Tuesday, September 28, 2010

For Better or Worse

Those in charge say that kids are getting cleverer as evidenced by constantly improving exam results. Employers and cynics like me say that the average state educated child is less able than they were 25 years ago. (And in my opinion there is even more of a decline at the top end of the state sector).

Why is this?

a) Lack of discipline in schools which prevents any effective teaching

b) Fashionable new teaching methods which have replaced the simple and highly effective:

Teach something and make the kids practice it over and over again.


Group discussions, peer assessment and individualised methods of learning.

I have criticised these silly ideas so many times that I feel I am starting to sound like a stuck record. Maybe I should just give up blogging and stick to working on Chalk Enterprises.


Anonymous said...

At the risk of repeating a theme that may exist elsewhere.
Could Chalk Enterprises come up with a site or list of sites where parents desperate to find additional teaching services can go?
Maybe my Google skills are inadequate but I have tried to find after school teachers for my kids to no avail.
The school teachers are good within the time and parameters set to them. I know they want to be & can better but....

Anonymous said...

I recently had a look at a school report of a 8 year old in the 1920's on the Enid Blyton Society website. It was for a pupil in Enid Blyton's class written by her before she got famous and while she was still working as a teacher.
I was amazed at how much better the teaching was then and the obviously higher standards. Of course this was a private school but I bet even private schools today don't start teaching French at age 8.
The school report is on this website:

Totally agree with you BTW on the teaching methods. Particularly in primary schools. IMO that probably messes up education more than the Comprehensive system.


Lady Virginia Droit de Seigneur said...

Private schools do indeed start teaching French at 8 and Latin at 10.

They also play competitive sports other than football.

It's a no-brainer if you have the money

Anonymous said...

I was in our school library yesterday and the librarian was showing me the latest list of 'banned' or to use the more fashionable term 'unapproved reading material'.

On the list was the novel Black Beauty by Anna Sewell, when I asked why that was on the list I was told it's because it contains the word 'Black' in the title.

I give up with some of the new ideas that get passed these days.

seriousteacher said...

I'm afraid you're on a hiding to nothing if you want instant change, but you've probably realised that already. Things will change, when it becomes fashionable to use traditional methods again, and everyone will jump on the bandwagon.
Having spent some weeks perusing mumsnet on and off though, it's become apparent that one of the biggest obstacles to improving education is the helplessness/apathy of parents without a unified voice. Many have no experience of a more formal education which was used even in the roughest state schools, and so don't question the way things are. Those that do often are seen as troublemakers, weirdos and isolated voices. Take, for example, the situation where lunchboxes are policed to such an extent that dinner ladies are tasked to confiscate a child's chocolate biscuit. It's ridiculous, but it's generally accepted. The loudest voices against it are actually the teachers who just can't be bothered with it all.

Fee said...

When my eldest was at primary, I was "told off" by her teacher for spell- and grammar-checking her homework, and making her correct any mistakes. "So long as we know what was meant, it's fine," I was told. The teacher was informed in no uncertain terms that I wasn't going to stop, and that I considered her attitude deplorable.

I've never had the same complaint levelled against me, so I can only assume they've marked me down as a troublemaker and resolved to let me do my own thing. Interestingly, I left school 25 years ago, back in the days when you lost exam marks for spelling and grammatical errors.

TonyF said...

Fee, SNAP! even if the subject was not English, (and let's be honest most of them weren't) spelling and grammar had to be spot on. Oh and legibility.

TonyF said...

Fee, SNAP! even if the subject was not English, (and let's be honest most of them weren't) spelling and grammar had to be spot on. Oh and legibility.

Lilyofthefield said...

You used to get a mark knocked off for every SPAG error. Now you get a bunch of flowers if there's the faintest glimmer of meaning amidst the txtspk and street patois.

Which I would of course never dream of correcting because that would be imposing my tightassed middle-class standards on them.

Anonymous said...

Great thread:

Anonymous 08:06; banning books! Doesn't that sound like Nazi Germany, or the former Soviet Union?

More worringly, however, the nonsense starts when children are in nursery; my child was taught; bah, bah wooly sheep.

I took great delight in correcting her and even pointing it out to her in her book of nursery rhymes.

After that she always chanted; bah, bah 'black sheep.' The nursery knew me and my wife better than to make any attempt at correction!

Serious Teacher: Spot on; most parents are useless, apathetic and lazy when it comes to their childrens' education.

We looked very hard at the state system; we found out about the curriculum, teaching methods, Ofsted reports (works of fiction designed to skew things in a favourable light, but reading in between the lines gives you a good indication of what's really going on.

My good lady works as a nurse and asked three patients of hers who were teachers what they thought; all three recomended we go private; one virtually begged her to.

Some of the reasons we've heard from parents for sending their children to a particular primary school have included; "Well, it's right near our house. It's convenient. It's good enough. A school's a school. We know someone who works there." But, my all time favourite is; "In the summer, they have all the kids outside drinking orange juice!"

Right, you set of stupid plankton, that's the basis for your child's future is it?

I even telephoned The Campagin for Real Education and spoke to Nick Seaton. He told me he wishe more parents took the same interest we did.

In my humble opinion, 85% of parents don't give a fig, as long as little Johny or Jane, waddle home from school waving a certificate certifying them a virtual genius, regardless of the fact if they can read or write, add or subtract, or can find the UK on a map, or know the slightest historical fact or not.

Needless to say, we went private - it's the best thing we ever did!

Dack said...

There's a lack of balance. I'm all for some (closely guided) group activity/self&peer assessment et al but you have to have quiet/concentrated/independent reading/extended writing type activity as well. Most are so used to doing the former they simply can't cope with the latter. It's all breadth and no depth (a la the latest KS3 craze, 'Opening Minds').

When you point this out you're told that it's a 'reflection of society' - a fast-edit TV, computer games, 'want it now? have it now' culture. Surely we're meant to be holding back this destructive tide, not clambering on a bloody lilo for an easy ride.

Mr Natural said...

I like to think that one of the reasons my son, now in his twenties, still reads for pleasure is that I read to him when he was a child. I chose some of the most rhythmical and exciting poems, and some of the wittiest stories, which often left us both laughing so uncontrollably it was several minutes before the reading could resume. I regret that you will not find much of what I read to him in school libraries today.

There were the poems of A. A. Milne, such as Bad Sir Brian Botany; Richmal Crompton’s William stories (now so bowdlerized that you will need to buy them from a second-hand book shop); the short stories of Saki (the Romancers was one I was always asked for) and the poems of Vachel Lindsay (now so far beyond the pale I imagine most have been destroyed by school libraries.) I can understand why people are uneasy about that wonderfully rhythmic poem The Congo , but The Daniel Jazz is great fun.

Perhaps I am just out of touch. Are there more recent poems that make children bounce up and down in time with the rhythm? Are there modern stories that cause them to collapse with uncontrollable mirth and which will leave them eager to explore literature for themselves?

Anonymous said...

OMG!!! Today, I told one pupil...ahem..student..ahem..
learner...to shut up. She said "you can't say that!!" I said "I just did. shut up and get on with your work.".
Another one, on listening to instructions, sat there , mouth wide open. So I said, "this facial expression doesn't make you look very intelligent, save it for the dentist. Close your mouth and start working".
Funny enough, both ki....ahem....learners, with my help, achieved..ahem..well...during the lesson. Meaning: they "achieved" the meaningless "Lesson objective" by copying out meaningless phrases without comprehending anything..well, they did comprehend something because I explained..but will it still be present in their brains tomorrow?
Mefinks not. SAD. Why am I still part of this facre called NVQ????

Anonymous said...

To Lady Virginia
Thanks for telling me that private schools today start teaching French at 8.
I had no idea because I went to a state school and the few girls I happened to know who went to a private school did not start learning French till 11 or 12.
You are right, it is a no brainer to start at age 8.
Did anyone see the other aspects of that 1920's school report. I mean they put "spelling", "composition", reading and other different aspects of what would now be seen as general English reading and writing and assessed them all separately in a serious manner in the report.
My own state education in the 80's was just so c**p in comparison it makes me mad. Even though I wasn't thick, I could not read till age 8. I only started reading then because my parents noticed that I still could not read at that ridiculously late age and decided to teach me themselves after school. They were a little bit like Anonymous said about the "85% of parents don't give a fig" when it came to choosing a school. I would add to that that the majority innocently think that the state school system keeping their kids 9-3.30 for so many hours 5 days a week plus a bit of help and support after school has got to be enough.
It's probably psycologicaly comforting to think that way when there is no way you can afford to go private, like it was with my parents and most people I knew.

I was very surprised to read that the "Just William" books have also been bowdlerized. I thought it was only Enid Blyton that had to be bought 2nd hand.


phatboy said...

"I bet even private schools today don't start teaching French at age 8."

My nephew has been learning Spanish at his private school (I believe they have a choice of Spanish or French). He's only 6.

Anonymous said...

haha, lilyofthefield, me recognizes you from da somewhere:>)

To ban this beautiful book "Black Beauty"...how sick is that. Had it been a white horse called "White beauty"...it would probably still have been banned becasue the beauty was all white and not a mention of "Black beauty" was made.
Relqax, black and white people. Just CHILL. It's about HORSES.

Don said...

I had Reading, Spelling, Writing, Grammar, Composition and Comprehension itemised separately on my school reports - all with both marks and comments - right up until I was in Class 3A (modern Year 5) in the spring of 1958. Although we didn't start French until I went to secondary school.

Lilyofthefield said...

I use this username on TES and Oldandrew's and Inspector Gadget's blogs, anonymous. What other name(s) do you you use?