Thursday, January 31, 2008

Five Live

Five Live had a piece this morning about a new Government advertising campaign designed to attract 'high flyers' into teaching. They had a nice teacher from a good school, who had helped produce the adverts, opposite a raving loony from Hell Comp who believed that if we had some discipline in schools then we probably wouldn't need an expensive TV adverts; we'd be fighting off hordes of prospective teachers with a big stick.

During our discussion, I started to give an example of a pupil misbehaving in class and how easy it is for a single disruptive child to utterly destroy your lesson. The other teacher replied with genuine puzzlement:

'Well I'd just tell him to stop and he would'

I think he was serious and maybe it is as simple as that in his school. I pointed out that in my dump, the child wouldn't even bother to aknowledge that you had said anything, but I started to get that age old feeling once again, that there is such a huge gap in the public's (and many teachers') perception of what it's really like trying to teach in a sink school and just how bad some of our customers can be. After all, that's why I wrote my book.

Anyway, you can probably listen to it again if you can get the site to work. It was around 8.30 am. As with all interviews, you always think of much cleverer things to say, five minutes after you've been cut off. Feel free to point these out.

33 comments:

Jen said...

I heard you Frank. Very cogent and well-argued. As one texter said, you were both right. In some schools, it's fine, in others it's like Beirut in the early 1980s.

Anonymous said...

Was driving into school this morning and couldn't believe it when you came on the radio.

Bloody great, you were spot on. Keep doing stuff like that, you're the only one ever likely to give our side of the story

Grant said...

Heard you also. Nice one, esp. wrt the adverts. Couldn't believe how naive that other man was though.

Anonymous said...

You could have used this posted blog on the TES to further your point. Although having heard the quality of discussion on fivelive you'd probably have been asked to summarise three thousand words of blog into a five second all purpose soundbite and solution.

http://www.tes.co.uk/section/staffroom/thread.aspx?story_id=2570948&path=/opinion&threadPage=1

Anonymous said...

I was listening too Frank and thought you were great. The other bloke hadn't got a clue.

Perhaps you should have just told the children in your classes to stop misbehaving and they would have!

Hill said...

Yes, Frank how could you not have known that all you ever had to do was tell the children to do something and they would obey immediately. Didn't they tell you that in teacher training?

missunderstood said...

I've come across some naive people in this profession over thirty odd years but Ceri takes the biscuit! My school is a middle of the road Comp with pupils who wish to work and a fair smattering of objectionable 'oiks' who wish to disrupt and stop others from learning. In general you find these pupils have either ineffective parents or parents who think like their children and raise hell should you even think of speaking harshly to their offspring. If Ceri thinks that all you do to this type of child is tell them to put their mobiles away he either has had very little experience of working with children or does not believe what is so glaringly obvious to anybody who has been around for a few years.
What I found insulting to you Frank was the rather patronising attitude Ceri had that the problem was in some way yours!! Unless you have a strong SMT with clearly defined sanctions that are carried out ceaselessly then you are doomed to fail and it does not matter if you had a full staff of Ceris. I get the impression that Ceri has not yet had the pleasure of being told to 'F' off by any of his pupils....I wonder how he will cope when it happens...and it will.
Wake up Ceri....there are school swith real problems out there that need to be sorted by giving teaching staff the authority to say 'enough is enough' I am not necessarily advocating corporal punishment but in any other public service if your attitude is inappropriate towards staff then you are banned...and not just for the odd day or two!!

Anonymous said...

The bit the staggered me was when Ceri said that if one child refused to do as he was told then he, Ceri, would take all the rest of the class somewhere else as "you have to set an example"! Surely this would cause massive disruption to all the other children as they have to troop off to a new place? And, even worse, gives the naughty child the clear message that their bad behavior gives them power over other people. Some example!

Anonymous said...

After reading the book and your blog, it was nice to hear what your voice sounded like.
They really should have given a bit more time to the subject. I hate the lack of context and "soundbites" given to serious subjects. There aren't good discussions on the media anymore.

Anonymous said...

Ceri clearly doesn't have a clue! OK, so his school may be 'average' - but you're talking about the bottom 10% of schools, which are a completely different kettle of fish!

I remember at one point there was talk here in Massachusetts of requiring trainee teachers to do a teaching practice in an inner city school. I got to visit one. After the 'defensive' architecture was explained - no windows on the ground floor, very wide hallways so there was less crowding at lesson change, no large gathering places, and so on - I decided that if teaching practice there or somewhere like it was going to be a requirement, I'd go teach in a private school instead. I know my limits, and it takes a very special person to teach in a school like that. I admire you Frank for having done it as long as you did, and speaking out about it now. I did one year of teaching 'naughty' kids before I left the UK, and I swore I wouldn't do it again. Too stressful!

I second Anonymous' comment:
The bit the staggered me was when Ceri said that if one child refused to do as he was told then he, Ceri, would take all the rest of the class somewhere else as "you have to set an example"! Surely this would cause massive disruption to all the other children as they have to troop off to a new place? And, even worse, gives the naughty child the clear message that their bad behavior gives them power over other people. Some example!

What new place could you take them to? The school I taught at in the UK, was not actually a 'bad' school, but there certainly wasn't anywhere else to take a class other than the room they were already in. I taught one class in a science lab - I was NOT teaching science, but it was the only room available. It was a set 3 (of 3) class, and for children who were not gifted academically (some could literally barely write their name at age 14) they were very smart at finding out how to switch all the gas taps on at once and other fun tricks.

Paul said...

What an a**ehole !

He may be a great teacher, rather like the Science Teacher (Mr Green ?) in Frank's book, but he clearly doesn't have a good grasp on reality in other parts of education. TBF, there was a sense in Franks' book that Mr Green didn't either.

Slightly annoyed so dug about:

If Ceri Evans is this guy - an article about super teacher awards so it is a reasonable guess - and there is an interview and it sounds similar (posh welsh)):

http://www.bbc.co.uk/essex/content/articles/2006/10/16/teacher_feature.shtml

Then this is his school, or was in late 2006 (the prospectus doesn't include a staff list) :

http://www.gablehall.com

And these are the 2007 results

% 5 A-C 83%
% 5 A-G 98%

This is how OFSTED describe the school

"The great majority are from White British backgrounds and almost all have English as their first language. The proportion of students with learning difficulties and/or disabilities is below the national average; the social and economic background of students is above the national average and the number of students known to be eligible for free school meals is almost half the national average"

So it isn't a school like Frank's, or a school like the average - it's a significantly advantaged school, going on the usual measure (free school meals).

News from Monday Books said...

Does anyone know whether Ceri is from that school in Essex? Or, if not, where he is from? We'd like to contact his with a proposal. Email us (confidentially if you like).
Thanks.

Gene Hunt said...

This might be him:

http://www.ratemyteachers.co.uk/schools/wales/cardiff/st_teilo%2527s_c.i.w._high_school/ceri__evans

Paul said...

There's a few Ceri Evans's teaching, not many. I thought this one was likely because it would be typical to use a "Teacher of the Year" in the ads.

Not that I think it means much. I wonder if you put Ceri Evans in Frank Chalk's school if he'd last.

The Sandpit Scullion said...

I wasn't able to hear you, Frank, as the radio waves don't reach as far as The Gulf, but I can just imagine the conceited, pompous git you had to face!

Meanwhile, what's your take on the latest attack on good schools and their kids and parents...?

http://www.dailymail.co.uk/pages/live/articles/news/news.html?in_article_id=511570&in_page_id=1770

Lamentably predictable and misguided, in my opinion!

Will said...

These sort of teachers really get on my nerves. I wish they could spend a day in the sort of school where if you tell a pupil to give you their phone, you get an obscene tirade and the Head will ask you what you did to provoke the 'incident'

Anonymous said...

Don't worry Frank, telling the truth is usually described as 'having a negative attitude'

BTW Great book! Funny, sharp and cutting.

Inspector Gadget said...

The truth is clear to me. Ceri Evans is a senior police officer in disguise. In fact, he is my Divisional Commander. He tells us each week that things are fine in Ruraltown, and then drives home to his leafy village while those of us on Response remain to take a good bashing by the 15 drunken pikeys who outnumber us five to one outside the local nite spot. They never went to school, we did. Go figure.

Anonymous said...

YOu hear this sort of thing all the time. In a good school with a strong leadership and supportive parents, then of course children will generally do as they are told.

In the bottom schools which have none of the above then you are on a wing and a prayer.
(Or you can wander round the school with your class in tow like he suggested!)

Boy on a bike said...

I started school at an undisciplined state school, where idiots interjected all the time. After a while, I got into the habit of being a smart arse as well.

Then I went to a private school, where the discipline regime was a bit different. I was a smart arse on day one, and was immediately despatched to the Head's office for a few whacks across the behind.

Never mis-behaved after that. In fact I went on to top the class every year and was dux of the junior school. Just shows what a few well directed whacks at an early age (9) can achieve.

Anonymous said...

I went through teacher training but no longer teach, I told my daughter she could become ANYTHING but a teacher.

Mary said...

I well remember my mate Dave doing teacher training at Eltham in the late 1980s.
The whole place was infested with what you could only call nutters - you literally wondered where the hell they had come from - though now, sadly, their views have gained more currency and are becoming more normal. (I'm talking about the rights culture, the anti-teaching culture, the anti-discipline culture and so on.)
Dave - who was himself quite a leftie - was amused, rather than horrified by them.
He enjoyed the problems the censorious tutors had with a fellow student called Leroy. Leroy was a rasta and, as such, had refeshingly incorrect views about the place of women in life. (He felt they should trot from the kitchen to the bedroom and back, and that was about it.)
But because he was black and a rasta, they couldn't bring themselves to attack him or his views, so they just pretended they hadn't heard them.

Anonymous said...

I say to people like Ceri, Wake up and give thanks every day that you work in a nice school. In my place, it is anarchy.

So tell me Ceri, what am I supposed to do? If I tell a pupil to stop messing about they may or may not stop. If they do, I'm grateful, if they don't what then?

Send them to the Head? They won't go.

Phone their parents? They couldn't give a toss.

Give them a detention? They just walk out.

Complain to the Head? Done that, he had a little talk with the boy who left smirking.

Please don't patronise me by giving PGCE style ideas like taking the rest of the class for a walk; think through the realities first. The children know that we have no effective sanctions and they make the most of it.

Actually I have solved the problem. I'm leaving.

ceri said...

Ha ha ha, very funny !
Just to clarify a few myths,
I am not "posh welsh" as described but from one of the most disadvantaged areas in the country.

And yes,I must be very ,very naive as after more than a decade in the classroom I still havent given up, curled into a ball and resorted to insulting those who ACTUALLY DO THE JOB !

I would suggest that some of you may wish to grow a backbone and start taking responsibility for our next generation and actually do something about it.

Talk is very cheap.....

Anonymous said...

It's all very well Ceri telling us to get a backbone. He probably works in a nice school.

Anybody can be tough when the pupils do as you tell them and the Management team back you up. On the other hand, If you have pupils that know they can do what they like, combined with a weak Headteacher, an SMT who don't want to know and a Head of Dept who is always off with stress then it's a rather different kettle of fish.

These new adverts are nothing more than a bloody con. I'd be ashamed to be associated with them.

Anonymous said...

Perhaps Ceri can enlighten us as to which school he does teach in ?

ceri said...

Hello anonymous,

Funny you should say that, my last HOD spent 7 months off with stress, additionally I have had 32 teachers pass through my department in a 5 year period, most leaving because they were unable to cope with the intensity of work or were not up to the job.
My current role as an AST takes me to a number of "interesting" schools and of course, "lets try to wind the stranger up" is a game kids love to play.

It takes the biscuit however when so called colleagues of your own profession lambast you based on nothing more than assumption & presumption.

Incidentally my association with the TDA adverts is based on the bloody infuriating problem that I can never get enough talented young student teachers.
Let me ask you a question, if you had three teenage chldren in a failing school wouldnt you want to attract the best teachers to give your children a chance ?
My own child will be entering the secondary system soon enough and it is hypocrisy of me to want the best for her without trying my damnest to give other children the best possible opportunity in my own classes.

Paul said...

Ceri, for a teacher your lack of empathy is quite astonishing.

For example, you write:

"my last HOD spent 7 months off with stress, additionally I have had 32 teachers pass through my department in a 5 year period, most leaving because they were unable to cope with the intensity of work or were not up to the job"

Assuming that you are pretty good at your job, where you appear to have no grasp of reality is that other people may not have your ability.

You may well be able to cope, it appears that a vast number of your colleagues can not. Are you really so daft as to not wonder if this might be a fault with the system, school or pupils, rather than all 32 teachers plus the HoD are somehow all not up to scratch ?

Not everyone is brilliant, even if you are. Anyone who has ever had a managerial role knows this ; you simply cannot get a "galaxy of stars" in your staff, and you can't plan on the basis that everyone is Superman. Every school has some great teaches, some good teachers, some ordinary teachers, and a few who are absolute rubbish.

The system - any system - has to work with the raw material it gets. If the school is so difficult that vast numbers of teachers are walking out, this cannot simply be put down to failings on their part. It's naive and implausible.

Yes, the rubbish teachers would probably be rubbish anywhere, but your average "decent classroom practitioner" - like for instance Mr Chalk (as per his book) - should be able to cope.

"It takes the biscuit however when so called colleagues of your own profession lambast you based on nothing more than assumption & presumption."

No, it's based on what you said on the radio. So far you haven't actually disowned that, so we presume you still hold those views, though you haven't defended them yet and you didn't in the interview either.

Primarily there are two main problems. Firstly your claim that "you tell them to stop and they do", and your apparent bewilderment that this doesn't seem to work for everyone else. You might be a shining star who *can* do that with your classes, but a lot of people can't, and not all of them are bad teachers. Secondly your bizarre claim that if one pupil was kicking off you would take the other 29 elsewhere ; this leads to two corollaries, firstly, where - it's not that easy to just wander into and find another classroom, and secondly, what happens to the pupil kicking off ?

"Incidentally my association with the TDA adverts is based on the bloody infuriating problem that I can never get enough talented young student teachers."

Again, you seem to be parotting the OFSTED line here. Do you think it might be possible that your 32 ex colleagues may actually be a mix of the good, the bad and the ugly, and the actual *environment* plays a significant part in their "failure" ?

Furthermore, how do you think that the TDA adverts will improve this ? They might attract a few more teachers, possibly, and this might uprate the average *slightly*, as a result of a better pool to draw from, but it's not going to make that much of a difference, is it ?

"Let me ask you a question, if you had three teenage chldren in a failing school wouldnt you want to attract the best teachers to give your children a chance ?"

I would probably homeschool them. Or move. Or emigrate.

"My own child will be entering the secondary system soon enough and it is hypocrisy of me to want the best for her without trying my damnest to give other children the best possible opportunity in my own classes."

Again, you are making the same mistake ; that the best way to improve schools is by getting "better teachers". Many teachers, probably most in fact, would welcome a general improvement in the levels of ability of teachers, but believe that there are significant structural, cultural and organisational problems to be dealt with at the same time.

You remind me rather like a World War One General, throwing endless soldiers at the Somme and saying "only need more better soldiers then than plan will work brilliantly" ; with no apparent grasp that the plan itself is completely broken.

Which school *are* you from ? Are you the St Teilo's Ceri Evans ? Or the Essex one ? Or another one ?

ceri said...

Hello Paul,
Some interesting points, when did I ever say the system was not at fault ?
I find it unacceptable that you and other contributors can make judgements on my character and personality ("lack of empathy" , "pompous" "naive" etc etc) without knowing the first thing about me. But then isnt that the point of forums, the ability to have an unqualified rant ?
On that point, yes, there are a million and one improvements that need to be made to our school system and in many ways it may be broken........
BUT and heres the important point Paul, what we need are solutions ,not closed negative statements which will never lead to any change in the system.
I may be "a first world war general throwing endless troops at the line" , I never said I was a manager. But at least I havent packed up camp buggered off and left them to rot because theres no point anyway as you seem to be implying.

Paul said...

"when did I ever say the system was not at fault ?"

You didn't. You have, however, continually implied the opposite ; i.e. comments about "not being able to get good enough quality teachers" (para.)

"lack of empathy"

Anyone who (apparently) cannot conceive that a teacher may have difficulty in a struggling school without necessarily failing themselves could reasonably be said to lack empathy.

"naive"

It's remarkably naive to assume all schools have handy empty classrooms and that the pupil left behind alone won't wreck the place, for a start. I wonder if you've actually tried this.

"..... without knowing the first thing about me. But then isnt that the point of forums, the ability to have an unqualified rant ?"

We do know the first thing about you (assuming here you are Ceri Evans off the radio, of course), from your own comments and writings. (I would agree with you over "pompous" which may be unfair). It may be you don't hold these views, or they were misrepresented or shortened on the broadcast, but you haven't said this is the case.

"BUT and heres the important point Paul, what we need are solutions ,not closed negative statements which will never lead to any change in the system."

Simply blaming problems on not enough quality teachers is something which will never lead to improvements.

It's really a total copout to suggest that the problems are down to the quality of the teachers. Yes, if they were all superteachers it might work, but you aren't going to get that, even if you train every single person in the country.

As for me I can only presume you are referring to the idea that the system is seriously broken. It's not a closed negative statement, it's a statement of position. It's not true of all schools, but an increasing number are in serious problems.

There are many things that could be done, but there is an absolute unwillingness to do them amongst those who set policy (not referring to you here), who prefer to spin and lie that "everything is all right" "exam results are the best ever" and the problems are down to "bad teaching".

Your comments could reasonably be said to implicitly reinforce that point.

Teachers have many ideas for making things better - some of which are about making teachers "better", and some of which are about the way schools are organised and run. Teachers are not saying that they can't improve, but that the failings are not all down to the teachers, and that there are some schools in which only a very few can effectively operate. Mr Chalk and Old Andrew (two bloggers) both describe such schools very well.

This body of opinion is largely ignored in favour of the government approach of "you haven't followed our brilliant plan well enough".

"I may be "a first world war general throwing endless troops at the line" , I never said I was a manager."

The solution on the Somme was to see things as they were, not assuming that all the wonderful ideas worked as a given.

The solution is not to do what our wonderful government does, which is to blame the "troops" for not being sufficiently excellent, but to actually admit that the plan was sh1te.

As with much in DFSC/OFSTED land, there is a total refusal to accept this (again, a good parallel with the Somme)

"But at least I havent packed up camp buggered off and left them to rot because theres no point anyway as you seem to be implying."

No, what you appear to be doing, and there has been very little to suggest otherwise, is blaming the failure of the "offensive" on the poor quality of the troops.

You say you can't get good quality teachers ; it doesn't seem to occur to you that you may be approaching the problem from completely the wrong direction. Is it really likely that all 32 of those teachers were that bad ?

ceri said...

Hello paul,

Again some good observations,I am currently too tired to argue with you, lost another teacher today ( so make that count 33). I do not blame teachers for any of the problemns in schools, I just wish there were more of them. I dont mean "superteachers" whoever & whatever they are either just a steady supply of keen enthusiastic teachers willing to do the job would be great.

Anonymous said...

So many judgements made from such a short debate. As Frank was correct in saying, there are many things you wish you had said differently at the time. What gets to me are the crude judgements and personal attacks that have been made by some on this forum.

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