How is the new system of school measurement impacting on creativity? You would think that the winners in the tales of buckets and bins are the Maths teachers and the English teachers. Speak to the Head of English and the Head of Maths and see if they agree. I was a Head of English for 8 years. In the last three years – when English was emerging as 30% of a school’s results – I was micro-managed by each and every senior leader in the building. So, I walked away.
But, this is not an invitation for other teachers to play the violins and accept the hellish position of the core subjects. Other teachers are fighting a much harder battle – a battle for the survival of their subject.
Let me try to explain bins and buckets. Hold tight, this is not easy. So, there are new measures called progress 8 and best 8. What this means is that instead of percentage headline outcome of the whole school, the school is now divided into three sets of buckets. Bucket 1 is English and Maths; bucket two are the eBacc subjects such as Science, Language and Humanities and bucket three are all the others. Out of the 8 “bins” available – English and Maths must count, then there are three buckets devoted to a language, a science and a humanity. The final three bins, in the third bucket, can be filled by the best of the rest – but must include English Literature.
Are you still with me? Or, have you considered chewing off your own leg to avoid being trapped in this hell much longer.
Well, the eight bins are added together and divided by ten. Hang on you say – how does that work? When English and Maths are worth twice as much as other subjects. Therefore, these subjects have disproportionate influence over the school’s results. If you have been paying attention, then you will realise that out of 10 bins – English fills 3 of them – through language or literature.
But, more distressing is the marginalised position of Art, Drama, Music and endless other vocational and practical subjects. Support for a broad curriculum is dropping away and these more creative subjects are regarded as a luxury. Creative subjects are often single teacher departments – gathered together in a faculty of arts based subjects. It is likely that schools are now facing the choice of whether to run an Art GCSE or a Music or a Drama – not able to justify the expense of running a KS4 course in all creative subjects when maybe two of them will influence outcomes.
What does this mean for our children? It means we are letting them down. The modern digital age needs flexible and creative thinkers. By reducing the curriculum to basic skills – we are failing our children because they will not have the thinking skills needed to thrive in today’s workplace. We are creating a population of middle grade workers who work for the imaginative innovators from abroad. We are underestimating the influence of arts based subjects in promoting new business models or creating students who can adapt into a range of occupations.
By limiting all other subjects to bucket three, we are letting our students down and we are leaving them ill prepared for the future they face.