I think we are all aware, in the secondary sector at least, that this week someone told us things that we, for the most part, already knew about the children we teach.
The C grade is an ephemeral fantasy that one day, hopefully, will fade into a horrifying social history lesson about how the devolution of British society began. Until that moment, fragrant as it will be with the stale smell of underfried chips and own-brand energy drink,we are constantly fed fat-soaked lies about the existence of some sort of magical Berlinesque (as opposed to burlesque) wall between success and benefits cheats. Why does the C/D borderline sadden me so? Because it rewards mediocrity. The C/D borderline is an arbitrary social construction that is as clearly defined as the threshold between success and failure; there is no reason behind this apart from someone telling us it is so.
What annoys me about this situation is the amount of resources that are dedicated to extended provision for students that genuinely do not care about advancing their learning. There is a total and utter disregard for any sense of aspiration beyond the grade borderline in society. Striving to achieve the highest of grades is constantly demonised in order to preserve the self esteem of those that do not care anyway. This attitude can easily be seen as pejorative but I also worry about the lack of support for all those who will never get the C and so are a lost cause to the school's stats reputation.
It worries me that as a country we feel that we cannot simply reward excellence or effort in children. This is not about oppressing those who are disadvantaged, it is about making it clear to students that if you try hard you will do well and if you do well then you will do well later in life. I told a student today something I firmly believe to be true; Never again in a student's life will they be surrounded by so many people who want them to do well. This should be a cultural ideal pervasive through education; That we, as teachers, are here to help you if you want it, not to hunt you down and press you in order to assert our own competance as teachers and institutions. Teaching is not about numbers, it is about students doing well. It is not about students who are 'at risk of not acheiving potential' it is about students who work hard.
Next week, tell a student who has done well that they have done well. They have undoubtedly not heard it enough. And then, ask a student who is failing at everything what they are interested in. They have had similar problems. Maybe this will even the score across the board. Every child matters is a lie. This is every child who is within range of a C matters to your league table result.