My oldest brother is a Science Teacher. A couple of weeks ago, he flung 40kg of belongings into a suitcase and jetted off to Shangai to do his job. He could no longer put up with the way the education system in the UK is organised, namely the emphasis on difficult and disruptive students, at the expense of students that do wish to learn.
At school, I was a student that wished to learn. That’s all I ever wanted, to learn and make my Mum and Dad proud of me. My enthusiasm in year 7 glowed a little too hotly for the liking of some it seemed, and I was ridiculed for the rest of my days at that dreadful fucking school. Nerd. Squiff. Boffin. Retard (that one never made sense to me?)
Fortunately, I was resilient. ‘Suck it up,’ my Mum always said. ‘You’ll be laughing one day.’ And I was, when I emerged, victorious, with some of the best GCSE results in the county. I still laugh when I scroll down my newsfeed and see that those who were nastiest to me, those who made me feel like nothing, continue to nosedive in failure. I am unashamed to say that this satisfies me immensely, but that’s just personal revenge. However, with this year’s decline in pupils achieving at least five A* to C grades at GCSE including English, Maths and Science, some questions need to be asked.
Recently, I was watching Channel 4’s Educating Yorkshire: One Year On, a follow-up documentary which revisits some of the students at Thornhill Academy in Yorkshire, as they reflect on their time at the school and open their GCSE results. As much as I enjoy watching the Educating series, Channel 4 perpetuates a major problem with the education system. Children who dick about, hugely compromising the educational experience of other students in the process, have the limelight.
When negative behaviour is met with attention, whether this is sniggers from classmates, referral to a ‘special’ class specifically for disruptive kids (at my school these sessions came with complimentary milkshake and sweets,) or pandering from teachers, the behaviour will continue. This is a basic behavioural principle: we continue to do what makes us feel good. Educating Yorkshire focused almost exclusively on the ‘bad’ kids. This excessive focus keeps them ‘bad’ kids, when they really don’t have to be.
This is not to say that some children are having an unimaginably difficult time at home. As my brother put it, ‘these kids can’t leave the shit at their doorstep.’ But honestly, free f*cking milkshakes in room B21 is not going to generate self-improvement. By the age of fourteen or fifteen, you know full well that vandalising the school grounds, or popping acid during PSHE, or making another human being feel like they want to disappear, is wrong. And this is why, by this age, I don’t see why the conventional quest for five A* to C grades at GCSE should be mandatory for every student. Perhaps the student should be given the option to decide whether they would like to continue studying for a different qualification, an apprenticeship scheme or something similar. Wouldn’t this save wasting time nobody has forcing a system on students who would rather be doing something else, and above all, treat them like human beings with the power to decide something for themselves, rather than somebody else deciding?
Let’s be real here, not everyone is going to get five A* to C’s. Not everyone wants to, even with all the litres of free milkshake in the world. Why don’t we just move on, and create an education system that isn’t geared solely towards the twinkly little star on a slip of paper in a brown envelope.