Does he take Sugata with that?


The Daily Torygraph recently published an article provocatively headed “Lessons in spelling ‘have no place in 21st century schools’, reporting an interview with the controversial Sugata Mitra in the TES in which he suggested:

“This emphasis on grammar and spelling, I find it a bit unnecessary because they are skills that were very essential maybe a hundred years ago but they are not right now. Should [students] learn how to write good sentences? Yes, of course they should. They should learn how to convey emotion and meaning through writing. But we have perhaps a mistaken notion that the way in which we write is the right way and that the way in which young people write through their SMS texting language is not the right way. If there is a generation who believe that SMS language is a better way of expressing emotion than our way, then are we absolutely sure that they are making a mistake and we are not?”

The article then included a rather pointless online ‘vote’.

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in which of course 97% agreed with statement a, because statement b is absurd, and not what is being suggested in the first place.

However, at the same time perhaps we need to revisit the whole idea of teaching and learning spelling and grammar in the same way as we do knowledge. We need to acknowledge ‘texting’ as a genuine and popular form of communication with its own conventions and rules. While children probably learn these quickly and independently, perhaps some could do with being taught how to improve their texting? There are two possibilities: either texters make mistakes that leads to confusion, or they don’t. If the former, that justifies the need for teaching them to improve, if the latter, perhaps we should all start to use texting as being a more efficient means of communication?

All Change Please!‘s very smart new smart phone seems to take predictive text one stage further. It not only provides suggestions for the word being writing before it has been completely typed, but also, when as the next word is started it often spookily manages to predicting what word is coming next. So, soon such devices might present us with complete predictive phrases or even sentences? Or even paragraphs? Perhaps in the future most people will simply select from pre-written paragraph templates, aided by artificial intelligence?

Meanwhile perhaps we need to ask our teenagers themselves for their views on what aspects of spelling and grammar they feel are important to learn? “Does he take spelling with that?”

More recently has been the case of Apprentice finalist, runner-up and star Luisa Zissman, who has attracted much criticism and scorn for tweeting…

“Can you all help me out as I’m crap at grammar. Is it bakers toolkit or baker’s toolkit with an apostrophe?!”

before adding:

“I like the look of bakers. Would it be terrible to stick with bakers?”

So maybe how a word looks is now important than whether it is grammatically correct? And indeed from a commercial branding perspective, that’s fair enough – after all we don’t, for example, question why there are no apostrophes in Morrisons or Boots.  And it seems the last laugh here is on the media, because, All Change Please! has been very reliably informed…

‘Bakers Toolkit’ IS acceptable – it’s called appositional agreement, where you link two words together by proximity, the commonest example being ‘car park’. Nobody thinks of writing ‘cars’ park’, even though that would make perfect sense. Actually, of the three alternatives, ‘Baker’s Toolkit’, ‘Bakers’ Toolkit’ and ‘Bakers Toolkit’, the one I like least is the second, since it implies a toolkit for a certain identifiable number of actual bakers, which isn’t the point.’

Though interestingly, when challenged, the Daily Telegraph didn’t seem to want to know about this, and maintained its stance that Bakers should have an apostrophe as there was more than one Baker.

But the final words must surely go to The Daily Mash for this report that clearly explains exactly how truly amazing All Change Please! and its merry band of old-fashioned pedantic followers really are…

Image credit:   Flickr:Didi

Big School, Little Humour


The chances are that at some point you have watched Little Britain, or David Walliams and Matt Lucas in Come Fly With Me  – hilarious send-ups of life in Britain built on closely observed stereotypes, provoking fun at the current politically correct and socially acceptable behaviour.

So perhaps like All Change Please! you also tuned in (well, pressed the button on the remote as we tend to do these days) to watch Big School (Friday, BBC 1 9pm), Walliams’ latest comedic contribution to our understanding of the way we live now. If you were fortunate enough to miss it, it features Walliams as a love-struck science teacher, Catherine Tate as the object of his affections, and Philip Glennister as a brutish and sex-struck PE teacher.

Not so funny now it’s the world of education being satirised is it? Well, that was entirely the problem – it just wasn’t funny at all, and without a laughter track to hint at what was supposed to be a joke and what was serious, it was hard to tell which was which. If anything ever deserved a ‘U’, Big School certainly does. Walliams, Tate and Glennister are all fine actors. It’s difficult to imagine how they agreed to take part in this show.

Therefore if you’ve not seen it, don’t bother. And if you know someone who has, please tell them that schools are nothing like that whatsoever – and that’s the problem in that it’s yet another completely inaccurate and misleading prime-time media representation of what goes on in our schools. If it didn’t know any better, here’s what All Change Please! would have learnt from the first episode…

•  Children leave a lesson immediately the bell goes, not when dismissed.

•  Staff rooms are silent places, where everyone just sits calmly and quietly, except for the more vocal members of staff who address everyone.

•  Schools have no more than about a dozen staff, and a hundred or so older pupils.

•  Pupils heckle from the audience during assembly, and their comments can be supported by a member of staff who can then publicly challenge another member of staff to respond.

•  Children are allowed to use their mobile phones while in detention and can leave when they like.

•  There are no computers in schools.

•  French teachers have never been to France.

•  Headteachers smoke in their offices and are alcoholics.

•  There is no senior management team in schools, let alone any concern that Ofsted will be in shortly to place the school into Special Measures before converting it into an Academy.

But what’s even more extraordinary is this review from the Daily Mail:

Well, being from the Daily Mail, perhaps it’s not that extraordinary. However, The Mail Says:’s a scene that would fit neatly into Carry On Teacher, the black-and-white 1959 movie with Ted Ray and Leslie Phillips. If we were expecting old-fashioned comedy, we’re certainly getting it. The traditional approach brings benefits. There’s no wobbly handheld camera work, no improvised dialogue, no barrage of foul language, no filthy single entendres.

In response, All Change Please! Says:

There is absolutely no comparison here to the ‘Carry On’ films, which were full of daring innuendo, slapstick and grossly exaggerated but somehow believable characters, or to classic ‘old-fashioned comedy’ that at least had well-written and funny scripts. Indeed just about everything that Big School failed to have, except for a quite explicit single entendre that the Mail somehow seemed to miss.

From St Trinians to Teachers and Whack-O to Waterloo Road, Big School follows an impressive lineage of books, films and TV series set in schools, as discussed in this article, Big School: what education dramas tell us about ourselves. To a greater or lesser degree they all portray a distorted view of what goes on in our schools, but somehow this can be usually overlooked and forgiven because they are well-constructed and genuinely amusing and/or dramatic.

Big School is so out-dated, misinformed and irrelevant it’s almost as if Mr Gove had written the script himself…

The Master Plan


Once again All Change Please! has been privileged to receive a classified transcript of a discussion that took place a couple of months ago between Yes Minister’s Sir Humphrey Appleby and The Thick of It’s Malcolm Tucker

Sir Humphrey: Ah! Malcolm, good to see you again. Tell me how is your education minister getting on? Has he come up with any more daft new schemes recently?

Malcolm Tucker:  I can’t imagine how things could get any worse. How on earth am I going to put a positive spin on the fact that he’s well and truly f***** up teacher recruitment and there is about to be a national shortage of Primary teachers and Secondary Maths and Science teachers? There may be a silent g in gnat, but there’s soon going to be no f in physics if we don’t train some more teachers pretty quickly. Not to mention the teachers’ strikes due next term, and the fuss over the reform of A levels. I just wish he’d never been born…

SH:  Well, funny you should say that – I had been thinking, wouldn’t it be good if someone could go back in time, and, how should I put it, ensure that Michael Gove never got into politics in the first place?

MT:  You mean like in Doctor Who with his TARDIS thing, with some attractive young actress out of Eastenders?1S-4620692821_c87a4a9805_b

SH:  Precisely. And I’ve heard on the grapevine that they will soon be looking for a new Doctor Who, and I thought perhaps you should apply for the job, and then go back in time and encourage Gove to follow a completely different career?

MT:  That’s a f****** amazing idea. You’re the Master, Sir Humphrey.

SH:  Yes. Indeed. Probably more so than you will ever realise. Well off you go then – you’ve an audition to attend.

Malcolm Tucker exists only to return in what seems no time at all.

SH:  Ah Malcolm, that was quick. So did you get the part?

MT:  Not only did I get the part, but I’ve been travelling back and forth through time and space for several years now. And I did a deal with some old acquaintances that should have fixed that Michael Gove good and proper.

SH:  Michael Gove? Who’s he? I don’t think I’ve heard of him? Oh yes, wait a minute isn’t he that second rate film actor from the mid 1990s?

MT: Errr. Yes, of course. Never mind about him then. So tell me, how’s the current education minister doing?

SH:  Ah, you mean Michael Davros? I thought the whole idea was that you were going to do something about him? 1W-3529853025_8dce16af56_bHe’s worse than terrible. First he instigated a new DALEK inspection team, which might have worked well, only they would insist on completely exterminating failing schools.  Unfortunately that included the children, and most of the parents were none too pleased about that. And then when he announced he was going to bring in migrants to teach maths and science, Cybermanwe didn’t realise that he intended to recruit the Cybermen. You can imagine the reaction when an army of robots marched in through the school gates!

MT: Holy c***. Sounds like I really f***** up. Jesus Christ, what an almighty omnishables.  Just a minute – I think I feel a regeneration coming on. That’s a stroke of luck. Fancy being my new companion Sir Humphrey?

SH:  No, Doctor…. Tempus Fugit, as no one says anymore.

MT: Now where did I leave the TARDIS? Oh yes, somewhere on Earls Court Road I think…