My ambivalent relationship with TwitterEd was nurtured during 2015. I know that we’ll stay together because, truly, clicking on those links has been the best CPD of my career. I follow Stephen Tierney, Laura Mcinerney, Sam Freedman, Tom Sherrington and others (as we all do) and as a direct result feel that I’m ON IT.
However, I also experience deep and daily frustration on Twitter and the sense that it has nothing to do with my lived experience as a senior teacher responsible for inclusion in a secondary mod.
Take the reformed GCSEs. Broadly welcomed on TwitterEd, these are a disaster for students like mine. Indeed, I started a petition against the ‘strengthened’ English Lit GCSE and the complete nonsense that is a closed book anthology paper. This generated some media interest – TES covered it, and Schools Week; policymakers also expressed concern – I had a conference call with Ofqual and a letter from Nicky Morgan (each directing me to the other). But in the end I couldn’t get so much as a retweet out of TeacherToolkit, Geoff Barton, David Didau, Tom Bennet or any of the big Twitter players. Morgan can rest easy in her bed then, if TwitterEd is a true reflection of teaching opinion.
That, however, is my point. I don’t think TwitterEd is a true reflection of the new reality confronted by those perplexed, exhausted, ignored teachers who lose sleep for their students. Our Head of English is for me the truer voice because she’s not speaking to an audience or trying to impress anyone that she’s hard-core rigour personified. She’s simply describing with complete honesty and deep concern how it is.
So how is it? Well, we have many students with SEN who made terrific progress in reading during KS3 – students who started to believe in themselves as learners, as readers. Who slogged through 1:1 phonics interventions and second chance reading schemes; who relished their every Accelerated Reader quiz success; who went on to share books with each other; who spent lunchtimes in the library with our librarian – himself a force of nature, private reading his mission.
These same SEN (or by now mostly exited SEN) students started Y10 full of confidence – they truly believed they could demonstrate their reading ability in a GCSE exam. And we persist in trying to convince them that they can do this. But, in truth, the challenge confronting them is an impossible one. Most will not comprehend a C19th text that is so far beyond their ZPD that it might as well be written in Swahili. They will not be able to demonstrate their reading ability in an exam constructed by out of touch elitists who, in the end, are not interested in them.
Perhaps I’m missing something (come back at me, big Twitter players) but why can’t an English exam (not Literature) focus on assessing candidates’ ability to comprehend English in its current form? What’s the harm in a Foundation tier, which could perhaps include such a focus? Why the insistence on C19th literature in an ENGLISH (not Lit) exam?
I don’t want to rant, on the cusp of a new year. I just think that our SEN learners deserve so much better. I’m posting this, though, in full knowledge that the TwitterEd A team will conclude that my expectations are low and that the future lies in a diet of Dickens and Austen from Year 7.
I’d like to reply by stating that TwittedEd opinion doesn’t concern me because I have more respect for what our Head of English thinks. Whilst that is true, I write this purely because actually it does concern me. And that’s because, clearly, TwitterEd IS influential. Just read some of Gove’s old speeches.
My wish for 2016 is then that TwittedEd does more to promote fairness; without this, there are no real standards; assessment is fatally flawed when it doesn’t allow all learners to show what they can do; when it is exclusive and says to so many, ‘This English, this academic stuff – don’t even bother.’