Let’s Make Education Great Again!

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Let’s Take Back Control:

Vote for All Change Please!

In this confirmation-biased, filter-bubbled, post-truth, false-news, JAM-packed ‘breakfast-means-breakfast’ world of cyber-physical systems, social media and politics, it seems all anyone needs to do is to make a few things up and get them out into cyberspace and they become reality. So here’s All Change Please!’s contribution…

When elected, in its first 24 hours in office, All Change Please! will:

•  Double teachers’ salaries

•  Reduce teacher administrative workload by 50%

•  Reduce class sizes by 50%

•  Make taking the EBacc illegal

•  Disband Ofsted with immediate effect

•  End all League Tables

•  Ban marking

•  Disband existing awarding bodies and replace them with locally set and moderated curriculum specifications

•  Turn all Public schools into free Comprehensives

•  Invest in brand new architect-designed award-winning buildings for all schools

•  Make vocational and technical education equal to academic learning

•  Nationalise all Multi-Academy Trusts

•  Introduce 5 year training courses for all new teachers

•  Bring back free school milk

•  Fund Dancing in the Street

And, most importantly:

•  Build an impenetrable border-long wall between Education and Politicians.

•  Lock up Michael Gove

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Imagine there’s no target grades, lesson plans or end-of-term reports to write, it’s easy if you try…

 

Image credits Flickr (top): LWCV / Brad Greenlee

Hey! Tories! Leave Them Schools Alone!

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Another Brick in the Academy Wall

The main news in the world of education at present is of course Mr Cameron’s announcement that all schools are to be Academised and sold to private companies with offshore tax accounts. However there was a slight misprint in several daily newspapers. Instead of:

The prime minister said his “vision for our schooling system” was to place education into the hands of headteachers and teachers rather than “bureaucrats”.

The correct version should have read:

The prime minister said his “vision for our politically-directed centres of obedience” was to place education into the hands of over-paid CEOs of profitable Multi Academy Trusts, rather than “bureaucrats”.

Of course what the PM also failed to mention was that in order to run the schools, the MAT’s will be re-employing the same bureaucrats that will lose their jobs in the Local Authority. No Change Please! there then. Nor did he mention that in future the 3R’s will stand for ‘Reading, Writing and Raking it in’.

A recent petition to scrap the academies plan has already achieved over the necessary 100,000 signatures, but it’s still worth adding your name if you have not done so already.

If somehow you’ve not yet managed to find the time to download, read and fully digest the new Off-White Paper, there’s a ‘great’ post about it here by the great Professor Michael Bassey, which includes a great link to the great document.

Meanwhile the most extraordinary event of the week must be this piece in The Daily Mail which just for once gets it right when it informs its readers that the:

‘UK has the fifth highest level of skills mismatch out of countries studied’, and that ‘Thousands of graduates and other well-educated people are stuck in jobs for which they are over-qualified, official statistics have revealed.’

Though of course The Mail can’t help but blame Labour’s 1999 pledge:

‘to send half of all school-leavers to university, which critics at the time said was a mistake.’

while failing to add that it was a policy that the Tories have only sought to make worse through the EBacc, which aims to send 90% of all school-leavers to university and increase the skills mis-match even further. Well if we can’t do well in PISA tests, then at least this is one test we’re going to come top of?

But the All Change Please! award for the most AARRRGGGHHHH! inducing speech of the month goes to Lieutenant Wilshaw who made the following contribution to the drive to recruit more teachers: ‘We need battlers, we need bruisers, we need battle-axes who are going to fight the good fight..in our classrooms’, which duly led our special shouty education correspondent who can always be trusted to tell it like it is, to observe:

If you are having to force kids into Orwelesque compliance to make them behave there is indeed something really rotten going on. The message you are sending to children is:

• we don’t trust you to dress yourself, so we make you all wear identical prison uniforms,

• we don’t trust you to express yourself, so shut up and sit very still or we’ll drug you with ritalin or kick you out permanently,

• we don’t trust you to move round the school, so walk in goose step with hands tied behind your back,

• we don’t trust you to use your time outside school productively, so you must do masses of pointless homework and stay in school for an hour longer every day,

• we don’t trust your teachers either so Big Brother Gibb will decide exactly what you need to learn and how they should teach you,

• and we definitely don’t trust your locally-elected representatives so we will steal all the state schools and give them over to our unelected friends to sell off the playing fields.

Well Mr F-ing Ofsted. Do you know what? I don’t trust you as far as I could throw a piece of chalk at you to shut you up….

Image credit: Flickr/Srivathsan Raghavan

Curriculum Noir III: Lt Wilshaw Sees The Light

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Previously, in Curriculum Noir I and Curriculum Noir II, Philip Marlowe was hired to discover who was stealing the Arts, and then by Lieutenant Wilshaw to track down the missing Big Mickey Gove. However, things have been quieter since, now that justice was being done to Big Mickey Gove and Little Missy Morgan had taken over and was ruthlessly running the Mob with her henchmen. She was on a mission to take control of the whole curriculum, and no-one was going to get in her way. Marlowe takes up the story:

So there I was the other night, sitting quietly in the dimly-lit coffee shop across the road from my office and slowly sipping on my double-strength flat white, when suddenly a shadow fell across its velvety-smooth microfoam surface.

“Ah, found you at last Marlowe.” a familiar voice growled as Lieutenant Wilshaw of the Ofsted Flying Squad sat down opposite me. I couldn’t help notice that for once he was looking scared.

“I need your help.” he whispered, nervously looking around in case anyone was sitting at the back of the cafe with an observation form in their hands.

“Sure.” I said, surprised at the unusual request.

“Well, it’s just that… if I can explain… how can I put this… I know you won’t believe me, but things have changed, and… it may seem strange that I’m saying this, but I’ve recently come to the conclusion that this whole EBacc thing is a one really big dumb-blonde of an idea. This ‘one size fits all’ system is complete nonsense, isn’t it? And then there’s this insane PISA fixation over some narrow-minded tests that don’t reveal anything worth knowing about the quality of education being delivered in our schools.”

“I mean, just think of all these poor kids who are going to fail all their GCSE EBacc exams and end up on the street, with no qualification, nowhere to go and nothing to do. It’s too awful to contemplate. Something’s got to be done to stop the Mob carrying on with its evil plans. Up to now I’ve just been playing along so they’ll leave me alone, but enough’s enough and I just had to speak out about the lack of vocational education and qualifications currently on offer- I expect you’ve read about it in the papers.

“Well, it sure has taken you long enough.” I said. “It’s just a shame you didn’t see the light a bit sooner and not let things get this far in the first place – I mean any teacher could have told you what it was like in reality, years ago. And you’ve know it all along too. But anyway, what I can do for you?”

“You’ve got to hide me, Marlowe. They’re after me. Gentleman Nick ‘The Knife’ Glibb is going to catch up with me pretty soon and he’s going to want to take his revenge. And Ofqual and the Awarding Bodies are hot on my tail after I suggested that the exams shouldn’t be moved to accommodate Ramadan, and then it turned out they hadn’t been anyway.”

I gave him my best ‘I told you so’ look and tried to calm him down. “I really wouldn’t worry. Just go home and forget about it. I expect you’ll be spending more time with your family soon anyway. How’s your garden growing? All this talk about the academic and the vocational having equal status – it’s never going to happen, and the Mob know it. It’s not about children or teaching and learning anymore, it’s all about propaganda and politics. The purpose of education is simply to keep The Party in power for ever and ever.”

“Gee, Marlowe, you really think so?”

“I know so… Just as sure as night follows day and Period 2 follows Period 1.”

I showed him the morning paper and pointed to the official DfE response:

A Department for Education spokesman said: “We know that young people benefit from studying a strong academic core of subjects up until the age of 16 which they can complement with additional arts subjects or vocational qualifications.

“Our reforms are leaving pupils better prepared for further study and more ready for the world of work…”

“But this is ludicrous – it’s just an outrageous premium pack of porky pies.” snarled Wilshire. “Exactly how do they know all young people benefit from studying so many academic subjects? And if they are already doing the seven EBacc subjects, that only leaves them with one option for the ‘additional arts subjects or vocational qualifications’. And then there are all these companies saying they no longer require a degree, and complaining that the teenagers and graduates they employ come to them have no idea what business is like – so they’re certainly not ‘more ready for the world of work.’ I suppose next they’ll be claiming there is no teacher shortage, and that there’s never been a better time to become a teacher…”

With a sad, dejected look on his face Lieutenant Wilshaw wearily made for the door and stumbled out into the blackness. I ordered another double flat white and a dark chocolate croissant and decided there really was no point in responding to the EBacc Consultation, because it only played straight into their hands, and whatever I said wouldn’t be considered anyway. As everyone knows, there are no marks if you don’t answer the question that’s been set.

That’s the way things work now.

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Image credits: Flickr/ Barkbud (top), nyyankee (bottom)

 

D&T: No More Logos Any More?

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In a recent speech, Diana Choulerton, the new D&T subject lead at Ofsted, is reported to have made a number of observations made about the current delivery of D&T in schools that make good sense in terms of the challenges that lie ahead for the subject. For example:
• Design [in D&T] isn’t really DESIGN’. There isn’t much TECHNOLOGY.
• D&T lacks challenge. Is there real problem-solving happening?
• The issues five years on remain the same.
• There is an over-focus on making [and] ‘taking something home’.

Well all good sense, except for just one or two things, that is. For example, apparently Ms Choulerton suggests there is too much ‘soft’ D&T, e.g., designing a logo, adding decoration or suggesting a colour. Now in a sense she may well be correct in that there is too much, but the real problem is that many teachers tend to deliver these activites at too low a level of challenge and content. But in highlighting the matter, she’s giving the impression that these things are of less importance – you can almost hear all those HoDs busily tappity-tap-tapping ‘Ofsted says that we mustn’t do the logo project anymore‘.

In reality these so-called ‘soft’ activities (which are by no means soft in their practice) provide excellent contexts in which to teach children about creativity, rapid iterative modelling, the nature and use of symbolic representation and the psychological aspects of design, and as such the very language of the subject – which is of fundamental importance to learners being able to progress. Effectively expressing the quality of a product or service in a simple, distinctive and memorable symbol of logo presents a considerable challenge, as does producing a final detailed specification that enables it to be accurately reproduced and applied – and these days this usually involves producing an animated version for use on digital platforms. Meanwhile such work provides an opportunity to start to discuss the impact and reality of the global impact of branding and marketing, without which design as we know it today would not exist in the market place. So-called ‘hard’ D&T (which for some reason presumably only occurs when ‘hard’ materials are used?) tends to ignore, or at best minimise, these important, highly transferable areas of knowledge and skill.

All Change Please! wonders just how extensive Ms Choulerton’s current awareness is of the level of technical skills are needed with programs such as Photoshop and Illustrator to create images? No, not very. Thought not. Meanwhile finalising the design of a logo is really just the start. Anyone who has ever prepared artwork or a digital file for a professional printer (which All Change Please! rather doubts Ms Choulerton ever has) will tell you that there are then a whole long list of things you never dreamt of that have to precisely specified if you want want your design to look anything like the way you intended – there’s just as much high-level knowledge of traditional and modern reprographic print technologies needed as for 3D manufacture. And if you’re still not convinced, then it’s perhaps worth mentioning that a good logo designer can earn a very decent wage, and there’s a much greater demand for graphic designers than there is for 3D product designers.

So surely what Ms Choulterton should have said was that too many so-called ‘soft’ D&T tasks provide excellent opportunities to learn valuable D&T skills, but are poorly taught?

Screenshot 2015-11-01 12.25.07Milton Glaser’s original, now iconic 1977 ‘I Heart New York’ logo is known and copied the world over. Each year it earns New York State millions of dollars in licensing fees.

Meanwhile Ms Choulterton is also reported to have provided a list of projects that shouldn’t be included as part of a 21st Century curriculum, such as ‘storage, clocks, 2D logos and moisture sensors‘ (for some reason 3D logos appear to be OK then?). Ah, there those HoDs go again – ‘Ofsted says we’re not allowed to do these popular and successful projects anymore‘. But as All Change Please! has always maintained: ‘It’s not what you design it’s the way you design it’. There is absolutely nothing wrong with any of the projects she highlights, provided they are delivered in the right way – storage, telling the time, creating 2D logo identities and using sensors are just as much 21st century problems as any other, and indeed new technologies provide plenty of opportunity for them to be solved in new and exciting ways – though again the real problem is that teachers are delivering them that way.

Indeed it’s a shame that she then seems to have missed the opportunity to promote the approach of the digital maker movement, which is the one thing that could really save the subject and provide it with an exciting way forward into the 20th century. With the current severe shortage of teachers in the subject, somehow D&T needs a fresh start with a new breed of teachers who have not come from a 3D-obsessed, ‘handicraft’ background, but a wide range of more broadly-based design, marketing and service-related areas, including architecture and the environment, communication, IT and business.

And finally, while we’re D&T talking, the community is busy trying to convince the government that the subject is important because it will produce future generations of designers who will in turn produce higher-quality products for export. While that may indeed be the best strategy for helping ensure the subject survives in the current climate of El-Bãcco and forecasts of severe teacher shortage storms, it’s important to remember that D&T is primarily there for the majority who won’t ever become designers and technologists. What these children will gain by taking the subject is to become better and more creative problem-solvers with an increased understanding of and sense of empathy for the human needs and wants of others, and the ability to communicate their ideas and suggestions for the future – just the sort of so-called ’soft’ skills most employers are looking for it seems.

 

BREAKING NEWS…

The Df-ingE has just announced the final specification and assessment structure for new GCSE Design & Technology courses. They can be downloaded here:

Assessment arrangements unveiled for GCSE design and technology

D&T Subject Content November 2015

There are no obvious major changes, but some minor ones, particularly in the weightings of the assessment structure. Whatever, it’s too late to complain now and it’s up to the exam boards to make some sense out of them. At least there’s no more horticulture any more…

 

6526559341_0d29281c4b_oAh – doesn’t that feel better now…?

Image credits:

Flickr/Alexander Edward

Milton Glaser/Tristram Shepard

Flickr/Cokestories

 

Pirates of the DfE

Screenshot 2015-06-28 14.50.19 Yo Ho Ho!  A Pirate’s Life for Me!

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‘, her only problem is how does she identify such schools coming up on the horizon? Indeed All Change Please! would be delighted to hear from anyone who can follow this method.

First, here are some definitions of ‘coasting’:

‘Performing a natural deceleration of a motor when the power is removed, or in railroading, the act of allowing a train or a car to run upon a down grade by its own gravity, without steam or electric power.’

This suggests that a ‘coasting’ school should be one which is running without any energy, and therefore gradually losing momentum, i.e., getting increasingly worse academic results year by year, however good or bad its intake.

However, in 2011, swash-buckling Davy-Jones ‘Cutthroat’ Cameron defined coasting schools as those:

“..whose results have either flat-lined…or where they haven’t improved as much as they could  have”.

(But there again, what does he know?)

Meanwhile Ofsted’s ‘Man-O-War’ Mr Michael Offshore offered:

“coasting” schools – where performance, often in well-off areas, is not necessarily inadequate but has failed to impress.

(Likewise?)

But then just today, the DfE’s very own little treasure chest, Mad Cap’n Morgove finally announced her own, dictionary-defying definition of a Coasting school as being one where, whatever their intake, more than 60% have failed to achieve 5 A*to C GCSE passes and would as a consequence be doomed to be turned into an academy, despite the fact that no-one at the DfE has yet had the courage to tell her that many schools defined in this way will already be academies.

So until Mad Cap’n Morgove removes both her eye patches, checks the manual and sees what the issues and solutions really are, here’s All Change Please!‘s alternative Full Steam Ahead, Left-hand Down-a-bit, Shiver me Timbers, Shipshape Guide to our current Fleet of Schools…

 

The Sinking School

2514328801_01f84a3b1a_oThe main priority in this type of school is simply getting the kids to attend. The mainly supply staff do what they can, but have essentially given up on trying to significantly raise levels of academic achievement, because they know it’s a complete waste of time. Things are slowly falling apart, and if it’s not already, it will soon become an Academy – not that this will make much difference of course. However the school does form an essential part of the provision of social services in the area, and the parents will generally say that their children are very happy there.

 

The Coasting School

10765354003_1d72127287_zCoasting schools are making some effort and covering the basics fairly well, but over time, standards are starting to fall and there is no sense of pressure to improve. The engine has been switched off and they are happily drifting along. Expectations are moderate, and the staff seem content to remain where they are and avoid change as much as possible. There is probably an emphasis on the relationship with the local community, and it describes itself as a ‘caring’ school.

 

The Chugging School

779944771_6946b79a3a_oIn a chugging school, the standards achieved by the majority of children remain fairly constant. Some years the results are slightly better, or worse, than usual. Staff and students work steadily without exerting too much energy. There may be a moderate number of academic high-flyers who do extremely well. The headteacher and the SMT have been there for some time. Everything feels very secure and settled and there is no great sense of urgency or disruptive change. The parents say their children are quite content there and doing well enough. However, there is a growing concern that the school is likely to get turned into an Academy.

 

The Cruising School

16836198555_757a757e50_zIn these schools the students are relaxed, but there are good expectations of what they can achieve within their own capabilities. Examination success is important, but not the only aspect of life that is valued and encouraged. The staff and students get on well together and there is a positive, friendly atmosphere. The school is steaming ahead with the just the right amount of effort, and there are some exciting initiatives being led by the staff. When there’s a storm brewing, intelligent changes of course are taken, with the result that interesting new ports are visited.

 

The Overheating School

527182264_7cb9e0f2b3_zAcademic exam results, University entrance and League Table position are all that matters here. There’s a lot of steam, or rather hot-air emanating from Senior Management. The pressure is intense with every lesson placed in the context of fear of failure, based on an approach of shame and bullying of staff to ensure students succeed. The sense of competition is fierce. While most students pass their exams there is a significant drop-out rate at 6th form level, and absence due to the excessive pressure to perform. There is a high staff turnover, and the school is running close to breaking point due to the level of stress and strain on the infrastructure. The parents add to the pressure by demanding to know why their children are not all gifted and talented geniuses.

 

But, avast, me landlubbing hearties – it may be time to batten down the hatches, take to the crows nest and splice the mainbrace, but let’s not forget that one day in the not too distant future, all these ships – and the pirate politicians who sail them – are surely destined to be broken up in the great schoolyard in the sky?

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Flickr Image Credits

Pirate:  Flickr/June Yarham and Tristram Shepard

Sinking: Paul Vallejo

Coasting: stcriox360

Chugging: duluoz cats

Cruising: Carlos SM

Overheating:  Scott Schmitz

Ship graveyard: korafotomorgana

Curriculum Noir II: The Gove Legacy

Screen Shot 2014-09-23 at 15.10.23In his All Change Please! Guest Post Curriculum Noir last May, Philip Marlowe recounted the story of how he had searched in vain for the Arts in schools, discovered they were now only available in the local PaintEasy, and pleaded for the Blob to somehow find a way to overcome the Mob, led by the notorious Big Mickey Gove. So what’s happened since? Marlowe picks up the story…

I remember the day it happened – who doesn’t? There we all were outside Number 10 expecting maybe one or two of Gove’s henchmen to be taken out, when all of a sudden a big black van marked ‘Toxic Waste – Please Dispose Of Carefully‘ drove up and suddenly Mickey Gove was gone. Most teachers just stood there in silence, not believing the news. But as the day wore on, incredulity gave way to singing and dancing and lots of other things that Gove would not have approved of. No-one knew where he’d gone, and even fewer cared.

Then just a few days ago there was a knock on my office door and a tall, elderly gentleman entered. I recognised him immediately. It was the notorious, well past his retire-by-date, Lieutenant Wilshaw of the Flying Ofsted Squad.

“Marlowe”, he said, “My apologies for this no-notice visit, but I’ll come straight to the point. I’m worried about Mickey Gove. It’s been two months now and no-one’s seen him since the day he was taken. He seems to have just disappeared off the face of the earth.”

I wasn’t really listening to what he was telling me. While I waited for him to engage my interest I tipped back on my chair and texted a message to my secretary whilst gazing out of the window, but my attempt at low-level disruptive behaviour didn’t seem to put him off. Even lighting a cigarette didn’t get a reaction. I got the distinct feeling he wanted me to call him Sir all the time, but I had no intention of doing so.

“I’m concerned he’s been brainwashed in some way and is just walking the streets trying to work out who he is, or rather was. I was wondering if you could maybe find him for me?”

I remained silent, wondering why I should agree to take on such a task.

“I’ll pay you of course” he said, anticipating my thoughts, “or even better I could speak to someone who would make you chairman of a large academy chain. Or perhaps you could open a free school, if that’s what you’d like?”

That sounded a lot more tempting, but I still wasn’t convinced.

“It’s just that ever since the start of the new term the teachers have become very confused.” he continued. “Without Gove dictating what should be taught and when and how, they don’t seem to know what to do next. And now there is nothing to fight for anymore they are just aimlessly walking around the school corridors like zombies.

“OK”, I said, reluctantly. “In that case I’ll see what I an do”.

“Thank you Mr Marlowe. That’s a satisfactory response. Good of you to help. Very good – in fact, outstanding. Use any special measures you need to. You must excuse my limited vocabulary – it comes with the job. Err – you will keep me fully updated, won’t you?”

I thought I’d begin by checking up on Delores Anass and find out how she was settling into the new term, and whether or not she’d turned into a zombie. Arriving at the school I walked passed the dance studio where Edward (AKA Sir Ken) Robinson was in full flow, giving another of his motivational lectures. Then I came to the IT suite where the ICT co-ordinator was desperately trying to learn two coding languages just in order to keep up with the kids. Meanwhile outside on the school field someone was quietly stringing together a Daisy chain of academies.

Delores was looking as stunning as ever – like she’d just stepped off the cover of a glossy school prospectus.  She could sure keep me in detention anytime she liked. But I could tell she wasn’t happy.

“I don’t know what to do about the new KS3 curriculum.” she said. “I’m trying to deliver it as required but the children don’t seem to have any idea what I’m talking about. It’s almost as if they just haven’t yet covered the much higher demands and expectations of KS2 in their Primary schools, so that makes it quite impossible. And as for these new GCSE grades, well they’re so much nonsense, aren’t they? It’s just replacing letters with numbers and adding a 9 to fool people into thinking somehow that makes it louder. Perhaps next time they’ll use colours instead – for example, you could have Green for ‘Pass’, Yellow for ‘Get Ready To Pass’ and Red for ‘Stop and Repeat’. That would be much better, wouldn’t it?”

I looked around and checked out the notorious art room sinks, but in this case they were gleaming white: this was clearly a clean sink school. On her desk I noticed a cracked, not-so-young Toby jug crammed full of bald paintbrushes. I wandered towards the art storeroom door, but noticed Delores suddenly seemed uneasy, as if she was trying to hide something.

“No, Marlowe, No.” she pleaded. “Please don’t go in there. It’s not safe. You might not like what you find. It’s – where I keep my whips, if you get my meaning.”

I wondered if this was a side of Dolores I didn’t know about, or whether she perhaps just had a penchant for Walnut Whips, but then I made the connection. I had my hunches about what, or rather who, might be in there, but I decided to let sleeping dogs lie. If that’s where Gove was, he couldn’t do any further harm.

Back at the office I rang Lt. Wilshaw. I told him I thought I’d found Gove and he was well out of harm’s way, but I was afraid I couldn’t reveal his whereabouts. Wilshaw sounded relieved, but still not happy – I guessed perhaps he’d really wanted to get to Gove himself so he could finish the job off properly. It could only happen in education.

The bell to signal the end of school for the day rang somewhere in my head and I decided it was time to head for home. Gove may be gone – for now at least – but there’s no doubt his legacy will live on for some time. It’s going to be a while before the Blob manage to take control of education again, and Big Mickey’s Mob are never going to be far behind. I wasn’t feeling human tonight, but at least I hadn’t turned into a zombie. Not yet, anyway.

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Lower image credit: Flickr/emiliano-iko

Education At War / Gove-centred learning

1S-8091867592_81f1b1790d_cUK teaching and learning is coming crashing down…

Last week Civitas, a right-of-centre think-tank commissioned by Herr Gove to report on education standards, announced it is to call for a new inspectorate for academies and free schools. Calling for the scrapping of ‘Sixties-mired’ Ofsted, apparently it will argue that ‘the Education Secretary’s wish for schools to develop their own approaches to teaching is being held back by child-first orthodoxies among inspectors, who are stifling innovation‘.

Well, not surprisingly this seemed to make Head of Ofsted Sir Michael Wilshaw just the tiniest bit cross, or as it was widely reported in the media he was ‘spitting blood‘, and that he had even fallen out with The Great Dictator himself.  Of course perhaps General Von Wiltshirehoffen should have known better than to announce that he would not hold back from criticising under-performing Free schools and Academies, and consequently preventing the complete ethnic cleansing of the entire left-wing in education. Even more surprisingly he apparently also said: ‘extreme educational philosophies’ had no place in modern schools, that some of his critics want  ‘children to be lectured for six hours a day in serried ranks’. and that such ‘rote learning would not produce successful learners who can think for themselves‘.

So is General Von Wiltshirehoffen in reality a Marxist Enemy Of Promise Double Agent in disguise? Anyway it’s good to know the enemy are busy fighting their own internal battles. Well, they were for a few hours anyway, because later that day Herr Gove said he fully supported General Von Wiltshirehoffen and would immediately execute exterminate dismiss anyone who said they didn’t, and then they both sat down together and had a really nice cup of tea and agreed they would be jolly good chums again, forever and ever.

But wait, they thought it was all over, when on Monday along comes David Green (Who’s he then?), the chief executive of Civitas, who clearly has no intention of allowing a peace process to erupt. Writing for The Spectator he is heavily critical of Wiltshire and Ofsted and promotes the need for a knowledge-led approach to learning in order to increase the performance of children who come from disadvantaged homes. So, if Herr Gove is true to his word, presumably one day soon there will be a knock on the door and David Green will never be heard of again.

Meanwhile All Change Please! was puzzled by the last phrase of Civitas’s original statement. First, what are all these unidentified ‘innovative approaches to teaching‘ that are being stifled? Presumably these involve traditional, old-fashioned approaches combined with a little help from computer-generated online knowledge-based, multiple choice questions, and a selection of dull and boring video clips, and based on the belief that all children are both created and grow-up equal, i.e. their needs are all exactly the same at any one point in time and space. And secondly, when Civitas criticises ‘child-first orthodoxies‘ is it really suggesting that the children should be seen to be of secondary importance in schools?

1S-Screen shot 2014-01-28 at 12.22.39Which came first? The children or the system?

All Change Please! suspects that the concept of ‘child-first’, or ‘child-centred learning’ is completely misunderstood by those whom it suits to do so. They believe it means allowing children to do exactly what they like, when they like and not imposing any order or notion of discipline or sanctions for misbehaviour, when in reality it involves a flexible, yet strongly structured, scaffolded approach to learning, focusing on and prioritising the interests, abilities, and learning styles of the students, rather than the needs of those involved in managing the educational process, such as teachers and administrators – and of course politicians. Thus it recognises the learner as an individual, rather than a future mass-produced widgit (ie a small gadget or mechanical or electronic component device). Which is not to say the needs of the teachers and administrators should be ignored, but just not prioritised over those of the children.

Then there is the curious belief, again strongly promoted by Civitas, that it is the local authorities that have been solely responsible for promoting ‘discredited, out-dated progressive child-centred learning‘, as if setting up Free schools or Academies will, entirely all on its own, completely by itself, without anyone else’s help, solve the perceived problem and enable teachers to get back to those so-called innovative methods of whole-class teaching.

But wait, there’s more… will you welcome please The Employers with a completely different priority. For them it’s not schools or children first, it’s the future economic success of their own businesses, or as they prefer to call it…’the country‘. Sadly, while the great and good generals, politicians, company directors and academics all appear to be having great fun scoring points of each each other in the name of education, it’s the innocent children and teachers in the trenches who are being slaughtered on a daily basis.

What’s really needed is some sort of balanced consensus that meets the differing needs of the children and the country, delivered within the realistic constraints of the schools, the managers and the teachers.  Surely that’s what the politicians should really be trying to achieve?

Meanwhile, the one clear approach that seems to be winning through can only be described as Gove-centred learning, and surely destined to produce a country full of Mini-Me Gove replicants. And in seems that in Australia it’s already happening….

“The clue about the approach Pyne is seeking to follow this week is in the snappy new glasses he unveiled at his Blue Room press conference. They are remarkably like those of Michael Gove, the current British secretary of state for education, who is busy prosecuting a culture war in English schools. This combines a radical commitment to setting up new schools outside of the framework of local government or professional regulation, while simultaneously trying to make exams harder, the curriculum more “fact” based, and leftie social workers named as the root of all contemporary evil.”

Image credit (top) SDASM Archives

Image credit (middle): Flickr vivido/rosefirerising

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?

Bringing Gove to Book

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Judging by the proliferation of Christmas decorations that have suddenly manifestived themselves up and down our high streets the length and breadth of the country, All Change Please! can only assume that Xmas must be but a couple of weeks away, and that its calendar has got somehow stuck in early November.

Anyway, as its readers are now doubtless lying awake at nights worrying about what to give each other for gifts surely destined to coldly furnish forth the charity shops in the New Year, All Change Please! is proud to present its untimely Christmas Gift Guide

Top of the tree must surely be…

http://www.amazon.co.uk/Everything-I-know-about-teaching/dp/1492912417/ref=wl_it_dp_o_pC_nS_nC?ie=UTF8&colid=WSGI13V7SY0A&coliid=I1EG38TO2ACMW5

If you know of someone who would enjoy a fascinating, meticulously researched and highly analytic account of Gove’s personal experience of teaching that underpins his education policies, then this book is going to make the ideal present this Christmas.  Cleverly structured under a series of comprehensive chapter titles, the reader will quickly and easily grasp the true depth and breadth of Gove’s pedagogical insights.  An ideal stocking filler that surely a lot of teachers are going to be receiving?

To avoid disappointment, make sure you click on the link above to read the product description and check out the ‘Look Inside’!

Meanwhile if grizzly mysteries are more to your taste, perhaps ‘The Ofsted Murders’ will tick your box. Initial reviews of this book indicated that it was an outstanding novel, but more recent comments by those who just read a few randomly chosen paragraphs suggest that it requires improvement if it is to avoid being forcibly turned into an academic tome.

http://www.amazon.co.uk/Ofsted-Murders-Gary-Sargent/dp/144521573X/ref=sr_1_1?s=books&ie=UTF8&qid=1383940025&sr=1-1&keywords=ofsted+murders

And finally, if you know any teachers who are a bit of a mug for spending hours writing highly detailed lesson plans and doing everything their Senior Management say without question, then this could just be the gift they need.

http://www.amazon.co.uk/gp/product/B00BYOV7X0/ref=s9_simh_gw_p14_d0_i3?pf_rd_m=A3P5ROKL5A1OLE&pf_rd_s=center-2&pf_rd_r=170Y8PPEX6GYJKRGFPJP&pf_rd_t=101&pf_rd_p=430153987&pf_rd_i=468294

Ho! Ho! Ho! And a Merry November to you too…

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Image credits: Wikimedia Commons, Vouliagmeni (top), Flickr, Geoffeg (bottom)