Teachers across the UK have received a barrage of emails from “parents with pointy elbows and lawyer friends”, pushing for higher GCSE and A-level grades for their kids this summer, according to a representative of the Association for School and College Leaders (ASCL).
With the government’s January announcement confirming that this year’s exams would once again be cancelled in favour of teacher-predicted grades, Richard Sheriff – president of the ASCL heads’ union, has stated that the messages from pushy parents are most evident in more affluent areas, voicing his concerns over how the worrying trend could worsen current attainment gaps when it comes to exam season.
Speaking ahead of ASCL’s annual conference, which begins today (12 March), Sherriff urged that it is the sector’s responsibility to “protect teachers”.
“If this is all about who can shout the loudest to get their child the furthest, then we certainly won’t be closing the attainment gap, will we? And we certainly won’t be doing anything about social equality in anyway whatsoever,” said Sherriff.
“If something’s going to widen the gap in terms of attainment and achievement, it’s going to be those parents who’ve got pointy elbows and lawyer friends to push their children up, while those in more underprivileged areas don’t have that opportunity. That really worries me.”
Geoff Barton, general secretary of the heads’ union, has said that the shift to teacher-led grading “raises the spectre” for parental involvement in education, urging schools to remind parents and carers that the responsibility of awarding grades lies with the nation’s exam boards, who will also conduct quality checks to assess the grading process.
“If something’s going to widen the gap in terms of attainment and achievement, it’s going to be those parents who’ve got pointy elbows and lawyer friends to push their children up, while those in more underprivileged areas don’t have that opportunity. That really worries me” – Richard Sherriff, ASCL head’s union
The news comes after Ofqual’s chief exam regulator Simon Lebus warned the Education Select Committee this week that parents’ “intrusive interest” over grading could drive feelings of discomfort among school teaching staff.
However, Lebus’ recent comments claiming that there would be “a negotiation” process between parents and their teachers have come under fire, with Barton exclaiming on behalf of the ASCL that this was “certainly not the way we saw it”.
“Right from the beginning,” said Barton, “from the very first day, we’ve seen examples where parents have been emailing individual teachers, saying: ‘My daughter wants to be a doctor in the future, she needs to get a grade 9 in chemistry at GSCE.
“We also have to protect teachers through all of this and when people talk about ‘teacher assessment’, it does seem to me to be unhelpful because it sends out the message that if I’m your chemistry teacher, it’s me sticking my finger up in the air. It won’t be.
“That’s why we argued behind the scenes for a more robust quality assurance process to protect individual teachers and individual schools throughout the process.”