The new head of Ofsted, Amanda Spielman, says schools should be ashamed of some of the tactics used to bolster their league standings (Ofsted leader takes aim at schools, 24 June). But what does she expect when the Department for Education has been pushing this for the past 25 years?
In the days of the technical and vocational initiative, as head of humanities in a Kent secondary modern school, I knew all the humanities teachers in two neighbouring schools. We worked together, we planned together, we shared things that worked. Then grant-maintained schools arrived in 1988, with Ofstedfollowing in 1992 and academisation more recently, and we stopped talking to each other. We were in competition.
In the last seven years, the DfE (especially under Michael Gove) has pushed an academic menu to the exclusion of all else, unsuitable for many young people. My pupils once had one lesson a week of careers education, one of social education and a third of religious education. Now they have one a fortnight for all three if they are lucky. And sex education probably consists of a visiting speaker to talk about condoms and STDs. Design technology is disappearing, drama and music are under threat.
Now retired, I oversee exams in the school and watch youngsters struggling with Shakespeare, with algebraic equations, with chemical formulae and see them close their exam booklets and put their heads down. Such topics will be appropriate for many students, enjoyed by many students but not all. However, schools feel the students have to be entered for these exams because not to do so will affect the standing the Ofsted head talks about.