Thursday, March 20, 2008

The End Times Are Upon Us II

The water rises higher :

Pupils who make malicious false allegations about teachers should be placed on a school register to protect other staff, a teachers' union says.

The Association of Teachers and Lecturers (ATL) said these records should be forwarded if a pupil moves. It also wants charges brought against children as young as 10 who make false allegations.

The government has said it will look at whether further legal changes are needed to protect teachers. The issue was raised at the association's annual conference, in Torquay - as it is every year at teachers' gatherings.

The NASUWT union, for example, says it has had 2,316 allegations brought against its members in recent years, of which 2,231 have been concluded. Only 105 or about 5% had resulted in any action being brought against the teacher. If a pupil makes an allegation, the teacher is normally automatically suspended from work and is not permitted to talk to colleagues or pupils while the matter is investigated - which can take months.

We're hoist on our own liberal petard here. On the one hand, "always believe a child" is pretty much an article of faith - yet nearly every teacher has a tale of a false accusation against colleague or self. You end up in the knots of this child protection policy :

"the teacher should always believe what the student has to say"

followed later by

"there is understandable concern amongst many teachers that careers may be irreparably damaged on the basis of flimsy or malicious allegations by others. The school will endeavour to support any member of Staff against whom allegations may be made"

and still higher :

Pupils and parents are increasingly targeting teachers with offensive e-mails and text messages, union leaders have said. Teachers are also alarmed at the emergence of a “big brother” culture in schools, claiming that closed-circuit television (CCTV) cameras are being installed in classrooms to spy on them.

and higher still :

In his speech, Dr Dunford told heads and senior staff that for too many children, school was the "only solid bedrock in their lives". He highlighted how schools were now expected to set rules about basic behaviour which once would have been the responsibility of parents and the wider community.

Long working hours, chaotic home backgrounds and a lack of positive adult influences in children's lives, meant schools were being expected to patch up social problems rather than focus on educational issues.

"For some families, the focus of family life has been lost - such as eating a meal together - and the loss of a family conversation," he said.

Expanding on the themes, Dr Dunford warned that many children were not receiving a sense of right and wrong from their home backgrounds. "The old certainties have gone and with them the institutions, such as the church, which articulated those certainties. So for some children, it is only the school that provides a framework that sets the line between what is and isn't acceptable."

The head teachers' leader also said that the fixation with celebrity damaged the efforts of schools to make pupils think they had to work hard to succeed. "Celebrity culture makes the job of schools more difficult, because schools try to inculcate values such as hard work bringing rewards".

We've been here before. Compare Dr Dunford :

Dr Dunford told heads and senior staff that for too many children, school was the "only solid bedrock in their lives". "For some children, it is only the school that provides a framework that sets the line between what is and isn't acceptable."

And the aside by the inner-city Birmingham teacher on 'community schools' :

"The government is desperate to get these going," he said, "because they've realised that in the cities community has collapsed. The school is literally the only place where everyone comes together. It's the only community there is - all we've got."

Dr Dunford's speech (the whole thing is available here - the president's speech is worth a read too) is like an epitaph for the Sixties generation and all their bright hopes. Dr Dunford is a sixties type himself - President of Nottingham Union in '68. But he seems to have looked reality in the face.

Not so Mary Bousted of the Association of Teachers and Lecturers, still frantically rearranging the deckchairs - and for good measure, cutting adrift a few of the remaining lifeboats.

Turning to the curriculum, the ATL leader said teachers should have far more control over what was taught. "Our national curriculum should be far more focussed on the development of life skills and ways of working than whether or not we teach the Battle of Hastings," she said. Dr Bousted told reporters she thought the events of 1066 probably were in fact one of the things children should learn about.

But in general there were "very few things which we need to teach everyone to bind us together as a nation". There was far too much prescription and not enough imparting of the sort of skills children and employers needed. There should be "not so much regurgitation but more interpretation of knowledge". "Too much learning that goes on in primary and secondary school is rote learning and that's not learning for the 21st Century," she said.

A sure sign of b-s is someone who talks in the style of 'learning for the new millenium'. Ms Boustead is still worrying about Mr Gradgrind while standards drop all around her.

Most 'rote learning', aka 'learning by heart' has long gone from the curriculum. Children are no longer required to know that seven eights are fifty-six unless they (in theory) understand WHY seven eights are fifty six, something which IMHO is the province of professional mathematicians. Can't we just take their word that it IS so ?

My daughter is in her final year at a primary school which is one of the top half-dozen in the county. Although I say so myself, she's a bright girl - one of the two or three cleverest in her form. And when you throw "Six sevens !" at her she hesitates, goes to seven sevens and knocks seven off to get the answer. Nearly 50 years after I was taught the answer comes out without me having to think about it.

They're preparing for SATs and are relearning all their tables. Two weeks ago she came home with a piece of cardboard certifying that she knew her TWO times table off by heart. It would be funny if it weren't tragic.

One in four adults has difficulty with mental arithmetic, a survey suggests. Women are less confident than men, with one in three struggling to add up sums in their head, compared to 18% of men, the poll of 2,000 adults found. Those aged over 55 were the most confident at 77%, compared to 64% of the 25-34-year-olds who were the least confident.

The oldies learned by heart.

The chairman of charity Every Child a Chance, which is running the campaign, John Griffiths-Jones, said adult innumeracy was one of the greatest scourges facing the country. "The survey shows how essential it is that the business community gets involved in tackling the problem." The charity is working with the government to develop a programme helping primary-age children struggling with numeracy. "Through the programme we aim to find a long-tem solution".

Well, the long term solution could be what's quoted in this Mary Warnock piece.

Through the dead hours of the morning, through the long afternoons, we chanted away at our tables. Passers-by could hear our rising voices in our bottled-up room on the bank; 'Twelve-inches-one-foot. Three-feet-make-a-yard. Four- teen- pounds- make- a-stone. Eight -stone-a-hundred -weight. , We absorbed these figures as primal truths declared by some ultimate power. Unhearing, unquestioning, we rocked to our chanting, hammering the gold nails home. 'Twice-two-are-four. One-God-is-Love. One-Lord-is-King. One-King-is-George. One-George-is-Fifth...' So it was always; had been, would be forever; we asked no questions; we didn't hear what we said; yet neither did we ever forget it. (Laurie Lee, Cider With Rosie)


Anonymous said...

"schools try to inculcate values such as hard work bringing rewards"

Hmm, I think that assertion can be safely challenged.

As for the moonbat who wants "interpretation", not "rote learning", he reason why is simple - it is very easy to test if pupils have absorbed the facts, and thus whether the teacher has done their job. It is much more difficult to test if pupils have 'interpreted' them correctly - after all, what is 'correct', will be the teachers' cry? Also, have a guess from which political persuasion these 'interpretations' will come.

If teachers are looking for sympathy, you'll get f(ck all from me. As you reap, so you shall sow, and all that.

Anonymous said...

'"always believe a child" is pretty much an article of faith': amongst whom? People who have never raised one?

Anonymous said...

When I was at grammar school (a VERY long time ago) one of our teachers "did her bit" by helping out at an inner city secondary modern and was pretty alarmed to be told never to touch a child as a gesture of affection because of the risk of accusations. So - I'm not totally certain this is all new.

The same teacher also had a surreal experience teaching a group of (I think) Chinese girls, whose reaction to Romeo and Juliet was that it served them right for disobeying their parents.

Anonymous said...

Do you think it would help if we had a seperate branch of government to deal with education with only the people allowed to vote for members of that house being those who actually have children?

Anonymous said...

Do you think it would help if we had a seperate branch of government to deal with education with only the people allowed to vote for members of that house being those who actually have children?


Consider Diane Abbott. She will vote for policies that affect schools that she would never dream of sending her children to. Not just Labour MPs either. It goes without saying that Conservative MPs will do the same. The fact of "having children" is an irrelevant factor when there is only a notional chance of the children actually attending the institution.

The logical position is that school policy should be decided as close to the school as possible. That model can only exist if we remove government from schools and make them independent. Failing schools should close following lack of demand. Competition will allow different pedagogies to develop and the best to emerge. Government role should be restricted to ensuring that schools promote themselves through advertising relevant facts such as "this school will use the whole book reading scheme" or "this school believes in jolly phonics" rather than nonsense along the lines of "we believe in the development of the whole child"