Monthly Archives: May 2013

Spending cuts – do they make a difference?

So today we have news that a think tank report claims that just under a fifth of school spending can be cut and make no difference to standards.

The Must Do Better report from Reform says there is no clear link between more spending and higher achievement – and calls for the lifting of the ring-fenced protection on school budgets.

This to me raises such a serious question – where is the connection between spending and attainment? As far as I can see there isn’t one, and there are multiple reasons why this report is false.

1) Not every school is of the same size. I have been training as a teacher for 3 years now and have worked in schools ranging in size between 150 and 700 pupils. If we cut the budget for spending, the smaller school will have even less money to spend on staff, which will mean that the school will inevitably be forced to close. The school is tight for money as it is.

2) School budgets have been on the decline constantly over the past few years as it is, meaning that schools are being expected to raise standards of pupils’ education on a very limited budget in a technology driven age, so where this report gets their 18% from is beyond my comprehension.

3) The final criticism was highlighted very well by Brian Lightman, general secretary of the Association of School and College Leaders. He states, “This report’s attempt to link funding and school achievement is fundamentally flawed as its simplistic approach totally fails to take into account the different contexts of schools.”

Moral of the story: If you want to make a bold claim, make sure you actually have a strong foundation before making it. This claim is completely unrealistic and shows just why education in my view should not be governed by politics.

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Tackling the truants

So in the news today, the Welsh Government has announced that new regulations are coming to force in September which mean that parents of children who truant are to be fined up to £120, and if these regulations are ignored, they could even end up in court.

Why is this important? Attendance can often be the real cause of why children are prevented from meeting their full potential. I’m not of course saying that all children who miss school are truanting, but it is important to recognise that it does exist and it needs to be put a stop to.

This new framework will exist as an addition to the current code of conduct by each local authority, which will need consultation which will then take time and money to happen.

There are a couple of issues I see with this, and I’m going to highlight them.

One issue I see is the reason for this happening. It appears that the absence rate in Wales has been slowly decreasing since 2005/06, but it would appear that the Welsh Education Minister feels that it’s not enough. Last year the truancy rate for secondary schools averaged 1.4%, which on the face of it, is not that high in comparison to previous years.

Another issue I see is the possible label it brings. It is no secret that children from poorer backgrounds are more likely to play truant and achieve poorer educational outcomes. So it is possible to assume that those who are truanting are from poorer backgrounds, which is not necessarily true. In fact, I remember a child who you would probably describe as upper class who demonstrated the attitude of ‘Why am I in school? I don’t need to be because I can be educated at home!’

The final issue I can see here is why the Welsh Government are doing this now, when previous attempts to reduce the truancy rate are clearly having some effect? This looks like an attempt to try and speed things up, not taking into account that these children might not be at fault. It may not even be the parents fault. The big thing for me is that instead of fining these parents, who may be in enough financial difficulty as it is, we should be supporting those families. Punishing already tough lives is only going to make things worse.

I’m all for trying to get all children into education, but we need to make sure that happens, but fining isn’t the answer. Comment your suggestions!

Eurovision

In honour of today being the Eurovision final, I thought I would put my favourite song from Eurovision (yes I do have one).

The reason I liked this song is because it was not the mainstream rubbish you get nowadays and it was something that wasn’t seen before. So today is Lordi – Hard Rock Hallelujah

How much does Michael Gove MP know what he’s doing?

OK today’s post is going to be a bit on the controversial side.

Recently, Michael Gove MP has certainly been making a name for himself for a number of reasons, and I’m going to offer my viewpoint on each of these events.

Firstly, Mr Gove decided to criticise Russel Tarr about his strategy for teaching about Hitler using Mr Men, stating that “I’m not familiar with Roger Hargreaves’ work, but I am not sure he ever got round to producing Mr Anti-Semitic Dictator, Mr Junker General or Mr Dutch Communist Scapegoat.” While this is obviously true, it is important that when teaching children, it’s important to consider what the children are interested in so that the children will take an interest. From personal experience, I never enjoyed history at school because I found it rather dull and boring. When I studied Hitler, we had to write diary entries, which comes into another subject I didn’t enjoy. If I had the opportunity to design a Mr Men character I might have enjoyed it a bit. It is also important to know that not every school uses this approach to teaching History, so quite why Mr Gove felt compelled to attack the creator is beyond me.

Secondly, Mr Gove answered questions about the possibility of adjusting the GCSE structure and grading from 2015. Mr Gove was asked about a proposed idea of a tiering system, where instead of all children taking the same paper, pupils will be entered for exams that are targeted to their individual abilities. This for me makes no sense at all for a number of reasons. The biggest of these is how do you judge what paper the child should be on? It makes it very easy for children to be labelled as low ability, potentially causing social conflict. There is also the hassle for examiners to make several test papers for different abilities, and we all know already that examiners are not particularly good at setting questions for the 2 papers (Higher and Foundation) that we have now. Mr Gove did imply that he would prefer to move away from tiering, but will not rule it out. Mr Gove did however suggested that instead of having the current A*, A, B etc, he would alter it to 1,2,3,4 etc. I only have 1 word to say to this: Why?

Third comes an issue that has been around for a long time, and will probably never go away. It is no secret that the Education Sector is underpaid, in my opinion the most underpaid profession in the world. The NUT and NASUWT have been compiling a checklist to help their members negotiate a new pay structure, which comes into force in maintained schools in England and Wales from September. This framework has been attacked by Mr Gove and the DfE, who claim that the unions are trying to break up the national pay framework and are in fact acting unlawfully, by trying to progress from the main pay range to the upper pay range. I would question the foundations of this argument and where they got the idea that the unions were trying to break up the national pay framework, as it is clear that all the unions want is their profession to be rewarded with the pay they deserve. It is important to know that without teachers, there would be no politicians or doctors or lawyers, so why are the paid so much? Mr Gove, don’t bully schools just to get what you want, do your job properly would be nice.

The fourth and final straw for me is this proposal of fast-tracking graduate social workers into jobs where they manage caseloads having had 5 weeks of intensive training. This is effectively playing games with the social work industry, by getting young graduates with little experience into jobs that require a lot of delicate attention. My Nan recently retired from social work after a long service in the industry, and she is probably still mad about this as we speak. It is not a game to spot abuse, we’ve seen how this can fail with the cases of Baby P and Victoria Climbie in recent years. So Mr Gove’s idea: let’s bring in a load of youngsters into social work who have little experience and training. Mr Gove, if you have a brain, use it. This idea is stupid. With all the high profile failures that we’ve seen, do you honestly think this is the way forward. It’s children’s lives at stake here. All these young graduates will more likely increase the risk of these failures rather than reduce them.

For me, after considering all four of these issues, I personally think it’s time for Mr Gove to go bye-bye. I don’t want to see my job being governed by someone who has clearly no foundation to his arguments, and is arrogant beyond belief.

What do you all think? Should Michael Gove lose his job? Feel free to comment

Where do our children read most?

So today, a report studying around 35000 8-16 year old children found out that more children are reading on a computer screen or smartphone than reading a book. Is it really a surprise in an age where computers are in almost every home now. In fact, according to the report, 97% of the children studied said they had access to a computer at home, and a significant percentage (77%) of those children had a computer in their bedroom.

So what are these children reading? Well with the exponential growth in usage of social networking sites such as Facebook and Twitter, most of the reading happens there. However the study has also noticed a shift in reading fiction, news and information on the screen as well. This however is not a complete shift as around 53% of those studied still read novels in printed form.

So in terms of schooling what do these trends suggest? Well, younger children who read printed books as well as used computers were more likely to have higher reading levels than those who only read on screen, the study said. Although this gap did not apply to those children who used tablet computers or e-readers.A clearer pattern was visible with the readership of printed newspapers. This has tumbled from 46% in 2005 to 31% in this latest study. In contrast, there are now 41% of these young people who read news stories online.

National Literacy Trust director Jonathan Douglas said: “Our research confirms that technology is playing a central role in young people’s literacy development and reading choice. While we welcome the positive impact which technology has on bringing further reading opportunities to young people, it’s crucial that reading in print is not cast aside.”

It is important to note for me that whilst we are in a technology driven age where mobile phones are no longer just phones, more like mini computers and laptops can turn into tablets and all sorts of other technologies, printed reading still has a place in our lives, and should not just simply be substituted. So for teachers, do not simply use the screens as a means of substituting printed reading for children, use the screens to enhance their learning instead.

When was the last time you read a book cover to cover? How much do you read on screen and where? Leave a comment below 🙂

Superstition and exams??

It came out recently that 1 in 3 students wear ‘lucky exam underwear’ to boost chances on exams, according to a poll so I thought I’d do a piece on superstition.

We’ve all been under the pressure and strain of exams in our time, and we all deal with things in different ways. Some people need mind-managing in order to cope, others are more able to handle it on their own. Some people clearly like to wear lucky charms to handle it.

My only real possible superstition was that I couldn’t do well in an exam if I was talking to other people before the exam. This was so that I would always be completely focused on the task at hand. I would often not talk to anyone afterwards either. Was this really a superstition? I’m not convinced. I always thought of it more as a preference. I certainly didn’t have lucky charms or anything. I’ve never believed in them

Does anyone have any exam superstitions they aren’t ashamed of owning up to? Feel free to comment 🙂

Who are you really competing against in KS2 PE?

Today I’m going to talk about a term very vague in the current National Curriculum: competition.

We all know what competitions are: a battle between two different parties, whether it be an individual or a team event. But how do we implement this into our teaching?

Well the most obvious thing to do is hold a Sports Day where kids are competing against each other. But is that what we really want to be doing as a teacher? Do we want to know the fastest runner in the class or the child who can throw a ball the furthest?

In fact, what the NC should be advocating is not competing against each other, but every child is competing against themselves. A child doesn’t have to be the fastest runner, but if they improve on their personal best, then that is what should be celebrated. I was never the fastest runner at school, but I would improve consistently as I got older, but that went unnoticed and I lost a lot of motivation for PE as a result.

So, to all the teachers out there: by all means advocate competition, but remember who the children are really competing against, and don’t simply celebrate the fastest times. Improvement is the order of the day so that children gain in both confidence and competence.

School dinners – are they really?

Today I’m going to bring you an article about School dinners.

To those who currently have school dinners, the image is clear. The food just looks hideous and not particularly appetising, but you have to eat it otherwise you go hungry. That’s what my old teacher used to say to me back in the day.

I’ve always thought that schools should be promoting healthy eating, and Jamie Oliver has been trying for a long time to make that happen. I remember working in a school not too long ago, and just standing in the school hall which had tables laid out for children to sit at, and I couldn’t believe what I saw. What was a roast dinner apparently was a piece of meat that was so thin you could see the plate underneath through it, vegetables that were so soggy they might as well be water, and the gravy was basically water, and these poor kids have to suffer that.

So this makes me think: Are school dinners as healthy as they think they are? For me that answer is currently no. So for me, schools should be focusing on dealing with the quality of food so the children are more fueled for learning, especially those who are on a lower income. A recent article I saw highlighted that a couple of companies and charities were giving out free breakfasts to less well off children to provide fuel for their exams. We should be making sure all children are fed properly if we are to ensure they are fit for learning.

Comment your thoughts on this, and your experiences