Showing posts with label education. Show all posts
Showing posts with label education. Show all posts

Sunday, December 02, 2012

Told You So

This blog, two years ago :

"... the Gove option will mean that a lot of bright working or lower-middle class kids will look at a potential £60,000 debt and they won't bother - unless they're at Oxbridge or doing a course with a pretty much guaranteed career at the end of it. Outside this small subset of courses, university will be restricted to those whose parents can subsidise them - i.e. the very rich.

That's not all bad - I can see cultural studies departments being disbanded across England and Wales. Economic forces will cut away swathes of courses and institutions, correcting the insane growth of the last 25 years.

But at that kind of cost the idea of education as a good in itself will wither away. Who's going to do archaeology without a private income ?"

And lo, it comes to pass (pay link):

"Nearly one in five degree courses has been scrapped since the trebling of maximum tuition fees to £9,000 as universities concentrate on popular subjects and drop courses that have too few applicants or cost too much to run. Officials figures show a cull of more than 2,600 in the number of courses available to applicants planning to start their degrees in 2013. More than 5,200 courses had already been removed for students beginning this year, the first to face the higher fees.

Some of the courses have been dumped by universities even after prospectuses went online earlier this year, and in some cases after applications had begun. The scrapped courses range from archeology at Birmingham to languages at Salford and London Metropolitan. The number of courses listed by UCAS has fallen from 43,360 to 35,501 in two years"

In all respects (you can read this one) ...

"Students beginning university next year will be only the second cohort to pay at the higher rate of tuition fees, which were increased to a maximum of £9,000 per annum last year – almost treble the previous limit. The fees increase led to a sharp drop in applications last year, but hopes that this was a temporary dip will have been hit by today's figures, which show an even greater proportional fall at this stage compared with last year among British school leavers.

In total 145,000 applications were received for all courses at UK universities by November 19 this year. This compares with more than 180,000 at the same stage in 2010, the year before the introduction of the new fees regime."

I think the new fees have also concentrated some people's minds when it comes to the value of a degree, which was sold to prospective students as "Graduates earn £15K more then non-grads ! You know it makes sense !". Alas, those figures, while true, failed to point out that those figures were based on the relative scarcity back of graduates back in the day, compared to a world where maybe 40% of their age cohort would be grads. It also failed to point out that in a few-graduates world, those grads were likely to be at the top of the intelligence range - and maybe that's why they were high earners. In a many-grads world, average grad intelligence will be lower.

But even for bright people the jobs market is tough. I know people with 2-1s from Russell Group uni's who are working in call centres at £6 an hour.

UPDATE - obviously, the solution to all these woes is to bring in more graduates from overseas

Wednesday, October 05, 2011

Potemkin School

History teaching has moved on from all those Kings and Queens, battles and dates, rote learning* etc. Now, as somebody said, learning is skills-based, not facts-based - students are 'taught to learn' and become self-powered, self-motivated learners, 'accessing and evaluating a range of sources' etc etc.

One of the ways in which they play at being historians is the page of sources - where children are given half a dozen carefully selected paragraphs from half a dozen carefully selected sources, and invited on the basis of same to pronounce on whether the Tommies of World War One really were lions led by donkeys.

My daughter was presented last week with a photograph of a dingy nineteenth-century street in Liverpool (or London - I forget)** , and asked for homework to pronounce on what it told her about poverty in Victorian Britain. A long and hopefully not unfruitful debate followed - during which she suggested that the photographer may have been looking for the worst street, to make a political point, and Laban pointed out that it could also work the other way round. A Government photographer, for example, may be looking for the best working class housing and the rosiest children to snap. I mentioned the idea of the Potemkin village, where artifice may produce a misleading impression.

Now in my daughter's school, there's a special programme for the bad and the unfortunate - the disruptive and nasty kids as well as those with learning difficulties (I fail to see why the latter should be lumped with the former, but it seems to be the way in "special schools" as well). It's called something like the K2 Programme, and the kids are 'the K2 kids'.

Back to Potemkin.

"Just consider", I said, "when the OFSTED inspectors are in your class, whose workbooks are out on display, and who does the teacher ask questions of ? Your bunch, or one of the K2 kids?"

"They can't ask them. When the inspectors come, all the K2 kids get sent on coach trips !"

* (except it hasn't - because the exams are now marked by temporary staff, rather than by people who know the subject. These temps don't have the knowledge to review all-round competence in a subject - instead they look for the "key phrases" which earn the marks. A semi-literate answer with the key words or phrases will earn more marks than a great sentence or paragraph which doesn't include the key words. Now the children HAVE to rote-learn these key words, and we've got the worst of both worlds).

** it bore a remarkable resemblance to the street in The King's Speech which was supposedly the 1930s home of the Aussie speech therapist, but looked straight out of Dickens.

Monday, August 15, 2011

Cometh The Hour, Cometh The Man

I've been a fan of the educationist Tony Sewell for quite a long time - ever since he whupped Lee Jasper* in a Guardian education debate back in 2003. He's that rare thing, a black activist who believes that not every problem in the community is caused by racist whitey - that maybe, inter alia, black street and rap culture has a teensy influence on the youth, too - a bit of a UK John McWhorter, in fact.

I was pleased to hear him on R5 this morning, dismissing David Starkey's discussion of Great Enoch as irrelevant but focusing on, and agreeing with, Starkey's claim that white urban youth are taking up (as best they may) the black gangsta culture which has left so many dead on London's streets.

He's in the Mail, too :

"Despite the attempts of some apologists to dress up the looting as a political act against an oppressive Tory establishment, the fact is that the ethos of materialism — or ‘bling’ to use the street term — that pervades urban black youth played a major part in the widespread criminality perpetrated by rioters of all races.

That is why the looters targeted specific stores that are cherished in this culture, such as those selling mobile phones, trainers, sports clothes or widescreen TVs. Let’s face it, there were no reports of the vandals looting bookshops or public libraries.

What motivated the troublemakers was not genuine poverty but rather a raw acquisitiveness that is fuelled by so much in this black-led youth culture, from the imagery in rap videos to the lyrics of hip-hop music. The twin central themes of this world are sex and material possessions... young white and Asian, often middle-class, Britons — anxious for a bit of street cred — adopted the language and clothes of the culture, as Sacha Baron Cohen so mercilessly parodied in his comic creation Ali G, a white teenager from Staines who is desperate to be seen as black. And here, I think, we are getting at what David Starkey wanted to convey.

So prevalent is this ‘gangsta’ culture that, if you get on a bus in London and shut your eyes, you will often not be able to tell the ethnicity of the young people who are speaking, since they all use the tone, phraseology and language patterns of black youths."

Though like everyone else, he gets Starkey base-over-apex about Enoch. What Starkey said was that Enoch was wrong, in that the rivers of blood aren't one race fighting another, but :

"Black and white, unite and loot,
Smash the phone-shop front !"

* Jasper is, according to the now defunct BlacksandJews site "a Jewish-Zionist agent working in the Black Community, a man without honour, morals or common decency". I can't answer for the first part, but as for the second, even a stopped clock ...

Thursday, May 26, 2011

Against The Odds

Anna Davis, the Standard's Education correspondent (who describes an undergraduate as a a schoolgirl), reports :

A London schoolgirl praised by Michelle Obama during her visit to Oxford told today of the First Lady's "unbelievable presence". Clarissa Pabi, 20, who grew up in Islington and is now president of the Oxford Poetry Society, was hailed by Mrs Obama for succeeding against the odds.

During her speech at Oxford University, the US President's wife told pupils from Miss Pabi's old school: "If you start to doubt yourselves, I want you to remember Clarissa. Remember her story if mine does not resonate. Success is not about our background - Clarissa knows that."

Miss Pabi, educated at Elizabeth Garrett Anderson School in Islington and now studying English at Oxford, said: "It was unbelievable being in her presence and hearing her talk."
What an inspiring story. I presume Clarissa's parents, only semi-literate, raised her in dire poverty - but the Elizabeth Garrett Anderson School brought out her full potential.

Yes ?

Miss Pabi was inspired to go to university by her mother, who has a doctorate in chemistry. Her father and grandparents were educated at university and her younger brother is at the University of East London.

Hmm. I don't know if Mrs Obama was just badly briefed, but if you could draw any moral at all from the story (to date) of Clarissa Pabi, it would surely be that success is about your background.

Sunday, January 09, 2011

We've Trashed Our Education - Now We'll Trash Yours

VSO - Primary Teacher Roles

We’re looking for primary teachers to work alongside teachers in the classroom and go overseas in roles as soon as possible in countries such as Thailand, Nepal, China and Ghana, Rwanda and Ethiopia. You’ll work with serving teachers in a cluster of primary schools, introducing them to more participatory, child centred methodology.
Lo, Nice White Lady descends from her flying machine to change the seating from those stuffy old rows into small groups of desks - after all, the children learn more from each other than from any teacher, don't they?

I can see the strategic goal driving this attempt to dumb down the remarkably successful Chinese education system, although I can't see the famously test-and-rote-heavy Chinese falling for it - they'll probably send them all to Tibet. But what have the poor Ghanaians, Rwandans and Nepalese done to deserve this?

Wednesday, December 22, 2010

Eton Rifles

Missed this 2004 Times interview with Paul Weller - another Labour luvvie / working class hero. He was living in West London at the time. I doubt he'd have had to worry about crack and guns in London schools before the Fall :

I ask if his children are in private or state schools. (He has four, two by his ex-wife and former Style Council singer Dee C. Lee, one following a short-lived relationship, and a four-year-old daughter with his girlfriend, Sammi, 34, "very sweet gel, puts up with quite a lot from me".) "They’re all in private school. No, one’s in state school," he corrects himself. "If you’ve got the money, I don’t see how you’ve got a choice, really. I don’t want my kids mixing with crack and guns. I’m not saying it’s all like that, but there’s an element of that."

Wednesday, December 01, 2010

"The Sheer Pleasure"

Duncan Campbell sees the Student Grant demonstrations* and relives his glorious youth at CiF :

"One of the most striking features about the wave of demonstrations rolling across the country at the moment is the sheer pleasure on the faces of many of the young marchers."

That's the same sheer pleasure you'll see on the faces of EDL demonstrators in Preston, a hundred-strong group of football supporters up for a weekend in Blackpool, on the streets of Paris in 1968, Genoa in 2008, or Nuremburg in 1936. Paris in 1789, Athens in 2010 or Rome in 1922.

It's the pleasure of being in a large group - the larger the better - with something to unite you and (preferably) an enemy to hate**. Anti-capitalist in Genoa, anti-Jew in Tsarist Russia, anti-Catholic in London.

It's the intoxicating power of the mob.

* Laban expounded on the Great Tuition Fee Disaster here.

** 35 years ago at West Brom's Birmingham Road end, there was a call-and response chant as follows :

"Who are the people ?"


"Who are the ****bags ?"


Tuesday, November 16, 2010

Those Student Fee Increases

this blog, last week - against the student tuition fee increases :

"the Gove option will mean that a lot of bright working or lower-middle class kids will look at a potential £60,000 debt and they won't bother - unless they're at Oxbridge or doing a course with a pretty much guaranteed career at the end of it. Outside this small subset of courses, university will be restricted to those whose parents can subsidise them - i.e. the very rich.

That's not all bad - I can see cultural studies departments being disbanded across England and Wales. Economic forces will cut away swathes of courses and institutions, correcting the insane growth of the last 25 years.

But at that kind of cost the idea of education as a good in itself will wither away. Who's going to do archaeology without a private income ?"

I'm pleased to say that Goldsmiths Cultural Studies lecturer - now professor - John Hutnyk has got together with some likeminded souls, and very kindly put together a suggested hitlist of disciplines (and indeed, individuals) for the chop.

As he rightly points out, "Browne’s plans will drive whole fields of knowledge into decline" - such fields of knowledge as :

Race and Cultural Studies

Critical Theory and Philosophical Aesthetics

Contemporary Literature and Culture

Cultural History

Women’s Studies

English and Cultural Studies

Media Arts

Women’s and Gender History

Visual Cultures

Memory Studies ( I forget what that is - LT)

I guess every cloud has a silver lining ...

Thursday, November 04, 2010

It Takes A Very Clever Man To Be This Foolish

I blogged Mr Gove's Big Society example back in May, the Heroes of Balsall Heath, and wondered if the poor judgement shown then belonged to him or his advisers.

Now he's come out with a cunning plan to raise tuition fees to £9,000 a year and saddle graduates with anything up to £60K of debt for a three year course.

At Conservative Home, commenter Peter Lloyd has wise words :

I'm really disappointed that the Conservatives, especially Michael Gove have not given a proper context for the mess the government have inherited on this, and defended the Conservative principles which should underlie their long term policy.
In my view the story is roughly this:

1. The crisis has sprung out of the Labour target of 50% of school leavers going to university and the resultant big increase in the number of places and of universities, a lot of which were specialist colleges, not universities at all.

2. This led to a lowering of standards and by default a false promise to many students that their degrees would be as valuable as degees had been before. This is has been repeatedly shown up by employers telling us about the poor quality of graduates

3. Another result is constant interference in university admission policy, forcing universities not to choose by ability, something which has the potential to destabilise the whole system of excellence which is what universities are really there to pursue. There is now no level playing field for students and that is really unfair on them.

4. We would not have had these high fees (which the Conservatives should be dead against in principle) if universities hadn’t sprung up like weeds and ended up costing a fortune. Labour’s social engineering project was never costed properly

5. We have a situation where a lot of students at university shouldn't be there at all. Universities are there to develop intellect and show the importance of all the different academic subjects as contributors to society. Learning is brilliant in its own right and doesn't need any other justification. They are not and should not be seen as giving a simple passport to employment. It's something neither they, nor the government, can guarantee in any case.

6. The best way forward is admit what universities are for, turn a lot back to high standard technical colleges supported by industry and designed to help get their students into specific jobs, and leave the top academic universities to raise standards and just take the best in order for Britain to compete effectively in the world at that level.

7. The government should vigorously pursue adoption and improvements in the much talke about apprenticeship schemes (see letters to the FT today for example.) More kids will see the benefit of getting into employment by other routes

8. In the short term, and because of this mess we are currently in, universities should have additional tests for borderline applicants so they can see the potential of students who could do well at university but who have been to rubbish schools, then balance those test results against their A level results. This is far better than pursuing the social engineering agenda of getting unsuitable kids into university and spinning them nonsense stories about their future prospects.

9. But most important of all the Conservatives have got to say that university students are not better than others and that the route to being a successful citizen of Britain does not depend on going to a university. Lots don't but are equally important members of society with lots of ability and a good chance of doing well at work. Let's change this culture.

9. If we can do this we should be able to get rid of university fees in the end and the burden they are placing on our young people. The public is not unhappy about government paying for universities

Maybe I flatter myself, but I think that's not too far away from my analysis of last week.

Labour go somewhat insane, proclaiming that 50% of school leavers should be at uni – i.e. anyone over average intelligence. Every teacher training college in the land becomes a university (no longer a live-at-home student body), and the school leaving age is raised to 18. Ironically, the main beneficiaries are the middle classes, who can now get their more average children through Uni. You find former Polytechnics which are now much more middle class than a university was 25 years previously.

As above, the financial strain of this idiotic ‘all must have degrees’ policy finally catches up. They HAVE to introduce loans and tuition fees, otherwise the 50% non-uni candidates are subsidising the top 50%.

So far, so bad. But Gove's decision to up fees to (potentially) £9K, creating a debt of about £20K pa for a student paying £5K for accommodation and £6K for living, threatens IMHO to reverse the Labour lunacy and reduce the numbers of students (and courses) somewhere back to around the late-70s figure.

Threatens ? Wasn't that what you were arguing for ?

There's no doubt that fewer people should be going to university. There's little doubt that we're producing too many sociology, politics and psychology grads, and too few physicists and engineers (and half of the top science grads end up in the City - but that's another story).

But the Gove option will mean that a lot of bright working or lower-middle class kids will look at a potential £60,000 debt and they won't bother - unless they're at Oxbridge or doing a course with a pretty much guaranteed career at the end of it. Outside this small subset of courses, university will be restricted to those whose parents can subsidise them - i.e. the very rich.

That's not all bad - I can see cultural studies departments being disbanded across England and Wales. Economic forces will cut away swathes of courses and institutions, correcting the insane growth of the last 25 years.

But at that kind of cost the idea of education as a good in itself will wither away. Who's going to do archaeology without a private income ?

Couldn't we just go back to the situation of twenty-plus years back, where the top 5% go to uni, with full grants for those with non-wealthy parents ?

Another potential issue - a £60,000 debt to be repaid from UK earnings provides an enormous incentive to minimise UK earnings. The most efficient way to do this will be to emigrate.

Result - a double hit as the fees remain unpaid and the tax revenue from our grad goes to Australia or Canada. Enough graduates are leaving as it is - and by definition they won't be the duffers, given the points systems used in more sensible countries.

"There are now 3.247 million British-born people living abroad, of whom more than 1.1 million are highly-skilled university graduates, say the researchers. More than three quarters of these professionals have settled abroad for more than 10 years, according to the study by the Organisation of Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD). No other nation is losing so many qualified people, it points out. Britain has now lost more than one in 10 of its most skilled citizens, while overall only Mexico has had more people emigrate. Britain's exodus is far higher than any of the OECD's other 29 members. Germany has lost only 860,000 highly-skilled workers, America 410,000 and France 370,000. The OECD found that 27.3 per cent of those emigrating had health or education qualifications, 37.7 per cent had humanities or social science degrees and 28.5 per cent were scientists or engineers."

Mr Gove's response to all this ?

Mr Gove played down the research suggesting that higher fees would put off applicants.

"I believe that it won't have that effect. I believe that people will make a rational decision on the benefits that accrue to them as a result of taking a university degree," he said.

They certainly will, Mr Gove. That's exactly what I'm worried about.

Wednesday, October 13, 2010

"Why not free education?"

Dave Osler mourns the Golden Age of University Grants. Why not free education ?

From my first day as a five-year-old at Avenue Road Infants’ School to my final postgraduate seminar at the London School of Economics, my education was free all the way. Not only that, but for the last five years of it, I was accorded state support at a level comparable to a low-wage job.

That is a large part of the explanation of how the son of a railwayman and a nurse from a two-up two-down eventually landed a well-paid career in journalism. But posh kids got more or less the same deal, save for a reduced level of grant to reflect their parents’ prosperity.

In the 1960s, the 1970s and into the monetarist 1980s, the idea that this way of doing things would ever change substantially would have been unthinkable. Free education was an essential aspect of the social democratic settlement.

Surely that Golden Age never existed, did it? He'll be saying crime was lower next.

Laban feels inclined to chip in, as Dave seems genuinely puzzled as to why we can't afford such goodies any more. He obviously didn't do Advanced Arithmetic at LSE :

You do have to wonder exactly how we got here. Was it conspiracy, or was it cock-up? It’s usually the latter.

1930s – only the top 2-3% could get a free university grant – and many working families with bright kids were just too poor even to get that far. My mother, a very clever girl, and all her siblings had to leave school at 16 to bring some money in. My father-in-law’s folks had just enough dosh to get him through sixth form, and he ended up a senior academic.

But only a small elite got to uni. There was enough money for free tuition AND grants for the poor.

An important difference between the UK and other countries was that “In England and Wales the majority of young full-time university students attend universities situated a long distance from their family homes; this is not true for universities in most European countries, such as Italy or Spain”. This was to have a major cost impact as the number of universities grew, and as teacher training institutions and polytechnics took more and more students who weren’t living at home.

1950s-70s – the Golden Age (which of course never existed). Enough prosperity for a clever working class kid to stay on at grammar school and do the UCCA round as was. A few more universities (the redbricks, Warwick, Essex, Sussex etc) but still only 5% or so went to uni, so free tuition for all, and maximum grants for, say, the son of a primary teacher. Maybe a few more % at Poly or Teacher Training – still enough cash to go round. 10% of school-leavers now?

Early 1990s – the cloud no bigger than a man’s hand, as the Tories discover that new universities are incredibly easy to create – new headed notepaper, a few signs outside the buildings, and Leeds Poly becomes the Metropolitan University of Leeds, while the Breedon Bar in Cotteridge becomes the University of Central England. At the same time – and this is the killer – the Polys, which used to mainly cater for local students, become much more like universities in that they start competing nationally for students.

The 1980s and 90s also saw major expansion in University numbers – for example Leeds in the 70s was I think the biggest UK university with 9,000 students. Now 24,000. All these students were getting fees paid and most had grants pre-1997.

“As the university population rose during the 1980s the sums paid to universities became linked to their performance and efficiency, and by the mid 1990s funding per student had dropped by 40% since the mid-1970s, while numbers of full-time students had reached around 2,000,000 (around a third of the age group), up from around 1,300,000.” The fiscal strain of the massive expansion is beginning to tell.

30% of school leavers ?

1997 onwards – Labour go somewhat insane, proclaiming that 50% of school leavers should be at uni – i.e. anyone over average intelligence. Every teacher training college in the land becomes a university (no longer a live-at-home student body), and the school leaving age is raised to 18. Ironically, the main beneficiaries are the middle classes, who can now get their more average children through Uni. You find former Polytechnics which are now much more middle class than a university was 25 years previously.

As above, the financial strain of this idiotic ‘all must have degrees’ policy finally catches up. They HAVE to introduce loans and tuition fees, otherwise the 50% non-uni candidates are subsidising the top 50%.

And that’s how we got where we are. Utter madness, but that’s what happened. The question is, what of the future? Will any working class youth fancy three years at Uni with a 35K debt at the end of it, and no prospect of buying their own house until they’re 45 – if then ? Will the university bubble burst ?

Friday, October 08, 2010


When I read that a London deputy head had been suspended by her school for the outrageous act of talking honestly about the state education system, I didn't realise the deputy head was Snuffy, whose blog is now missing in action. (She's now been reinstated).

UPDATE - turns out the head who suspended her, Irene Bishop, was head at another school which Tony Blair used as the backdrop for announcing the 2001 elections. I'm not sure that means she's a 'Blairite', as some are saying.

(tbf, I can understand concerns when someone talks or blogs about identifiable children. I like to think that Snuffy's anecdotes are always suitably anonymised - certainly hope so)

Quite a character, isn't she? (and she'll be even more impressive if she can drop the aw-shucks grin when they applaud her. Stay stern, girl!). I like her description of the terrible shame she felt, as an ex-lefty, in voting Conservative for the first time.

The school she's just joined, St Michael and All Angels in Camberwell, not so very far from my old stamping grounds of twenty years back, is described thusly by Ofsted :

It is smaller than the average sized secondary school and serves an area of ethnic and cultural diversity with particularly high proportions of students from Black African and Black Caribbean heritages. There are many more boys than girls. The proportion of students known to be eligible for free school meals is higher than typically found. A much higher proportion of students than average have special educational needs and/or disabilities, most of whom are identified as having behavioural, emotional and social difficulties....

(on the rating of 'inadequate') ..
Nowhere is this more evident than in the inadequate behaviour of students both in class and around the academy. As the quality of teaching has improved, low-level disruption in class has reduced but a significant minority of students still exhibit very challenging behaviour. The governing body and the principal are rightly concerned about the increase in the number of serious incidents since January 2010...

Behaviour is highly variable across the academy. Inspectors witnessed a significant number of instances of poor behaviour, which sometimes prevented effective learning from taking place. Poor behaviour occurs more frequently than it should and students show a lack of respect for staff and each other on too many occasions. As a result, the number of fixed term exclusions remains stubbornly high, particularly for physical assaults by students on other students, which have increased this year. Systems and procedures for rewarding good behaviour are not consistently applied and poor behaviour sometimes goes unchallenged.

Now this kind of thing, as I recall, is just what drives Snuffy up the wall - because it wrecks the education of those who want to learn. IIRC, she blogged that one of her fellow interviewees for the job had been knocked over by the children in a corridor.

At some point, Candidate 2 has his turn of the tour. When he is done, he comes crashing (quite literally) back into the room. He is all red in the face. 'What kind of ******* school is this?? The kids just knocked me down in the corridor! They have no respect for anything! And the school has no ******* systems!'

I think they're lucky to have her - her concern for the kids is obvious and I bet she's one of those rare inspirational teachers one reads about. Ofsted should accept that in some schools, a high level of exclusions may actually be a good thing, if it means those remaining can actually get taught. But it's not being consistent with the sanctions that's the killer.

Only one thing bothers me. Snuffy is 37, an Oxford graduate of IMHO Indo-Caribbean extraction. She's older than she blogs (I imagined a well-read 27 year old). She has no kids* (but has great hair).

Now it will be a goodly thing if, thanks to her, some black (and white) kids from poor families get 5 good GCSEs instead of one or two, if some stay on the rails instead of going off them, some end up with good degrees and fulfilling careers, or if she nurtures a Thomas Sowell.

But if that comes at the opportunity cost of a host of missing little Snuffettes, who could have carried that intelligence, compassion and humour onwards down the years, then I'm not sure society is getting the best of all possible deals. And I was saying something very similar at Dave Osler's just today (UPDATE - by strange chance, just a few days later the highly regarded Gene Expression blog said something very similar, only more learned and scientific - complete with the Idiocracy trailer link).

* total assumption on my part, based on the fact that she has never, ever, blogged about man or offspring. 'My kids' are always the class she's taking.

(via PragueTory)

Saturday, September 11, 2010


Lecturer Peter Gumbel, whoever he may be, on the French education system :

"Although the French with their national curriculum have maintained standards and avoided being dumbed down, their system focuses on the transmission of knowledge and doesn't even remotely address the child or their wellbeing."There is more to school than getting good marks, and in Britain schools are not just a about your brain but about sport and arts and finding lots of different ways of excelling. The British system may focus less on results, but it nurtures self-esteem, personality and character".

French schools concentrate on 'the transmission of knowledge', do they ? The swine - call the Emotional Intelligence Police !

You have to wonder what planet he's living on, until you read :

Gumbel, 52, who also works as a journalist, has lived in Paris since 2002 and was prompted to criticise French schools, colleges and universities after putting his two daughters, now aged 10 and 13, into the education system.
In other words, he and his daughters have no experience of UK state education.

UPDATE - Anna Raccon reports that Guardianista Emily Barr finds her poppet similarly trumatised by French education.

ANOTHER UPDATE - could be worse - they could be in a Chinese school :

When my children were 6 and 8, taking tests was as much a part of the rhythm of their school day as tag at recess or listening to stories at circle time. There were the “mad minute” math quizzes twice each week, with the results elaborately graphed. There were regular spelling quizzes. Even today I have my daughter’s minutely graded third-grade science exams, with grades like 23/25 or A minus.

We were living in China, where their school blended a mostly Western elementary school curriculum with the emphasis on discipline and testing that typifies Asian educational styles. In Asia, such a march of tests for young children was regarded as normal, and not evil or particularly anxiety provoking. That made for some interesting culture clashes. I remember nearly constant tension between the Asian parents, who wanted still more tests and homework, and the Western parents, who were more concerned with whether their kids were having fun — and wanted less.

I still have occasional nightmares about a miserable summer vacation spent force-feeding flash cards into the brain of my 5-year-old son — who was clearly not “ready” to read, but through herculean effort and tears, learned anyway. Reading was simply a requirement for progressing from kindergarten to first grade. How could he take tests and do worksheets if he couldn’t read the questions?

Monday, June 21, 2010

Strike One For The Old School

I mentioned a while back that the old school had produced few famous alumni. Nae mair. The new Poet Laureate, no less ? OK, a bit less. Oxford Professor of Poetry,then.

Hill was born in Bromsgrove, Worcestershire, in 1932. "If you stood at the top of the field opposite our house," he once recalled, "you looked right across the Severn Valley to the Clee Hills and the Welsh hills very faint and far off behind them." At the age of eight, he witnessed the Nazi bombing which destroyed Coventry. Hill's work is marked by memories of the war, and contemplations of European history. His father and grandfather were village policemen. Hill identifies himself as working-class - indeed is "glad and proud to have been born into the English working class". He commemorated his maternal grandmother, who had spent her life making nails, in poem XXV of Mercian Hymns : "I speak this in memory of my grandmother, whose childhood and prime womanhood were spent in the nailer's darg [a day's work]... It is one thing to celebrate the 'quick forge', another to cradle a face hare-lipped by the searing wire." Hill was educated at Bromsgrove High School. Despite deafness in his right ear from the age of 11 because of severe mastoiditis, he was an excellent student, and although "somewhat apart", in the words of Norman Rea, a contemporary, he played soccer, acted in school plays, and became a prefect. One of his roles was to introduce a piece of classical music in morning assembly, which, Rea recalled years later, was a task he performed "with enjoyment and aplomb".
They still had the classical music before assembly when I was there, more then twenty years later. But by then the school had moved to the new concrete and glass structure off Alcester Road (Stratford Road to you young 'uns), and the old High School of Hibbins, Sailman et al was Parkside Secondary Modern. But as any educator will tell you, you can't teach children in old-fashioned buildings, and Geoffrey Hill's alma mater now lies derelict.

Photo by Bullymeister

Monday, April 05, 2010

City University

As reported by the BBC :

Some Muslim students at City University in London are praying in the street in a row over prayer room facilities. The university closed a prayer room after Muslim students were attacked in November. A new multi-faith room was opened the following month. A group of Muslim students now refuse to use the facility as they say they cannot pray in a multi-faith room. The university says it goes against its philosophy to provide a room for just Islamic students.

As reported by Gauche :

For some time now, the leaders of City ISoc have relentlessly pushed a separatist and intolerant version of Islam, repeatedly promoting apologists for terrorist violence and the most reactionary social attitudes. They have consistently and insidiously played the role of victimised innocents in order to gain sympathy, without any solid evidence, to further their cause.

This time last year, the main treat advertised for the ISoc’s annual fundraising dinner was a video link-up with none other than Anwar al-Awlaki, the American-Yemeni preacher who was spiritual mentor to three of the 9/11 suicide-murderers (and a contact of the December 2009 pants bomber to boot).

The university authorities objected and al-Awlaki’s virtual appearance never happened. But was the ISoc deterred? No way. Next up was an ISoc meeting in autumn 2009 addressed by two other reactionary Islamist preachers, Abu Usamah, who is on record stating that gays should be killed, and Murthadah Khan, who is on record describing Jews and Christians as "filthy". The university Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual and Transgender Society and the campaigner Peter Tatchell objected, saying that the ISoc was whipping up hatred, but the meeting went ahead. At the end of last year, after it was reported that al-Awlaki had been killed by a Yemeni air attack on a meeting of al-Qaida leaders, the ISoc website praised him and the "staunch al-Qaida fighters" targeted by the raid...

In the meantime, the ISoc complained that the university’s Muslim prayer room was not safe. In November last year there was a street fight outside it, in the course of which some Muslim students were badly hurt by local youths, though it remains unclear what the fracas was about. (The building where the prayer room was is on to a dimly lit back street and is rarely used by other students in the evening.)

The university’s acting vice-chancellor, Julius Weinberg, responded, entirely reasonably, by setting up new multi-faith prayer and reflection rooms in the main university block where there is 24-hour security and no exit that can be identified as being used only by Muslims.

Some weeks later, after another controversy over an ISoc speaker meeting at which another gay-hating preacher was billed as the star attraction, Weinberg told the ISoc that its speaker meetings – as opposed to prayer meetings – could not continue to be segregated between men and women and would have to be open debates if they were to take place on university premises.

The ISoc’s next step was to assume the role of aggrieved victim. How could anyone have the temerity to suggest that Muslims should share a space (even if use of it were carefully timetabled) with others? Such arrangements are, of course, the norm in most further and higher education institutions – but the ISoc declared that the new set-up was an outrage against the tenets of Islam and started holding Friday prayers outside the university’s main entrance as a protest, to which it invited supporters from every Islamist group in London to boost numbers.

There is no evidence that the Islamic Society at City has been recruiting for terrorist organisations, or that former members have gone on to commit terrorist acts (although the same cannot be said of other student Islamic societies in the UK of a similar ideological bent). But its insistent pleading for special treatment, its consistent policy of inviting the most inflammatory separatist preachers, its repeated smearing of critics and its refusal to discuss its views in an open and civilised fashion are all intolerable in a university.

UPDATE - la lotta continua - Islamic Society statement :

".. the ISoc will no longer remain silent and take a back seat whilst innocent students and readers are manipulated into blindly following what some may say are Islamophobic secularists. No, it is time the ISoc stands up, defends itself and fights back against the likes of Ms Waterhouse and Mr Anderson; two confused secularists that promote significantly preposterous views. So where do we go from here? Well, a new vice-chancellor is due to take over in August, indeed it will be a brave vice-chancellor who confronts this issue."

It will indeed. I see a new Vice-Chancellor, geographer Paul Curran, takes over in the autumn. I can't for the life of me imagine what was wrong with previous Vice-Chancellor, Julius Weinberg. Most odd.

Wednesday, March 17, 2010

Busy Doing Nothing

Marvel at the CV of the new Children's Commissioner, 'Maggie' Atkinson.

Two salient points

a) after writing her "personal summary" she must have gone up a couple of hat sizes. Humility not a key skill (but aromatherapy is).

b) she hasn't had a proper job since May 31, 1989 - more than 20 years ago.

Sunday, February 21, 2010

Best Educated Generation In History ...

The "Blair generation" will be the best educated in history, the school standards minister, David Miliband, promised yesterday.

My daughter's homework sheet ....

Friday, February 19, 2010

Education and Self-Esteem

from a fascinating Atlantic piece by Don Peck, on the economic crisis and a potential lost generation. Lots of stuff there, it's just this section on education changes that struck me. I imagine the parallels with the UK are pretty close.

Many of today’s young adults seem temperamentally unprepared for the circumstances in which they now find themselves. Jean Twenge, an associate professor of psychology at San Diego State University, has carefully compared the attitudes of today’s young adults to those of previous generations when they were the same age. Using national survey data, she’s found that to an unprecedented degree, people who graduated from high school in the 2000s dislike the idea of work for work’s sake, and expect jobs and career to be tailored to their interests and lifestyle. Yet they also have much higher material expectations than previous generations, and believe financial success is extremely important. “There’s this idea that, ‘Yeah, I don’t want to work, but I’m still going to get all the stuff I want,’” Twenge told me. “It’s a generation in which every kid has been told, ‘You can be anything you want. You’re special.’”

In her 2006 book, Generation Me, Twenge notes that self-esteem in children began rising sharply around 1980, and hasn’t stopped since. By 1999, according to one survey, 91 percent of teens described themselves as responsible, 74 percent as physically attractive, and 79 percent as very intelligent. (More than 40 percent of teens also expected that they would be earning $75,000 a year or more by age 30; the median salary made by a 30-year-old was $27,000 that year.) Twenge attributes the shift to broad changes in parenting styles and teaching methods, in response to the growing belief that children should always feel good about themselves, no matter what. As the years have passed, efforts to boost self-esteem—and to decouple it from performance—have become widespread.

These efforts have succeeded in making today’s youth more confident and individualistic. But that may not benefit them in adulthood, particularly in this economic environment. Twenge writes that “self-esteem without basis encourages laziness rather than hard work,” and that “the ability to persevere and keep going” is “a much better predictor of life outcomes than self-esteem.” She worries that many young people might be inclined to simply give up in this job market. “You’d think if people are more individualistic, they’d be more independent,” she told me. “But it’s not really true. There’s an element of entitlement—they expect people to figure things out for them.”

Ron Alsop, a former reporter for The Wall Street Journal and the author of The Trophy Kids Grow Up: How the Millennial Generation Is Shaking Up the Workplace, says a combination of entitlement and highly structured childhood has resulted in a lack of independence and entrepreneurialism in many 20-somethings. They’re used to checklists, he says, and “don’t excel at leadership or independent problem solving.” Alsop interviewed dozens of employers for his book, and concluded that unlike previous generations, Millennials, as a group, “need almost constant direction” in the workplace. “Many flounder without precise guidelines but thrive in structured situations that provide clearly defined rules.”

All of these characteristics are worrisome, given a harsh economic environment that requires perseverance, adaptability, humility, and entrepreneurialism. Perhaps most worrisome, though, is the fatalism and lack of agency that both Twenge and Alsop discern in today’s young adults. Trained throughout childhood to disconnect performance from reward, and told repeatedly that they are destined for great things, many are quick to place blame elsewhere when something goes wrong, and inclined to believe that bad situations will sort themselves out—or will be sorted out by parents or other helpers.

"Trained throughout childhood to disconnect performance from reward" - or, as Melanie Phillips put it, "All Must Have Prizes".

Friday, February 05, 2010

"I'm in the global justice squad, and we've been working on human rights in Burma"

I suppose the only surprise is that it's taken so long to get there. Perhaps "citizenship" had to be made compulsory first.

"It is easy to become complacent about equality and diversity, just ticking the boxes," he says. "The Stephen Lawrence Standard takes monitoring very seriously, constantly checking on students' involvement, the work going on and its results."

The original award was quick off the mark after the 1999 Macpherson report recommended such strategies in all education authorities, but Edwards points out: "Quick is a relative term. Remember Stephen Lawrence was murdered in 1993."

There are 12 criteria in the toolkit all schools are now being urged by Balls to adopt, including mandatory anti-racist training for staff and governors, a written equality policy, and individual checks on successes and setbacks for minority pupils. The system has three levels, from standard 1 to the top, standard 3.

There'll always be room for initiatives like this in schools, but don't expect to see any like this over here, btw :

The study appears in the February edition of Archives of Paediatrics and Adolescent Medicine. It was funded by the National Institute of Mental Health and involved 662 black children in Philadelphia. The students were assigned to one of four options: eight hour-long abstinence-only classes; safe-sex classes; classes incorporating both approaches; or classes in general healthy behaviour. Results for the first three classes were compared with the control group that had only the general health classes.

Two years later, about one-third of abstinence-only students said they had had sex since the classes ended, compared with about 49%of the control group. Sexual activity rates in the other two groups did not differ from the control group.

Valerie Huber, executive director of the National Abstinence Education Programme, said she hoped the study would revive government interest in abstinence-only sex education. The research was led by psychologist John Jemmott III, a professor at the University of Pennsylvania, who has long studied ways to reduce risky behaviour among inner-city youngsters.

(My views on the undoubted evil of racist murder are here. I need to post this for the benefit of any readers who might presume, quite reasonably, that the MacPherson enquiry had good cause to declare the Met 'institutionally racist'.

In fact, no credible evidence of police racism was brought before the MacPherson enquiry, which was precisely why they invented the hitherto unknown concept of "unconscious or unwitting" institutional racism.

The MacPherson report was the high-water mark of liberal white idiocy in relation to race. Never before have so many educated English breasts been beaten for so much non-existent racism. It's not as if there's a shortage of the real thing.

I'd recommend people to take a look at the paper "Racist Murder and Pressure Group Politics" by Norman Dennis, George Erdos and Ahmed Al-Shahi, available as a pdf download from Civitas.

It's top stuff, well-written and an easy read. I'll just quote the summary.

The public inquiry set up under the chairmanship of Sir William Macpherson sometimes had the appearance of a judicial proceeding, but in many crucial respects it departed from practices which have traditionally been regarded as essential in English law. Rules of evidence were modified and witnesses were harassed, both by the members of the inquiry team and by the crowd in the public gallery. Representatives of the Metropolitan Police were asked to ‘confess’ to charges of racism, even if only in their private thoughts. They were even asked to testify to the existence of the racist thoughts of other people. It is part neither of the English judicial process nor of English public inquiries to put people on trial for their thoughts. The proceedings bore some resemblance to the Stalinist show trials of the 1930s.

However, no evidence of racism on the part of the police was ever produced. There was no attempt to show that the Metropolitan Police Service was racist in the sense of being formally structured to put members of ethnic minorities at a disadvantage. Nor was any evidence produced that individual officers dealing with the murder of Stephen Lawrence had displayed racism, unless one includes the use of words like ‘coloured’ which are currently out of favour with professional race relations lobbyists. No evidence was produced to indicate that the police would have handled the investigation differently had the victim been white.

In spite of this, the Macpherson report found the Metropolitan Police, and British society generally, guilty of ‘institutional’ or ‘unwitting’ racism. This claim was justified by referring to ‘other bodies of evidence’ to that collected at the public inquiry, including a list of publications consulted which in many cases had nothing to do with the Lawrence case, and sometimes nothing to do with the UK at all.

Some of the Macpherson report’s proofs of racism were circular and self-reinforcing. To question whether the murder of Stephen Lawrence was a purely racist crime was, in itself, adduced as evidence of racism. This was despite the fact that the suspects had been accused of violent offences against white people and were heard, in tape recordings made of their private conversations, to express violent hatred against white people. The tape recordings were quoted selectively, and this crucial fact does not appear in the Macpherson report.

The Macpherson inquiry, unable to find evidence of racism, produced a definition of racism that at first glance absolved it from producing any. It switched attention, in one direction, away from racist conduct and towards organisational failure. The ineffectiveness of the police had (purportedly) been demonstrated. That ineffectiveness concerned a racist crime. Therefore the ineffectiveness was due to police racism. It switched attention, in the other direction, away from observable conduct, words or gestures and towards the police officer’s ‘unwitting’ thoughts and conduct. But how could the Macpherson inquiry know what was in an officer’s unconscious mind—except through the failure of the police to be effective in the investigation of a racist crime? This definition puts charges of racism outside the boundaries of proof or rebuttal.

The Macpherson report has had a detrimental impact on policing and crime, particularly in London. Police morale has been undermined. Certain procedures which impact disproportionately on ethnic groups, like stop and search, have been scaled down. The crime rate has risen. Nevertheless, the Macpherson report has been received with almost uncritical approval by pundits, politicians and academics. It is still routinely described as having ‘proved’ that the police and British society are racist.

Thursday, November 26, 2009

More 'Education'

a sad but by no means unusual tale via (of all people) Stephen Fry. No, I don't subscribe but enough people do.

But it's the comments that strike me.

Anyway, I'm one of those supply teachers, freshly arrived from Australia with a few years under my belt and a sense of freedom to supply teach. I ended my first week with a stiff drink and let go of the breath I was holding in for the whole week.
Wow. Didn't expect the utter lack of discipline, planning and chaos that I've so far seen at EVERY school i've been to.
My only slight objection to this very real piece of writing is when you mention about teachers who arn't afraid of taking charge. While I am only speaking on my behalf as a teacher I can see in this day and age when panic and pandemonium about our children's safety is at ridiculous level, teachers hands are, literally, tied behind our back.
I was warned, do not touch a child not even if they are in danger when I went for my interview. Excuse me?! I haven't followed that advice, especially in the half or dozen times so far I have physically squeezed myself in between two boys out and out fighting in the classroom and pulled one off the other.
I think the problem is, there is an absolute disrespect for teachers and the job they do. Students fight back with you, say the most horrible things to eac other explode wit anger at the smallest thing and constant endanger themselves and others with vicious fights and taunts right in front of my face. Now as a supply teacher I take it with a grain of salt, I mean everyone knows when your "proper" teacher is away its time to play, and I employ EVERY behaviour management technique in the book. Most of the time it works, once or twice though its been shaky and then what?
Its hard to control a child's behaviour when he has no respect for the situation or te boundaries, when they would rather hurtle themselves in a blind fit at another student in the class over them answering a question before they could.
The pent up anger and agression that is shown in students is a very worrying thing for me to witness, and I think before we worry about test scores and multimillion dollar equipment and classrooms we need to look at what sort of support can we give these children, and what sort of home are they coming from.
I as always feel sorry for the half or more of the class who have to sit and deal with this daily occurrance, and think what is it like for you??

I am (was) a teacher but found that many of the schools that I did work in it was just as you had described - crowd control and prevention of fights or breaking up fights. I loved teaching but due to physical health problems could not cope with 'THAT' kind of teaching so I now work in a bank!! I so wanted to teach those that wanted to learn - who had a thirst for it and an ever inquisative and enquiring mind - children who constantly questioned - these are the children who needed me - not the ones who could not be bothered or had no interest.

There are schools in inner London which have multiple playgrounds separated by skin colour. The pupils separate themselves this way, and the school has no choice but to supervise the 'black' playground with black staff and the 'white' playground with white staff, otherwise severe disruption occurs.

While I believe my own school isn't as bad as this, I see some of the things you describe regularly. The real trouble-makers are not tackled early enough or with sufficient seriousness. The result is the layer of kids that misbehave because they see others doing it - and would stop if their examples were excluded - remains. And yes, the easy targets are often picked on by some staff instead. I am a teacher. I regard myself as a professional, but the institution that is Education clearly does not agree. I teach in a culture of blame - it's not 'the management' that's at fault, it's those of us at the chalk face. I suspect all the 'good' teachers left the school you refer to a long time ago, probably fed up with the same thing I am.

I currently work as a bus driver. The level of abuse that myself and my colleagues have to tolerate on a daily basis from school children in our local area is obscene. If these renegade bullies talk to their elders in such a manner, what hope to the more vulnerable children in the classroom have?

Friday, November 20, 2009

Left Voices Outrage At Betrayal of Working Class

Working class white boys are officially the worst-performing group in English primary schools, official figures show. Fewer than half of white British boys from the poorest homes started secondary education with a decent grounding in the basics last summer, it was disclosed. Only 48 per cent of 11-year-olds eligible for free school lunches reached the standard expected of their age group in English and maths. Figures published by the Government on Thursday show they fell further behind their classmates over the last 12 months. The disclosure comes amid fears that thousands of white British boys from deprived areas risk being turned into an educational “underclass” as they fall further behind their classmates. They are already less likely to get good GCSEs, go to university and get a good job than most other pupils.

Almost 600,000 children took Sats in English and maths this summer. Figures published by the Department for Children, Schools and Families on Thursday represent an official breakdown of results by ethnicity, gender and deprivation. White British boys on free meals were the lowest achieving group behind Gypsy, Roma and traveller pupils, although they account for fewer than 700 children. Nationally, some 71.8 per cent of pupils reached level 4 – the standard expected of their age – in the two subjects. It meant working-class white British boys were 23.8 percentage points behind. The gap has grown since last year when it stood at 23.1 percentage points.

There are 31,237 white British boys that are eligible for free meals – the Government’s standards measure of poverty. Among white British boys who are not eligible for free lunches, 74.2 per cent reached level 4. Some 51.6 per cent of poor black boys hit the target, along with 54.7 per cent of poor boys from a Pakistani background and 54.2 per cent of boys with a mixed heritage. Boys and girls from Chinese backgrounds were the highest performers, with 81.8 per cent of pupils hitting official targets in English and maths.

Naturally the left bloggers are in uproar about these figures.

Socialist Unity

* tumbleweed blows across road *

Liberal Conspiracy

* you wait. Time passes. Thorin sits down and starts singing about gold.*


* a bus passes the Radcliffe Road end *

Hmmm. Must be 'mission accomplished'.

(the only coverage I can see is at Conservative Home, FWTW.)