Monday, September 27, 2004
A question of style
Sunday, September 26, 2004
Information, intimidation, inclusion & confusion Part 2
The other talk, though rather more hardcore that I was expecting in induction week, was agreed by all present to be very interesting: the sort of guy who no doubt has the anti-PC mob getting all hot under the collar was talking about inclusion in the classroom. There was a lot of information and a lot to think about in relation to how to identify, deal with, and not deal with inclusion in the classroom, especially discrimination and identifying learning difficulties and other such issues. He was particularly spot on in terms of equality of opportunity not necessarily meaning the same opportunities for everyone, rather the same amount of opportunities that respond to their individual needs. I guess this stuff has even more relation to citizenship than most subjects since part of my thing will be teaching pupils about inclusion too – I may find myself steal…borrowing some of his stuff for lessons.
More induction tunk for the rest of this week before Monday’s excitement of finding out which school are to be burdened with me this term. Given the various far flung places to which I might apparently be sent I am now dreading the words “Great news: we’re sending you to a fantastic school. It’s in the upper Volta”.
Information, intimidation, inclusion & confusion Part 1
This was followed by a citizenship students’ meet-up. The tutor and fellow students all seems good though the definite motif of the day was paper and more paper: the first piece of advice out tutor gave was ‘go to Sainsbury’s at lunchtime and get a large carrier bag’. There was also a lot of talk of the many and varied ways in which the course will be assessed: essays, presentations, logs, lesson plans, target sheets and the ability to juggle six flaming hoops whilst riding a unicycle and whistling a hornpipe. Also grabbed lunch with three of the others and had an interesting discussion about our Primary Schools – quite a wide range from “whenever the teacher stood up everyone stopped talking straight away” to “most afternoon the teacher just gave up and sent them outside to play”. Also devoted a few minutes to badmouthing Charles Clarke which is always fun. Less paperwork in the afternoon – mostly discussing what Citizenship means since no-one outside of (some) Citizenship teachers is entirely clear on this point. Also a spot of ‘what do we want to get out of this course’ discussion in which I tried and probably failed not to sound too idealistic. The other end of the spectrum was represented by the admirably honest “a job”. Had a plough through some of the paperwork afterwards and am suitably intimidated, although happily it doesn’t hot up for a week or three.
Saturday, September 25, 2004
Two weeks down, several to go
I still don’t think primary teaching would be for me, since I find the material a little unchallenging and prefer to teach stuff with more scope for the pupils to exercise original thought but, after a couple of weeks in secondary, you never know - I might run screaming back…
Sunday, September 12, 2004
But although I am enjoying it, and finding it very interesting, I'm also ready to publish my first semi-rant: testing. Now I don't have a problem with testing in principle - the idea of schools competing for better results doesn't bother me, nor does the idea of these being published in 'league table' *provided* that what is published actually means something and advances education in some way. The problem is that current SATs appear to me to involve a lot of time and effort from schools whilst not producing very meaningful results.
In terms of the exams themselves my first day saw the teacher announce that 'we have to do a years work before February so we can start revising for the SATs in May' - three months of the year taken up repeating the curriculum for a test rather than on learning new things. In the same class the teacher had to mark a student's answer as wrong despite it showing original thought because 'it's wouldn't get a SATs mark'. Other teachers noted that they now have much less time to teach optional units in subjects like history or the arts because they have to spend so much time focusing on the SATs subjects (English, Maths and Science) and material.
But that isn't all: the results themselves don't seem to me very meaningful. Students aged 11 are 'supposed' to reach Level 4 in English, Maths and Science and schools are judged on the percentage reaching Level 4 or 5 but no provision is made for 'value added' - for the percentage of students with English as a Second Language, or mild to moderate learning difficulties, the percentage of kids in a particular school who just happen to be in the 50% of the population that is below average!
Nor is provision made for assessment in others areas, or in general 'socialising' aspects of education. I fear that if the government ever heard this there response would be 'ah, we need SATs for other subjects too!'. But of course all that would do is make the system even more bureaucratic, and this is my problem: either the tests are too simplified to be meaningful or so bureaucratic that schools wouldn't be able to do any actual teaching, so taken up would they be with assessing what they would have taught if they'd had the time!
The other issue is the affect of these, arguably not very meaningful, league tables: a teacher at my school noted to me that Ofsted would not give a very good report to any school that wasn't getting virtually all level 5s, regardless of the pupils’ level before they began. They would then demand 'measures' to boost the scores - my school does a whole battery, including 'optional' SATS for all ages from 7-11, some of which have to be reported to the Local Authority (optional!?). In the current climate of testing, assessing and ranking these tests probably aren't excessive but, and you can call me old fashioned, I'd rather the schools had more time to erm teach...
Sunday, September 05, 2004
Pay attention class...
Whilst at the school I have to write a report on my visit - there's no specific title, but it's basically meant to cover how the school handles Literacy and Numeracy, as well as my own subject area, and to discuss the process for students moving from Primary to High School. Hopefully the direction to take will become clear fairly rapidly, since the thing is supposed to be done around the time I finish in two weeks. Still however it goes I'm sure it'll be good practice since my course handbook makes it very clear that it is only the first in a series of reports, logs, portfolios and written plans that I will be making during my course. All of these of course have to be tied into the national curriculum, which isn't precisely a compact document itself. Haven't even started yet and I can feel the bureacracy closing in on me - I'm sure I will be returning to this topic.
Talking of bureacracy, and it is nearly 1 am so my mind is wandering from topic to topic a bit, returning to full time education has given me the chance of yet more delightful encounters with the student loans company. Oh, how I have missed them: thus far we have had forms that didn't turn up, then showed up three or four times; passwords that I never got, was then allegedly sent and still haven't got; letters telling me that I haven't returned forms when I patently have; and a 'helpline' that now appears to be permanently engaged - methinks with the post A Level results rush now on, they may have just taken the phone off the hook...It will not take much more provocation for me to dispatch a 'you people' letter...