Cathy Murray, from London, tweeted a photo of a schoolchild’s badge that read “more able” on 17 October.
The features editor at Schools Week, explained that a Year 8 pupil she knew had shown her they had received the badge at school as a reward.
“They were proud of the badge,” she told HuffPost UK. “The pupils were given them out over several weeks gradually, with no explanation of what the badges meant.
“The badges started appearing and so other students who didn’t have them felt jealous and left out. So this teenager felt vindicated and enjoyed it.
“But it wasn’t clear to the student why they had the badge.”
When Murray initially posted a photo of the badge on Twitter to gauge people’s reaction, the response was unanimously negative.
Murray said it’s rare when she asks for opinions on education issues on Twitter that people are unanimously on one side.
She decided to go to the school, who she has decided not to identify, as she does not want to “name and shame” them.
“I asked for the reason why they decided to do this,” she explained. “I spoke with the school business manager who told me it was a mistake.
“It was part of a leftover policy from a previous leadership team and it hadn’t been a conscious decision by the current senior leadership team to give out the badges.
“The headteacher said they did not support the policy. It had been a communication mistake and they were going to discuss how to retract the badges from students.”
Murray was told some older students in Year 10 and Year 11, who had been handed the badges, had also complained about them to the school.
She said she had asked the school to keep her updated with their progress as she was interested to find out how they were going to retract the badges without leaving students feeling devalued or that they were “less able”.
She also said when they do take the badges away, it is important that they have a discussion with students and make it a learning experience.
So is it possible to use badges to reward children in school, without making students feel undervalued?
Murray explained when she asked her Twitter followers this question, one suggested a good alternative would be a badge saying: “There’s no stopping me”, which she believed would work much better.
“I’ve thought a lot about this since it has come up,” she added. “Ability is innate, so when you reward ability, it gives the message to students that’s damaging.
“It raises the issue of when you pull students aside and call them ‘gifted and talented’.
“I understand it’s to motivate students, but we should be rewarding effort, not ability.
“Rewarding effort, instead of ability, tells students that anyone who tries hard, can get the badge too.”