The worst thing about Progress 8

It’s Geography, that’s the worst thing about Progress 8, just Geography. One of the schools I work in is more deprived and urban than most, they do well in English, did well in Maths previously so can do it again, same for science and I can see them doing alright with modern foreign Languages, (it’s multicultural London). At a squeeze I imagine them doing well in History, it can be made interesting and relevant, but for the life of me looking at our children and the worlds they seem to inhabit I cannot conceive of how, in a million years, that Geography could be made to reach them.

The new Progress 8 measure has eight slots to be filled, the first two can only be filled with English and Maths, the last three can be filled with a shorter list than before of what many call ‘mickey mouse’ subjects like Music, Art, many forms of ICT, Design and Technology (note sarcasm). The remaining three slots can only be filled with what is called the English Baccalaureate Biology, Chemistry, Physics, general science, a language, computing, History or… Geography.

This means that if a pupil gets four good grades in subjects other than English, Maths and the Ebacc one of them won’t count and the school will receive no credit for that learning. It also means the three middle slots will be filled with the best three Ebacc grades the child achieves no matter what grades they are.

Now imagine a child, its easy if you try, perhaps less academic, who the school puts in for science, computing and languages because they should; to give the child a rounded education. However, they are less likely to achieve in these as sciences, languages and computing may require some level of aptitude, so the school predicts these might not go so well. That’s where History and Geography may have been put in as wild cards to give schools another opportunity other than these aptitude dependent subjects to scrape a grade and make their Ebacc stats look better. The problem is, as pointed out by Mr Lock that schools seem very likely to try to exploit this loophole much more than is in the interests of the child by putting just about every child unlikely to get three decent grades in science, language or computing into History and Geography, in the hope of scraping a grade that bolsters their figures.

This means there might be a lot more of the less able and willing pupils taking Geography. I just don’t see this working, I just don’t see how schools are going cram all their least academic pupils together into Geography lessons and produce good outcomes.

Personally, I love Geography and will read and watch anything that goes into the driest detail about how the physical environment and climate influenced our development, moreover I think its crucially important in understanding how we got to where we are and why as it explains as least as much of the social, political and technological history as any other cause. However, I absolutely came to take an interest late in life; something seems to have changed in my brain chemistry way after my twenties that made a light go on in a room filled with geopolitical historical topography. Before then, showing me anything related would have been rewarded only with a look of distain.

There is something to admire in Michael Gove’s form of idealism where, in his bath tub he envisioned a world populated by little versions of himself, and army of shuffling bespectacled swots all with studious interest in the geographic sciences in their teenage years. But these aren’t the teenagers I know. There is a gulf between many disadvantaged young people and the English cloisterd culture of classical social sciences that is Gove’s sunlit uplands, it seems a distance that can’t be bridged with punitive legislation if schools don’t manage it.

It seems likely schools will move from gaming 5ACEM by focusing on those at the C/D boundary to gaming Progress 8 by forcing every less academic, less engaged child into Geography.

If you are a Geography teacher who’s effective at reaching less academic pupils, when Progress 8 comes in, ask for a pay rise.


5 thoughts on “The worst thing about Progress 8

  1. I would be interested to see the evidence that “less academic” (your phrase) children are more likely to do materially better in geography than (say) core and additional science.


  2. You could review the TMs for hums type subjects. Second – is this not an opportunity to draw in the BIG questions of society under the umbrella of the the more liberal arts; Ethics and Philosophy, citenzenship possibly. The value of the thinking / oracy brought to the forefront of such subjects is there for all the hear / see.


  3. quite, Gove’s narrow view of what subjects matter in economic, cultural development I think may cause us harm long term, what contribution do the creative cultural industries make to our economy, influence development?


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