There are no illusions in our school: religious education doesn’t count for anything.
At the beginning of the year, all of the Year 11 students were withdrawn from the subject. The lockdown had left them behind in English, maths and science and RE was sacrificed to provide an extra three hours a fortnight to allow them to catch up on the subjects considered to matter. Anyone who wished to take it at GCSE could opt to study it during the one hour a week when they would otherwise have done PE. Eighteen students opted to do so, and are taught by the subject leader.
In the hours in which I would have taught Year 11 this year, I provide cover, turning up to teach history or English or maths, or even French. Next year, I’ll supplement my RE lessons teaching history to students in Years 7 and 8.
Staring at a computer screen this morning, I endeavoured to teach remotely a set of student whose strengths would not be academic attainment. I am fond of them, the discussions do not follow straight lines. Sometimes the questions are random. Often the written work does not match the conversations.
The task in the lesson was to respond to a series of statements about life and death, to write a paragraph on the assertion with which they most agreed and a paragraph on the one with which they most disagreed. Of course, there were inconsistencies, sometimes they agreed with one statement and disagreed with one which was similar, but how many people are ever entirely consistent?
The conversation made me realize how much the GCSE 9-1 examination system failed so many students. It is geared to the academically able and measures only academic ability, it has no place for wider education, instead it if focused upon grades. Grades, grades and grades are all that matters. The Department of Education publishes tables of how schools have progressed with their grades. The local media run stories of how local schools have done. All that matters is the data.
No-one would ever bother to ask about the quality of the conversations in the classroom, or, as it is now, on the Teams meeting. No-one would want to assess the significance of the matters discussed. No-one would measure how closely the lessons touch upon the reality of the lives of those being taught.
The lesson today was about the issues of life and death, it was about questions they would probably encounter, but it was a lesson that would not count towards any score for the school. Education about the realities of existence is unwanted, much better that they learn algebra, Nineteenth Century novels and the periodic table.