Hands up those of you who saw Lord Adonis and Katherine Birbalsingh on Newsnight yesterday. Well, overlooking the fact that you shouldn’t have been up so late on a school night, it turned out to be one of those rather uneasy interviews where the two guests realise that they actually tend to agree with each other. And the general consensus was that we need more no-nonsense order and discipline, somehow to be achieved by a return to a very traditional approach to teaching and learning in which the kids sit silently in rows soaking up the knowledge from their fact-filled teacher preaching from the front.
You can see the full report here:
It starts at around 17 mins 15 seconds, with the studio interview beginning at 23 mins 51 seconds
What they don’t seem to get is that is that it’s not so much how things are taught, but what is being taught that’s the problem. When the students perceive that the lesson content has some relevance to their future life, then they become eager to learn and don’t start to become disruptive. I’m reminded of one of the best lessons I ever observed, which was a class of disaffected 15 year-olds being taught metal workshop practice. They were fully engaged, perfectly behaved and learnt a lot in a short space of time – despite the fact, or more likely because of the fact that there was not an National Curriculum Attainment Target anywhere in sight.
Meanwhile the Newsnight TV debate somewhat reminded me of the classic ‘Not the Nine O’Clock News’ sketch where Pamela Stephenson’s social theorist shocks everyone by agreeing with Mel Smith’s plans for yob control – that the only solution was to ‘cut off their goolies’.