Tilting at Wind Turbines

Arts and Media students to keep our wind turbines turning?

You can’t be serious? For those of you assuming that the idea of Arts and Media students maintaining wind turbines is just another one of All Change Please!‘s weirder satirical fantasies, then you’d be wrong – this time it’s for real….

Last week in her Annual Report, Ofsted’s very own Amanda Spielman spoke of her concern about colleges:

“flooding a local job market with young people with say low-level arts and media qualifications when the big growth in demand is for green energy workers, will result in too many under-employed and dissatisfied young people and wind turbines left idle.”

As such she continued to reveal her considerable lack of understanding of the way things really are in schools and colleges, and at the same time managed to perpetuate and reinforce the mistaken populist opinion that all “superficially attractive” courses in Arts and Media are a waste of time. And All Change Please! can’t help wonder why those who show an aptitude for Arts and Media courses should be singled out as being particularly ideal candidates for maintaining wind turbines? Surely there must be other just as low-level, worthless courses offered in other subjects too?

At one level Ms Spielman’s suggestion that more students should perhaps be encouraged to consider becoming ‘green energy workers’ is fair enough, but just saying so isn’t going to make it happen, because things don’t work like that. And, beyond the ‘Ofsted blasts ‘low-level arts and media courses‘ sensationalist headlines (which is as far as most readers get), she does admit that “This doesn’t mean that the courses the young people are taking are completely worthless”, and that her target is “the small minority of our colleges that have under-performed or been stuck for years”. But by then, it’s too late, and the damage to public opinion has been done.

While it is true to say that many post 16 students take courses in Arts and Media, Ms Spielman’s makes no attempt to consider why, and what needs to be done to encourage them, and others, to take more ‘technical’ courses instead. It’s also a shame she does not define exactly what she means by ‘worthless’ courses, thus tarring all such courses with the same brush.

So why do so many students opt for Arts and Media courses? Is it the fault of FE colleges engaging in ‘market push’, as Ms Spielman suggests, or more a case of ‘market pull’ in which students are asking for them? When it comes to what is now quite a restricted choice in selecting which GCSE subjects to study, children who are considered to be the disaffected ‘less-academic’ are often steered towards Arts and Media subjects, mistakenly thought of as ‘being easier’ rather than that they are more appropriate to developing their potential skills and abilities. Such children are likely to be struggling with theoretical science and maths subjects (surely important for green energy workers?), and the more traditionally ‘academic’ subject teachers tend not to want them in their classes anyway as they are considered to be more likely to drag down their final departmental examination results and be more ‘challenging’ to have in the classroom.

Thus two or three years later when it comes to post-16 choices, the only non-academic subjects such students have encountered tend to be in the Arts and Media, where they have at least found some confidence and success, and quite probably achieved their highest GCSE grades. As a result, it’s hardly surprising that these are subjects they want to study at college. Unfortunately simply offering FE courses in Green Energy is unlikely to attract many takers, and it might also be anticipated that the content of such courses is likely to be educationally and technically quite narrow.

Ms Spielman admirably says that we need to “radically improve the quality of vocational and skills education in our towns“, but if she is serious about recruiting green energy, and other, workers, then she needs to be doing is to promote the introduction of more practically-orientated technical and vocational equivalent GCSE courses that have parity in the league tables and with EBacc and Progress 8 measurements. Waiting until teenagers are 16 or even older is too late. This is exactly what successive governments and university-feeder schools have completely failed to do over the past fifty years.

Part of Ms Spielman’s argument is that there is an over-supply of Arts and Media students for the employment market. As usual there’s surely a contradiction at work here? A level English students are not all expected to become award-winning novelists. Very few History students will end up working in museums. Physics students will not all end up working as theoretical Physicists. So why should it be assumed that all Arts and Media students will end up working in the Arts and Media professions? Indeed, more than any other subject, Arts and Media courses are under-pinned by the highly transferable so-called ‘soft-skills’ that employers are so keen to recruit at present. Amongst other things they require students to learn how to ask questions, find information out for themselves, work to briefs, produce specifications, develop ideas, plan their time, organise resources, collaborate, present themselves well and to be able to communicate appropriately according to purpose and audience. Not to mention the general intellectual, emotional, cultural and social development such courses provide, as discussed here.

In reality the value and ‘worth’ of these Arts and Media courses depends primarily on how well they are taught and the extent to which they develop and prepare students for professional practice and for life in general. And, like all courses, future success depends on how well students are suited to them and how hard they work at them. For the successful there are plenty of employment opportunities in the Arts and Media, and indeed anyone with good basic skills in computer-aided design (e.g., Desk-top publishing, photo manipulation, video editing, web design, game design) is much in demand.

It’s unhelpful of Ms Spielman to unnecessarily use Arts and Media courses as scapegoats. Perhaps she would be better employed sticking to inspecting what schools do, rather than giving ill-informed careers advice and fighting imaginary enemies, Don Quixote style?

 

 

 

 

Gustave Dore’s illustration of Miguel de Cervantes’s Don Quixote attacking windmills that he believes to be ferocious giants.

 

 

‘D’ is for…

Long after the letters A, B and C, ‘All Change Please!’s Absolutely Absurd Alternative A to Z of Educashun’ turns its attention to the letter ‘D’.

For any new readers, ‘All Change Please!’s Absolutely Absurd Alternative A to Z of Educashun’ takes a mildly humorous look at the way things are in our schools and sometimes compares them to life on the parallel universe of Planet Urth.

Dancing (in the street)
There are some schools in which children are required to move from lesson to lesson in silence and to strictly keep to left or right of the corridor and stairs. But not on Planet Urth where children and teachers are expected to joyously dance down the corridors. What’s more they arrive at the next lesson too tired to misbehave.

Deep Learning
The term ‘Deep Learning’ means that academic theory is studied alongside the development of what, at the rate we are going, look more likely to become more practical 22nd Century skills. Unfortunately however many traditional teachers seem to think that Deep Learning just requires drilling down even further to deliver more and more knowledge in greater and greater depth.

In Victorian times, Deep Learning was what happened when young children were sent down the mines to learn how to dig for coal. In today’s only slightly more modern times children are now subjected to deep knowledge learning in every academic subject they study. This means they never get to see the clear light of day either.

On Planet Urth they initially experimented with opening up old coal mines and transforming them into underground classrooms in an attempt to promote even deeper learning, but the idea quickly fell apart at the seams.

Meanwhile Deep Learning is also a term widely used in the development of Artificial Intelligence. It is based on artificial neural networks, deep belief networks, recurrent neural networks and convolutional neural networks in which computer models learn to accurately perform classification tasks directly from images, text or sound suited for hybrid multicloud environments that demand mission-critical performance, security and governance. But that’s all just a bit too deep for All Change Please!

Deputy Dawg

 

All schools on Planet Urth have at least one Deputy Dawg as part of their Senior Management Team. Training for this role consists of watching endless re-runs of the popular 1960s TV series of the same name in which Deputy Dawg has to protect his produce from Muskie and Vince, battling with some of the peculiar locals and trying to please the Sheriff. However Deputy Dawg is on friendly terms with them most of the time, except when he has to perform his duties as a lawman and keep them from causing trouble. Deputy Dawgs patrol the school corridors muttering ‘Dagnabit’ all the time, which for some reason is thought more acceptable than ‘God Damn It’, even thought that’s what they are actually thinking.

Design Education

All Change Please! looks back, having spent its entire working life advocating Design Education. As a result all schools successfully deliver an exciting and stimulating co-coordinated programme that combines developing skills in interdisciplinary open-ended problem-solving, creativity and communication in a way that enables children to effectively understand and apply the knowledge they have gained elsewhere in the curriculum and fully prepares them for the unpredictable changes that lie ahead for them in the future. As such All Change Please! considers its life to have been both fulfilling and entirely worthwhile.

Michael Gove? Who is he? Nick Glibbly? The EBacc? Oh yes, wait, it’s all starting to come back now.

More morphine, nurse…. quickly!

Design & Technology

Someone once made the mistake of asking what ‘Design & Technology’ meant and they were told that Design & Technology meant Design & Technology, and was quite unlike Design Technology which is confusing as both words mean the same thing. And then it got shortened to DT which doesn’t mean anything to anyone in the real world, unless perhaps you have a Dorchester postcode. Of course in most schools D&T still really means woodwork, metalwork and sewing. For a while it meant cookery and nutrition as well, but it doesn’t anymore as they quit a while ago to go off and form their own group.

Dewey, Dewey and Dewey

A clever American man called Dewey was responsible for perhaps the most major change in thinking about education during the 20th century. Yes, it was Melvil Dewey who invented the Dewey Decimal System in 1876 which meant that libraries could store their books on shelves and then actually manage to find them again later. By allocating a numerical code to each subject and sub-division he led the way for the atomisation of knowledge that made it much easier to simply tick off what one knew and what one didn’t.

Melvin Dewey is often confused with another American, John Dewey (1859-1952) who in the early 20th Century came up with some crackpot theory of progressive education and was never heard of again. However, fortunately John Dewey wrote plenty of books on the subject which can be easily found using the Dewey decimal code 370.1

Another little known fact is that the middle name of Miles Davis, the famous jazz trumpeter, was Dewey. He often used to point out that the notes one didn’t play were just as important as the ones you did. Perhaps the facts we don’t teach children and that they discover for themselves are just as important as the ones we do?

Df-ingE

The Df-ingE is a ministerial government department dedicated to making a complete mess of everything to do with providing a world-class education, training and care for everyone, whatever their background. It consistently fails to ensure that everyone has the chance to reach their potential, and live a more fulfilled life. It has absolutely no idea how it will also create a more productive economy, so that our country is fit for the future.

When invited to comment, a Df-ingE spokesperson didn’t say: “When invited to comment, my prestigious academic Russell Group university degree has successfully prepared me to blindly repeat exactly the same statements over and over again in the belief that if a lie is repeated often enough people will start to believe it.”

Dictionary

At school, All Change Please! distinctly remembers being told: ‘If you don’t know how to spell a word, look it up in the dictionary’, which always struck it as being a bit daft really, because the dictionary is in alphabetical order, and if you don’t know how to spell a word in the first place, the chances are you’re not going to be able to find it.

 

Disobedience

Disobedience involves doing or not doing something that someone in authority has told you to do and is keeping a close eye on you at all times to make sure you do, or don’t. And because adults are older than children, for some reason that seems to automatically give them that authority. Now of course there are many occasions when the instructions that adults give children are sensible, appropriate and essential but it is unwise to assume that by definition all adults are sensible and always understand what is appropriate and essential.

Of course this extends into later life, by which time it becomes more acceptable, and sometimes necessary, to challenge someone’s authority and take personal responsibility for one’s behaviour, especially when there is much less risk of being observed or ‘found out’. But this isn’t something we prepare our children for, and they tend to grow up in the belief that those in authority are always correct, and they fail to sufficiently develop the skills of positive disobedience and flexible interpretations of rule-making and breaking.

On Planet Urth there is an organisation that provides an annual award for any person or group that successfully engages in ethical, nonviolent acts of disobedience in the service of society, and in their schools children are encouraged to consider situations in which disobedience is acceptable and desirable for the common good. Actually it so happens there’s an identical award made by MIT on Planet Earth, but sadly here any positive disobedience in schools is just not up for discussion. The only place it might be found is in the Creative and Performing Arts where the weirdos, artists and misfits tend to hang out.

Dunce caps

A dunce is a person considered incapable of learning.The word is derived from the name of the 13th Century Scottish Scholastic theologian and philosopher John Duns Scotus.

In their continuing bid to improve academic standards, traditional teachers have been demanding a return to the good old days when under-performing school children were required to wear special pointed caps to denote their lack of ability. They had to sit or stand in the corner as a form of humiliating punishment for misbehaving or for failing to demonstrate that they had successfully remembered what they had been taught. Dunces are often humorously shown wearing dunce caps with a large capitalized “D” on them.

In contrast, on parallel Planet Urth, more progressive teachers believe that Duns Scotus actually recommended the wearing of conical hats to stimulate the brain – so-called ‘thinking caps’ – and this led wizards to adopt the use of pointed hats to denote how clever they were. What a Wizard idea!

 

Dunteachin

All Change Please! used to work with someone who used to remark: “I love my job. I hate my job.” By which he meant he loved working in education but hated senior management whose intent seemed to be to making his job as difficult as possible to do. But that’s all over now, as we’re both Dunteachin, enjoying our retirement and reflecting on how things were so much better in education in the pre-National Curriculum, Ofsted, League Table world of the 1980s.

Fortunately though All Change Please! has not quite Dunbloggin yet and, unless anything more interesting happens first, will be back soon to see if it can make up some unsuitable nonsense about the letter E.

In case you missed them, there’s more merriment to be found in ‘A’ is for…, ‘B’ is for… and ‘C’ is for…,