“Schools, where pupils fail to get good GCSE grades in English and Maths, should pay a levy to fund pupils who re-take their exams in further education colleges”, says a think tank.
“It is unfair for some schools to pass the buck to FE colleges who are already facing extreme funding pressures to fix a problem they have not caused themselves,” says the author of the Exchange Report.
The general philosophy that the Policy Exchange report is peddling is that the cost of fixing a problem should be borne by those who cause it. This approach rightly links actions to outcomes and therefore responsibility for outcomes. I would be surprised if any person strongly disagrees with this general approach. However, in 2008 the links between actions, outcomes and responsibility were severed when it came to the Royal Bank of Scotland (RBS) Group.
I have no doubt that, with good reason, this banking group will be examined on many future occasions. My focus here is not the reasons for the disaster but the fact that the proposed approach for schools was not applied to the RBS Group. The Chief Executive, Fred Goodwin, under performed and still departed with an estimated £2.7 million tax-free lump sum, this in addition to an annual pension of £342,500. RBS Group under performed but was bailed out by the taxpayers. By no stretch of the imagination can it be argued that Fred Godwin and his banking group met the required minimum levels of performance; what happened to action, outcome and responsibility!
So, ‘it is unfair for RBS Group to pass the buck to customers and taxpayers who were already facing extreme financial pressures to fix a problem they did not cause themselves’. This comparison with schools is not strictly fair if for no other reason than society invests in schools. Schools are in business to teach and nurture the young, so they can develop into the type of individuals that shape and add value to society. Banks, in contrast, are in business to make money.
We as educators have decided that each child should attain a minimum competence in English and maths therefore suggesting a financial penalty to schools in this way is clearly a one-dimensional argument. It is extremely wanting and appears not to take into consideration the potential impact of less resource on the next group of children. It also strongly suggests a belief that educating our young is an exact science.
This year the proportion of teenagers getting at least a grade C in maths has risen by almost five percentage points, to 62.4%, falling by almost two percentage points, to 61.7% for English. Whilst we would all prefer both figures to be 100%, there is an obvious reality that surely does not need to be stated – educating our young is, simultaneously, the most challenging and rewarding task known to man. When technology cannot deliver 100% precision when manufacturing the most basic of products is it realistic to expect perfection when educating our young – a far more complex task? We cannot and should not therefore allow ourselves to lose sight of our collective responsibility as educators. Reducing resources from our schools as punishment for each indiscretion (viz, each student not achieving the respective English and maths standard) is folly.
As we endeavour to measure our children on that ‘perfect scale’ that we have always adhered to, our parents remind us of our imperfect acts that continue to cause us embarrassment at family gatherings.