I want to look a little closer at what exactly 'high expectations' would look like according to Wilshaw, Gove and other pedagogic rogues, given that Wilshaw will announce on Wednesday that teachers' low expectation have withered the life chances of white working class kids.
To my mind, the core of this problem is the fact that teachers are being denied the opportunity to get to know their children as people - it is as if there is some fear that, given the opportunity for human interaction between teachers and pupils to develop, the whole wretched system of education we have lamentably arrived at will just wither away. They don't want that.
The current paradigm within education - where success is a letter, engagement a percentage and where children are an alphanumeric ("I doubt some of my 2As will pass...") - actively dehumanises children, teachers and the relationships they could develop.
If a child in my class becomes so fascinated with Edgar Allen Poe that he spends his weekends in the library, reads all of his work, writes biographies of him and comes into class wanting to share his ideas with his classmates that would be brilliant, right? If that same child then fails his SPAG test in Year 6 because he misclassifies which type of connective was used in some de-contextualised isolated sentence, he could then 'fail' his literacy test. Is this child a failure? Wilshaw would certainly say so.
Success in our system is nothing more than the ability of a school to show that its pupils are a certain level by a certain point. I choose those words carefully and diplomatically. It is not the ability of children to know certain things. It is is not the ability of schools to educate their children, even. It's the ability to show it.
So what are high expectations. Getting a 2c to be a 3b in a year. Nooooooo, get out of the way of the incredible educator! You mean to say you moved a child from one arbitrary point on an arbitrary scale to measure arbitrary skills in an artificial context onto a higher arbitrary point on that same scale?! Somebody call Pearson to dole out some Teaching Awards.
If high expectations mean the desire to be the person who puts the hoops in front of those weary kids, whispering "Just jump on through, Jamal, only 10 more years of this til you can go to Sixth Form and jump through the hoops you choose." then I don't have high expectations. If attainment levels reflected learning, skills, understanding and knowledge, then I would have less of a problem, but right now, it's a load of horse shit. I don't give a toss about the level, I care about what they can actually do, whether they are engaged in their learning, what they know about, what their passions are and how well they can articulate themselves.
My own little theory: teachers don't have low expectations, they have different expectations. While government, Gove, Wilshaw et al have expectations relating to numericalisation of children, competition, performativity, statistics and producing lovely clear bar charts to show their own efficacy, teachers have expectations relating to intellectual nourishment, human development, moral growth and character formation.
It is because I have high expectations of them as people that I encourage the kids to love learning for the sake of learning and to take attainment levels with a pinch of salt.
"You are not your attainment level" I had to remind the baying 8 year olds in my maths class, as they begged for me to tell them what level they are. The fact that I even have to say this to them is frankly sickening and as this shows, the children have also bought into the idea that learning is levels.
If I had 'high expectations', I would tell my morbid young charge with the Edgar Allen Poe obsession to put down The Raven and pick up a revision guide for his imminent SPAG test...