paulheinrich

ICT in Education

The flogging will continue till morale improves . . .!

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This is not a good time to be working in education. Schools and teachers are under attack from several directions at once – pensions, the revised OFSTED framework, Gove’s latest targets wheeze, the Wolf Report and the National Curriculum review. And we thought New Labour were centralist dictators!!!

Now I know, from many years in education that schools are not perfect. There are weak teachers, incompetent heads, weak leadership, sometimes poor resources and difficult pupils and parents. But this is not a modern phenomenon it has always been thus and non amount of targets and other meddling by ministers will change that – in practice it will often make things worse by downgrading the professional role of teachers to technicians who will jump through whatever hoop is place in front of them.

So what will be the impact of the latest poorly constructed headline grabber, that all schools must have 50% of pupils gaining five good GCSE grades (i.e. passes at C or above)? All schools must be above average! Now it’s a while since I last did a statistics course but even so I sense a small mathematical implausibility here. But of course, modern children are so much more intelligent, better motivated, have more supportive parents, fewer special needs and nothing to distract them from academic learning compared to those of Gove’s generation.

I’m a product of an ancient rural grammar school. Entry was via the 11+ for 60 boys from a catchment extending from Sheringham at one end to Stalham at the other (and 4 secondary moderns catering for the others. Some 60 girls went to a girl’s selective school. Now, we were the elite, the 20% of our generation who would take the GCE O-Level and possible progress to A-Level and may be even university. Looking back just over half of us achieved five or more GCSE passes and entered the 6th Form and about a third of those went on to university. This, in that golden age, from a supposed ‘good’ school.

Thus about 12% of the age group in that area of 1960’s Norfolk actually achieved Gove’s benchmark of five good passes and less than 5% reached university. And we are constantly told that things are getting worse not better.

That is not to deny that there are not issues, but raw targets will not resolve these. We do need a greater emphasis on core skills in language, mathematics and science, which will bring benefits throughout the curriculum. We need to set higher expectations too, including more rigour in examinations – some may decry Wolf but her report only confirms what many of us already knew. But then these courses evolved to meet a need generated by the policies of the last government, offering schools a quick fix solution. No doubt something else will emerge to meet the new demands.

Or perhaps not. Before the national curriculum review is even properly under way the core secondary school curriculum has already been defined by the ludicrous EBacc. Where then is the scope for a proper, rational, research-based debate on a curriculum for the third millennium? Lost in the mists of political dogma and traditionalist rhetoric. One would have hoped for better from our supposedly well educated (well public school educated at any rate) political masters. And so Biblical Hebrew (an acceptable EBacc subject) is declared more important than ICT, Design and other subjects that are critical to the economic future of UK plc. In a rational world you could not make this up – but then politicians do not seem to inhabit a rational world.

Then there is the attack on primary schools in deprived inner city areas. I’ve worked with such schools where the Year 6 on which they are judged often includes new migrants, non-English speakers, 30% or more special needs and more. Rarely are these the same cohort who entered the school aged 4+ making any judgment based on SATs outcomes a statistical joke but even progress over a six year period cannot be assessed. Not to worry however, the impossible can be achieved; it’s just the miracle that takes a little longer – aided by enforced academy status with all the disruption that brings. Of course, the expensive new uniform (that the parents cannot afford) will make all the difference.

And then there is OFSTED, now equipped with a bigger and better stick . . .!

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Written by Paul Heinrich

June 17, 2011 at 8:24 am

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