Archive | September, 2012

What I see is often not what you get.

3 Sep

Having just fired off my ‘Education. education….’ post I found myself frustrated that the published version appeared truncated, left hanging in mid-sentence. Add in the typos and my own education appeared pretty inadequate. C’est la vie I suppose. I had completed my thoughts on Messrs Gove and Wilshaw with a nice little plea to Mike and Mike to pay heed to the quiet multitude who just want children and teachers to have good collaborative times in school without the agenda for change and the spurious drive for squeezing more out of the system to dominate the thinking of educational leaders.

Oscar Pistorius, caught in the headlights of disappointment showed how technicalities, focusing on the smaller picture, can distort the greater journey. He had a microphone shoved up his nose immediately after the 200metres but his cry of ‘it’s unfair’ was too hastily voiced.

We get similar responses when issues to do with schools are raised with the Mikes. Someone is to blame and reading above, below and between the lines, it’s usually teachers. Well Education ministers and Heads of Ofsted have far shorter shelf-lives than the average teacher. They stir the pot, change the goalposts and the bugger off. The average teacher sits in the pot, occasionally getting out to redraw the lines round the goals.

Education, education….

3 Sep

Education, education…..

Education, education….

3 Sep

Watching Sir Michael Wilshaw Ofsted-speak his way through the Andrew Marr experience on Sunday sent a few shivers down my spine. Sir Mike has big credibility with his mate Mike Gove because he kicks teachers’ asses. The public secretly like this because it means their children aren’t to blame and they can rest easy in the sure knowledge that education way back when was so much better than here and now. It’s also true that anyone who talks of raising standards, doing justice for the youth of the country, reinventing ‘satisfactory’ so it can mean ‘good’  and so on, is going to find a nice soft chair of popularity to squat in for a while.

Add to this the confusions of the English GCSE debacle, the apparently unarguable news that we are sliding down the Maths and English world league tables and that 30% of school leaders are poor..and Sir Mike has plenty of ammo to arm his inspectors for fresh assaults on schools in the coming years. To this end we hear that inspectors will alight upon schools with only 24hours’ notice (big deal) and will focus almost exclusively on observing teachers ‘perform’ in the classroom.

Now here’s the issue. What is the difference between teaching and education? When I was trained as a teacher – at around the same time as Sir Mikey was going through his paces at St. Mary’s College, Twickenham – I learned about educational innovators who recognised the need to educate the whole person – this meant understanding the varied ways in which we can help children to grow – knowledge and skills, yes, but also the arts, sport, culture, service, responsibilities to society- respect, good behaviour.

Now few might feel moved to disagree with this  but  much of what constitutes good education is unrecognised by our inspection regime. Further, the game that a slavish reliance on attainment and achievement data has led schools to play has unbalanced young people’s perception of what we value in education and thrown society off the scent of pursuing much of what is valuable.

For example the notion that there is a template for a good lesson, a good teacher (and those of us in education have endlessly reinvented this wheel over many years of statutory training days) is hugely flawed. Good teachers build trust and respect in a variety of ways over time – and, crucially, have the knack of instilling trust and respect in their pupils. I once mentored a young teacher in her first year of teaching. She had skill with the interactive whiteboard, timed her 3 part lessons ( starter, main, plenary) expertly, wrote the aim of her lessons on the board just in case the pupils couldn’t work out where she was heading,  asked a few AfL (Assessment for Learning, aka ‘good’ ) questions and set the homework with time for any queries. Problem? The kids didn’t like her. She looked down her nose at them (and she had no right to because she wasn’t an Einstein herself) and they spotted it, of course.

The Head of Department was a less well-organised and, in Ofsted terms, a less effective teacher. But she liked children, was an expert who they trusted – and she ran trips and excursions galore: she gave of her time and was rewarded with trust and respect. She was an educator – that’s a teacher ‘plus’ and the plus is what Ofsted don’t see, don’t understand. There

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