Problem still unsolved

19295893399_3ee40fd48c_o.jpgProblem-solving: the process of finding solutions to difficult or complex issues

The recent news that ‘Just 3 per cent of teenagers believe problem solving skills and creativity are essential attributes to have on their CVs’ is of course no more than a reflection of the lack of emphasis and importance placed on them in our education system. And it goes a long way to explaining why so few politicians and administrators seem quite unable to develop policies and procedures that manage to improve the life of the population. Too many students undertake academic degrees, including subjects like science and engineering, having had next to no experience of the processes and approaches involved in coming up with successful new practical and appropriate ways of doing things.

Where children are exposed to problem-solving and creativity in schools, the experience is usually limited to solving closed problems, where there is a single correct right or wrong answer. Such problems are usually technical in nature, rarely focusing on solving individual or social human problems.

Even in design and technology, where a rapidly diminishing number of students are asked to solve design problems, the understanding of problem-solving skills is given disproportionate emphasis to increasingly acquiring knowledge about materials and production technologies. Few children rise to the challenge of resolving multiple conflicting requirements and coming up with truly creative solutions. And while there is good imaginative work in evidence in many departments of art, drama and music, its value and application is restricted to those lessons and defined studio spaces.

Developing students’ problem-solving and creative abilities is not achieved through a series of disparate activities experienced largely out of context. It involves an extended course of study in which increasingly complex, open-ended and challenging problems are tackled in such a way that the learner starts to identify their own strategies and preferred methodologies for tackling different sorts of problems. This includes being able to deal with problems that require:

• a mixture of creative and logical thinking

• dealing with subjective and objective criteria

• testing and evaluating possible solutions using a variety of modelling techniques

• identifying and understanding human needs and desires

• information finding

• planning over multiple time-scales, collaboration and self-management

• effective communication.

Underlying these skills at a more basic level, successful problem-solving requires a desire to improve the way things are, a sense of curiosity, the drive to explore and develop a multiplicity of possible solutions and willingness to learn from failure.

Until our children start to acquire these skills and they come to be acknowledged in schools and universities as being valuable in life and the workplace it is difficult to be optimistic about our future. We no longer require a steady flow of people to administer and oversee the far-flung corners of our long-lost Empire, but instead a stream of creative problem-solvers to construct our brave new post-Brexit world.

 

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Image credits: Flickr Sacha Chua

 

 

 

 

 

Open-ended Complex Policy Solving

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“Mr Glibbly: Please just get rid of this stupid, unworkable EBacc policy – we don’t want anything in exchange for it”

You may, or may well have not, noticed that All Change Please! has been strangely quiet recently. That’s mainly because there has been Very Little Change Please! about in terms of education over the past few months, and also, as several commentators have noticed, the world of politics is now far more self-satirical than your actual satire can ever be.

Anyway, All Change Please! has recently been thinking about all these proposed Governmental Policies that have recently issued forth and then been sent back in again because they weren’t working or indeed wanted, and started wondering who actually writes them and whether they have the faintest idea what they are actually proposing?

In most organisations, institutions and businesses, everything starts and ends with policy. A policy is a positive principle to guide decisions and achieve required outcomes. Policies tend to be determined by those ‘at the top’, to be put into practice by Senior Managers and passed down through middle managers to the worker-ants below. Policy determines what should and shouldn’t be done, what is and isn’t acceptable, and most importantly, if funding will be provided for it. If something contradicts policy, it just can’t be done – it’s as simple as that. Policy says No! This often makes innovation within management structures difficult, because any significant change is likely to involve reviewing and rewriting policy.

Good policy statements are crucial to success, and it would therefore seem to make sense to invest time, resources and expertise into ensuring they are going to be effective, appropriate, and above all, deliverable. Yet in practice, that’s rarely what happens. Most policy statements, while perhaps laudable in their intent, are prepared with little reference to the practicalities of their implementation or the effect they might have. They are often written by academics, administrators and civil servants with little experience of reality or how to actually set about successfully solving complex, open-ended problems. Too many high-flying academic students leave school and Russell Group Universities for senior positions in management or politics with next-to-no understanding or experience of real-world problem-solving and communication.

Indeed the policy-writing process seems to be: identify the problem, consider options, make decisions, publish and implement. This bears a certain resemblance to what is known more widely as the problem-solving process – but with one major difference, in that there is no attempt to model, test, evaluate and iterate possible solutions before and while they are being implemented. Further difficulties often occur when a policy is then briefed and specified because those charged with doing so are insufficiently trained or experienced in defining and effectively communicating the parameters of what can and can’t be done to achieve the desired outcome.

Here’s an insider account account of the policy writing process: The Mysteries of Government Policy. To summarise the author’s account of the way it works:

1. Ignore all past documents on the subject to give yourself a fresh perspective.

2. To upset stakeholders, send the draft out for comment but delay consultation until after the draft has been finalised and too late to change.

3. To ensure it is already out-dated, delay publication by taking as long as possible to respond to comments to the consultation in full.

4. Maximise publicity for the policy release, but try to ensure no-one knows it was written by you.

5. Sit back and watch as people discover that the policy is almost impossible to implement and creates more problems than before it was decided that a new policy was needed.

Meanwhile back in school, let’s take the familiar example of a Behaviour Policy. Often carefully and clearly worded by the SMT it’s published in the handbook and staff and students are expected to abide by it. Except of course in many cases they don’t. That’s because in the reality of the classroom, corridor and playground it’s not as simple as that. To be successful, a good policy needs to be supported on a daily basis by SMT who will need to spend time evaluating how well it is working and what the problems are, and then developing and continually evolving the policy as circumstances change. There also needs to be opportunity for staff and student participation in the process. It may well be that both staff and students need assistance or training in understanding how to apply the policy and how it only works if everyone follows it. If only creating Government Policy worked this way…

Similarly, a manufacturing company would never proceed to invest in the production of a million or so newly designed widgets unless it was absolutely sure they worked properly, that there was a popular market for them, that they could be effectively distributed, and made and sold profitably. And future models would be continually updated to increase sales or encourage repeat purchases. But for some reason this rational approach just doesn’t seem to apply to Government Policy-making.

And here’s OFSTED’s Amanda Spielman announcing that perhaps their policies over the past 25 years have not been successful as they should have been, and in future a bit more participation with teachers and researchers might just be a good idea.  But as Michelle Hanson points out, the damage has already been well and truly done.

Until a way is found to improve the way the Df-ingE formulates future government policy through stakeholder participation, extensive trials, rigorous evaluation and a commitment to support long-term support and review, desirable change in what goes on in our schools is unlikely to happen. And in the meanwhile it seems crazy that at present there is no structured or coordinated programme of teaching and learning problem-identification and problem-solving for all children in our schools. A little bit of creativity wouldn’t go amiss either. But of course that can’t happen until it becomes policy…

 

Image credit: Flickr/Policy Exchange

Test Your Academic Strength!

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‘Strong’ it seems, is the new ‘good’.

The Df-ingE’s latest whizz-bang ‘let’s see if we can get away with just changing the name’ idea is to differentiate between ‘standard’ and ‘strong’ GCSE ‘passes’ at levels 4 and 5. All Change Please! would like to propose that this is taken further by installing a suitably diagnostic ‘Test Your Academic Level Strengthometer’ in every school, similar to the one above.

Meanwhile many thanks to Tom Sherrington for publishing his suggested new level descriptors on Twitter.

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The reality is that the main impact of this new scale will be to provide greater differentiation amongst the most academically-able students, enabling Russell Group Universities to select the very, very, very best instead of just the ordinary best. But of course at this level the reliability of the assessment of potential based on a two-hour final written paper subjectively marked by a single examiner is extremely low. It’s a bit like choosing a car solely on the basis that it can accelerate from 0 to 60 in 5.8 seconds over a different make that takes 5.9 seconds, and on the understanding that it’s not actually possible to calculate such a measurement accurately due to such a wide range of variables.

In fact assessment of academic potential at this level is so unreliable that instead of a ‘Test Your Academic Level Strengthometer’ machine, a fruit machine would probably be a better bet, so let’s install some of those in schools instead of the current complex, expensive and unreliable examination system. Students could just pull a handle and get an immediate result – three 9s and you’re in to Oxbridge. Three raspberries and you’re on income support for the rest of your life…

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Meanwhile All Change Please! continues to find it distressing that, beyond the 25% of the population who will go through life have being stamped as ‘standard’, almost no-one seems to be concerned about the roughly 32% of students who will emerge from 11 years of attending school with absolutely nothing…not even a ‘No-levels‘ qualification.

At least there’s someone out there who has written about the issue: Is everyone OK with the fact that our school system forces 30% of children to fail their GCSEs?

And of course there’s also comparative judgement

Image credits:  Top  Flickr/jimjarmo   Middle  Wikimedia Antoine Taveneaux

A New Grammar Comprehensive in Every Town

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All Change Please! is perhaps best known for its satirical announcements of surreal Df-ingE policies that attempt to reveal them for the nonsense the real ones are. But this time All Change Please! has a truly serious suggestion to make.

Before it does so though it is important to be aware that Df-ingE policy is never derived from even its lack of understanding of the reality of teaching and learning going on in our schools. Much of what they do involves little more than a re-branding exercise in which the name is changed but the processes of teaching and learning remain the same. It’s all politically-motivated spin intended to reassure its loyal Daily Mail readers that the government is successfully putting the Great back into Britain so that the electorate will put the Tories back into Government when the next general election finally occurs.

But currently it seems that Mrs May or May Not is facing considerable criticism of the new school funding arrangements and of her run-it-up-the-flagpole policy of reintroducing grammar schools. So without further ado, here’s All Change Please! very helpful suggestion…

All Change Please!‘s proposal is that Mrs May or May Not should announce the introduction of special new ‘Grammar Comprehensives‘ in every town. These will be existing comprehensives or academies that agree to set up special grammar-school streams in which the academically-able will be exclusively taught. That way every child will potentially have access to Russell Group universities, and individuals can easily transfer across streams at any appropriate time. Selection for the stream will be sometime during the first term, based on teacher assessment rather than test, thus meaning that wealthy parents will not be able to play the system by paying for extra tuition. At the same time, the money saved from setting up new grammar schools can be diverted into re-balancing the school funding crisis for all.

If the idea were to be adopted it could be spun in the Daily Mail as a brilliant innovative Tory initiative that will both significantly improve social mobility and save school budgets. It really is a win-win solution!

Meanwhile, once the sign at the school gates has been suitably altered, of course schools, teachers and students will simply and quietly get on with what the majority of them have already been doing for years anyway. And all it takes is a change of name.

But perhaps All Change Please! should keep its idea to itself, lest the Df-ingE start to get a reputation for doing something sensible and thereby help the Tories get returned in the next election? So for now, perhaps better to keep the suggestion to yourself….

Image credit: DC Thompson

No-levels 4U

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‘Now That’s What I Call Learning’ Vol 1954

All Change Please! has recently learnt that following on from the introduction of new Tech-levels, the Df-ingE have just announced an award for those who students do not manage to achieve A-levels or T-levels. They will be taken by around 50% of teenagers and be known as No-levels – also referred to as FA-levels. There will be a special FA* award to recognise the achievements of those who have been unable to produce any evidence at all of having learned anything from their complete failure – an essential skill deficiency required by many British companies.

Employers have welcomed the new No-level qualification, saying that it will make it easier for them to identify potential staff who will work for next to nothing on zero hours contracts for job opportunities that will become increasingly difficult to fill post-Brexit.

To help explain the new No-levels to the target group of learners – who obviously will have difficulty reading – the Df-ingE has delved deep into its archive and re-published a helpful, slightly updated, mobile-phone friendly information graphic from the mid 1950s…

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“They think it’s all over…it is now!”

Meanwhile in another leaked social-exclusion-busting policy intended to help the Tory party better connect with its grass roots, it is believed that the Df-ingE are proposing to introduce a new approach to School League Tables. At the end of every school year, or season, the bottom performing 10% of ‘Premier League’ Grammar Schools will be relegated to become ‘Championship’ Technical schools, from where the top 10% will be promoted. And similarly the bottom 10% from the Technical Schools will be demoted to be ‘League One’ Secondary Moderns to be replaced by the most successful from the lower league.

To make the Government’s education policy even more popular, schools will participate in televised ‘Top Of The Form’ type play-offs for promotion. There will be a special knock-out examination for schools with the highest number of FA* level students, to be called the FA* Cup.

To increase funding, the various leagues will be sponsored by successful Multi-Academy Trusts. Headteachers will be renamed Managers – and doubtless be sacked at frequent intervals – and Ofsted Inspectors will in future be (politely) known as Referees.

A spokesperson for the Association of School Managers said: “It’s a completely absurd idea – it shows just how little the Df-ingE understand about teaching and learning. Next they will be suggesting something completely ridiculous such as lowering the entry pass marks for pupils of Grammar School …”  Oh! Wait a minute.

 

Image credits: From Odhams Children’s Encyclopedia, first published in 1954  – the internet equivalent of the day (minus the pornography)

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Lord Gnasher does his business

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Lord Nash is Parliamentary Under Secretary in a State for Schools and, by complete coincidence, a donator of £300,000 to the Tory party. He was a successful venture capitalist for 30 years, and therefore is eminently qualified to know everything there is to know about teaching and learning and the world of education, as All Change Please! has previously revealed.

Wishing to share his extensive experience and expertise in the classroom Lord Gnasher recently gave a speech on “what is relevant in business to education” at a conference. According to the TES he advised that:

“…schools could also learn from business by embracing “standardisation” through multi-academy trusts (MATs) – particularly in the areas of curriculum content and lesson planning.

“I think in the past too often teachers have confused their individuality with their professionalism,” he said.

“Being a professional means embracing accountability, standardisation and consistency, although of course we want our teachers to be inspiring.”

Using standardised content would allow teachers to focus on delivery and differentiation, and would reduce workload, he argued. He said it was impossible to “run an organisation of any size and any diversity, efficiently and effectively if you haven’t got consistent procedures”.

In another amazing coincidence Lord Nash also runs the Future multi-academies chain and his wife is a governor at all four of Future’s schools, including being chair or co-chair at three of them.

And as Philip Hammond gets down to the business of meeting the urgent need for a dramatic increase in the Post-Brexit technical skills and training, don’t be fooled by his spin-worthy budget announcement of supposedly all-new revolutionary and ambitious T-Levels, which by means of a magical change of name and throwing loadsa money at the problem will instantly make everything wonderful again, just as a string of remarkably similar initiatives over the past 20 years hasn’t.

While the majority of non-academic children who will be increasingly branded as Grammar School and EBacc failures continue to become completely alienated from the whole formal education system by the age of 16, simply extending the length of their second-class ‘practical’ courses at the local Tech isn’t going to be terribly effective: it’s not more quantity that’s needed, it’s more quality.  And some mention of the vital need to develop collaborative problem-solving and transferable learning skills might have been encouraging, given that the forthcoming increase in automation is going to mean that today’s students are going to need to able to adapt to work across multiple trades and professions during their lifetime.

Not unsurprisingly, while..

‘The proposals will include a “bridging provision”, so if someone chooses to go down the T-level route but decides they want to change and opt for a more academic education there will be some flexibility in the system.’ (iNews)

it sounds very much like a one-way bridge. What we also need is flexibility for someone who has chosen to go down the academic route but wants to change for a more technical education.

 

Meanwhile another businessperson – Gavin O’Meara, the CEO at FEnews.co.uk has been far more sensibly telling it like it really is…:

“Schools need to offer more vocational subjects at an earlier stage. Generally, these subjects are not offered until GCSE level and most young people don’t take anything vocational until 6th form or college. There are many young people who don’t take any vocational subjects throughout their school career! Even when vocational subjects are taken at GCSE, A Levels or College they are often not seen as ‘intelligent’ subjects or they are seen as easier options to more traditional subjects such as History or English Literature. This mindset is completely wrong and needs to change.

We not only need to offer more vocational subjects from a younger age so that people can study topics which will help them to get a job, we also need to change the general conceptions and assumptions that people hold of vocational subjects. They should be regarded as equal with other subjects by Universities and employers rather than ‘cop outs’.

Schools need to stop pushing University onto students as the be all and end all of having a good career. 60% of young people aren’t interested.”

and O’Meara ends with four easy-to-grasp key points which should be simple enough for even the most academic professor, businessperson or member of the Df-ingE to understand:

• Encourage vocational subjects, not just academic.

• Include more vocational training throughout the school career.

• University is not for everyone. Encourage apprenticeships and alternative pathways.

• Get social! Add social media to the syllabus and encourage young people to build their own brand.

And last but not least on the subject of business and education, do enjoy watching this clip of Lily Eskelesen Garcia, an actual former teacher who now works at the US National Education Association leading 3 million teachers. It’s not just what she has to say that’s inspiring, it’s the way that she says it – an outstanding example of public speaking.

Meanwhile this is what Garcia had to say about the need to stop the high-stakes testing obsession in public education and move toward educating the whole child. Are you listening Lord Gnasher? No, we didn’t think you were…

Image credit: Wikipedia

Pass Notes: What is GCSE Irritative Design?

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Up, down, in, out and all around the country, Design & Technology teachers are attending training meetings and busily checking out the new GCSE specifications for their subject, due to commence in September 2017. The new requirements expect students to follow what’s known as an ‘iterative’ design process. Here’s All Change Please!’s handy cut-out and weep guide…

So what’s with this new requirement for GCSE D&T students to follow an irritative design process?

I think you’ll find it’s called an ‘iterative’ design process.

It may be iterative to you but it’s irritating to me. What was wrong with doing things the way we always did in the past – I thought the Tories were trying to take us back to the 1950s?

So do you want to know what it is or not?

I suppose I better. Go on then.

Ah, well, I was afraid you might say that, because actually no-one really seems clear as to what it means. It might, or might not, prove helpful to see exactly how the various AO’s (Awarding Organisations, previously known as Awarding Bodies, previously known as Examination Boards) are explaining ‘the iterative design process of exploring, creating and evaluating in their recent D&T GCSE specifications..

For example, one awarding organisation describes interrelated iterative processes that ‘explore’ needs, ‘create’ solutions and ‘evaluate’ how well the needs have been met.’ These ‘occur repeatedly as iterations throughout any process of designing prototyped solutionsand that this ensuresconstantly evolving iterations that build clearer needs and better solutions for a concept’.

Meanwhile another requires students to ‘Use an iterative approach – employ a process of planning, experimenting, designing, modelling, testing and reviewing, including use of input from client/end user to inform decision making, make improvements and refine designs at each stage of development.’

And the assessment criteria for a third lists: ‘Investigating, Designing, Making, Analysing and Evaluating‘, while adding: ‘In the spirit of the iterative design process, the above should be awarded holistically where they take place and not in a linear manner.’ It continues ‘…so that students can engage in an iterative process of designing, making, testing, improving and evaluating.’

I’m still feeling somewhat irritated and even more confused now. I think I’m certainly going to need quite a lot of that spirit to cope with this…

Elsewhere Iterative Design has been described as ‘a continuous process of to-ing and fro-ing between cognitive and physical models that move from a hazy notion of a solution towards a working prototype’.

Well, no problem there then – my kids are always going to-ing the stockroom and fro-ing bits of wood around. And they certainly only have a very hazy notion of what they are supposed to be doing.

To be fair, the awarding organisations will be providing teacher support materials that will aim to make the whole thing clearer.

But surely investigating, designing and making are exactly what my students were doing before? And anyway most of the investigating needs to be done at the start of the project, then the designing takes places and finally they make a prototype and evaluate it. So what’s the big change then?

Well… err… students need to be encouraged to continue investigating while they are designing and making, and to be evaluating their own work and the work of others throughout. The activities of exploring, creating and evaluating are all closely linked. It’s difficult to do one without the other. Exploring a situation involves evaluating the quantity and quality of information discovered and leads to new ideas for further enquiries and research methodologies. Generating design ideas involves deciding which to pursue or reject and identifying further information that will be needed. Evaluating designs involves referring back to the identified requirements and coming up with new ideas or refinements in response to unresolved problems. Of course this makes separating them out for purposes of examination assessment of exploring, creating and evaluating next to impossible.

So, what you seem to be saying is, actually it doesn’t really change anything much at all, except it’s going to make assessment a lot more difficult?

Err, yes. Irritating, isn’t it?

That Jony Ive bloke keeps talking about iterative design doesn’t he? I thought he meant that each new iPhone model is a development of the previous one – some features stay the same, others are removed and new ones are added. But that’s just design, isn’t it? Surely all design is iterative by nature?

Yes, I think you may be on to something there. I know, let’s see what Wikipedia has to say:

‘Iterative design is a design methodology based on a cyclic process of prototyping, testing, analyzing, and refining a product or process.’

Ah, so we’re back to the good old Design Cycle then?

No, No, this is quite different… At least I think it is. Wikipedia goes on to say something very interesting:  ‘Iterative design is a way of confronting the reality of unpredictable user needs and behaviors that can lead to sweeping and fundamental changes in a design.’

In other words it’s not just enough to make a final prototype to test out with a potential user and other stakeholders – what’s important are the refinements that are made as a result of the testing of a series of models.

What’s all this about holding steaks? I thought Food wasn’t part of D&T any more?

That’s stakeholders – other people who might have a interest in the design – other users or maybe managers or retailers or clients.

Wikipedia continues:

‘There is a parallel between iterative and the theory of Natural Selection. Both involve a trial and error process in which the most suitable design advances to the next generation, while less suitable designs perish by the wayside. Subsequent versions of a product should also get progressively better as its producers learn what works and what doesn’t in a process of refinement and continuous improvement.’

So design iteration involves coming up with and developing more than just one idea and a single development of it. If a student only came up with one solution and made that without being willing to consider changing and improving it – so-called ‘design fixation’- then it wouldn’t be iterative.

Ah! As well as the continuous interaction between exploring, creating and evaluating, iterative design also means continuous improvement? How clear and easy do the awarding bodies make that to identify in their mark schemes? Or do I just continue to naturally select which portfolios I think are the best ones?

Probably. But between you and me, the secret is that iterative design is essentially a mind-set in which students are encouraged to be continually dis-satisfied and always exploring new information and creating new ideas, and always evaluating what they are doing – from an early quick sketch to making a final presentation model – and even what they would change if they had more time. It’s the sense that a sense that a design is never really perfect of finished, and can always be improved.

So that’s Iterative Design then? Just go through it again for me will you and see if you can improve your explanation a bit more?

You mean you’d like me to reiterate what I’ve just said?

Now you’re talking…

Do say: When will the next iteration of the D&T GCSE be written?

Don’t say: I blame Sir James Dyson

Image adapted from: Flickr/Dave Gray and Fotolia

 

Theresa In Wonderland

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Thankfully, the Festive Season comes but once a year and, as surely as Christmas means Christmas, it’s time for All Change Please! to delve into the world of literature and present its own special pull-out double issue, long-read, twisted, fractured and satirical updated version of a well known classic, such as it has done in years gone by with Twenty Fifty One and The Gove of Christmas Present. So without further ado – look out behind you!  Here’s All Change Please!’s annual political pantomime…

Once upon a time, not so very long ago, it was a warm and sunny July afternoon and Theresa was sitting lazily in the beautiful back garden of the house in her Maidenhead constituency, contentedly admiring her new pair of very expensive summer sandals.

All of a sudden, and much to her surprise, a white rabbit with pink eyes ran by exclaiming ‘Oh my ears and whiskers, how late it’s getting. I’ll never get to be PM’. That’s curious, Theresa thought – That rabbit looks just like Michael Gove. She strode purposefully across the garden just in time to see it pop down a large rabbit hole. Just in front of the hole there was a small sign that read ‘BREXIT’, and pointed towards the hole. In another moment down she went after the rabbit, never once considering how in the world she would ever get out of it again. Suddenly she found herself descending at great speed. As she fell she began to worry that when she reached the bottom she was probably in for a very hard Brexit indeed.

1sw-Alice_drink_me.jpgDown, down, down Theresa fell until she could go no further, when suddenly there was a thump and she found herself in a long, low hall which she recognised as the corridor of Number 10 Downing Street. There she came across a small three-legged table on which there was a bottle marked Blue and Yellow Brexit. I’m certainly not drinking that, she thought, but perhaps if I give it a good shake and mix it up it will turn in to a nice Red, White and Blue Brexit? Or even better, an Amazing Technicolour Dreamcoat Brexit that one day will become a successful West-end musical. What a shame I didn’t study more art in school then I would understand how colour theory works.

***

In the distance Theresa caught a glimpse of what she first assumed to be Larry, the Downing Street cat, sitting at the top of the stairs. As she approached him however, she realised she had been mistaken. This cat had very long claws and a great many teeth.

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‘What’s your name?’ Theresa asked politely.

‘Why, I’m Nigel, the UKIP cat.’

‘Ah!’ said Theresa. ‘Would you tell me please, which way I ought to go from here? What sort of people live about here?

‘In that direction,’ the cat said, ‘lives a Hatter, and in that direction lives a March Hare. Visit either you like: they’re both mad. But at least they are not immigrants.’

‘But I don’t want to go among mad people,’ Theresa remarked.

‘Oh you can’t help that,’ said the cat: ‘We’re all mad here. I’m mad. You’re mad.’

‘How do you know I’m mad?’ said Theresa.

‘You must be,’ said the cat, ‘or you wouldn’t have come here.’

Suddenly the cat vanished and then re-appeared as UKIP Leader several times, finally beginning with the end of the tail and ending with just the grin, which remained some time after the rest of it had gone off in search of America.

***

1s--De_Alice's_Abenteuer_im_Wunderland_Carroll_pic_26.jpgAt the top of the stairs Theresa found herself in front of a door marked ‘Cabinet Room’ How curious she thought, to have a room specifically to keep a cabinet in. She opened the door and entered. At the end of a very large table, the March 31st Hare and the Mad Hatter were having tea: a Dormouse was sitting between them, fast asleep. Theresa couldn’t help noticing the uncanny resemblance that the Mad Hatter had to Boris Johnson, that the March 31st Hare had to David Davies, and that the dormouse had to Philip Hammond.

‘No room! No room!’ they cried out when they saw her coming.

‘There’s plenty of room!’ said Theresa indignantly, and she sat down in the large, important looking chair in the middle, reflecting that this was now indeed a post-truth world. Theresa lifted the pot to pour herself some tea, but the tea dripped out from the bottom onto the cabinet table. Ah!, she thought, at least now I know where all the leaks are coming from.

‘Well,’ said the March 31st Hare. ‘What do you have to say? Say what you mean.’

‘I do,’ Theresa replied hastily. ‘At least I mean what I say – that’s the same thing you know.’

‘It’s not the same thing a bit!’ said the Hare. ‘You just announce policies that come into your head, and a few days later say you never meant them.’

‘So,’ said Theresa, ‘you mean that if I say ‘Brexit means Brexit’ I don’t mean what I say?’

‘Exactly!’ replied the Hare, ‘What you really mean to say is that Brexit means whatever the EU decides it means.

‘That’s curious’, interrupted Boris the Mad Hatter. ‘Whenever I say what I mean, No 10 always says I didn’t mean to say it. Which is a very mean thing of them to say. But enough of this nonsense. Let me ask you a riddle instead. Why is a Grammar School like a White Elephant? Can you guess?’

‘No I give it up,’ Theresa replied. ‘What’s the answer? ‘

‘I haven’t the slightest idea,’ said the Hatter. ‘Well, except that perhaps a white elephant is also something that isn’t worth having but still costs a lot to maintain?’

***

1sJohn.jpgTheresa left the cabinet room, declaring she would never go there again and that it was the stupidest meeting she ever was at in all her life! Just as she said this she noticed a tree with a door leading into it. That’s very curious, she thought, but everything’s curious these days. I think I may as well go in at once. She found herself at the entrance to a garden, and noticed that there were 27 EU leaders all in a bit of a state, dressed as playing cards. She introduced herself to the Queen of Hearts:

 ‘My name is Theresa, so please your Majesty,’ she said very politely, but added, to herself, ‘Why, they’re only a pack of cards, after all. I needn’t be afraid of them!’

After a game of croquet, the Queen of Hearts, whom Theresa couldn’t help but notice bore more than a passing resemblance to Angela Merkel, offered her some bread and jam and a piece of cake. Theresa declined the JAM, saying she could just about manage to afford her new leather trousers perfectly well without it, even though she knew very well that there were many others who couldn’t.

‘You couldn’t have it if you did want it anyway,’ the Queen said. ‘The rule is JAM tomorrow and JAM yesterday but never JAM to-day.’

The Queen then demanded that she played a game with her. Theresa studied the cards in her hand and saw she held the Joker – I’ll have to play my Trump card very carefully, she thought.

Suddenly the Queen shouted out: ‘Now show me your cards!’

‘But if I show you my cards,’ Theresa explained, ‘then you will have a considerable advantage and will easily win the game.’

‘Hmm! I suppose you believe you’re in charge around here?’ said the Queen sarcastically.

‘Well I am the Prime Minister of Wonderland.’ said Theresa, which quite surprised her because up to that moment it hadn’t really occurred to her that indeed she now was. At this the Queen got very annoyed and muttered something about making sure that Teresa might still have her piece of cake, but she certainly wasn’t going to eat it too.

1s-John_Tenniel_-_Illustration_from_The_Nursery_Alice_(1890)_-_c06543_05.jpg‘I’ll tell you something to believe,’ the Queen continued: ‘I have twice been named the world’s second most powerful person, the highest ranking ever achieved by a woman, and the most powerful woman in the world for a record tenth time. I am the longest-serving incumbent head of government in the EU, the senior G7 leader and I’m seeking re-election for a fourth-term.’

‘I can’t believe all that!’ said Theresa.

‘Can’t you?’ the Queen said in a pitying tone. ‘Try again: draw a long breath, and shut your eyes.’

Theresa laughed. ‘There’s no use trying,’ she said: ‘one can’t believe impossible things.’

‘I daresay you haven’t had much practice,’ said the Queen. ‘When I was your age, I always did it for half-an-hour a day. Why, sometimes I’ve believed as many as six impossible things before Brexit.

Then the Queen asked Theresa: ‘Have you seen the Mock-exam Turtle yet?’

‘No,’ said Theresa. ‘I don’t even know what a Mock-exam Turtle is.’

‘Come on, then,’ said the Queen, ‘and he shall tell you his history,’

The Mock-exam Turtle duly told his story and spoke of his education: ‘When we were little we went to school in the sea. The master was an old Turtle—we used to call him Tortoise—’

‘Why did you call him Tortoise, if he wasn’t one?’ Theresa asked.

‘We called him Tortoise because he taught us,’ said the Mock Turtle angrily: ‘really you are very dull!’

‘And how many hours a day did you do lessons?’ said Theresa, in a hurry to change the subject.

‘Ten hours the first day,’ said the Mock Turtle: ‘nine the next, and so on.’

‘What a curious plan!’ exclaimed Theresa.

‘That’s the reason they’re called lessons – because they lessen from day to day.’

***

1s-John_Tenniel_-_Illustration_from_The_Nursery_Alice_(1890)_-_c06544_02.jpgPresently, Theresa found herself attending the trial of the scurrilous Knave of Hearts who was accused of stealing the Arts from schools one summer day and taking them quite away, and who looked suspiciously like Nick Glibbly. Glibbly read out various items of fake-news press-releases claiming that the Arts were still flourishing and GCSE entries had increased, except of course he carefully neglected to mention that the figures he was quoting included AS levels. After Glibbly had presented his evidence the King announced that the jury should consider their verdict.

‘No, no!’ exclaimed the Queen. ‘Let’s write the front page headline of the Daily Mail first – verdict afterwards.’

‘Stuff and nonsense,’ said Theresa loudly. ‘The very idea of it. You can’t have the sentence before the verdict.’

‘Hold your tongue,’ said the Queen turning a shade of UKIP purple.

‘I won’t!’ said Theresa defiantly. But at this the Queen completely lost her temper.

‘Off with her shoes!’ she shouted furiously at the top of her voice.

But Theresa found the thought of losing her shoes so traumatic that it bought her to her senses with a jolt, and she suddenly found herself back in the garden, where her strange adventure had begun. She immediately looked down and to her great relief found her shoes were still firmly attached to her feet.

‘Ah! there you are Theresa dear!’ said her husband. ‘Why, what a long time you’ve been away!’

‘Oh, I’ve had such a curious dream!’ said Theresa. ‘I had begun to think that very few things indeed were really impossible. Would you believe I dreamt I was Prime Minister of Wonderland?’

‘But my dear!’, said Philip kindly. ‘Don’t you remember? You are the Prime Minister of Wonderland…’

***

Christmas Day Quiz Question. How well do you know your Lewis Caroll? All the quotations and references above were based on text taken from ‘Alice in Wonderland’, except for two which were from ‘Through The Looking Glass’. But which were they?

***

With thanks to Lewis Caroll. Illustrations by Tenniel/Wikimedia

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Let’s Make Education Great Again!

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Let’s Take Back Control:

Vote for All Change Please!

In this confirmation-biased, filter-bubbled, post-truth, false-news, JAM-packed ‘breakfast-means-breakfast’ world of cyber-physical systems, social media and politics, it seems all anyone needs to do is to make a few things up and get them out into cyberspace and they become reality. So here’s All Change Please!’s contribution…

When elected, in its first 24 hours in office, All Change Please! will:

•  Double teachers’ salaries

•  Reduce teacher administrative workload by 50%

•  Reduce class sizes by 50%

•  Make taking the EBacc illegal

•  Disband Ofsted with immediate effect

•  End all League Tables

•  Ban marking

•  Disband existing awarding bodies and replace them with locally set and moderated curriculum specifications

•  Turn all Public schools into free Comprehensives

•  Invest in brand new architect-designed award-winning buildings for all schools

•  Make vocational and technical education equal to academic learning

•  Nationalise all Multi-Academy Trusts

•  Introduce 5 year training courses for all new teachers

•  Bring back free school milk

•  Fund Dancing in the Street

And, most importantly:

•  Build an impenetrable border-long wall between Education and Politicians.

•  Lock up Michael Gove

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Imagine there’s no target grades, lesson plans or end-of-term reports to write, it’s easy if you try…

 

Image credits Flickr (top): LWCV / Brad Greenlee

7-Up + 300

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“Give me a child until he is seven and I will give you the man”

It’s astonishing to think that back in the Autumn of 2009 – around the time that All Change Please!’s first post was published – a child starting secondary school in Year 7 will now have completed their A levels and be either commencing a degree course – or of course, more like All Change Please!, becoming another Not in Employment, Education or Training statistic.

Yes, it’s exactly seven years since All Change Please! published its very first post, and as usual it decides to nostalgically wallow in its archives from the past twelve months to visit some of its most read and best loved words of so-called wisdom.

But before it does so, there is another cause for celebration, because by delightful coincidence this is also All Change Please!’s 300th post.

This year’s Top 3 most read posts were:

1. Pass Notes: Art Attack! 

In which it is revealed that both less and fewer pupils are now taking GCSE subjects in The Arts, despite Nick Glibb claiming otherwise before being finally proved wrong by the 2016 entry figures.

2. Little Miss Morgan

In which it is suggested that Nicky Morgan didn’t really care what she was saying at the NASUWT Party Conference because she knew she’s be in a proper cabinet job by September, except that now we know it didn’t work out quite like that.

3. No Minister! No, No, No.

In which a passionate appeal is made by means of the Df-ingE consultation for it to abandon its intentions that 90% of pupils should take the EBacc to GCSE, even though the results of the consultation have never been made public.

Meanwhile All Change Please!‘s personal favourite Top 3 were:

1. Curriculum Noir 3 

In which Wilshaw asks Marlowe for help after he realises he’s made an enormous mistake backing the EBacc, despite the fact that there’s not a shred of evidence to back up the Df-ingE’s ideology.

2. What a Wonderful World

In which we learn all about the brave new world of Fantasy Politics in which politicians make up any old stuff that comes to mind – something that All Change Please! has been successfully getting away with for years.

3. Twenty Fifty One

In which we revisit George Orwell’s classic story 1984, and realise it’s just that we haven’t got there yet – despite the fact that we’ve since taken back control and given it all to just one person who thinks she can run the country on her own. Big Sister Is Watching You…

“Give me a blog until it is seven and I will give you the Pulitzer Prize for Journalism (or not)”

Let’s try a different kind of 7up instead…

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 7up image credit: Flickr/Kevin Dooley