Tuesday, 21 December 2010

Yes, And..?

Chris Keates, general secretary of the NASUWT, said Education Secretary Michael Gove's idea of allowing successful headteachers to take over failing schools implied many teachers were not doing their job properly.
Surely not?!?
Mr Gove told BBC Radio 4's Today programme the Government planned to introduce another test for youngsters to make sure they could decode words by the age of six.

He said his department would prefer schools to use synthetic phonics, which links sounds to letters to teach children to read, in an effort to target an "unbudgable" group of children who were failing to make the grade.
Ooooh, that's not going to go down well! And sure enough, here are the teaching unions in full 'tractor stats' mode:
But Ms Keates said teachers should be praised and standards were far higher than they were 15 years ago. Then only 49% of children reached the required level 4 when they took SATS at 11, while today that figure had topped 80%.

She said many children targeted by the Government in this latest initiative were either learning English as a foreign language or suffered severe medical conditions that held them back.
'Don't pick on them! They're foreign/ill..!'
Kevin Courtney, deputy general secretary of the NUT, said the last Government concentrated on helping pupils who attained level 3 in their SATS to reach the higher grade at the expense of a small minority of youngsters who were stuck on level 2.

He claimed many specialist teachers, responsible for helping children who were learning English as a second language, were facing redundancy as a result of Government cuts.

Mr Courtney added: "If the line Gove goes down is blaming teachers, then he is missing the point. It's not about poor schools, poor headteachers or poor teachers. It's about schools with poor intake."
A poor workman always blames his tools, Kevin, not his material. Do keep up...

I think Gove is going to have to rethink this first line; sackings may well be required:
"I don't want to be in the business of sacking anyone but I do want to be in the business of saying to all schools and local authorities 'I'm sorry, it's unacceptable if children leave school (unable to read). You have seven years, you have ample resources, you have the full support of the department for education in tackling illiteracy'."
If Gove is wondering how those seven years can be utterly wasted, I'm sure this lady could tell him...


Old BE said...

I don't "want" to be sacking teachers... doesn't mean he won't!!

As ever, the poor teachers make it hard and demoralising for the good ones.

Jiks said...

In my day "decoding words" was known as "reading."

Many of us could do it too, though of course these days that would probably get you burnt as a witch.

Anonymous said...

Will another test make children able to read better? Children seem to have to take a lot of tests/assessments already, and apparently many of them don't perform that well at those. However badly children perform in the assessments, nothing appears to happen to the general standard of their education.

Mark Wadsworth said...

Gove is one of the few pol's whom I'd give the benefit of the doubt. He genuinely seems to care about education, having reaped the benefits of it himself.

JuliaM said...

"As ever, the poor teachers make it hard and demoralising for the good ones."

Ain't THAT the truth...

"In my day "decoding words" was known as "reading.""

Make something sound complicated, add another £1000 pa to your public sector salary.

"Will another test make children able to read better? "

Not likely. And as you surmise, it's unlikely to have any effect on the rate of teacher failure either...

"Gove is one of the few pol's whom I'd give the benefit of the doubt. "

Yes, me too. But he's got a Herculean task ahead of him.

Scratch that. Not Hercules. More like Sisyphus...

Teecher Sez said...

As much as I like much of what is posted here, may I take an opportunity as an FE lecturer to try and stop the "good teacher/bad teacher" rattle we see on this blog and, in all fairness, on many others.

Here are some views from those who stand in front of a class.

Crowd control: Most students at FE level will turn out to be decent human beings and may even get jobs, but most colleges are primarily obsessed with keeping students who either can't or won't do it. "I'm only here for the EMA" isa common response from the kids. I and my colleagues are constantly battling in class against the tide of games-playing, mobile phone use and teenage social dreams instead of learning. Yes, they know how to access Facebook in class despite various bans so they can message the person sat next to them.

No, this isn't bad behaviour as such (though I know of cases of violence towards teachers: one boy in my college who grabbed a female lecturer from behind was NOT removed from the college and allowed to continue as keeping numbers are so vital to education) but largely the students see college as meaningless, other than a social event with annoying teachers and assignments that might be tolerated.

We spend most of the day trying to keep a lid on the potential mayhem, so planning, evaluation and the rest of the education theory that is demanded has to take second place.

Learning standards: Deadlines over submissions are never enforced because there are no consequences if they don't do the work on time. I have been asked to read, mark and hopefully pass distinction work in the last fifteen minutes of the school year. The student in question couldn't be bothered over the previous nine months but thought one page copied from Wikipedia would do on the very last day. Actually, the busiest day of the college year is the last day.

Wikipedia is a curse, so we get work full of American spellings and use of words they do not understand ("What exactly does 'paradigm' mean?" I ask when I see their brief, badly-organised work. Correct: they haven't a clue but it was on the Wiki page so in it goes.)

Actually, many of them struggle with a basic understanding of words. I try to point out how to analyse words, such as when a phrase such as 'effective procedure' has them floundering. I spend a lot of time time picking it apart so they might understand what each word might mean.

Equally I must say some of the specs written for the assignments must be done by well-paid academics who have no concept of what ordinary people know. They must be in some lovely ivory tower and not seeing kids whose job ambitions rarely extend beyond McDonalds or a job in Poundland.

Students come to FE without any idea how to learn, and rarely have pens and never take notes. They want it in front of them so they can copy and paste. If you do a presentation they are listening more to their mp3 players than you; if you ask some of them what you have just said they look blank. Trust me, sometimes it is better not to disturb them. Even the ones who scoot across class to share some music with another kid so they sit with shared earphones.

Maybe I am a bad teacher, but until you see what twenty-odd late-teenage students are capable of you have no idea. Please imagine all you want, but the reality is tough.

Why do it? Because every so often some of them turn out great, and anyway, the state pays me. Not much, but it beats McDonalds.

Jeff Wood said...

What Teecher Sez is bloody depressing, especially as his gaff is a Further Education institution.

There have to be consequences. I suspect that his (I think) students assume that at the end of the road they are simply going on benefits if no one is foolish enough to give them a job.

Reform - slash - the benefits system, and we may start sorting out this mess.

My dear Julia, a good Christmas to you and all here, and a Happy New Year.