Schools Advised To Drop Word 'Failure' - And Start All Pupils With An A Grade

Smiling students writing in classroom
Smiling students writing in classroom

The word 'fail' should be dropped in schools and all children should start the school year with an A grade which would be theirs to lose.

These are just two of the recommendations made in a controversial report from the influential Royal Society of Arts.

Other suggestions include:

• Keeping potted plants indoors and making extra effort to give pupils views of 'nature or green space' to reduce aggression levels.

• Praising pupils for 'effort instead of intelligence', with phrases such as 'great, you kept practicing' preferable to 'great, you're really clever'.

• Allowing every child to start the academic year with an A grade – telling them to maintain a good level of performance to stay at the top of the class.

• Telling teachers to become the 'lead learner' to create the mindset that education is a continuous process.

The report says: "Try giving a 'not yet' grade instead of a 'fail' to set the expectation that with the right support and mindset, a struggling pupil is not destined to perpetual failure."

The RSA – which sponsors four state schools – said motivation was a better tool than 'fear' when it came to boosting pupil performance. It has created a handy one-page guide for teachers on how to use 'behavioural insight' in the classroom.

But the move was branded 'ludicrous' by critics.

Chris McGovern, a former head teacher and chairman of the Campaign for Real Education, said: "This is the natural development of the sort of woolly thinking that came out of the loony left during the 1960s and 70s. It is trendy ideas like this that have betrayed generations of children.

"Pupils like to see progress. Giving them an A grade and telling them the only way is backwards isn't going to motivate them. It's unkind and unrealistic. These people have lost all sense of reality."

But Louise Bamfield, RSA associate director of education, said: "We're not saying that these measures represent a silver bullet or that they will magically fix all the problems teachers face on a day to day basis.

"They do provide, however, more than a 'nice to have' optional bag of tricks.

"Behavioural insight alone is certainly not sufficient to cure educational disadvantage, but it may be a necessary component of a larger whole."

The RSA's latest guide was produced by its Social Brain Centre. The charity is an influential forum for thinkers across a range of topics and has 27,000 members. It calls itself an 'enlightenment organisation', dedicated to finding 'innovative practical solutions to today's social challenges'.