Like many people up and down the country, I’m a massive Strictly Come Dancing fan, and like many people up and down the country, I shout at the TV because I don’t agree with the judges. This is not unlike people shouting at their football team, the opposing team, the referee, the linesmen etc etc. However, I digress.
The purpose of this blog is not to extol the virtues of Strictly Come Dancing but is instead an exploration and insight into education.
The most obvious parallel is that Strictly is a process of learning, but that’s not what I want to focus on. For me it’s the judges that really epitomise what happens in schools in terms of assessment and feedback.
Like in schools, the celebrities all come from a different point of experience: some have no dance background at all; some have a musical background but no dance; some may have dance but not in this way.
It is also true that some children come to school having been read to by their parents, some have already learned to read, and others cannot read at all when they arrive at school.
The judges on Strictly’s Movie Week seemed to acknowledge this. We’re looking at different levels of expertise, and therefore, the celebrities cannot by judged against the same standards; they are however rewarded for their progress. For example, not only did Shirley Ballas give Katie Piper a personal standing ovation, she acknowledged that Piper had taken on feedback and is improving, even if she hasn’t suddenly shot to the heights of the leaderboard. Imagine the boost to confidence and self-esteem that must have provided, and how much further Piper will be able to go as a result.
When the scores come in, admittedly they are a reflection of prowess, but the reaction of the dancers demonstrates absolute delight in their own journey, yes I said the j-word. Look how happy someone is to achieve a 5 when they scored a 2 the previous week, similarly, someone of 6s or 7s achieving a 9. The fact their colleagues are similarly as thrilled, or outraged depending on scores, prove the value of an ethos that celebrates personal victories, no matter how small. An interesting question, however, is who has actually made the most progress in this scenario, and whose potential has been unlocked most?
Yet, in schools, the emphasis is on the higher echelons – C and above, or now 4 and above. Why aren’t the individual achievements of children being treated the same way?
I know Primary schools give out ‘Star of the Week’ awards, or similar, which aren’t always to do with achievement, but those same young people arrive in Year 6 for the SATs conveyor belt, and then into Year 7 where everything is Assessment Objective focussed and attainment rather than progress is rewarded. Where is the benefit to confidence and self-esteem, without which, students are going to be prone to self-doubt, hindering their ability to move forward.
It is easy to forget that these children are on their own journeys, that they have their own sets of talents and that progress is more important than attainment.
My tagline is Raising Achievement and I stand by it, but I whole-heartedly believe that it is an individual journey, as much about rewarding progress, and building the ever crucial confidence and self-esteem.
Let us champion victories, however small, because they are victories for that individual.