This is from Caroline, a colleague of mine: After her experience educating parents about what OFSTED really are, she has put together a list of ten things she would like to tell every parent. Please circulate it amongst your friends who have children, so that they can begin to know the truth.
10 reasons why OFSTED is bad for your child
1. OFSTED causes stress and unnecessary workload for your child's teachers which could cause them to leave the profession.
2. Your School is so worried about OFSTED inspections that they are forced to give your child a narrow and unfulfilling educational experience.
3. Your child's Teacher lives in constant fear and wastes a lot of their time planning for the dreaded inspection.
4. Your school will be judged based on data that is inaccurate and deeply flawed.
5. Your child may not be able to go on a school trip this year or do an exciting new project as your school will spend 1000s of pounds on consultants and mocksteds in the hope of passing inspections.
6. All the important things that your teacher will do with your child will go completely unnoticed by OFSTED.
7. OFSTED does not help raise standards of your child's school the people who really care and have a deep understanding about your child's learning are their teachers.
8.OFSTED constantly change the goal posts so by last years OFSTED criteria your child's teacher may have been outstanding this year however its just a good who knows what will happen next?
9. OFSTED will make a judgement of your school even before they step through the school gates.
10. Your child's school may be judged by people who may be unqualified teachers, haven't taught for years or even failing ex head teachers .
All credit to Caroline for bravely telling the truth. I will forward any comments to her.
Wednesday, 27 March 2013
Mass Indoctrination of Children in Matters of Belief uncovered
Should educators indoctrinate?
Whatever your answer, it is always interesting to see what others can be relied upon to think. My personal bias on this would be towards the belief that teachers with a specific faith would tend to proselytise whereas teachers of no faith would not.
David Hampshire, as reported in TESpro (march 2013) ran an online survey of RE teachers and found the following:
"Teachers were asked if they openly shared their beliefs with their students; only a quarter said they didn't.
Some teachers were more likely to share their beliefs than others.
(emphasis mine throughout)
Half of Anglican and nearly half of Catholic respondents openly shared their beliefs with their students.
This was true of 67 per cent of agnostics and 89 per cent of atheists.
In fact, 55 per cent of atheist repondants would be happy if a student shared their beliefs as a result of their teaching, compared with only 10 per cent of Catholic teachers."
A recent brief notice in the TES quotes from Hapshire (2012) in REtoday relays these findings.
To me this points to a peculiar paradox. 45 per cent more atheists are on the actively evangelical conversion trail in the classroom than Catholics.
The question is, do atheists consider this evangelism or not?
Reported Source: Hampshire, D. (2012) "Giving of yourself - The RE teacher and teaching RE", REtoday, 29/3
Tuesday, 12 March 2013
Spoiler: You aren't the pipe.
Once a student (Year 10, reasonable when he chooses to be) asked me:
"Isn't university hard?"
Yes, I answered it can be quite hard. What in specific terms do you think might be hard about it?
"Isn't it hard having lectures, because someone just talks at you?"
Yes, I said, that is quite tricky but you don't really do the learning there. The learning, I said, is done over coffee with friends, or it is done in a library, or in your bedroom with a book and a cup of tea. The lectures just sort of point you at some starting points.
"You mean they don't teach you!?" he replied, clearly stunned.
No, I said, that is the teaching, the part where they point you at the repositories of knowledge and say, "Engage with that, see you in a week." That, I said, is what teaching is.
And at this point he really hit me for six.
"You mean they don't go round and help you!?"
At that I didn't have anything to say. Nothing at all really. I realised that I had honestly had the assumption in my head that my students knew what the point of academic learning was. They don't know what we are doing all this for, The Kids. Because to him learning is sitting still and waiting for somebody to come and help you and then as others have observed presumably to say "I don't get it".
Patrick doesn't get it either.
Like an idiot I had thought they meant "I do not understand the work".
But no, they had meant "What on earth is going on?" They had meant "What's school?"
This was my hypothesis anyway, and I tucked it in my belt and carried on with my job. Then, a week or so later, another student was in detention and I was trying to make him see that running away when I asked him to stop and speak to me might aggravate me and in the long run him as well. At this point he asked,
"And why am I even here?"
I asked him if he meant in the cosmic sense, which was not a joke that he was in the mood to get.
"Because," he went on, with slim regard for my attempts at humour", "my mum only went to school for four years and she's fine. So what am I doing here?"
And if I was a better teacher then I would have found a way to say this to him:
Aha! Another piece of the puzzle. Another student asking "What's School?" Or rather, what's secondary school?
Now, secondary school in its present incarnation is very much a preparation for public life, including as a basic assumption the ability to be pointed at a responsibility and going away and owning it so hard that everyone weeps with gratitude. Tertiary education prepares you for that by stripping away a lot of the more visible frameworks and leaving you in the hands of those who have Mastered their knowledge.
What I mean is, nobody is going to come around and help you, and the longer we keep doing that for students, the ruder the awakening on the other end of the long tunnel.
One of these things is getting more common around the world quicker than the other. Guess which.
Students who avow that they want to go to university (because it will make them rich) don't know what university is.
I believe that this is a problem. I believe, also, that it is not just a problem for academics, or even educators. I believe that we are all for it if people lose the ability to find things out which they want or need to know (usually the same thing, where knowledge is concerned).
Do I have a solution? No that is not my job. But it does strike me that we might be doing the wrong thing putting children through Key Stage Three when their parents left school after four years. It does occur to me that this big push might be a push in the wrong place, and entirely too hard. Won't somebody think of the Adults?
Now, New Labour made Education (of the young, obv) their big push. They made it their big push three times. They made it their big push three times. They made it their big push three times. Read my lips. That works quite well, doesn't it, because who can look at a snarling feral hoodie or an angelic but impoverished urchin and not resolve that something very definitely must be done? That is, provided they don't have to pay for it.
If the parents aren't able to explain the long term objectives of a course of learning to a child, then it might conceivably be the case that that child will have expectations of their future and their present so wide of the mark that only disillusionment can result.
All of this is parenthetical however. My purpose here is to address the 'question' (they think it is),
"I don't get it"
(emphasis theirs) translated by me as,
And I think that we should start answering that question.
School is the pipe and you are the water. Whatever age you are, you arrive at school and, insofar as it is a school at all, elements within it do not change. Those are called The Facts. If you dispute The Facts then you are not a member of The School. That may well be a good thing, from your point of view, and the best of luck with that. Certainly The Facts have changed before. As Keynes is supposed to have said,
"When the facts change, I change my opinion; what do you do, sir?"
But The Facts give solidity to the idea of school.
When water meets a pipe, the pipe does not change shape to fit the water. The water changes shape to fit the pipe. And that is school. It really really is. On the other end of the pipe, the water can evaporate, or make a puddle, or wash up, or it might even want to stop being a metaphor for somebody's weak version of power and become a real human being.
But water in a pipe is pipe shaped.
And students in a school are school shaped.
And a student who is trying to fit the wrong pipe, or who doesn't believe the pipe exists, needs to have it explained to them before anything else happens.
Thursday, 21 February 2013
Why the reclassification of Free School Meals matters
In an apparently casual manner the Department for Education has reclassified the way in which we measure students as part of the key Free School Meals (FSM) measure. Before , it was simply a matter of whether a child was in receipt of them. Now a new measure is being introduced by the DfE, at the same time as they implement two other policies: the massive expansion of the academies programme and the "Pupil Premium" which awards money to schools based on the number of students there classified as FSM. I hope to show what the consequences of these apparently unrelated policies will be in a year or two's time.
What does reclassification mean?
As shown here and elsewhere (Row 124 of the KS2 data), "the key DfE measure of free school meals changed this year, from the % of students currently eligible for FSM to the % of students whose families had been eligible in last six years."
On the surface this would seem to simply increase the money awardable via the Pupil Premium. However, there are other forces at work here. Let's imagine a scenario shall we? Say a family which had undergone some hardship in the last few years (not many haven't) but are now back on the road out of poverty, or are even relatively prosperous.
What the reclassification means is that students who have been impoverished at any point in the last six years will now count towards these statistics, even if they are not now. There is, therefore, only one way in which the statistics can go in light of this reclassification: up. Students who have been historically poor will stay poor and achieve as they would have anyway, whereas students whose home lives are improving will stay on the books as convenient success stories.
A couple of predictions
I would predict that either this year or the year after the DfE will release figures showing that the Pupil Premium has been devastatingly successful in raising attainment of its target groups. I would also predict that no mention of the changes to how FSM pupils are classified will be mentioned. Finally, I would also predict that the Academies programme will be cited as a further success given their 'rigour', 'tenacity', 'dedication' and other inkhorn adjectives with regard to the implementation of the Pupil Premium.
So, for a tiny extra spend, the DfE has guaranteed a jump in its figures whilst cutting liberally elsewhere, a fact which I have not seen reported widely, and so put down here that I might bring it to the attention of others. It only took the alteration of one formula on a Whitehall spreadsheet.
Saturday, 9 February 2013
Batman is an interesting case.
I start from the position that he is the only super hero who looks that much like a villain. In the grammar of Greek Myth he is Hades, lord of the underworld. In the Norse myth cycles he might be Loki, the cave dweller, but this myth system takes the unique stance of dividing Loki in two. The cave dweller, with his ambiguous seismic personality is retained, but the trickster component becomes the pranksters that Batman fights, chiefly the Joker and the Riddler.
These two are not alone in wearing the fool's motley. Indeed, most of Batman's most iconic foes appear far more like heroes than the protagonist. The bright greens and purples of their outfits make them instantly recognizable, wheras Wayne's tormented shadow self is the Ur Monster of the Jungian subconscious. He refuses to be an icon with an instantly identifiable colour scheme and set of quirks (no kryptonite here!) And certainly he is no Thor, at least on first glance. The Norse cycles present a clear masculine sentimentality of physicality that Wagner found indispensible, and which offsets Loki's relative weediness. Batman, on the other hand, is chiefly a force of cunning rather than strength.
Why, then, does the case of Batman persist when his most notable antecedents in anti-heroism, such as the Shadow, are stubbornly refused readmittance into the teenage canon? Here I think a unique innovation has taken place. With the loss of the father, Wayne is denied a childhood. As such the full weight of responsibility, embodied in the insanely heavy 'Wayne Manor', literally weighs down on him from within the Batcave - discovered in childhood and become the ruins of play that orphans are fated to inherit.
The refusal to turn from responsibility towards levity is the key to Batman's appeal. The Joker constantly offers the option of giving up on the adult world and retreating into the absurdities of life act as game, but Wayne takes on the image of 20th century masculinity, wrapped in the same cloak his father wore to leave the theatre. It is an operatic scenario, in that little needs to happen, all that is necessary to engage with this is to put one's mind in it and feel fully the reality of manhood.
One further innovation improved the chances of the idea 'taking', the highly controversial trope of 'Robin'. This adolescent nihilist adopts the void of a man that is the true social suicide of Wayne as his father. As such he becomes the cipher for the reader within the story. His kidnap by the Joker, who calls him a 'professional hostage', is the device par excellence of the stories. They show that our childhood is held hostage by our irresponsibility, and can only be liberated by seriousness.
Perhaps, then, the earlier comparison with the Norse cycles is justified. Wheras for the Vikings masculinity was a clear product of physical strength, for us it is a question of abstinence from play. The reason therefore I choose to begin this blog with this analysis is because in part it will be a defence of the process of play. It might, therefore, be retitled 'Against The Bat', although such dualism is of course unhelpful. Rather I proceed as do so many young men and boys, in the Shadow of my Games.
Sunday, 6 January 2013
The albatross in flying, notices the wind
Which whips across his wings in waves, and says:
"How quick and unimpeded would my flight be
If someone would remove the air, yes then I would be free,
Without this nothing which does nothing
Except hold me back."