Coronavirus Explained: Alas Smith and Jones…

It’s been a while since All Change Please! has eavesdropped on the late Mel Smith, as the man who thinks he knows everything, and Griff Rhys Jones, as the man who knows he doesn’t know anything. In its continuing attempt to look on the bright side of life, or in this case the not-so-bright side, All Change Please! now reveals what they had to say about the Coronavirus crisis.

Jones: “What are you doing way over there? We usually sit close together, face to face. This isn’t going to work as well now everything on TV is in widescreen, is it? Or do I have a personal problem or something?

Smith: “Well yes, of course you do, but I’m social distancing, aren’t I? You’ll just have to speak up a bit…”

Jones: “So why are you doing that then?

Smith: “Because of this CV thing of course.”

Jones: “Oh, are you applying for a new job?

Smith: “No, no – it’s this Coronavirus epidural thing – though to be honest I’m not terribly worried about it myself. You see I used to drink a lot of Corona fizzy lemonade when it was a child, so I built up my resistance then, and then there was all that Corona beer I’ve drunk since which should act as a booster.”

Jones: “So have you been sucking up in a panic, buying?

Smith: “Something like that. As it happens I did go to the supermarket yesterday but it couldn’t get anywhere near the toilet tissues as it was full of people photographing the empty shelves. It’s just as well that they’ve now put a limit on the number of photos you can take.”

Jones: “What I want to know is whether this Coronavirus thing can infect my computer?

Smith: “No, I shouldn’t think so. Anyway just make sure you wash your hands after using it.”

Jones: “I must say I’m not looking forward to all this Lockdown Wrestling that apparently we’re all going to be placed in. And I’m a bit worried now my kids have been sent home from school. I’m not sure I’ll make a very good home-tutor.”

Smith: “Yes I think you’re probably right there. But what worries me most is that the government probably knows and understands as little about healthcare as it does about education. Apparently children no longer need to go to school and teachers can now be completely trusted to assess their performance..?”

Jones: “What do you make of this Sunak, the new chancellor then?”

Smith: “Well, he seems OK. But I think he should stick to writing children’s books. Being a Tory he’s certainly Where The Wild Things Are. And as for the Prime Minister…”

Jones: “You mean that clown Boris?

Smith: “No, don’t be daft – it’s that Demonic Cummings who’s running the country, along with this scientific expert Whitty chap.

Jones: “He’s a bit of a comedian then is he? Does he write Boris’s jokes or something?

Smith: “No – apparently he’s an epic seismologist.”

Jones: “Oh, is that so? Still I mean it’s not all bad news is it? After all, global air quality is improving, dolphins have been sighted in the Venetian canals, the BBC Question Time audience has been abolished and best of all, the Eurovision Song Contest has been cancelled…

Smith: “True. Very true. It’s an ill-wind that blows no-one any good.”

Jones: “What? You’re saying that the wind has caught the virus now?

Smith: “Isn’t it amazing how something so small could have such a big effect?”

Jones: “Yes, strangely my wife said exactly the same thing the other night. Anyway I must be going – I’m hoping to get in a quick bit of self-isolation before bedtime.”

Smith: “Right-ho! See you here same time tomorrow then? And do look after that nasty dry cough of yours…”

 

Who’s Who in the Monstrous Tory Party?

Is this who’s really running the country?

Back as long ago as the summer of 2010 All Change Please! first broke the story that the Tory Party were in fact being run by members of International Rescue in disguise: ‘Thunderbirds are Gove’. Then in 2012 it published further startling revelations that International Rescue had quit, and been replaced by the ‘Carry On’ cast: ‘Carry On Up the Conservatives’.

Now All Change Please! is proud to announce a further scoop. Following extensive phone-tapping and email hacking, but primarily the use of Google Image search, it has discovered that our current Government actually consists of a gathering of terrifying monsters from Dr Who. They have their own time machine, known as The BORIS – its entrance cleverly disguised as the door to 10 Downing Street – though unfortunately it only travels back as far as the 1950s, and not into the future at all, and it’s much smaller-minded inside than on the outside.

What? You want proof? OK – here it is…

The first clue that alerted All Change Please! as to what was going on was a comparison of the photos below. One is of Rishi Sunak, the new Chancellor of the Exchequer. The other is the latest incarnation of The Master. But which one is which?

And then here’s the old Chancellor, Sajid Javid who in reality is quite clearly a Sontaran – a race of ruthless male-gender-only clones that prize discipline and honour. They have a stocky build and a distinctive dome-shaped head and can be regularly seen practicing a Power Stance.

These menacing, macabre versions of peg dolls with broad, blank faces appeared in ‘Night Terrors’, an episode from series Six. They turn their victims into other peg dolls in a state of living death.

When these three peg dolls emerge from behind the door at Number 10 they instantly transform into Elizabeth Truss, Nicky Morgan and Dominic Raab.

Now we get to the really evil ones. First here’s one of the Whisper Men – featureless beings, hollow on the inside and dressed in Victorian clothes. They are easily mistaken for Jacob Rees Mogg.

Meanwhile it takes two evil monstrosities – The Weeping Angels and The Gangers – working closely together to take on the form of Priti Patel.

The Weeping Angels are known to be ‘the deadliest, most powerful, most malevolent life-form evolution has ever produced.’ With a single touch, a Weeping Angel can send a person into the past to a point before his/her own birth, and can then feed off the potential energy of the years which that victim would have lived in the present. However they can only move when not being observed. So just don’t blink. Particularly if you are an immigrant.

The Gangers (above right) are clones created from living programmable matter. Due to their unstable molecules they have developed their abilities to extend their limbs and neck. Ms Patel (middle, in case you can’t tell) is clearly willing to stick her neck out – clear proof she is of alien descent.

As is well known, the country is mainly being run by two Dr Who villains in particular. The first is Lady Cassandra (above left). Her life was extended through a series of seven hundred and eight plastic surgery operations until she was nothing but a piece of skin stretched onto a frame with eyes and a mouth, connected to a brain in a jar below. She was also shown to be selfish, thick-skinned, devious and willing to sacrifice people just for profit, hence the phrase ‘the unacceptable face of capitalism’. On the way out of the Number 10 BORIS she morphs into Carrie Symonds, the PM’s current companion.

But finally – the most scary, evil, cunning monster of all that will decide our future. This one doesn’t even need to change or disguise its hideous form outside the door of Number 10 – it hides in plain sight, exactly as it is…. Demonic Cummings.

You’ve seen the evidence. It’s time to hide behind the settee and be afraid. Be very afraid.

Where are you, Doctor Who? We urgently need your help!

Education through Art, Design and Technology

All Change Please! has recently read several accounts of the distinction between Art & Design and Design & Technology as separate school subjects. Obviously they are not exactly the same, but at the same time they do share a great deal in common, and their similarities and overlap seem to be being ignored and thus marginalised. Too many schools have completely separate departments which could just as well be called ‘Painting and drawing’ and ‘Resistant Materials Technology’. The two subjects are inter-dependent, with each informing the other, and we need to be reflecting that in our primary and secondary schools.

All Change Please! is not suggesting here that the two subjects should be merged into one – but it would be good to occasionally hear a D&T teacher reminding a class to apply a concept they have covered in A&D, and vice-versa, and to think that the departments sometimes get together to discuss and plan their curricula for their students that connect and develop the concepts and skills they have in common. To deliver Art & Design and Design & Technology in a way that encourages the perception that they are entirely un-related is not in the best interests of students.

Perhaps the most obvious similarity is that – to a greater or lesser extent – both subjects involve students in creative problem-solving, being it deciding on the composition of a painting or the arrangement of components of a 3D product. They both involve developing approaches to thinking and doing with an open-mind, and being willing to explore and iterate solutions through critical analysis and decision-making. Like all open-ended project-based work that occupies more than a single teacher-led lesson, they require learning how to plan and organise actions and resources. They both involve the use of a range of modelling skills to develop and communicate ideas along with the acquisition of knowledge of the properties and working characteristics of a range of different materials. Meanwhile the understanding and application of the ‘formal elements’ – line, tone, colour, texture, shape, pattern and form – are entirely common to both. Meanwhile Art & Design and Design & Technology together involve students exploring contemporary and historical issues and learning about them in other cultures.

There are differences of course. Perhaps the greatest difference is that Fine Art is, quite rightly, primarily concerned with self-expression whereas Design & Technology is orientated towards a client and meeting the needs of others. While A&D involves developing considerable expertise with a variety of graphic media, D&T demands a broad knowledge of a wide range of 3D materials – though many sculptors and craftspeople can benefit from this too. Paintings and sculptures are usually ‘one-offs’ – unless the work is specifically intended for a reprographic process – while many of the products of Design & Technology will be developed for either batch or mass-production.

Back in the 1970s and 80s the thinking in schools – derived largely from the mid 20th Century influence of the Bauhaus Basic Course – was to bring Art, Design and Technology together to explore and develop their connections rather than their differences. Art teachers often included work in graphics, fashion, textiles, theatre, interior, architecture and product design, while ‘CDT’ teachers directed children to produce high quality artefacts using woods, metals, plastics and ceramics. A few schools had the vision to go beyond that and take on board the fact that Art, Design and Technology are dimensions of the whole school curriculum and have much to offer, and learn from, every other subject.

But of course the reality is that the present move towards the separation of the two – which actually began with the introduction of the discrete National Curriculum subjects, Attainment Targets and Programmes of Study in the late 1980s – is actually about their survival in the school. Heads of Art and Heads of D&T are often required to justify their individual existence at the expense of each other, lest they be merged or disbanded in the rush for urgent economies in staffing and resources.

While an education through Art & Design and Design & Technology has its own inherent value, some children will go on to become professional artists, designers and technologists where they will discover that the two so-called ‘subjects’ do not exist as separate disciplines, but closely interact with each other, and we need to be reflecting that in our primary and secondary schools. At the same time, Art, Design and Technology have an essential contribution that they need to be making to STEAM – the inter-disciplinary approach to education through Science, Technology, Engineering, Arts and Mathematics.

And finally… All Change Please! recently came across this post:

Welcome to the intelligent twenties, or why Art Teaching isn’t ready for the new era

which poses some interesting, and doubtless controversial, challenges for teachers of Art, Design and Technology in the future.

“What can art teachers teach kids who will spend their lives working alongside robots and who have to change career every few years? What skills will art teachers need to teach for this emerging world?”

“Art teachers need to rapidly re-skill….to understand more philosophy and how to operate in a world where their children operate across silos, where boundaries don’t exist between subjects and where this third presence of intelligence is now working alongside us. They will also need to feed into their approach the changes…[to] our understanding of art and creativity wrought by the explosion in neuro-scientific research. Once we actually know what creativity actually is, how will we change our approach to teaching it?”

“The age of mass production was one of power, control and certainty, the coming era is one of mathematical chaos, systems and emergence. The art teachers of the next decade will have to tackle and work out how to teach art for this new age of unnatural intelligence.”

Or, as someone once said, “All Change Please!

‘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…,

Ten Years After

 

For the benefit of the younger reader, Ten Years After were a popular U.K. blues beat band combo of the late 1960s and 70s, who performed regularly in music festivals, including Woodstock. As an ‘album’ band, they were best known for the track ‘I’m Going Home’. Uncertainty remains as to exactly what it was that had happened to them Ten Years Before, but it’s of no great importance because, apart from their name, this post has nothing whatsoever to do with the band.

The only connection is that today is All Change Please!s 10th birthday, which makes it exactly Ten Years After it published its very first post. A lot has happened since then, except of course in education where things have generally gone backwards to the way things were Fifty Years Before.

Anyway, as usual, All Change Please! likes to take this annual opportunity to report and reflect on its posts from the past twelve months in the pathetic hope you might be encouraged to re-read some of them, or, more likely, catch up on ones you didn’t read in the first place.

The three most read posts, presented in reverse order to increase the suspense, have been:

3. Just Williamson

With nothing better to do, All Change Please! likes to amuse itself by trying to be the first satirical educational blog to comment on the announcement of a new education secretary, which isn’t difficult as there aren’t many other satirical blogs out there for it to compete with.

Having likened Gavin Williamson to Richmal Crompton’s ‘William”, All Change Please! was careful not to mention the tarantula he keeps on his desk, and his being sacked for taking a Huawei leak while Defence Secretary, but hey – no-one’s perfect…

2. Michaela the Unconquerable

Now, to be quite clear, this post was not intended to be written as an angry attack on Michaela students, their hard work, politeness and consideration for others, their backgrounds or their success at gaining GCSE results – but it was meant as a considered critique of the school’s narrow conservative academic curriculum and strict behaviour policy.

1. Beyond Our Ken

This special edition of All Change Please! was a tribute to writer, designer and educationalist  who sadly recently passed away. Ken Baynes was one of the very few people who understood the potential of design education, not primarily as a means to produce a future generation of professional designers, but as a powerful and important learning experience for everyone, and one that potentially extended across the curriculum as a whole.

 

But as usual, All Change Please!’s favourite posts do not necessarily reflect the Will Of The People, and it would therefore also like to nominate:

Br’er Exit

“Well now, that rascal Br’er Exit hated Br’er EU on account of he was always cutting capers and bossing everyone around. So Br’er Exit decided to get rid of Br’er EU if it was the last thing he ever did! He thought and he thought until he came up with a plan. First he persuaded Br’er Dave to call a referendum. Then he fix up a contrapshun like a red bus, painted it with slogans he had made up and sat it in the middle de road.”

Also during the past twelve months All Change Please! has launched its audacious ‘Absolutely Absurd Alternative A to Z of Education…’ in which it reports on the different but also similar approaches to education on the nearby distant parallel Planet Urth…

‘A’ is for…

‘B is for…

‘C’ is for…

‘C’ is for… Continued

 

 

 

 

 

 

Michaela The Unconquerable

William Ernest Henley (23 August 1849 – 11 July 1903) was an influential English poet, critic and editor of the late Victorian era in England.

Back in July, just before the very end of the Summer Term when outdoor manoeuvres (AKA school trips) are in full swing, the Twittersphere exploded over a short video showing a group of young teenagers from THAT school in North East London – the one that seems to believe ‘All You Need Is Knowledge’ – standing on an above-ground underground platform vociferously and enthusiastically chanting their school poem: W. E. Henley’s ‘Invictus’. Some of those who saw the video online apparently responded with a salvo of abusive tweets, and consequently the teacher in charge felt the need to delete the video and make her account private. But the real flack came from the assembled ranks of shell-shocked traditional teachers expressing their undying support for the teacher, that teachers should be free to celebrate the pupils’ achievements, and that performing poetry in public was a fine and worthy thing to do. Which, of course, in itself is fair enough. Up to a point.

Now, to be quite clear, this post is not intended to be written as an angry attack on Michaela students, their hard work, politeness and consideration for others, their backgrounds or their success at gaining GCSE results – but it is meant as a considered critique of the school’s narrow conservative academic curriculum and strict behaviour policy.

At the same time, All Change Please! wishes to make it quite clear that it does not in any way support abusive tweets, although surely anyone who publishes anything on the internet should perhaps not be too surprised that they become liable to receiving such responses and then find themselves having to deal with the fall-out. And if the Headmistress wants other people to ‘LEAVE MY KIDS ALONE’, as she often Tweets, she should not be exposing them on social media in the first place.

Meanwhile in the Trads’ responses on Twitter it was apparent that none of them seemed in any way interested in discussing or even thinking about why some people might not have been as impressed and delighted by the public performance as they were. They seemed unwilling to accept that others might have a different viewpoint, or that there are complex politically motivated and culturally-infused issues involved.

 

However, All Change Please! did actually manage to catch the video before it was deleted, and has to confess it did find it somewhat sinister, and has since been wondering exactly why it felt so bothered by it?

Let’s change the scene slightly. In this version a group of similar aged school-children are huddled together in a group singing a popular song. A few more are standing apart from the group chatting, not wishing to join in. They are dressed, like the majority of school children today, in slightly subverted versions of their school uniform – formal blazers and ties are not terribly fashionable at present, even in the workplace where smart casual is now more the expected order of the day. All Change Please! can’t imagine anyone being in any way particularly offended by this scene, whatever school they came from.

But the actual video showed the children in the semblance of a straight line along the platform, facing the front, all very smartly turned out in their extremely neat and tidy uniforms. Their teacher was visibly conducting them, making sure they were chanting the poem to the beat.

And then there is the poem itself: ‘Invictus’ was written by Henley in the early 1870s as he was recovering from a tubercular infection that resulted in the loss of one of his legs. As such it’s typically full of dark and disturbing Victorian style and sentimentality and in particular is about the prospect of death and having the courage to gloriously fight on regardless.

The last two lines are the most frequently quoted as they potently remind us that we need to take responsibility for making sure we make the most of things whatever the circumstances. However the rest of the poem is not generally well known. It’s along the lines of Kipling’s ‘If’ or Tennyson’s ‘The Charge of the Light Brigade’ – verses best suited to being learned by heart and taking a moral message from, as opposed to the study of more challenging poetry that explores more conflicting and ambiguous impressions and themes. Of course that’s not to entirely object to children studying it in the classroom and understanding it in the context of the time and religious culture it was written in – but to promote it as a celebratory ‘school poem’ with its dark, disturbing imagery of the darkness of hell and bloody bludgeonings that will be deeply embedded in their minds for the rest of their lives, seems somehow rather inappropriate.

Now perhaps All Change Please! has a rather over-active and vivid imagination, but the video clip it saw was somehow a scene from the turn of the early 20th Century, and these weren’t schoolchildren of Today, but regularly and neatly-uniformed, subservient foot soldiers lined up about to board a train for the front, keeping their spirits up under the stern leadership of their Sergeant Major, in preparation for the grim adversities that lie ahead, and the courage and fighting spirit that will be needed to conquer them. Is this the image of the future we want to project of what life is going to be like for these children in the 21st century?

Colourised photo of soldiers leaving Letchworth, 1914

While it’s not a scene that deserves social media abuse, it is one that deserves discussion as to whether it is an appropriate approach to education in this day and age, and to the imposition of supposedly ‘lost’ British values from Victorian times, that many would prefer to see remain lost. Do we really want to recreate and reinforce 150 year old Victorian values and behaviours in our children? Surely our children need to learn from the past to understand the present and prepare for the future – not to just blindly repeat it, line by line.

The worry is that Michaela’s children – and indeed all those from the growing number of similar schools that aim to follow their lead – will not be well prepared to deal with the values, behaviours and ambiguities of the real, complex, inconsistent, unstructured modern technological world that they will discover when they find themselves on their own, far outside the comfort zone of their safe, friendly and nostalgic school environment. Perhaps it might help if the school included some technology-related subjects in its curriculum (children do not study IT/Computing, or D&T) and aimed to teach their pupils when and how to use smart phones and iPads for appropriate and effective learning and communication, instead of just banning them outright?

Clearly there are a number of politicians, teachers and parents determined to live in the past and ignore the fact that we now live in a global, technological age. While there is choice in the system for those teachers, parents and children who do or do not wish to belong to such a school, then perhaps it doesn’t matter. That is as long as there is still such a choice in the system…

Meanwhile, the members of the Michaela Community Free School Fan-base seem to believe that their successful GCSE results are a worthy vindication of Michael Gove’s policies that will provide more than enough ammunition to silence the guns of their more ‘progressive’ critics: they are likely to be disappointed. Indeed just the other day this highly apposite cartoon appeared as a comment on the Df-ingE’s widespread use of the Michaela school’s GCSE results to promote its highly controversial Free School Movement:

Unsurprisingly it drew a ballistic response from Michaela’s Headmistress who continues to see any criticism as an attack on ‘her’ children rather than the values and methodologies of the institution itself and of the Df-ingE – and to fail to accept that there’s more than one way to change the world for the better.

 

‘If we teach today’s students as we taught yesterday’s, we rob them of tomorrow’
John Dewey, 1915

 

 

With thanks to Stan Dunn for his cartoon, currently appearing on Twitter, and AJ.

Image of WE Henley: Wikipedia

Image of soldiers at Letchworth: DanHillHistory on Twitter

 

 

It’s Just Williamson at the Df-ingE

Having nothing better to do, All Change Please! likes to amuse itself by trying to be the first satirical educational blog to comment on the announcement of a new education secretary as it successfully did with Miss Piggy and Damian Hindsight, – who it seems had the foresight to resign just before he was given the push. For All Change Please! to achieve this remarkable accolade is not actually particularly difficult, given that there don’t seem to be any other satirical educational blogs around.

In preparation for the exciting revelation – during the current episode of ‘Number 10 Island’ – of the next Secretary in a State about Education, All Change Please! did a little preliminary research into the runners and riders and discovered that the bookies favourites were Jo Johnson, Gavin Williamson and Andrea Loathsome.

BoJo’s younger and probably smarter brother JoJo, aside from being a man who thought he was a loner, appeared to have no previous interest in or experience of education, so initially seemed the most likely choice.

The least said about Andrea Loathsome the better, except she apparently has a particular interest in Primary Education – having once attended one herself and subsequently having children of her own who also went to one. And of course not forgetting her extensive experience of being Leader of the House of Commons, which indeed was very similar to being a Primary School teacher: “No, Andrea, Don’t do that dear…

But it was Gavin ‘Just William’ son, who surprisingly enough emerged as potentially the best candidate. Unlike many current politicians who never went to school (unless of course you count Eton), Just Williamson knows everything about education because he attended state primary and comprehensive schools before going to a non-Russell Group University in somewhere called the North of England and actually worked as a managing director of a Staffordshire-based pottery firm. And as well as his wife being a former Primary School teacher, Just Williamson has also been a school governor. But even more encouragingly, in his maiden speech on 8 June 2010, he said:

“We do not sing enough the praises of our designers, engineers and manufacturers…We will have a truly vibrant economy only when we recreate the Victorian spirit of ingenuity and inventiveness that made Britain such a vibrant country, as I am sure it will be again.”

So perhaps we’ll see D&T back on the curriculum?

Meanwhile All Change Please! won’t mention the tarantula he keeps on his desk, and his being sacked for taking a Huawei leak while Defence Secretary, but hey – no-one’s perfect…

And shortly before 8:30 pm it was announced that the winner is…

…Just Williamson!

 

Well just thank goodness it wasn’t Nick Gibb.

 

 

‘C’ is for…

Next up in ‘All Change Please!’s Absolutely Absurd Alternative A to Z of Educashun’ is the letter ‘C’. For some curious reason schools are full of things that begin with the letter ‘C’. Here are just a few – with more to come later.

If you somehow managed to miss them, here are links to ‘A’ is for… and ‘B’ is for…

Careers

On Planet Urth Careers Education is taken very seriously in schools, and children are positively encouraged to consider a wide range of possibilities, including working in Business, the Arts and the IT industry. For many, technical and vocational courses in Further Education are seen as being more appropriate and interesting than academic University courses, which can always be taken up at a later date as part of a well-established programme of life-long learning. There are well-established links with local, regional, national and international employers.

Back here on Earth, the only thing that seems to matter in schools is for students to get into a prestigious Russell Group University, and anyway, why does a car need ears anyway?

Carry On Teacher

One of the annoying little problems in education these days is the fact that no-one wants to be a teacher anymore, and those that already are tend to leave and starting writing regular blog posts that are highly critical of government policies and politicians. On Planet Urth the Df-ingE has therefore commissioned a new film intended to promote the profession. It’s called ‘Carry on Teacher’, and is set during a school inspection in 1958. If that doesn’t bring them back, what will?

Classrooms

The first schools on Planet Urth were built on three floors, and the rooms were allocated to children based on their social class, hence the name ‘class-rooms’. The rooms in the dark and damp basements were for lower class children, while the ground floor class-rooms were for children whose middle class parents could just about afford to pay the fees if they scrimped and saved. The uppermost floor class-rooms, which were airy and bright, were for the extremely wealthy upper classes who didn’t have to worry about money at all. They often featured ivory towers from which the gleaming spires of Oxford could be clearly seen from the windows.

Some of these schools had separate buildings to one side known as ‘workshops’. Badly-behaved, less academic children would be sent to these rooms to work at making useful items that were then sold on at a profit to the school, hence their name ‘work-shops’.

Chemistry

Chemistry teachers frequently claim theirs is the best subject on the curriculum because of all the unpleasant smells and explosions that occur in various experiments, as they believe that this is something that all children enjoy. This is strange because in later life we go to a lot of trouble to avoid unpleasant smells, or being anywhere near anything that is likely to explode. It’s also a puzzle as to why they’re called ‘experiments’ as the teacher knows exactly what the results are going to be, unless of course the lab technician has put the wrong chemicals out.

Chemistry teaches us that if we look at the things around us through powerful microscopes we are able to see that the world is made up out of a series of tiny colourful billiard balls, all connected together with plastic drinking straws.

More inquisitive students have questioned the point of having a periodic table without periodic chairs to go around it.

Children

It’s often forgotten, especially by politicians, that children play an important part in education – indeed without them there would not be any schools in the first place. Despite this most conferences, seminars and discussions about education take place without any children in the building.

Teachers seem to hold one of two distinct views about children. The first is that they are empty vessels to be unquestioningly filled up with knowledge by vastly superior adults, and the second is that they actually have their own thoughts about what and how they need to learn, and it can be well worthwhile entering into some form of dialogue with them. In the real world the supplier of any product or service who does not in some way consult and try to understand the needs and wants of their potential users is destined to be a failure.

On Planet Urth, things are much less binary. Teachers and politicians listen to children and respond to their learning needs by building a flexible framework for them to move more freely through. This combines a rich mixture of teacher-led knowledge input and exploratory learning.

Clever clogs

No-one likes an irritating, know-it-all clever-clogs, so it’s a bit odd that that’s exactly what the government seems to want everybody to be. Mind you most politicians often like to pretend they are clever-clogs, which probably explains why they generally don’t have many friends.

Back in around the 18th Century the first ‘clever-clogs’ were actually called ‘clever-boots’. They were always at logger-heads with rival gangs of ‘bossy-boots’ and used to go to Margate on Bank holidays for a good kick-about. However, back in those days most forms of footware were highly alliterate so they decided to change their name to ‘clever-clogs’.

Of course some clogs are cleverer than others, and manage to decorate themselves with intricate designs so that everyone knows they’ve been to a really good university. Less clever clogs end up working much harder having to actually make stuff and so wear plainer, more functional clogs.

A new generation of wi-fi, internet-enabled ‘Clever Clogs 2.0’ are expected to launch soon, and will be called ‘Smart Shoes’. They will doubtless be immediately banned in schools.

Constructivism

On Planet Urth schools and politicians understand and apply the Constructivist approach in which children learn best when they are allowed to construct a personal understanding based on experiencing things and reflecting on those experiences.

Meanwhile here on our most wonderful Planet Earth, schools and politicians understand and apply the term Constructivism as children learning through constructing wooden boxes in their D&T lessons, which, because it doesn’t teach them any academic facts, is seen as being a complete waste of time, not to mention wood.

 

Continued (To be…)

Tune in again soon to learn all about some more things beginning with the letter ‘C‘, such as: Creativity and Collaboration, Cognitive Lorry Overload Theory, Commuter Studies, Constantinople, Cross-curricular and Cursive Writing.

‘B’ is for….

Yes, it’s the second exciting volume of ‘All Change Please!’s Absolutely Absurd Alternative A to Z of Educashun’ in which it reports back on its recent visit to Planet Urth. Being a parallel universe, their world of teaching and learning bears a striking resemblance to our own: many things are exactly the same, but due to their particular fractured timeline, some things are rather different in an interesting way.

If somehow you managed to miss ‘A’ is for…, then you can  catch up here.

 

Bash Street Kids (from the 1954 Beano Report into Education)

On Planet Urth The Bash Street Kids were created in the early 1950s as a model for schools in the second half of the 20th Century. The kids were highly subversive and learnt quickly how to take charge of an oppressive situation and turn it to their own advantage, thus acquiring essential skills for the future. Unfortunately as a result of cuts to public services, today’s schools are still exactly the same as they were before. Perhaps when Smiffy, Danny and Plug grow up and all become successful politicians in charge of education, things will finally start to change. Let’s face it – they couldn’t do a worse job than the current ones.

Billy Bunter

Billy Bunter is a fictional schoolboy. According to Wikipedia he features in stories set at Greyfriars School, where he is in the Lower Fourth Form (Year 9 in New Money). Bunter’s defining characteristic is his greediness and dramatically overweight appearance. His character is, in many respects, a highly obnoxious anti-hero. As well as his gluttony, he is also obtuse, lazy, racist, inquisitive, deceitful, slothful, self-important and conceited, although he does not realise any of this. In his own mind he is an exemplary character: handsome, talented and aristocratic. All these, combined with Bunter’s cheery optimism, his comically transparent untruthfulness and inept attempts to conceal his antics from his schoolmasters and schoolfellows, combine to make a character that succeeds in being highly entertaining but which rarely attracts the reader’s lasting sympathy.

But that’s all on Planet Urth. Of course, no politician in public life on this planet whose name begins with B could possibly resemble this monstrous character in any way… or could they?

Blackboard

The blackboard was invented in the mid 19th century in America, but, quite unlike the introduction of change in schools today, many teachers refused to use them at first and demanded they be removed as it needed them to alter the way they taught: they were now required to stand at the front of the class with everyone staring up at them, which understandably they found somewhat off-putting.

On Planet Urth during the latter half for the 20th century as part of the move towards political correctness blackboards were renamed as whiteboards. Today they are known as ‘interactive’ whiteboards, although the first interactive whiteboard was invented by one of All Change Please!’s very own teachers in the 1960s (Geography, natch) who instructed his class to ‘Watch the board while I go through it‘. He was also famous for telling one boy ‘If you need to use a rubber, use the boy’s behind‘, and instructing another to ‘Go and see if you can squeeze some more milk out of the dinner ladies‘. But that’s another story…

Blended learning

Blended learning is an approach to education that combines a mixture of a variety of digital online and printed educational materials and opportunities for traditional face-to-face teaching and distance learning techniques.

These are then all crammed into an industrial-sized blender and emerge as a strange looking, tasteless, mushy dark green pulp which is then drip-fed to all students to regurgitate as and when required.

 

 

Board rubber

On Planet Urth the board rubber was invented on in the mid 1880s expressly for the purpose of throwing at children who were not paying attention in class. It was only many years later that some of the more progressive teachers realised that it provided an effective means of creating chalk-dust clouds in the classroom and they could pick on some poor unfortunate child to be ‘board monitor’ to save them the job of having to clean the board before each lesson.

Boarding School

Most children find schoolwork boring and their subsequent employment tedious. Boarding schools on Planet Urth are where wealthy parents send unwanted children to learn how to be the best at being bored. Instead of expending all that energy doing interesting stuff and exploring their world, taking responsibility for themselves and having fun, they are taught how to sit still and keep quiet, and to do exactly as they are told by highly experienced boring adults who are largely well past their best-before date.

Brexit

So far, Brexit has had very little to do with the improvement of education, which is probably why there has been very little improvement in education in recent years. Which is pretty daft, because we’re going to need some major improvements in schools to produce the young people we are going to need to get us out of the current Brexitmess we are creating for them.

Meanwhile Theresa May’s assertion that ‘Brexit means Brexit’ has caused some problems for the Awarding Bodies. For example, when students have been asked in an exam what the meaning of the word ‘Equivocation’ is, they have answered: ‘Equivocation means Equivocation’, which is factually correct and therefore has to be given full marks.

Of course some examiners have argued that Mrs May never means what she says, and thus have not given such an answer any credit. In this situation many candidates have demanded endless meaningless indicative re-marks until they finally get the result they want.

Bullying Policy

Thankfully these days all schools on Planet Urth have carefully worded Bullying Policies. These lay out the correct procedures for teachers to follow when bullying children, including how to most effectively demean them in front of their friends, the frequency of telling them how worthless they are and when to threaten them with perpetual detention if they do not do exactly as they are told. There are special sections on picking on and shouting aggressively at children in the face for relatively minor incidents using a policy somewhat strangely called ‘flattening the grass’, apparently intended to get rid of bad behaviour and ‘create a level playing field’.

Such so-called teachers would surely be better employed flattening some real grass outside on the school playing field, ideally in the pouring rain.

 

So that’s it for ‘B’ – watch out for ‘C is for...’ coming your way soon.