Fast track to nowhere

April 27, 2009 at 11:10 am Leave a comment

This morning my daughter will take the first part (the oral) of her French GCSE. She is 14 years old, in Year 9 and this is part of the fast track scheme within her school.

A few weeks ago she, in common with school pupils in Year 9 around the country, was required to select the subjects she will be taking up to GCSE for the rest of her secondary schooling to that level. The process of identifying these subjects (which are in addition to core subjects) was agonising for her, for us, and for the many other parents and young people we know who were going through the same process.

The reason this was so agonising is that the decisions taken at this time require ‘second guessing’ the future academic and professional paths of the youngsters concerned. Yet they are only 14 years old.

This is exacerbated by the fact that a young person can be put off a subject simply because it is not taught well. Because in making their choices for the future there will be a natural and understandable tendency towards those subjects that they ‘enjoy’  (mostly because they are taught well) a subject that might have induced deep interest had it been brought alive by its teaching might be lost to a young person.

Although my daughter is undertaking fast track French, and by all accounts doing well at it, she decided not to continue French to AS level after taking her early GCSE. This decision was partly predicated on the fact that although she is doing well she has felt that she has been struggling with the grammatical structure of the language, and that she does seem to have a somewhat uninspiring teacher (for her) both of which have marred her enjoyment.

Her decision not to continue French is now ‘set in stone’ so inflexible is the system. But last night she dropped a bit of a bombshell. During the intense revision she has been undertaking prior to her oral exam, many of the aspects of the grammar that she felt she had been struggling with have suddenly clicked into place for her. The result of this is that she now regrets her decision not to continue French to AS level as this new level of understanding has reinvoked her enthusiasm for the language.

A recent study published in the journal of Educational Assessment, Evaluation and Accountability on primary schooling has concluded that ‘having a bad teacher in the first year of primary school can damage a pupil’s entire education’.

I would go further. Whilst having great admiration for teachers who struggle against the myriad changes to the system made by meddling politicians I do believe that bad teaching throughout school life (not just at primary level) coupled with an inflexible system that requires too much too soon of young people ‘can damage a pupil’s entire education’.


Entry filed under: Education, Future, GCSE, Teaching, Young people.

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Mick Landmann on education, digital technology, and the 21st century

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