I’ve written about uniform before; having gone to a school where there was a uniform until the last two years of school at which time we were allowed to wear mufti I think I can reasonably argue the case having experienced both sides.
At the moment, across the UK there are head teachers staring at their budgets, wondering how on earth they are going to make ends meet. There will be cuts and redundancies, and possibly even the decision to run on a deficit in the hope that it will be cleared when the new funding formula kicks in.
In September last year the biggest sociology exam board, AQA, dropped a seminal study into suicide from their curriculum. The 1897 Emile Durkheim is regarded as an important point in sociology being regarded as a science, and also history in general. AQA have stated that their decision to remove this important study was taken in consultation with teachers in order to avoid undue distress to pupils, and to keep lesson content interesting.
The fact that there is a whole legion of supply teachers who are able to eke out a living from plugging gaps in our education system, shows just what state our education system is in. There is anecdotal evidence that supply teachers at the moment are barely going a term-time day without work, and some schools have between 5-10 supply teachers a day!
In the 1960s two distinct effects were discovered; the Pygmalion Effect and the Golem Effect. Both showed that expectations influence attainment. The Golem effect demonstrated that low expectations often meant that subjects achieved less that they were due to, with the Pygmalion effect showing the opposite. The 1960s study picked random students and told their teachers that these students were identified as being full of potential, these students then went on to make significantly more progress than their peers.
There’s much in the media these days about how over tested children are, and the fallout from this. In line with this thinking, Lego has released the results from one of its studies which shows that children learn mainly through playing until they are eight years old, which is Year 3 in modern currency, by when British children have already been though one of their many SATs.
I’m sure I’m not the only one who has looked at today’s school children and remarked on the difference between them and myself at that age. Nowadays children seem so much more knowledgeable about the world, and more grown up than I was – be that a good thing or bad.
Autism, or ‘Autistic Psychopathy’ as it was known then, was first recognised over 70 years ago. When first ‘discovered’ it was thought that only males were affected by the condition, even though this thinking has since been revised, even now most people assume that it affects mainly men.
In today’s society there is a preoccupation with everyone having the same opportunities, and rightly so. However, we must be careful not to compound the issue when attempting to fix it.
Just as soon as you get your head around the latest advice about young people and their online lives, some new research comes out of the woodwork and changes everything. Recent evidence shows that far from being the worst-thing-ever to happen to children, video games are actually good for kids whilst networking on social media sites is bad.
I think at every stage in your life you look back on the stage preceding your current one and realise with hindsight that you’ve never had it so good. I wished I was back in Junior School when I was in Seniors, I wished I could do my GCSEs again when I was doing my A-Levels and so on and so forth. When I was at university I definitely wanted to be back at school (not having to cook/clean/pay for anything), however I wonder if children currently in school will look back on their school life with such rose-tinted glasses.
We all know about the perils of social media for young people these days; self-esteem tied to the number of “likes” your selfie got, grooming by adults and cyber-bullying to mention a few. However, as with all things, social media can also be a force for good, and maybe especially so for teachers.
After Jimmy Saville’s true colours were uncovered, and the “success” (if one can call it that) of Operation Yewtree, child sexual abuse is at the forefront of our minds. With the discovery of the extensive Rotheram Paedophilia ring as well, the police are now better trained to deal with sex offences, and especially those that involve children. 70,000 child sex abuse cases were reported in 2015, of those 75% were recent, and we know that statistically only one in eight victims are likely to come to the attention of the authorities so we can estimate that the true number, whilst illusive, is probably staggeringly large.
In my previous life I worked in a prep school doing marketing, and one of the biggest marketing points we pushed was the forest school recently introduced. To be honest, not much marketing had to be done because once the parents had visited the school and seen the little faces filled with wonder when exploring a “bug hotel”, toasting marshmallows, and climbing trees, they were signing on the dotted line. Outdoor learning is something which has been championed in recent years and really seems to be working; although the proof will be the all-important exam results of the children who have grown up with that being part of the curriculum.
Teachers these days seem to have more and more loaded on their plate at every opportunity; wearing more hats than ever before. Every time a child doesn’t achieve their full potential, the fingers seems to be pointed squarely at the education system, rather than the family. Admittedly, 50 or so years ago, most households only had one earner, and the other parent was on hand 24/7 to monitor homework, and make sure children were fed and watered. Nowadays most parents work, and so rely on teachers to pick up some of their slack; but is that really fair?
With the recent election of Theresa May as Prime Minister, there was much excitement about whether or not she would be overturning the policy banning the building of new grammar schools. Policy makers seems to be of the opinion that she will be overturning this legislation, being a grammar school girl herself. However, recent evidence suggests that the introduction of grammar schools may not have a positive effect on the poorest families.
Somehow during my education, I managed to miss the bit where I was taught what a verb, noun, adjective etc. were. I’m not entirely sure how this happened, as English was one of my favourite subjects, but until GCSE year I lived in fear of being picked on to identify one of these in a sentence. I wasn’t a stupid child, and I can only imagine that in my three school changes in two years, combined with a fairly debilitating illness meant that this information wasn’t imparted,or maybe just not retained. However, in my GCSE year, I finally ‘fessed up to my best friend who showed me the way.
With the cabinet reshuffle, and the appointment of a new Secretary of State for Education, it was always going to be the case that previous policy targets would not be met. However, the news that the new system for funding schools (due to be implemented in 2017-2018) is now going to be delayed by a year, has been met with dismay.
King College London have recently announced that they have come up with a revolutionary new DNA test which can predict how well children will do in their education. This is based on a ‘polygenic score’ which is worked out from the presence or absence of over 20,000 common DNA variants. All together these DNA variants account for roughly 10% of children’s academic achievement by the age of 16. Whilst 10% may not seem like a lot, when one considers that the difference in natural ability in Maths between boys and girls is explained by 1% of DNA, one can understand how great the implications of this score can be. Researchers have suggested that these findings could be used to give an insight into whether a child could develop learning difficulties later on in life. This would allow teachers and specialists to advise parents on additional support that may be required throughout their child’s learning journey, so that the child has the best possible education.
The teacher recruitment and retention crisis is well publicised at the moment to summarise: more teachers are leaving than are joining, those who are joining aren’t staying, and the quality standard is not always closely monitored. The most recent statistic is that 10% of state school teachers left the education system last year, and another 40% have said that they plan on following suit within the next 5 years.
The (admittedly now reshuffled) education department recently stated that they intend to implement the “Shanghai Model” of teaching into British schools. This decision has been met, on the whole, with complaints and derision.
At the moment, the education sector is in the midst of a sea of crises, chief amongst which appears to be the recruitment and retention of teachers. Put simply: we are losing more teachers than we are training.
An official forecast has just been released which estimates that an extra 750,000 school places will be needed by 2025. This has mainly been driven by the UK’s rising birth rate, probably due to a higher percentage than historically, of non-UK mothers living here who tend to have bigger families. However, this forecast was calculated without taking into account the potential effect of Brexit, and before any solid plan has been made as to immigration post-Brexit.
With more and more households having both parents work, and therefore less able to spend time with their children poring over homework planners in the evening, schools are concerned that this lack of parental engagement could be contributing to increasing levels of truancy, missed homework and declining test results. There have been many experiments trying to combat this, including asking parents to come in for their own lessons on the “three r’s” (parental absence rates were high).
Obviously, teachers do not chose their profession with dreams of making the big bucks; if you ask them (especially those who are freshly minted) they will tell you of noble ambitions, and selfless goals. That being said, they do want to be able to live, and enjoy life in a reasonable manner.
Introduced by the Labour government, the academy system has been much discussed; does it actually help, or is it just shifting the problem onto someone else’s plate? A recent report has suggested that the academy system is a bit of a mixed bag – it works well (really well in some cases) for the best and worst schools, but for those middling schools who decide to convert it may actually make things a tiny bit worse.
As the summer holidays approach, and the holiday prices rise (extortionately in some cases), the subject of term time holidays is brought up again. Following Jon Platt’s victory against his local council for refusing to pay the fine awarded due to his taking his daughter out of school during term time, a number of councils have dropped their cases. Mr Platt was told that as his daughter’s attendance record was otherwise satisfactory he had no case to answer, although it is worth noting that his local council have since been told that they may reapply should they wish.
Like most younger siblings, my little brother always wanted to be like me; unfortunately, I’m a bit of a bookworm who has managed to coast through life being somewhat intellectually lazy. My brother on the other hand, has strengths that lay elsewhere – he hated reading (still does) but whilst I came up with cunning skiving techniques to get out of the horror of double hockey on a Monday afternoon, he flourished as captain of the hockey AND rugby team. I like to stay in five star hotels, with fluffy towels, his idea of a good time is a sleeping bag with a tarpaulin stretched overhead. I would argue that you couldn’t find too more different siblings, yet we grew up (fairly) well-adjusted adults because our parents recognised our individual strengths and weaknesses and nurtured them. As the saying goes “everybody is a genius but if you judge a fish by its ability to climb trees, it will live its whole life believing it is an idiot”.
At the age of 10 I was moved from my co-ed boarding school, to an all-girls one. There were many reasons for this, but I suspect that there were concerns about the effect that teenage hormones could potentially have on my skirt length. Ironically, had I stayed at the co-ed school I would have been made to wear a baggy jumper and ankle-length skirt until I was 18 years old, whereas at my all girls’ school the rules were considerably laxer. There were no boys around to impress, indeed we were the other side of town to the boys’ school and the two co-ed ones, yet still we “accidentally” shrunk our jumpers, bought shirts 4 sizes too small, and rolled our skirts up several inches. Why? Everyone else did, and it was a way to show that we were a la mode.
It doesn’t seem like that long ago I was at school (7 years), and yet now my peers are the teachers and not the pupils, and they talk of problems at school that didn’t exist when I was there. Nowadays, the bullying doesn’t stop when you leave school, children compare themselves against an unrealistic and over-filtered ideal wondering why their immature bodies don’t look like that, and there are pressures to grow up and become sexualised at an age where I was still under the impression boys were “yucky”.
The education system is in disarray, if the press is anything to go by, and so those in command are looking for increasingly left-field solutions to the crisis facing them. The Learnometer Project was set up in response to this and to examine the physical conditions of classrooms (CO2 levels, temperature, light etc.) and see what effect they had on the children in them.
At a meet up with some friends this weekend, the talk inevitably turned to work. We’re a varied group; army officer, accountant, scientist, plumber etc. but it was the teacher whose work was of most interest to the table. She told us of how much pressure both teachers and students were under to achieve good exam results, despite her school proclaiming that they’re “not an exam factory”.
Another month, more budget cuts, and yet another strike. This time, teachers: the NUT had a 91.7% in favour vote for a strike on 5th July, and have threatened further action later on in the summer. Understandably parents and the department of education are up in arms about the disruption this will cause. Lots of people are unimpressed with the double standards this situation creates; parents are fined if they take their children out of school in order to be able to afford a summer holiday as it will disrupt their education, but the very people who are meant to be enforcing this are now themselves disrupting education.
The build-up is over, the public has decided and whether or not we were on the winning side, we all have to pick ourselves up and move forward with the decision. Many government-funded institutions are already wondering what this means for their future; not least the healthcare and education sectors.
Governments have always been known for tinkering with education so that it fits with their political aims and ideology, in the hope that this will lead to the best performing schools the country has ever seen. However, are schools’ performance affected by this change from above, or is it rather the “boots on the ground” leadership that determines whether or not a school is truly high-performing?