The results are out. Educational leaders criticism the outcome, the Secretary of State for education claims he had nothing to do with the results and OFQUAL suffers criticism for the abrupt reduced pass rate. Yet our teaching resources and school children who have suffered the vagaries of our educational system have a small voice. They have endured countless educational initiatives over the schooling journey. Some have worked, many have failed, all have caused mayhem and disruption. Most have demoralised and prevented teachers enjoying the work they do and school children thriving in an educational environment that stimulates learning. Time for the big boys to leave the playground for a while and let teachers do what they do best – teach. Bring back a sense of pride, influence and control in the profession by the guys who actually do know best. Exam results will then be a measure of a education, common sense, skill and dedication. Currently the national curriculum, exam standards and school targets have become so manipulated and full of patches and repairs that the best solution, metaphorically, is to throw the lot in the skip and start again. But this time let the skill, judgement and teaching skill of the many great teachers that are hiding beneath the parapet take the lead. And do it quickly as countless millions of children deserve a better start to adult life and further education.
Archive for August, 2012
Recent research has shown that children using text messaging frequently actually degrades their speaking and writing ability. This downgrade in literacy confirms the opinion held by many educational observers. The survey conducted by the Pennsylvania State University reviews the exam results of 228 children aged 10 to 14 who sent or received a text message just before an exam and compared their exam results to a control group who had not received a text message. The marked degradation in literacy skill is apparently due to the abbreviations and shorthand used in the average 3,000 text messages sent by USA teens each month. Children find it hard to switch between text speak and English grammar easily..
At keen2learn we have often condemned successive secretaries of state for education from attempting to solve the significant long-term ills of the educational system whilst in a post with around 18 months tenure. Throwing money at short term initiatives appears the de facto standard.
Over the past 25 years no Secretary’s of State for Education has launched a radical long-term plan to improve our educational standards. All must bear some responsibility for our declining performance in schools and exams
Michael Gove at least appears to have accepted the challenge. The new plan is to re-introduce the old GCE schooling syllabus. A bold plan that includes changes of this magnitude is vital to correct the deterioration that has occurred over the past decades. It will be almost criminal for his proposals to be thwarted by political shenanigans that criticise the move yet offer no alternative. We all abhor change, but our schooling system needs to turn a corner – and fast! In the 10 year span pass of our schooling process without change we would still release countless young adults in 2022 into a market that has massively changed from the time when Gove’s detractors applied for their first job. And improved educational qualifications will be absolutely essential in the market.
Colin Smith the chairman of Poundland recently joined the growing criticism of the educational quality of children entering retail employment. As yet another head of a large employer in the retail sector he cited that children could not enter employment without remedial education in literacy, numeracy and social skills to achieve the required minimum benchmark. This comment has stark undercurrent. Products on sale in Poundland, are, as the name suggest all priced at £1. It is a stark reality that we have children who cannot calculate the total and provide change from £5, £10 and £20 notes.
The vicarious cycle of government funding applied to educational teaching resources continues. We are far from educational consistency shown by the annual games played in the selection of schools by parents and in turn; of students by schools.
Epitomised by the postcode lottery applied by many good schools, children are still subjected to a national scandal where the average school in the UK when compared to the international performance standards can be seen to be well down the league table. It seems the system, already creaking due to population growth, must expect more frequent reports of failure.
Sir Michael Wilshaw, head of OFSTED, must have the worst job in UK schooling. As a previous exceptional head teacher who turned a failing academy into a significant success now sees failure at school inspections at virtually every turn. The educational system in the UK has largely failed to thrive. Manipulative teaching techniques allowing teachers and schools to hit targets, a decline in the quality of exam standards have collectively induced criticism by employers that many schools leavers do not have the requisite numeracy, literacy, social skills and work ethic to enter the work place. The recent announcement by the Secretary of State for Education that we should return to exams standards abandoned in 1987 have conspired to confuse, denude and demoralise. Sir Michael Wishaw can really only achieve a damage limitation exercise whilst the system regroups.
Ideals of educational equality for all schoolchildren have long been unachievable. State schooling stalwart Sir Jonathan Miller, who once believed in the state comprehensive system, has recently opted for private education for his grandchildren. Parents of school children face an awful dilemma. They risk seeing a state education that can leave a child home dry at the end of secondary school. A 15-year investment programme ending in dismay. Qualifications that have suffered such manipulation in the eyes of the educational minister and should be completely replaced represents a testament to collective failure of his all too many predecessors. And devastating news to millions of children will pass through the system to gain a series of now, suspect, qualifications there are openly stated as being irrelevant in the commercial world.
This is just not a whim of Michael Gove. The OECD has compared the quality of UK education with other countries systematically over the last 10 years. Our ranking in English literature and numeracy, originally placed in the top five positions of the international league, now occupy slots in the also-ran mid 20’s. Whilst Britain can excel in the Olympics we perform appallingly in something as basic and vital as education.
Children in primary school will soon have to learn a modern foreign language. The second language option in education has been eroded over the years due to lack of a commitment, relevant teachers, easier exam options and decline in the perception of its relevance in modern communications.
There is therefore an uphill battle for children to learn languages. Currently only 10 per cent of state primary schools teach a foreign language but Michael Gove, the education secretary, wants children to have a second language. From 2014 all primary schools must teach children a foreign language from the age of seven. At present the demand is low and only 34 per cent of children sit foreign language exams at GCSE. The 2014 delayed start will put many children at a disadvantage but parents can help fill the gap. There are many educational games, flashcards, DVDs and CDs which support teaching your child simple songs and rhymes. Singing along on car journeys and at home can be fun to help children learn French, German and Spanish. Ideally the learning games should be fun and programmed each day and not in one short bursts as you go on holiday. The early start is based on research, which proves a child’s linguistic learning ability is at its best when they’re young. This early foundation provides a useful structure to developing language skills when they go to secondary school.
Educational games, social networks, online games, TV, films, DVDs and computer software have all given the impression everybody speaks English and therefore foreign languages skills are redundant. Certainly in the communications world English has long been the defacto standard. Additional the growth of the World Wide Web has done little to quell the belief that second languages are still a necessity.
But is the second language is a real benefit ? Certainly English is widespread and in growing usage with many countries adopting English as a third or second language. English will never replace an indigenous tongue and Spanish, Portuguese and Mandarin for example are in a huge growth phase based on their economic resurgence. Being able to speak the local language boasts job prospects and faces the reality of the old French saying “We may sell in English but we only buy in French.” The UK has to survive on exports and if our economy is to survive we must learn the local language. English will always have its place but in most export markets local language will always open doors or give the edge missed to the English only speaker.
Over the past 20 years it has been commonplace for local education authorities to sell off school playing fields for redevelopment. Indeed Michael Gove has been responsible for selling off around 20 school playing fields in the last two years. Their subsequent use by children to develop an interest and ability in sport has therefore been lost and it seems incongruous that the education secretary and the government have been calling for renewed emphasis on playing sport in school. Based on the Olympic euphoria the focus has fallen foul of the short-term vision held by previous educational secretaries who sold off the land.