Call to ban word 'failure' from schools

THE word "fail" should be deleted from the school vocabulary and replaced with the term "deferred success", the conference of a leading teaching union will hear next week.

Liz Beattie, a retired primary school teacher, will tell the annual conference of the Professional Association of Teachers (PAT) that being told they are a failure in class can put children off education for the rest of their lives.

She also says some children who struggle with academic subjects need help to find success in other areas, such as work-related courses.

Mrs Beattie, the PAT Suffolk Federation secretary, and her colleague Wesley Paxton will propose abolishing the word "fail" in a motion at the conference which, if passed, would mean it becomes union policy.

The motion says: "Conference believes it is time to delete the word 'fail' from the educational vocabulary to be replaced with the concept of 'deferred success'."

Speaking from her home in Suffolk, Mrs Beattie, 68, who has 37 years' experience as a teacher, believes children need encouragement. She said: "If children at an early age decide, 'I can't do school, I can't learn to read or do this maths stuff', they are losing an enormous part of their lives.

"Some children who have a problem are being turned off the whole education process almost before they have embarked on it simply because failure is a thing they see quite a lot of."

She added: "We have got to learn to cope with failure throughout life.

"We need to get children coping with the fact that they are not going to get it right first time. We need to stop using failure as a dirty word."

If the motion is accepted, PAT's ruling council will make it part of their policy for their 35,000 members from primary, secondary and nursery schools across the UK.

But Martin Goold, the Suffolk secretary of the NUT, said: "I would have thought that the word fail had been eradicated from most educational settings already.

"I can't think of any situation where it is used, apart from a public examination, where the lowest grade is the letter F, the first letter of the word fail."

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