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Student voice: Education is killing students’ curiosity

At the SSAT National Conference 2015, four students from schools within the SSAT network answered the question ‘Are schools getting in the way of education?’ Watch above and read below as Michael Hardy of North Liverpool Academy gives his opinion…

EDUCATION is promoted to us as the integral preparation needed to become competitive and successful in the world of work. But is our education system effective in providing this? The short answer is ‘no.’

A recent report ranked the UK 20th in the world for the standard of education it provides. The same report also showed that 20 percent of all British students leave education without the basic skills required to enter fulltime employment – meaning a fifth of all pupils are failed by the system.

Surely this shows that fundamental change is rapidly required? As a nation we are one of a handful of countries that start compulsory education at the age of 5. Interestingly, none of the top-ranked countries including Hong Kong, Singapore, Japan, and Finland start at this age. They start at the age of 6, or even 7.

A fifth of all pupils are failed by the [education] system

These figures show that although we start education earlier than most other countries, we still fail to make the top 10 for the standard of education provided. Are we simply pushing too much, too young on our students?

On average in the first term of primary school, a British child will ask 90 percent fewer questions than before starting school. We are systematically killing the curiosity of all students that enter our education system because education has become teaching to test, not teaching to learn.

Teachers are now teaching the content of their courses under strict time constraints, which doesn’t allow time for the development of curiosity and other vital skills.

Forcing knowledge upon children to regurgitate in examinations does not equate to effective learning or effective teaching, and ultimately demotivates pupils.

For example, by the time British and other European students finish secondary education, they have a similar reading capability. Yet the enjoyment that British children receive is far less than their European counterparts.

Forcing knowledge upon children to regurgitate in examinations does not equate to effective learning or effective teaching

Teaching in this way is becoming increasingly necessary due to excessive government targets due to the implementation of performance-related pay. Schools are ranked nationally based on the academic attainment of their pupils and not on the development of soft skills, or skills that make a student more employable.

Therefore, schools do not prioritise the softer skills. This is part of the reason why 20 percent of students leave education without the relevant required skills. If we do not find a way to measure the development attainment of softer skills then they will never become a focal point of education – meaning education will never truly be what we are told it is.

The UK is also subject to a teacher retention crisis, with 53 percent of all teachers considering leaving the profession due to the sheer volume of their workload and to wanting a better balance between their work and personal lives. This has caused a considerable amount of good and outstanding teachers to quit.

If you’re demotivating the workforce who are providing the education to such an extent that they want to quit, how can we expect the recipient of the education to be motivated enough to overcome this and succeed?

20 percent of students leave education without the relevant required skills

If teachers lose their ability to inspire then the quality of teaching will rapidly decline at a faster rate than it currently is.

A quote by William Arthur Ward demonstrates the importance of inspiring students in a teaching environment, he said ‘The mediocre teacher tells. The good teacher explains. The superior teacher demonstrates. The great teacher inspires.’

Education has become overrun by targets, data and persistent Ofsted inspections. This has had the opposite effect than what was originally intended. It was introduced to increase the successful nature of our schools and to maintain and improve the quality of the teaching.

However, this has only increased the quantity of the extra unpaid hours that teachers have to work in order to complete the paperwork and planning which they are expected to do as standard, as well as the enlarged amounts of unnecessary work that they are expected to complete in order to meet Ofsted and government guidelines.

As a direct result of the huge increase in workload, stress related absences of teachers have soared. With a huge 83 per cent of teachers having reported workplace stress and 5 per cent even being hospitalised due to work related stress.

As a direct result of the huge increase in workload, stress related absences of teachers have soared. With a huge 83 per cent of teachers having reported workplace stress and 5 per cent even being hospitalised due to work related stress.

We are forcing teachers out of the profession at a faster rate than we can replace them.

Reducing teacher workload should be high on the priority list for making our education system more successful and efficient as we will be able to retain our quality teachers and also make a better working environment for both staff and students.

In order to make a positive improvement to the education system I believe we must review our policy on beginning subject based compulsory schooling at the age of 5 and instead implement an extended year period which focuses on play based learning and the overall development of each individual child.

We also must begin measuring the development of soft skills so that they become more of a priority within our schools which therefore means that the number of students who leave education without the relevant skills needed for employment will begin to decrease. This will also mean that education will better equip us with the skills we need to enter employment.

We must review our policy on beginning subject based compulsory schooling at the age of 5

In addition to this I believe we must reduce the workload that we are placing on teachers which will subsequently relieve stress and increase our ability to retain the quality teachers who meet the expected standard. This will increase the quality of education which we are able to provide.

If these three fundamental changes are reviewed or considered then I believe that we as a country will start to improve our education system, ascend the league tables, and ultimately make our country more successful than it currently is.


This post is part of our #SSATstudents series. The other three posts are:

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Download PowerPoint presentations from the SSAT National Conference 2015.

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North Liverpool Academy is part of the SSAT network. Find out more about membership here.


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