Achieving higher standards, not just top marks?

Any Questions? at Worthing College
Any Questions? at Worthing College

Links can lead in unexpected directions. A news report on a rather artificial row about maths testing and assessment in Scotland has brought me to a clearer understanding of how I believe we can think about achievement and distinction.

There was a curious gap in the report which centred on Professor Jo Boaler, renowned maths teaching expert who was brought to Scotland to share her expertise with the country’s teachers. Where did she come from?

Sir Peter Bottomley, MP for West Worthing

Sir Peter Bottomley, MP for West Worthing

The obvious answer has to be England, though she is professor of mathematics education at California’s Stanford Graduate School of Education. She promotes mathematics education reform and equitable mathematics classrooms.

The row was whether teachers of children aged five needed external assessment. Teachers do not need external help to know if a struggling child needs help.

| Also in the news – the Met Office has issued a ‘yellow warning’ for wind; the former member of chart-topping 80s boy band Curiosity Killed the Cat has started work as a holistic therapist in Worthing after years spent living as a Buddhist monk in Thailand; and West Sussex NHS staff question first parking fees increase in a decade |

If I had influence, in maths and in many other interesting areas, I would adapt the positive approach used in music, sport and in many organised children’s groups including the Woodcraft Folk, Guides and Scouts.

Recognise the achievement of a standard, and if appropriate a succession of achievements.

Some people will stand out. As a member of a choir, I do not feel a failure because another person is asked to sing solo.

When a water polo player at university, I was not insulted to be asked to be in goal because they could not find someone better.

After 40 years of marriage, my wife gave me a small dinghy named Omega because I often came last. I said I enjoyed sailing for a longer time each day.

Jo Boaler held the Marie Curie Chair of Excellence at Sussex University ten years ago. Later she taught the first Massive Online Open Course (MOOC), showing how to help students do better in maths and to avoid fear of mathematics.

I am glad that maths has become a popular subject at A-level.

When the BBC’s Any Questions? was broadcast on Friday from Worthing College, it was touchingly impressive to hear the preliminary performance by Paul Amoo, chair at the college.

Simply and movingly he read a letter from parents: they described their child’s positive experience there.

Two people who have worked with me serving the constituency also gained by their golden years at the college.

The principal Paul Riley and his colleagues want every pupil to have a good time, to do as well as they can and perhaps above all have the lifelong ability to identify rot and the lifelong commitment to help others.

My university tutor, the Reverend Harry Williams, once wrote to me from Mirfield, the monastery in Yorkshire where he lived for the last 31 years of his life.

I had apologised for being a bad student.

He expressed the opinion that he was naturally proud of those of his young men (our college then was male only) who achieved first class degrees and became professors; he added that of the rest, I was the one about whom he was most pleased.

My wife would add that he could safely make that generous point to every one, expecting that we would be too modest to mention it or to include it in an article. Forgive me?

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