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Monday, 13 November 2017 23:25

St John Fisher Catholic School, Chatham: A Motivation too Far

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Earlier this evening I was part of an item on BBC SE criticising St John Fisher Catholic School in Chatham, which had put up charts in public view with photographs of all Year 11 pupils on Friday, along with their academic performance and illustrated by large emojis to show how they were progressing.

St John Fisher 

This was intended as a motivational scheme, but there for all to see it would inevitably be humiliating for those at the bottom of the pile (the reason so many universities have scrapped posting lists of results). For a church school it is shocking to see the disrespect it showed to those pupils.

The school had a mountain to climb after finishing as bottom school in Medway at GCSE in both Progress and Achievement league tables in 2016, being the least popular school in Medway for admissions by several criteria, and an Ofsted Report close to Special Measures in March. However there are clear signs that the new headteacher, appointed in September 2016, is turning the school round, including solid GCSE results this summer.  

This tactic is just a step too far, and the school has rightly removed the boards today.

I spoke to a senior education professional later this evening who had considerable sympathy for the school, arguing that its pressing need to maximise exam performance to drive it up the league tables led it, along with many others, to try extreme measures.  This will be echoed in many schools and there is nothing new here, but of course, this does not take into account the health of children who are placed under such pressure to perform. I am not suggesting this is true of St John Fisher but, with mental health issues soaring amongst school children, schools need to be very wary of such tactics.

In its defence, the school argued its good intentions and that other schools were using the same approach. Both may be true but sadly neither makes it right. 

The March 2017 Ofsted Report for the school is highly critical of poor performance, weak teaching, a narrow curriculum, failure of governors to carry out their role, etc. However, it identifies that ‘Effective leadership from the new headteacher is leading to stronger accountability and rapid improvement in teaching, learning and assessment’ . Clearly this has played a major part in the improved 2017 GCSE results that place the school exactly in the middle of the Medway non-selective schools by performance and on which it is to be congratulated. Hopefully, the school will learn a lesson, put this behind it and continue its general good progress.

St John Fisher Ofsted 

One further disappointment. The photograph above, taken today outside the school, still tries to claim credit for the Good 2013 Ofsted Inspection Report, published before the school went into decline over the next three or four years. Somehow, I doubt that the 2017 Report will be displayed in the same way. 

Read 2757 times Last modified on Thursday, 23 November 2017 00:19

1 comment

  • Comment Link Wednesday, 15 November 2017 11:13 posted by JJG

    These charts were popularly pushed by PiXL when I was involved and we were to have one in my school about 5 years ago. The headteacher was worried about who might see them especially as rooms were hired out to local group so we didn't implement it in the end, as far as I recall. The leadership team in another school at which I briefly worked has one with red, amber and green faces (not smiling!)
    It seems that sometimes Kent High Schools are under so much pressure that imitating the easiest system from successful schools is grasped at without realising there are a collection of strategies and actions, indeed a whole culture, that lead to that success.
    What on earth can the head teacher have been thinking to put this up in public. PETER: Thanks for this.

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