Who on earth would want to drive down standards in schools these days? In our target ridden output obsessed culture, the mantra of driving up standards is never far from the pursed lips of school bursars and head teachers. Increasingly from the bursars in fact as they are only too well aware that if standards are seen to fall – or worse, be driven down – then their school’s future health and well being is not the bright sunny road that’s painted in the school prospectus and which resembles that Start Rite shoe graphic of many years ago.
So we’re all on message when it comes to standards. They are to be driven up, not ratcheted down. They are to be maintained, not devalued. They are to be hoist up high, and their benefits proclaimed to the hills. So far so ok.
But your standards may not necessarily be my standards. You may want your kids to reach level 5 in their literacy by the time they are 10; I would prefer it if they could actually read a sentence; or even better a string of sentences that take the form of what used to be called a book. You may want your kids to take home 10 A* GCSEs this June; I would prefer it if rather than have a clutch of certificates they could demonstrate amongst other things – they had read the whole of Hamlet – including the difficult bits – and could write some semblance of an argument about it.
The standards you hoist high on your academic mountainsides may be nothing more than flags which flutter in the wind but are then swept away in an avalanche of real life challenges which the Level 5 literacy and A* in English have done nothing to prepare you for. By all means drive up your standards – but know too when its time to take them down and replace them with snow shelters, bivouacs and tins of corned beef.