Dear Nicky Morgan, here’s the problem with 100%.

In response to Nicky Morgan’s ‘war on illiteracy and innumeracy’ announcement – 140 characters just wasn’t enough.

Dear Nicky Morgan,

We seem to have a lot in common: we both appear to believe that high expectations are vital and that knowing your times tables matters. Trust me, I’ve taught year 6 for the last few years and I know how important it is to be able to recall these and how they are the foundation to many other mathematical concepts. High expectations are also a big part of what drives me and I’ve never shied away from that fact either. If you want to know, 100% of the children in year 6 at my school left at level 4+ last year and I’m enormously proud of that. I like 100% as much as you, but it’s also a dangerous number to lay down as the law.

And there will be stiff sanctions for schools which do not meet Mrs Morgan’s standards: those which fail to ensure all pupils master the basics of English and maths for two years in a row will be forced to become academies free of town hall control, or join up with local high-performing schools.

Read more: Daily Mail


Of course, we should all hope, aim and strive for 100% and allow little room for poor excuses, but the trouble with ‘100% or else’ is that it doesn’t allow for any kind of error. 100% doesn’t allow for context. 100% doesn’t allow for someone to be almost there, but not quite. 100% is a tough one for humans of all ages. 100% across the board is for robots, and we are not teaching robots. We are teaching human beings. The fact, then, that a school that has just one pupil that doesn’t know their tables up to 12 x 12 for two years in a row could see the head going out seems not ambitious, but ludicrous. To be honest, I figure you will find this out for yourself, if you get to review your target in five years time and come to the conclusion that getting 100% – that means every single one – of children in the country to do anything is a tough call.

So, have high expectations, push for improvements in times tables, grammar and whatever else – they matter, I agree – but keep in mind that under the layers of league tables, targets and policies, there are children.  If, however, this isn’t really about learning times tables, how to read a novel and write a short story – after all, we do that already, didn’t you know? – and is more about pushing schools into becoming academies, then that’s another conversation entirely and we would all be better off if you were more upfront about it.

Kind regards,

Claire Lotriet
Upper key stage 2 phase leader,
Year 6 teacher

Everything by Jeremy Brooks
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