Not a 'fail' - it's 'deferred success'

A RETIRED primary school teacher has said she wants to see the word 'fail' erased from use in education – and replaced with the term 'deferred success'.

A RETIRED primary school teacher has said she wants to see the word 'fail' erased from use in education - and replaced with the term 'deferred success'.

Liz Beattie, who has 37 years of teaching experience, said she believes children who are told they have failed can be crushed by the experience.

And, in a bid to cut the use of the word, she is set to propose that fail be deleted from the educational vocabulary at a national conference later this month.

Her motion in full reads: “Conference believes it is time to delete the word 'fail' from the educational vocabulary to be replaced with the concept of deferred success.”


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Mrs Beattie, 68, will put the motion, which will be seconded by a colleague from Yorkshire, to the annual conference of the Professional Association of Teachers (PAT) on July 28.

Speaking last night, she said: “Failure is very hard to cope with. Eventually, if you experience enough of it, it stops you in your tracks.

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“Education is too important for that - we need to keep people striving on. I've always thought that, educationally, it was a good thing to get rid of total pass or total fail.

“Learning should be life-long and it should be something that everybody knows they can do and knows they can have a bash at.

“We're not helping it. They are still talking pass and fail and it's a very depressing thing to deal with.”

Mrs Beattie, who lives in Ipswich, continued: “I'd rather tell kids that they have done jolly well, they worked really well, they have achieved that and that's brilliant.

“You can then say tomorrow we should try that - rather than just saying you've failed.

“I think we all need to succeed at something. You need encouragement rather than being told you haven't done very well.”

If the motion is passed at the conference, PAT's ruling council will decide how it should inform the association's policy, which currently states that “all individual achievement should be recognised.”

Mrs Beattie, PAT Suffolk Federation Secretary and field officer, said she would not totally rule out ever using the word in education - but stressed encouragement was the key.

“I think it can stop children in their tracks,” she added. “In a way we all deal with failure, but if it stops us trying something that is terrible.

“It's an attitude of mind. I would not say never tell them that they (pupils) haven't managed something but we've all got to strive. It's a case of getting the balance right.

“I would be surprised if we didn't get the motion through because I think there are enough teachers at all levels who know that, with little ones, you've got to get them motivated and with the older ones you've got to give them confidence going into exams.

“I feel very strongly about the idea. It's a thing that has always coloured the way I taught.”

Martin Goold, 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.

“The word is not used nowadays in educational circles. We attach levels to pupils' progress, or grades in examinations.”

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