Pass Notes: Art Attack!

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What? Has someone had a Heart Attack? Quickly. Call an ambulance!

No, no, no! Though you might have one after you’ve read the latest NSEAD (National Society for Education in Art and Design) survey. You can download a pdf copy here. It’s the teaching of Art & Design in our schools that’s in critical danger and may not survive much longer.

Ah. But I keep reading that the Department for Education say that the numbers taking Art GCSE have risen by as much as 1%, so all this whining about children not being allowed to take creative subjects at GCSE is really just a lot of fuss about nothing. 

Well, for a start you shouldn’t believe DfE political propaganda statements, just as you’d be advised not to take a headline in the Daily Mail at face value. The problem is that the DfE’s figures don’t include the large numbers of students who previously took BTEC courses in Art & Design, but that now do GCSE instead. When they are added in it’s clear that the overall figure has fallen by thousands, and will continue to do so for many years to come as more and more children are forced to take all the EBacc subjects. And meanwhile entries in all other Arts-based subjects, such as Music, Drama and Dance, have fallen over the past five years.

Oh well, at least children still get plenty of time in primary school to get develop some good skills in drawing and painting.

Not according to the NSEAD survey they don’t. Apparently primary schools are substantially cutting back on Art to spend more time preparing for the National Key Stage 2 tests. And that means children are less well prepared for the standards they are expected to achieve at KS3 when they get to secondary school.

OK, but then there’s three years of regular lessons when they get to Key Stage 3 in Secondary School – a double period a week as I recall.

Ah, those were the days! The survey reveals that in many schools there is much less time allocated for Art at KS3, and in some it’s been made part of a rotational system where it’s only studied for a term each year. And many schools now start their GCSE options in Year 9, so KS3 only lasts for two years. Meanwhile new teacher recruitment is down, so there is evidence of more classes being taught by non-specialists.

I remember when I was at school art was dead good – we used to go on lots of trips to local galleries and museums, and a real-life designer came into school to make things with us. 

Hmm. You didn’t go to an independent school by any chance did you? Because if you did you’re far more likely to have been on trips and had visits from practitioners than if you went to a free-school. And yes, it’s all in the NSEAD survey.

But come on now, be honest, let’s face it, taking an Arts subject isn’t going to help you get a job, is it? I mean, all those years starving in an attic, spending all your money on expensive oil paints. Well that’s what I was told, anyway. 

If that’s what you think, you’ve been badly mis-led! Last year the Creative Industries contributed 81 billion to the economy and employed 2.8 million people. Studying Art & Design doesn’t necessarily mean you’ll end up being an ‘artist’ – there are a wide range of other opportunities to work in creative areas that need good visual problem-solving and communication skills. And that’s got to be better than doing an over-subscribed academic degree and ending up working a coffee shop.

With the introduction of the EBacc it seems like the country is in the process of throwing away its established global reputation for the excellence in its work in the Creative Industries – something that China and many other countries are now investing heavily in.

Well I have to admit, taking Art GCSE raised my confidence and self-esteem and had a knock-on effect in improving my results in other subjects, and I feel I have had a much broader and richer education that many of my peers did. It gave me an opportunity to think and work in a completely different way, and I’ve been able to apply that to many of the things I do today. It certainly changed my life! Everyone should take Art at school!

Yes, many teachers would agree with you about that. It’s just a shame that in years to come it looks like most children won’t have the opportunity to have same experience you did.

You’re making it all sound rather depressing.

That’s because it is extremely depressing.

So what’s to be done? How can the patient be saved?

There’s one simple remedy – the DfE could back down on the use of using numbers of EBacc subject entries as a measure of school performance in league tables. Another treatment that’s not been tried before would be for headteachers to get together and refuse to administer the DfE’s medicine and just ignore it.

Meanwhile we also need the wider world outside the teaching profession to know that our children are being increasingly denied access to the world of the Creative Arts. Then they need to take action, such as writing to their MP – so please share this post with all your relatives, friends and neighbours (by email/twitter/facebook, etc), particularly if they happen work in the Creative Industries – their support is very important.

So why’s this happening? I thought Nicky Morgan was supposed to be teacher’s friend?

Generally speaking she is. It’s Nick Gibb who is causing the problem, as he’s in charge of curriculum surgery. He’s the one spreading all this EBaccteria nonsense and children will end up having to take subjects they don’t want to do, and being taught by teachers who are inexperienced and not properly qualified. If he’s not careful, Gibb will be the next DfE politician to be branded as being toxic and dumped in the waste disposal bin, as Michael Gove was.

Do say: Apparently Nick Gibb’s background was as a chartered accountant.

Don’t ask: Was painting by numbers Gibb’s favourite activity in Art lessons at school?

Now We Are Six

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Ever since All Change Please! celebrated its first birthday, it’s been waiting until it could fully reveal the extent of its intellectual middle-class up-bringing by using the title of the book of poems by AA Milne it was bought up on, and to point out that its alter-ego is not the only person to spell their surname that way. Anyway, finally, today’s the day…

As has become the tradition on this great annual celebration – in future doubtless to be recognised globally as All Change Please! day – it has become customary to review what’s been hot and what’s not over the past twelve months.

Rather than building the suspense way beyond the unbearable and then dragging out the final moment of truth for as long as possible by making you wait until the very end of the post to find out, All Change Please! will immediately reveal that and winner of The People’s Vote, i.e. the most read post of the last year, is…

Mark My Words…Please! which helps confirm All Change Please!’s assertion that examiners should be paid more for their services.

Meanwhile curiously the Number 2 spot is taken by Left, Right, Right, Right, Right… which was first released in July 2012, and and is followed onto the turntable by the Number 3 spot by another Golden Oldie, even more curiously also from July 2012 Are Janet and John now working at the DfES?.  For some unknown reason these somewhat dated posts just keep on giving, and All Change Please! can only assume that there must be some tag or keyword in there somewhere that keeps on coming up in searches. There must be a Ph.D. somewhere in there, as people keep saying these days.

Other posts that did better than others during the year included Fixated by Design, Virgin on the ridiculous, New A level D&T: Dull & Tedious and Goves and Dolls.

But now it’s time for All Change Please! to reveal its own favourites for the year in the pathetically vague hope of improving their stats a bit. As so often happens in life, what All Change Please! reckons to be its best works are generally ignored, while the ones it dashed off in a matter of minutes and that it didn’t think anyone would be particularly interested in them prove to be the best sellers – which makes it a bit of a shame seeing as they are given away for nothing.

So, if you kindly will, please take a moment to click again on some of these:

Goves and Dolls: All Change Please!’s 2014 Festive gangster satire, written in a Damon Runyon-esque stye

Way To Go: in which Nicky Morgan seems to think that the BBCs WIA spoof fly-on-the-wall comedy series is for real.

And the two Alas! Smith and Journos posts: Have you ever Bean Green and Beginners Please

Meanwhile, here are a few of All Change Please!’s favourite bits:

I expect all the schools requiring improvement will be given those special tape measures now?’ (Jones from Have you ever Bean Green)

Smith:“It’s a new play by Tom Stoppard – you know he did ‘Jumpers’ and ‘Rosencrantz and Guildenstern are Dead’.”

Jones: Oh, the National Theatre, I thought you meant the Grand National and there was a horse called Stoppard who was a good jumper, and there were two other horses they’d had to put down.  (from Beginners Please! in which Smith and Jones are discussing the merits of Nick Glibbly’s suggestion that all children need to be able to understand plays performed at the London Doner Kebab Warehouse)

Swashbuckling Pirate Queen Captain Nicky Morgove has recently vowed to board so-called coasting schools, make the headteacher walk the plank, and academise the lot of them to within an inch of their worthless lives. With Nick Glibb, her faithful parrot, perched on her shoulder squawking ‘Progress 8, Progress 8…’”  (from Pirates of the DfE)

‘So the thing is like that with the DfE, in branding terms it’s really boring. It’s like politics and funding and pedagogy. I mean, who’s interested in all that stuff? So what we’re talking here is like major brand refresh surgery.’

‘They’re terribly excited about ‘Strictly Come Teaching’ in which B-list celebs are paired up with classroom teachers to see how really strict they can be in classrooms up and down the country. We love Strictly!’  (from Way To Go).

‘However, instead I am allowed to prescribe you a course of new scientifically unproven Govicol, but I should warn you it’s rather indigestible and you will have to be spoon-fed it. And what’s more it not only has a nasty taste but has a whole range of unpleasant educational side-effects. (from Nice work).

‘We were most interested to learn that Junk Modelling did not involve making scale replicas of boats’, a spokesperson for the Chinese government didn’t say. ‘The delegation offered to send us Michael Gove and Elizabeth Truss to advise us further on a long term basis, but we said No thanks – not for all the D&T in China’.  (from Chinese Takeaways)

 

And finally:

“Now We Are Six”

When I was one,
I had just begun.
When I was two,
I was nearly new.
When I was three,
I was hardly me.
When I was four,
I was not much more.
When I was five,
I was just alive.
But now I am six,
I’m as clever as clever.
So I think I’ll be six
now and forever.

Author: A.A. Milne

Image credit: Wikimedia

Schools should keep children away from the Daily Mail

8074294232_4e69b89084_k-1s“What do you mean, where’s the switch to turn your slates on?”

Up to its usual trick of simply re-drafting articles written by other newspapers, that devious, despicable, malicious Daily Mail recently produced some shouty headlines proclaiming:

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The subsequent article states that Bennett said that the cost to taxpayers when iPads are broken is ‘horrific’, and that he even believes there is ‘absolutely no need’ for children to have access to the Internet, adding: ‘Kids are kids – they will see things you don’t want them to see.’

Apparently Bennett also criticised teachers who told children to use the internet to complete homework, which he described as like ‘sending them to a library without a librarian‘. He also added that it was a teacher’s duty to point out mistakes on the web.

However, a few days later, the Great Behaviour Saviour ‘Please don’t call me a Tsar’ Tsar took to the TES to earnestly inform us that he didn’t actually say any of those things the Daily Mail said he did. Which makes it all a bit confusing – who is All Change Please! to believe? Anyway, based on the Tsar’s myth-busting TES article here’s All Change Please!’s surprising suggested set of alternative up-dated attention-grabbing headlines…

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But of course it’s all come too late to prevent the Df-ingE getting all excited and using it as an excuse to launch an investigation into the impact of allowing mobile phones in the classroom, which apparently includes ‘tablets’, even though they are somewhat different devices with far more educational benefits. Quite why an investigation is needed is a bit of a puzzle to All Change Please!, because it seems fairly obvious that if lessons and the curriculum are relevant to children’s needs, interests and abilities and are well planned and delivered then they won’t have any desire to become distracted in the first place? And if a teacher can’t manage to insist that mobile phones must be kept switched off during lesson times, then maybe they shouldn’t be in the classroom in the first place? Perhaps it’s the impact of allowing teachers in the classroom that needs to be investigated, and it’s the poor teachers who should be banned instead of the mobile phones?

Meanwhile there has also been the Mail’s stunning ‘right to know’ expose about the exact same Behaviour Tsar’s alleged misbehaviour in allowing the nightclub he managed to become too noisy, even when it wasn’t open.

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Interestingly though the headline writer somehow failed to add a final, and rather important, bullet point taken from the article, which should have read:

• However he denied all charges and accepted compensation for unfair dismissal.

Meanwhile in other news that proves that you don’t have to be mad to be a headteacher but it probably helps, it seems that these days what really matters is the size of one’s pencil case and ruler. And then there’s this suggestion that all children should be learning the same thing and the same time in the same way.

All Change Please! decided to undertake some virtually unreal digging, and somehow managed to convince itself it had found the following letter in the archives of the Times newspapers.

Dateline: September 1915. The London Times Letters page.

Sir. – It has come to my attention that schools are now in the habit of providing children with these new mass-produced pencils and notepad devices which seem to becoming increasingly popular as an alternative to the tried and tested slate. I have been so informed that they often use them as a distraction to play noughts and crosses on, and to write messages to each other which often contain offensive words and rude comments about their teachers. In some of the worst and most unruly schools they have also used them to draw rude depictions of famous women on. It is my opinion that they are used far too often as a pacifier by teachers who can’t control classes. Whilst I am convinced these new pencil and paper devices are no more than a passing fad, writing on them should only be allowed with the greatest caution and only when supervised and directed by an academically well-qualified and experienced teacher. Of course it will also be essential to regularly check that pencils and associated carrying devices are of the correct length and of uniform colour, adding significantly to the teacher’s workload.

There is no research evidence to support ideas that using pencils and paper aids a child’s education, and the cost to taxpayers of replacing these throw-away items on a regular basis is horrific. There are those who say children should be given pencils and paper because they enjoy learning with them, but the reality is that they just enjoy using pencils and paper. Parents who allow their children to stay up late writing and drawing with the result that they arrive at school tired should have scholarship money withdrawn.

The traditional slate is of the ideal size, proportion, weight and appearance to work with, and it is my sincere hope that one day schools will sensibly return to some sort of similar device that can be used with or without one of these new ‘pencils’.

Meanwhile I am also of the firm belief that there is absolutely no need for children to have access to encyclopedias from which they are likely to learn about things we do not necessarily want them to. Teachers must cease telling children to refer to them to complete their homework, which is like guiding them to a library without a librarian. Teachers also have a duty to point out the frequent mistakes that occur in them.

Finally I would like to support the appointment of the new schools’ behaviour tsar, despite the fact that he was apparently previously sacked from his position as a Soho ’Free and Easy’ Drinkshop manager after he allegedly failed to control the disorderly working classes who refused to sit still and in complete silence whilst enjoying the specified refreshments and entertainment made available at the correct time, and as defined by the National Consumption Curriculum. Apparently the complaints all came from a single teacher who routinely complained about noise coming from adjacent rooms, even when they were empty.

Yours, &c.,

No Change Please!

 

Image Credit: Flickr/Angus Kirk

 

Who Ya Gonna Call?

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Traditional educationalists and politicians are currently obsessed with ‘de-bunking’ so-called educational myths which oddly enough seem to be primarily about so-called progressive teaching methods.  Always the one to keep up with current trends, All Change Please! thought it was time to indulge in some myth-busting of its own. And here’s what it came up with.

Myth 1: The Earth goes round the Sun
This one is pretty obvious. Of course it doesn’t. The clue is in the words Sunrise and Sunset. Now if they had been called Earthrise and Earthset it might have been a bit more believable.

Myth 2: The Earth is a sphere and spins at around 1000mph
This is a bit daft isn’t it? If it were round, things would keep sliding about and rolling off everywhere. But they don’t do they, so it must be flat? And if it really was spinning at that sort of speed we wouldn’t be able to stand upright, would we?

Myth 3: Data can be transmitted vast distances using electromagnetic waves
Now this is just plain ridiculous. Are you having me on? Have you ever actually seen one of these so called waves? I mean how could they possibly almost instantaneously travel all that distance and then pass though solid walls? This is all probably just one of those magic illusions set up by Derren Brown.

Myth 4: You shouldn’t believe anything you read in the Daily Mail
This can’t be correct because it says in the Daily Mail that everything they print is true.

Myth 5: Children go to school and learn lots of useful facts that will set them up for life
Now anyone who has ever been to school knows this one is a complete myth, unless of course they happen to be a traditional teacher or a politician.

Myth 6: All children learn and make progress in exactly the same way at exactly the same speed and age. It’s just that some seem to be better at doing so than others
This myth comes in very handy because if you believe this it means you can teach everyone the same facts in the exactly the same way.

Myth 7: Project work and collaboration are an unnecessary distraction from real learning, and anyway students just sit around chatting about what they saw on TV last night
If you believe Myth 6, you will probably believe this one as well because the reality is that creating successful learning situations involving project work and collaboration is demanding and risky. And anyway, watching TV is just so 20th Century.

Myth 8: Making examinations harder to pass means lazy, good for nothing teachers will work harder and children will learn more
Wrong again. It just means that more teachers will leave the profession and more children will leave school without any qualifications.

Myth 9: Collecting vast amounts of data on children’s day-to-day performance in school improves their education
No teacher actually believes this to be true, and knows for certain it is all a complete waste of time.

Myth 10: The traditional model of formal schooling is completely out-dated in the 21st Century, and children would be better off at home learning from their computers and each other
There might be some truth in this, but there again we do need someone to keep an eye our children and make sure they don’t become terrorists while we’re both out at work trying to earn enough to pay the mortgage.

Another shot of slimy green ectoplastic residue anyone?

Little Missy Morgan: The Impossible Girl

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When we last met Sir Humphrey Appleby and Malcolm Tucker, Tucker had just got the part of Dr Who and had gone back in time to ensure Michael Gove never became Education Secretary in the first place. However Sir Humphrey had his concerns about the alternative post holder. We catch up with them 15 months later (in Earth Years).

Sir Humphrey: Ah Doctor, it’s been a long time. How are things?

Doctor Who: Well it’s been a very short time for me of course, and it’s jolly tiring travelling through time and space all the time I can tell you. You wouldn’t believe the jet-lag. And of course I never get to sleep or eat anything. What’s more I’m really busy at present trying to decide whether I’m good or bad.

It’s so strange to hear you talking without swearing all the time.

Yes, I had to go through this regeneration thing to make me more suitable for prime-time family audiences. Anyway, how are you getting on?

Oh dear, well, things seem to be going from bad to worse really. After you got rid of that dreadful Gove chappie we got this Morgan woman who seems to think she can say what she likes. She’s supposed to be Teacher’s Friend to raise morale amongst the profession, but quite frankly she hasn’t a clue. I’m starting to suspect she thinks she’s The Master in disguise. Whatever, she’s a quite impossible girl to deal with – and definitely a suitable case for treatment.

I mean to say, last week she was speaking at a launch of a campaign to promote STEM subjects and she said that a decade ago young people were told arts or humanities were useful for all kinds of jobs but that: ‘Of course, now we know that couldn’t be further from the truth’, thus implying that taking arts subjects now limits their career choices.

You wouldn’t believe the fuss and curfuffle that caused because all the teachers of the arts seemed to think she was saying that children who chose to study their subjects at GCSE would be ‘held back for the rest of their lives’, when what she actually said was: ‘figures show us that too many young people are making choices aged 15, which will hold them back for the rest of their life’, which of course is something entirely different.

We immediately got a spokesperson to explain that Ms Morgan “had not meant to advocate one over the other, but wanted to stress the importance of STEM”, but naturally no one believed us.

Meanwhile the real problem is that she thinks that all we need to do is recruit more students to take Science, Technology, Engineering and Maths courses and Britain will be Great again, but until we find a way of moving from teaching each subject separately and adopting an unappealing academic, theoretical approach all we are going to do is get more students dropping out. And of course what we really need is for everyone to study a balance of Arts and STEM subjects.

Hmm. Well here’s a thought. I have some experience with impossible women. Perhaps I should take her on as my new travelling companion? I could show her some real schools – just like the one where I pretended to be the caretaker. I thought I was rather good at that, and of course as a result I know everything there is to know about teaching and learning.

Ah, yes, that sounds like an excellent idea. Hmm. While you’re at it, she’ll need some sort of whimpering, male side-kick won’t she? Perhaps you could take Nick Glibb along as well? He’s no better than she is. Just as we were beginning to appease the more progressive teachers, along he comes and says traditional ‘chalk and talk’ is the best method, because that’s how they do it in China. He’s completely lost the plot – all he seems interested in is securing the votes of Daily Mail readers.

Minister tells schools to copy China – and ditch trendy teaching for ‘chalk and talk’: Teachers speaking in front of a class ‘much more effective than independent learning’

And look, he’s at it again here:

Get textbooks back in class, schools are told: Minister says teachers must end reliance on worksheets and the internet during lessons

Obviously he’s not bothered to read Now this is what I call a textbook, otherwise he’d understand a bit more about the educational publishing business and that schools just can’t afford to buy class sets anymore. Maybe you could take him back to the 1950’s where he’d see that things weren’t better in the past? And preferably leave him there.

But if Morgan and Glibb still don’t get it after they’ve spent some time with you, perhaps you know of some alien race that could, err, exterminate them both?

 

Hancock’s Half Hour

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Talk about taking one step forward and six steps Baccwards…

All Change Please! can report that the other day Skills and Enterprise Minister Matthew Hancock spent his Half Hour announcing further details of the new TechBacc.

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On the one hand was the laudable statement that “From 2015, all practical qualifications for 14- to 16-year-olds will be forced to meet rigorous new standards… to put them on par with academic qualifications”.  Now if All Change Please! didn’t know better it might believe the DfE really did know what they’re talking about this time, but as soon as it read “Previously, young people were encouraged to study meaningless qualifications completely unrelated to their lives or the rapidly changing world of work”, its suspicious were quickly aroused. The statement continued:

Previously, the development of practical skills for 14- to 16-year-olds was too narrowly focused on abstract theory. This has changed so that pupils could now:

  • in woodwork, measure, cut, joint and finish their own piece of furniture – previously they may have just studied the design of a chair

  • in textiles, students may now design and make an outfit from start to finish using a range of dressmaking or tailoring techniques – previously they may have just analysed the impact of changing technology on dress making

  • in electronics, use motion detectors, batteries and microprocessors to wire movement-controlled lighting – previously they may have just analysed a light to see how it functions.

Given that vocational courses are generally aimed at those who find abstract theory difficult to grasp and write academic essays about, it seems rather unlikely that any previous vocational qualifications were awarded simply on the basis of studying the design of a chair, analysing the technological history of dress-making, or describing how a light works. And of course designing and making furniture or an outfit from start to finish, or designing with electronics have long been a feature of GCSE D&T courses.

It rather seems that the DfE have followed Michael Gove, slipping down some sort of mysterious worm-hole time-warp and have found themselves stranded in a make-believe wonderland back in the 1950s where youngsters who are good with their hands end up learning a really useful trade that will see themselves through life, help them set up and maintain their nice new council house and have something nice to wear to church on a Sunday. What appears to be on the horizon is a return to woodwork for the boys and dressmaking for the girls, or as it used to be called in the good old 1950s, ‘Homecrafts’. Not that there’s anything wrong with learning these things, it’s just not even going to match up to the future needs of the ‘white heat of technology’ envisaged back in the 1960s. Somehow it sounds more like a preparation for life on benefits or the minimum wage.

And whatever happened to good old ‘social mobility’? Over the last thirty years the whole argument against these sorts of courses has been that they did not contain enough academic content to enable children who used to be called ‘late-developers’ to change their ‘learning pathway’ and gain entry to University. So how is that going to be resolved? Exactly how will the standards be equated with academic qualifications? It all sounds like another case of something the DfE have not thought through properly, but that doesn’t matter provided it gets some positive spin in the Daily Mail.

Meanwhile these days simply having specific ‘practical’ skills, while better than nothing, is not enough to ensure worthwhile 21st century employment. For example, to have any relevance at all, the ‘woodwork’ course will need to offer a much broader based experience, from wood crafts, coppice management and sustainable forestry, through construction carpentry and joinery, to automated wood fabrication techniques and modern engineered cellulose materials derived from wood products. And the content will also need to ensure that students have a wider understanding of the nature of business and the expectations of the workplace.

And anyway, if we’re going to have a TechBacc, isn’t it also time we had an ArtsBacc?

In other news… an article by Liz ‘No support’ Truss Britain-needs-a-revolution-in-the-classroom claimed that teaching was now the preferred option for Oxford graduates. And that’s the problem: academics are simply breeding more academics – education is little more than a self-perpetuating academic renewal device completely unconnected with the real world.

She’s right of course in one respect, Britain does need a revolution in the classroom. Just not the one that she has in mind.

And finally… some breaking news… Apparently:

Alan Milburn, the Government’s social mobility tsar, says that schools are “wasting young talent on an industrial scale” as figures suggest 2,000 bright pupils from poor backgrounds never reach their potential.

Meanwhile yet another spokesperson from the DfE said: “Improving the life chances of children from disadvantaged backgrounds and closing the gap between the rich and the poor is our overriding ambition.”

By ‘potential’ Alan Milburn means attending a leading academic Russell Group University and doubtless ending up with a job serving coffee at Starbucks, or, of course, teaching. As opposed to the quite unthinkable alternative of following a technical or vocational course and setting up a successful business. Provided that is it’s not in woodwork or dressmaking of course.

 

Image credits: Flickr  Philip Howard    /  Britt-Marie Sohlström

Teach Last

25972179_bddb47af9e_bThe English Department of Bash Street Academy prepare for battle

Re-train recently retired to teach at inner city schools, say Tories  (Warning: opens in Daily Mail)

Tory plans for retired pensioners to retrain as teachers  (The Torygraph)

Retrain retired teachers, say Tory MPs  (The Grauniad)

Today, senior Conservatives from the so-called progressive 2020 group have proposed a new scheme in a bid to save public pension funds by reducing the number of elderly who receive pensions.  It involves encouraging the recently retired to train to become teachers in inner-city schools, thus ensuring their life expectancy will be substantially reduced.

“Given the amount of stress and pressure involved we doubt whether they would survive their first year in the classroom”, a spokesperson didn’t say, before not adding, “We would expect the number of heart attacks and suicides to increase dramatically, thus saving the country billions of pounds over the next thirty years. Meanwhile these people may have a wealth of experience but it will be completely out of date by the time today’s children reach employment age, so they won’t be missed.”

Suggestions that Michael Gove will be amongst the first trainees were rigorously denied.

Apparently:

 “The 2020 Conservatives is about the radical progressive centre ground of the parliamentary party, setting out bold ideas for unleashing social mobility and enterprise in 21st century Britain. We are setting out a programme of reform to show how economic and social enterprise and responsibility can go hand in hand in a competitive and compassionate Conservative Britain.”

You have been warned…

Meanwhile 2020 All Change Please! would like to propose a parallel scheme in which recently retired teachers would be retrained as politicians, lawyers and bankers in attempt to sort out the complete mess the country is currently in.

 

Image credit: Flickr/CatherineSmith

Alas! Schools and Journos

Mel Smith, as the man who thinks he knows everything, and Griff Rhys Jones, as the man who knows he knows nothing, discuss new TV technologies in the 1980s.

Meanwhile, some 30 years later, they are discussing education…

Smith: You know something?

Jones: No, I can’t say that I do really.

Well you know what a terrible mess all our schools are in and how apparently Mr Gove is sorting them out and making them better again.

Oh, is he then?

Yes. I mean ever since the 1960s kids have been just running round doing exactly as they please in the classroom, and no-one ever tells them off or gets them to learn anything. And apparently it’s all been the fault of this ass Neil chap who opened this school called Summerfield.

Oh, was it one of these schools sponsored by a supermarket then?

Yes, that’s it. Anyway apparently at this school all the children went around naked, smoking and drinking, taking drugs and having sex with their teachers. And of course the teachers all realised they were on to a jolly good thing, and so that’s what our schools have been like ever since.

That’s a bit odd. I mean I attended a comprehensive school in the 1970s and it wasn’t at all like that. The teachers were pretty strict and pushed us hard to pass our O levels and CSEs. And my children were at similar schools in the 1990s, and they all wore a school uniform and were expected to do what they were told.

Well I expect you were at a special school of some sort. Well, anyway that’s what it says in the Daily Mail, and they wouldn’t print it if it wasn’t true would they?

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No, I suppose not.

Anyway this Gove chap is trying to make sure that in the future all children have an e-Back

What’s that then?

Well, it’s obvious isn’t it. It’s a clever electronic device that you wear and it straightens your back and stops you from slouching around.

Oh. Right.

Look if you don’t believe me, here’s an article in the Guardian, now they certainly wouldn’t print anything that’s not true would they? According to this Nick Glib, it’s not so much the teacher’s fault, it’s all to do with this secret organisation called The Blob. They believe they come from outer space and are devout followers of this ass Neil. And what they’ve done is secretly taken over all the teacher-training colleges where they just tell new teachers to let the kids do whatever they want.

Is that so? Again that all sounds a bit strange because my daughter has just finished her teacher training course and she says it was all about things like your subject knowledge, how to plan and prepare lessons, manage classes, and use IT.

Well, perhaps she was a bit confused, because that’s not what is says here, is it? Look, here’s some more in the Telegraph. Apparently teachers don’t bother teaching children from poor backgrounds because they are going to be failures anyway. And the proof is that while there are more poor children in places like China and South Korea they still do better than us in the Pizza tests.

Are these tests something they do in their Home Economics lessons, then?

Don’t be daft. No-one does Home Economics anymore.  No, they do them in their Food Technology lessons.

But I thought the reason the Chinese and South Koreans did better than us was because they only put their cleverest children in for the test?

Exactly. That just goes to show how much smarter they are than us, doesn’t it?

You don’t think that all this stuff the journalists write in the papers isn’t really news at all but just right-wing capitalist political propaganda, do you?

Good lord, no. I mean no-one would buy them if it was, would they?

 

 

 

Meducation: the learner’s little helper?

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Now if All Change Please! were to write that in the not too distant future all you will need to do to learn something new will be to take the appropriate knowledge pill, you would doubtless think it had finally flipped its lid, completely gone off its rocker and that it wouldn’t be long before they would be coming to take it away to the funny farm where life is beautiful all the time, and it would be happy to see those nice young men in their clean white coats…

But if it did, it might go on to suggest that if you had a serious knowledge addiction problem, just as Michael Gove obviously has, and, for example, wanted to learn about rocket science, there would be a pill for that, and a different one to take if you wanted to know everything there is to know about brain surgery. To be taken only under the direction of a qualified teacher, obviously.

And just imagine the uproar at the Daily Mail headline: ‘All school children to go on the pill’. Or perhaps it might be a ‘morning after’ pill that was taken if you had forgotten to do learn Chapter 23 the night before? There would also probably be clever headlines such as “Is this the next generation of tablets for use in schools?’

Doubtless educational academics would write papers and attend long conferences where they would earnestly debate the amount of prescription that would occur with this type of so-called independent learning, and whether or not it should be henceforth referred to as ‘Meducation’. Should schools be henceforth renamed clinics? Would there be hard pills and supposedly easier-to-take soft pills? And of course, most importantly, they would need to decide what colour pill to assign to each subject area of the curriculum, e.g., yellow for English, blue for maths, orange for science, etc.

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Meanwhile, don’t worry, All Change Please! intends to keep taking its tablets and as a result has no plans to make such a crazy suggestion. Especially as someone else already has. And not just anybody, but no less a person that Nicholas Negroponte, the founder of MIT.

http://arstechnica.com/business/2014/03/negropodamus-disses-internet-of-things-predicts-knowledge-pills/

Yes, the very same Nicholas Negroponte who in the mid 1990s was ridiculed for suggesting that one day people would buy music and books over the internet. And who around the same time was developing early prototypes of automated GPS driving systems, wearable computers and digital street maps, all of which no-one thought would ever come to pass. So obviously he’s no idea what he’s talking about. And his latest prediction is just as hard to swallow:

‘In 30 years, Negroponte said, we’re going to be able to literally ingest information. Once information is in your bloodstream, some kind of mechanism could deposit the information in the brain. You could take a pill and learn English or the works of Shakespeare. He said little else on the subject, but Negroponte assured the audience that the idea is not as ridiculous as it seems.’

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And of course, as fans of The Matrix are doubtless already thinking, there is a parallel here with the choice between taking the red pill and the blue pill. The blue pill allows the person to remain in the blissful ignorance of the fabricated virtual reality of the Matrix, whilst the red pill would lead to escape from the Matrix and into the painful truth of the real world. Presumably those heading for Oxbridge would take the blissful blue knowledge pill, while the rest of us would be given the realistic red one?

Meanwhile here at the All Change Please! Institute of Technology we are secretly working on a slightly different pill. One that isn’t about knowledge acquisition and recall, but one that makes it easier for people to be more creative and collaborative, and to accept and strive for positive change in the future. Now that really would be something worth having.

 

Image credits (Flickr):   Top: bwjones  /  Middle: emagineart    /   Bottom: buttersponge

All Change Please!’s Little Read Blog

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In All Change Please!‘s recent post A double McSpin and large McLies, it reported on the shadow education secretary’s early progress, or rather the general lack of it. Last week things went from bad to worse as Tristram (no relation) Hunt voiced his opinions on that lovable old dinosaur called Ofsted. While of course he agreed, as any sensible politician would, that pointless box ticking was by definition A Very Bad Thing, he completely failed to go on to say that Ofsted itself was also currently A Very Bad Thing, revealing his lack of understanding of what the actual problems were and the atmosphere that now exists in our schools.

No OFSTED Hope From Tristram Hunt

Instead he made it clear, at some length, and in a way that suggested the teaching profession as a whole might believe otherwise, that inspections were important and necessary and as a result are solely responsible for promoting high standards amongst Very Bad Teachers. What he doesn’t seem to grasp is that it’s not inspection as such that’s the problem but the way Ofsted are currently conducting them with their current ‘The Big Bogeyman Might Be Coming To Get You In The Morning’ campaign of terror.

As some All Change Please! readers will know, especially if the have they have read About This Blog, it was once an Ofsted team inspector itself, albeit a somewhere disruptive one.  Back in those days, after its initial round of inspections, the message from Ofsted was for inspectors to lighten up, be more friendly and transparent, and informally indicate positive ways forward – an approach that All Change Please! revelled in, with its main regret being that it never had the opportunity to return some six months later to see how well things were improving and to offer further suggestions. Then one day back in 2002, it finally saw the light, or at least the new guidance and revised EFfing form, or Evaluation Form as it was more formally known, and decided the time had come to abandon the sinking ship.

Sadly it seems things are not about to get better after the next election.

Meanwhile in another unconnected incident All Change Please! came across an article in The Torygraph by Janet Daily Mail, whose brief acquaintance it once made back in 1985 – but that’s another story.

Maoist class war wrecked our state schools

This really is offensive, irresponsible and quite inexcusable journalism. Apparently it seems the reason our education system is failing is not, as you might have possibly wondered, because of the abolition of grammar schools and the introduction of comprehensives. No, instead, warming to her ‘Politics and Journalism of Fear’ agenda, Daley wants us to believe that up to now our teachers have been following the Maoist ‘principle of pride’ towards our working class culture, rather than preparing our children to raise their aspirations in order to become bankers, judges, politicians and lawyers (Hmm.. Perhaps she is not entirely mistaken?). But, wait for it, despite Mr Gove’s best efforts, the really horrifying problem that is emerging is that the new generation of upcoming teachers on its way into our schools has already been brainwashed during their own education by the previous generation of Maoist teachers, thus perpetuating this sorry state of affairs, presumably forever.  And what makes this even more surprising is that All Change Please! has been working in education for the past 35 years and has yet to meet its first Maoist teacher.

So there we have it. Believe what the politicians and the media tell you, and our schools are full of Marxist Enemies of Promise and members of the Chinese Communist Party, all of whom completely refuse to have anything to do with raising standards and expectations, or with any form of accountability.

Finally then,  ‘读万卷书不如行万里路’ as they say in China, which apparently translates as ‘Reading ten thousand books is not as useful as traveling ten thousand miles’, or its closest English equivalent which is ‘An ounce of practice is worth more than a pound of theory.’ Or, as Wikipedia suggests, it means: ‘Even the most useful theories cannot substitute practice.’ These Chinese folk really do seem to know what they are talking about, don’t they?