Time and again this issue comes to light.
The million dollar question: How do we improve performance in our schools, and guarantee that every child, regardless of their socio-economic background, has access to a minimum acceptable standard of teaching?
The tough answer is that there are no quick fixes. Schools cannot undo the damage caused to children by broken homes, poverty, neglect and abuse. But that doesn’t mean we shouldn’t keep trying.
This is where the C-grade culture comes into play. In our culture of “management consultancy” metrics, it makes perfect sense that the best way to fix a problem is to measure the extent of the problem and track changes to that measure. We can easily count how many GCSE’s a student has, so we use that as our measure.
Unfortunately we did not foresee the negative consequences of this. In the first place the measure itself is such a narrow focus on what it means to be a healthy member of society, or a “good citizen”.
Secondly, we are directing our blame for this problem squarely at the teachers. In a society where celebrity and wealth is glorified, we are directing our blame for society’s ills precisely on those people who chose to devote their lives lifting future generations up.
Naturally, if we only care about one aspect of a teacher’s role, teachers will tend towards meeting only that one goal. So bright children get ignored because instead of praising teachers for bringing a C-grade student to an A*, society instead focuses on the E-grade student who only got pulled up to a C. And the G-grade student who has no chance of getting a C in Year 11? A maths teacher can work out the cost/benefit ratio associated with helping that child, too. So our education system is racing to the middle.
Teachers and students alike have learnt to aspire to a C, and no further.