The TES is acting like most other school students would act: they’ve seen a fight, are running after it, and are letting as many people as possible know about it.
In my day – I mean as a teacher – you knew there was a fight taking place in school because so many students were all running together, and running in one direction. This will today still be the instant physical manifestation, but presumably the message gets passed on via phone messaging rather than gleeful cheering, apart from schools where mobile phones are banned. Then it’s still relying on just that movement and the screams of delight.
In my Twitter feed today were two TES posts of a pair of their articles – more so reminders of these – which were follow-ups to its reporting on Wednesday of Schools Minister Nick Gibb’s comments about addressing student mental health issues through setting them more regular examinations, addressed by me here.
Sadly, this is now a debate becoming a bit of a game, or a fight to watch as a game. Gibb’s comments understandably aroused considerable backlash against, and thus it has become a news story with extra wheels. Those wheels are now being further oiled by the TES and its For and Against responses to Gibb’s initial comments. This might seem fair due process on controversial observations by a politician, and to a degree this is true, but it does seem that the advertising is essentially like those students running gleefully towards and shouting about the fight, encouraging anyone and everyone to come and watch.
I wouldn’t even mind that, understanding the reality of a newspaper stirring interest, and certainly don’t mind the argument agreeing with Gibb – though I disagree with it, an important if not surprising distinction – but it now seems to further highlight the initial problems inherent in Gibb’s response and the reporting of it.
My arguments against, which I continue to vehemently adhere to, are that someone like Schools Minister Nick Gibb shouldn’t have been addressing the issue of student mental health awareness with a rather simplistic suggestion about increasing the amount of exams students take over their time in primary and secondary education. This silliness was exacerbated for me, but also made extra serious, because I know the type of meaningless examinations Gibb supports and was therefore promoting. And the significant point is the arguments For and Against have largely dealt only in that misleading territory, though I believe, as I am bound to, that the one against is more expansive. Both, interestingly, tread around in the meaningless mire of ‘in my day’…, the Against, I will honestly admit, the muckier culprit.
By all means, have an intelligent argument about the purpose, design and regularity of examining at particular stages in schools. In doing so – a final critical point even I forgot to mention in my initial anger – we need to acknowledge that regular examining is already a common enough feature in schools and Nick Gibb was already barking up the wrong tree, for more reasons than that worse one.