parents are not choosing schools based on the school league tables but are more interested in location for ease of accessibility, small class sizes and the care that is given to the children. John Bangs, the head of education at the National Union of Teachers stated in an interview for The Times that parents choose schools for their own reasons, he believes they would be better aided by a full view of school achievement rather than just results of tests, performance tables and Ofsted inspections which only focus on a few key judgements. (Sugden, 2010) The Departments for Schools has clearly set out to alleviate this problem, as a statement a spokesperson at the Department for Schools has said in The Times interview, that they are introducing a new scheme which will introduce a new school report card, this aims to give a more clear and full view of the school including more than merely academic achievement. However, it is also said that no apology will be made for putting a strong influence over academic results, as we have more good and outstanding schools than ever before, giving parents a real choice and the option to weigh out other factors. (Sugden, 2010)
Current ideals and legislation
The coalition has brought about new ideals on education. Engaging new views and combined views of the conservatives and liberal democrats. OFSTED has upped standards and the new government has publicised new ideas of personality testing.
Firstly noting the recent OFSTED reports, that has stated that they are upping their standards and have judged many schools as inadequate. This is due to the coming ideals that schools need now to be judged not only on data, as it was seen that OFSTED could simply phone in their results. (Shepherd, 2010) It has been found that teachers are not well enough equipped to teach students, their lifeless attempt at teaching students is leaving students bored and unwilling or being inspired to learn. OFSTED have concluded that the poor teachers that are struggling to grasp the student's imagination and are failing to inspire the children that they are teaching, therefore children are being giving mundane tasks, according to OFSTED's chief inspector Christine Gilbert.
"There is too much teaching that is dull and uninspiring. This means that too many young people are not equipped well enough to make the best of their lives."
In correlation with this the coalition has proposed changes to the educational system. The White paper that has been published on the 24th of November is calling for more in-school training for teachers. The White Paper will also abolish time limits on the amount of time schools are allowed to monitor classrooms, therefore creating more flexibility, aiming to create better teachers. (Vasager, 2010)
"The comments came as the Coalition prepared to publish a White Paper today that will toughen up exams, overhaul the national curriculum, reform teacher training and give staff more power to discipline pupils. All schools will be forced to meet tough new targets or face being taken over."
Also the White Paper has also proposed that all would-be teachers' under-go personality screening and aptitude tests which all teachers must pass before qualifying, this method is already in use in Finland. The national curriculum is to be tightened up to stop pushing the 'easier' courses. The aim of the new tightened up curriculum is also to put forward a more specific core knowledge, this leaving more free time for such things as arts, sport and culture. (Paton, 2010b) League tables are too be focused on the core subjects such as maths, English and Science so that schools can no longer get to the top of the tables by pushing students into the softer or easier subjects, which are not found valuable by future employers. The focus of future teachers will be that they have great subject knowledge, and a love of teaching and their master subject. (Paton, 2010b) Also Liberal Democrat leader Nick Clegg proposed the system of 'Like-versus-like' which the Tories have said to be open too. This system will propose that school league tables will be compared to those in similar situations for example poor with poor, middle class with middle class. (Asthana & Helm, 2010)
Teacher quality is a concept which is hard to define, many factors such as observation, test scoring, personality testing and child inspiring is needed in correlation with each other to determine if a teacher is really a 'good' teacher. The history of education has evolved over the century, going back and forth between ideals depending on the political party in power and the economics of the time. From the first onset of examinations, starting from questioning from Her Royal Highness' Inspectors, to standardised testing. The eleven-plus exams were highly respected in their time, but as research continued it was found that these tests could be seen as favouring middle class children. The research has continually been extended until current ideas that students need to be tested against students of similar backgrounds, which in turn provided more accurate accounts of improvement and achievement. Through research of international ideals of education, parts have begun to become intertwined within the English education system. International 'failures'(according to some) such as the Welsh schools abolishing league tables has also been taken into consideration. This research had the opposite effect by proving the government with reason not to take on this approach. In conclusion throughout the last century teacher quality has essentially been based upon examination scores, observation or child inspiring yet none have put them all together, which could then give a better definition of the 'good' teacher. Quality of teaching needs to be a holistic view, much like the education is aiming towards.