This week, the Secret Teacher looks at discrepancies between how schools in affluent areas assess their students compared to others.

Having worked in a school within an affluent area, I have long believed that those schools assess their students with punishingly high standards.

These standards are much higher than those used by exam boards to assess students.

Their logic is that putting the fear of God into young people will make them study, study and study, and it makes their projections look good because they go from getting a C or D in their prelim to an A in the final.

I had only based that on my individual experience and the odd anecdote, but through conversations with parents of two separate students who I tutor in affluent areas, I have recently found out that one school is saying that all students doing National 5 and higher at this time of year are working at a low C level.

The Herald:
Monitoring, tracking and reporting is a vital aspect of teaching, because it’s evidence for the teacher that you’re taking the child’s individual needs into account, that you’re aware of the fact that you don’t have a bunch of clones in your classroom, and that they are all working at different levels and all have different needs.

That’s part of what makes the job difficult. It’s not flinging a textbook at a child and saying ‘just do that’. Think about individual needs. You never have two years the same.

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When I write report cards and do my monitoring and tracking, if I were to try and get away with saying that everyone’s working at this one low level, I would instantly – and quite rightly – not only be the subject of parental complaints, but be dragged into the headteacher’s office and asked to prove it.

I wouldn’t be able to, because the evidence I have paints the same picture that you get nationally, which is that because I’m dealing with human beings, everyone’s levels are different. Some students are working at a straight A standard from the minute they get into the classroom, and others need the real journey. They need the progress, and they need to fail a few times.

The Herald:
I worry that the approach of these schools is actually quite detrimental, because they seem to feel like the way to achieve success is to instil fear and pressure, and to normalise fear and pressure as a means to success, when I think society is moving on from that and we’re trying to be more mindful of wellbeing and mental health.

I can say definitively that this particular school is doing this with their report cards. There might not be a collective knowledge that this is a trend, because parents will understandably just be thinking about their individual child. They won’t necessarily be wanting to know about class trends.

One of my colleagues, who is a mother of a child at the school, complained about this and had a meeting with their head of English, and said “I’m going to get my child a tutor.”

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The head of the department tutted at her and said “no, she doesn’t need a tutor”, to which she replied “well, you’re saying she’s working at a low C, but she’s straight A for everything else, so why wouldn’t I get her a tutor?”.

It’s as if there’s this frustration that it doesn’t fit the narrative.

I remember working in a school and being asked to adjust the working grades – the level the child is currently working on in a given month – so that it fits the narrative of not doing so well right now, being able to make them feel the pressure and then the grades go and get massively inflated by the end.

It frustrates me.