Saturday, 14 May 2016

Down with Skool!

As most of you know, I was a teacher in my former life, and I now tutor GCSE and A level English, as well as invigilating public exams at a local secondary school. So I have an interest in what is currently happening in education, and some background expertise in commenting upon it.

Since MP Michael Gove and now MP Nicky Morgan took over the Department of Education, the downhill spiral of all aspects of the curriculum, and the morale of the teaching profession has been steep and marked. If you have children or grandchildren in school today, you should be alarmed. Very alarmed.

From pre-primary level, our children are being exposed to unrealistic targets - don't forget, we are not dealing with Lego figures here, but small human beings, each developing at a different rate and with their own personalities. And it starts from the moment they enter the system. I have blogged about Little G and the nursery targets HERE.

From what I gather, the SATS teaching at primary level imposes (a favourite Tory word) a set of grammatical and lexical rules upon children that they MUST learn and apply to everything they read. So no longer will any book be read for fun; now they must spot front-loading adverbs or other such crap.

Make no mistake, I believe basic grammar teaching, spelling practice and punctuation are vital - it empowers children to write and read creatively and helps them learn other languages. But box-ticking arbitrary constructs merely puts them off the written word for life. And I couldn't spot half of them when I checked out the new test (the leaked one).

Anecdotally, primary age children are no longer reading for enjoyment, but approaching books with caution ... can they find all the necessary things they need to pass some future exam? Given that I didn't read 'properly' until age 6, though I was unofficially reading from age 4, that'd be me failed.

Oh, and the failure would go on. I suffer from discalculia, so I failed O Level Maths. Twice. Similarly Science. In those unenlightened days, it didn't stop me accessing higher education. I entered 6th Form with 5 O levels, and then went to University. Fast forward to 2016 and the doors would be firmly closed to this stupid blogger. No Maths/Science = no sixth form. No sixth form = no university.

Right now I have two students in exactly this position. The first, age 18 and a hugely talented artist, is still trying to get a C grade in English, even though he is only ever 1/2 marks short. The second, a future writer, & like me suffering from discalculia, is re-taking GCSE Maths in Year 12. If she fails to get a C grade by the time she reaches 18 (you have to keep on taking these exams in Govegrind's New Kingdom of Education) she is unlikely to go to university.

Please note: both these students have already PASSED, they just haven't passed high enough. And the re-sitting Maths student is contemplating dropping out of Sixth Form as she is struggling so hard and against such odds to master a subject that is completely alien to her.

Something has gone badly wrong with education. Instead of recognising the individuality of children, and celebrating it, a pattern had been imposed by people who do not work with students and only desire to leave a 'legacy' behind them. Woe betide any child who does not 'fit'. This educational eugenics will destroy or crush any latent talent they have, and then spit them out to languish in some unemployable social hinterland. And we as a society will be the poorer.

''Where have all the playwrights, artists, musicians and novelists gone? Gone to the scrap heap every one.''

Next week, I intend to look at the effects all this has upon the teaching profession itself, and the rise of the ubiquitous ''Academy''.

If you are on Twitter, please object strongly to:

@NickyMorgan01

@David_Cameron

@educationgovuk



17 comments:

  1. I look on with concern. It seems your state education system is being systematically taken apart to the point where it would be very hard for a more benign government to put it back together again. I went through the English education system myself, but now live in Scotland where things are not so bad. However, I'm worried about the SNPs commitment to testing very young children too. Tests caused me stress and I scored quite highly. I often wonder how they affected less clever children especially when, in my day, you were made to sit in order of your results. I suppose at least we have moved on from that.
    The Glasgow Gallivanter

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    1. Thanks for chipping into the debate! I'm hoping we'll get some US people and EU people contributing!

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  2. It was in 1995 that I left teaching. As I recall, the then new curriculum guidelines had already begun to remove the word 'fun' from the English aims and objectives and so I removed myself from the system. Sadly it has deteriorated massively. So glad I got out when I did. Sorry for all those children in the system now though. Look forward to your next week's look at the teaching profession.

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    1. thanks Roz..when you left, the profession lost a committed and talented teacher...and it is losing them termly.

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  3. As one with grandchildren, I'm watching what's happening with horror. My precious children and all the creativity and fun blasted out of them. And so far no one has been able to explain the relationship between testing and higher achievement. All tests show is whether children can pass tests. They have nothing to do with a capacity to think for themselves.

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    1. Exactly. And all the 'fun' subjects like music, art etc are being squeezed out of the school day to make way for preparation for tests. Thus my second to last comment. It is hard for a child with a special talent to pursue it in the face of constant door slamming.

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  4. No teacher, no kids. But have an opinion. Pupils are nowadays nothing more than future tools for the machinery. It was already kind of like that when (long, long time ago) I was a pupil (who "disliked" school and the majority of teachers) and I'm afraid it's kinda impossible to turn back the clock. When I did my Abitur we had a classmate who came from a so-called Walddorfschule, different kind of education. She was leading in math on her school. On the regular school she struggled to survive math. And it's the same with languages, I was horrible in French during school. Apparently this is no longer the case. Why you should need a special level in English to study arts, or history or mathematics is beyond my level of intelligence. If you have a good German Abitur you are good at learning by heart and not necessarily intelligent (see the Einstein example)

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    1. Yep. I always wrote creative essays, and know from secondary school that I had a talent. It was encouraged by an English teacher unfettered by the need to teach to the tests. My failure in Maths was ignored. I have NEVER used my maths/ Science learning in any way, other than to laugh at the Big Bang. Had I been told I was a failure, it may well have coloured my whole perception of myself..and I'd never have written any books.

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  5. All the senior management is worried about in my secondary school is data. If I hear this word again, I am going to scream! Children are not robots. They are given very high targets, and we try hard to get them to reach the grades even though we as teachers know some of them are unrealistic. In turn the children are completely stressed and call themselves 'failures'. They should be enjoying the learning,taking the time to explore and have fun, and sometimes go off track from the set curriculum. This is very depressing.

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    1. Totally agree, marie. and i am seeing the results from first hand in depressed students... more and more each year.

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  6. Thank you for the article. What a shame for the generation. Society already loses too much talent with their stupid theories and rules.

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  7. Awful, Carol. I know very little about the school system here as I am not involved in it on any level, but I'm sure it is not as prescriptive as that. Nevertheless I do know they are asked to make decisions about their future careers far too early and they are alsomstreamed too early as well.meducators just cannot get it right, can they? And yet they are playing with the lives of our future!

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    1. Exactly...and with precious little regard for those lives..it is interesting that, paradoxically, as the bar is raised so that the grades will go up, they merely go down!

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  8. I am so with you on this one! My two girls have been art and english oriented, but while my oldest, now 22, is forging ahead with plans for uni, my youngest doing her GCSE's right now is glum about prospects and self-confidence is very low. My son gave up at school with no encouragement from teachers despite his dyslexia and dispraxia. It's so much harder than it has been before.

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    1. I am so sad to hear this! Hope both youngsters find their niche. Sat's blog is all about the teaching profession...

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  9. Carol, as you know, I am a teacher. I can't argue with anything you or the others have said. We are much more fortunate in Scotland in the way education is organised but despite the commitment to raising standards and closing the attainment gap, it's not going to happen, not by introducing standardised testing. Children, as you rightly say, are not standardised; they develop differently and at different stages. The curriculum for excellence ( and I do wonder what we taught before, 'curriculum for rubbish' perhaps? ) was supposed to reflect and respond to the educational needs of every child. It was supposed to allow every child, and the teachers, the freedom to express themselves and to explore learning in a way that previous curricula never could. It hasn't worked out that way at all, it turned into Es and Os, I can statements etc and is to a large extent just as prescriptive as what went on before. It's all data driven. Children still are expected to reach artificial targets which bear no relation to teachers professional judgement. That sit tests that don't measure anything except the ability to pass a test. I could give you countless examples of "poorer" children who get better scores than " brighter" children purely by accident. Yet now they want to introduce more. I understand the need for accountability and rigour in standards of teaching but this is about targets, LAs looking good and not about pupil learning. Complex and complicated factors play their part in improving education, most of thoem influences outside of the classroom; a prescriptive curriculum and tests cannot
    and will not make a difference. Sorry Carol, I could go on all day on this subject!! Rant over for now 😂😂

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    1. Cannot fault this. I am really angry and worried for Little G and her brother. Compared to them, I had it so much easier. Your rant is not a rant but a plea for common sense to prevail!

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