Tuesday, 17 January 2012

Satisfactory is Not Good Enough

I have just read a news article from the BBC which has made me rage. (link)

So they're planning to change the "Satisfactory" label to "Requires Improvement". Hmm.

I've had a few discussions with fellow teachers on why we shouldn't use the word "satisfactory". It sounds too insulting. Saying someone is a satsfactory teacher sounds a bit negative, even though the underlying implication is that the teacher is good enough, doing fine, performing as required, no need to worry. A better word might be "fine" or "ok".

But instead of changing satisfactory to a word with fewer negative connotations, they've made it worse! "Requires improvement". How dare they? If you are satisfactory, you do not require improvement. The definition of satisfactory is "Fulfilling expectations or needs; acceptable, though not outstanding or perfect." (thanks dictionary.com). If you require improvements, then surely you are not satisfactory? But Cameron has decided "just good enough is, frankly, not good enough". RAGE.

So basically you're moving the goalposts so that "Good" now means "Satisfactory" (and is hence no longer a compliment), and anything below that is bad. How incredibly demoralising. Is that what you want, Mr Gove?*

Obviously all teachers should be striving to improve, and observations help us to be reflective practitioners and develop our weaknesses. But telling us we're not good enough (when actually we are adequate) is demotivating and also just mean.

Teachers really don't get praised enough. We get better and better GCSE and A Level results every year, and you never hear anyone saying, "wow, teachers have done really well for us this year, the future of society is looking good thanks to our fine teachers". No, you hear "exams are getting easier" and "it's because teachers are teaching to the test, not teaching proper understanding". We never win.

You know what's going to happen next, don't you? "Good" become "requires improvement" and the only acceptable standard will be "Outstanding". More and more teachers will leave the profession for a job where you get the occasional pat on the back. Good graduates won't want to train as teachers when they could have cushy office jobs. We'll have a shortage, and then what?

On a more rational note, don't you think that "requires support" is a much nicer alternative to "requires improvement"? It puts the onus on the school leadership team to help the teacher improve, rather than the teacher (who is probably doing the best they can). One better would be to make it "would benefit from extra support" but that's a bit wordy. I just don't like that word "requires". It sort of implies an "...or else".

Anyway, this has been way too wordy, sorry about that. I'm just a little bit cheesed off.

I hope you all have a good week (because anything less than good would be unsatisfactory, obviously).

Emma x x x

*I realise this is not directly Mr Gove's initiative, but still.
PS I had to google to make sure Gove is the education guy, because I wasn't entirely sure. I fail politics forever.

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