Tag Archives: parents

Who defines our curriculum?

Education is a profession that is always changing, and will continue to change as the world develops. With that in mind, our curriculum is always changing. In fact over the next couple of years Michael Gove’s plans will kick in, with the new primary curriculum introduced next year, and the following 2 years will see the scrapping of SATs, and reforms to GCSEs and A levels.

But who really defines our curriculum?

The first party involved that springs to mind is government. Throughout the last century alone we have seen the Education Act of 1944, also known as the Butler Act, which brought about a tripartite secondary school structure and streaming into primary schools, Jim Callaghan’s Great Educational Debate, which lead to the 1988 Education Act, which brought us the first incarnation of the National Curriculum, which in it’s many incarnations throughout successive governments we still have today. We’ve also seen the introduction of the Academies Act 2010, which allows schools to become academies, which gives greater autonomy on setting wages and the possibility of deviating from the National Curriculum, although schools are still assessed against it by Ofsted. To me this defies the logic of having a National Curriculum. As Nick Clegg said in an interview: ‘What’s the point in having a National Curriculum if only a few schools adhere to it?’ It is clear that the government and politics make the rules, so yes, they define our curriculum, whether we like that idea or not.

But it’s not just them. We also need people who dedicate their lives to deliver this ever-changing curriculum. This role is played by the teachers. It is the role of teachers to impart knowledge to and develop the skills of their children in order to maximise their potential for the economy, but also to achieve self-actualisation (the highest point of Maslow’s Hierarchy of Needs). How teachers achieve this depends on the needs of the children. Teachers also have the freedom to teach how they feel appropriate if they work for an Academy or a Free School, which gives them a greater role in defining the curriculum.

Parents need to be factored into this as well. Parents by law have a duty to ensure that their school-age children are receiving efficient full time education that is suitable to their age, ability and any special needs they may have. This doesn’t, however, have to be in a school setting. Homeschooling, a method originally from the US, has found it’s way into our education system as well. As many as 1% of UK children are being homeschooled. This equates to around 60,000 children, which is enough to fill the population of my hometown 7 times over. Homeschooling does come with mixed emotions though. While there is research out there that support homeschooling, such as Ray’s (2009) study which found that homeschooled children scored around 37 percentile points higher than those who attended public school, Reich (2004) suggests that homeschooled children may not develop the social skills to interact with peers and the community. What homeschooling does definitely do though is give parents the power to define the curriculum which caters for their individual child/children’s needs.

For me however, the party that defines our curriculum the most is who the curriculum is for in the first place: our children. It is their needs, their aspirations, and their talents that we aim to nurture and develop to aim to maximise their potential. It is also our role as educators to allow them to access the world around them. Children need to learn the knowledge and the skills to achieve in life.

In summary, there are multiple parties involved in defining our curriculum. The government sets the curriculum and targets, even if a journalist is the Secretary of State for Education, the teachers and in some cases the parents deliver the curriculum, and the children are the ones who access the curriculum and learn from it. We all play a part in keeping the future alive for generations to come.

I’ll leave you with an adaptation of the Chinese proverb: ‘Give a man a fish, you feed him for a day. Teach a man to fish, and you feed him for a lifetime’

‘If you give a child an answer to a problem, they remember that one answer. If you teach a child how to solve a problem, they can solve any problem.’


Parents told head quit … by text

Well I’ve heard of disappearing headteachers, but the Southend Standard reports a bizarre way for parents to find out about a quitting headteacher which has caused outrage.

Parents claim they have been left in the dark after a long-standing headteacher of a school in Wickford suddenly left halfway through term.

Just weeks after Ofsted inspectors deemed management at the Bromfords School as not doing enough to turn the school around, headteacher Marian Spinks announced her departure yesterday. The Echo understands an email was sent to staff in the morning, while confused parents got a text message detailing a change at the helm later in the afternoon.

Ofsted officials who visited in the summer urged the school to make immediate improvements, and deputy head Martin Coulson has moved into the top job temporarily, to be supported by a team of “education experts”. But a parent, who did not want to be named, said: “We were kept in the dark and I’m not happy finding out via our local newspaper when the parents should have been informed first.” Another parent, who also wanted to remain anonymous, added: “The first I heard about it was on the Echo’s Facebook page. It would have been nice to know.”

Mrs Spinks is the second headteacher in the borough to leave in a week, with Woodlands School in Basildon also having a reshuffle, as revealed in the Echo.

A statement from Essex County Council praised Mrs Spinks’ efforts in her four years at the school, but revealed that while the school will begin the search for a new head in 2014, it may be as long as September before someone permanent is in place. The statement said: “Mr Coulson has taught at Bromfords for 20 years and is held in very high regard by staff, students and governors. Mr Coulson will not be acting simply as a caretaker, but will be working proactively to move the school forward. We are keen to ensure the school moves rapidly to an improved Ofsted assessment and are confident the changes we are making will ensure this will be achieved as quickly as possible. The team drafted in to help Mr Coulson are Richard Westergreen-Thorne, a retired headteacher with a track record in school improvement, and Christian Cavanagh, headteacher at Debden Park School, in Loughton.”

‘Mindless’ parents in school parking row

This post comes from the Lancashire Evening Post. I just had to post this as I was completely shocked.

Drivers have been branded “mindless and stupid” for driving on footpaths by a Chorley school. It is claimed mothers with children in prams were put at risk in Buckshaw Village.

The incident happened when a lorry was parked blocking Unity Way outside Trinity CE/Methodist Primary School.

Instead of waiting for the lorry to move, parents reportedly took it upon themselves to drive over the public footpath, passing a children’s play area, so they could leave the school. Shocked county councillor Mark Perks said: “This is a real act of stupidity and irresponsible. People could have been hurt, and it goes against every health and safety law. The worst part is that it was parents from the school who were the drivers.”

The incident was reported to the police and Coun Perks has also urged the school, where he is a governor, to highlight the incident to parents. He said: “The school publishes a weekly newsletter, and the parents need to be told this simply cannot happen. This was a mindless act and a real act of stupidity.”

The headteacher at Trinity CE/Methodist Primary School, Jill Wright, was unavailable for comment.

I cannot believe I’m seeing this. We are seeing parents acting irresponsibly in what is effectively a death machine. What kind of example does that set for our children? Not generalising or blaming parents entirely, but it sure gives a pretty dire role model, which could be a major factor in why there are plenty of incidents involving younger drivers on our roads.

Parents of children in free schools prefer council input

As we’re all aware, free schools and academies are outside of Local Authority control and do not have to follow the National Curriculum, despite being assessed against it.

It would seem that parents who send their children to free schools would like to have council input. A huge majority of parents who send their children to free schools in London believe the schools should be subject to greater oversight, according to a YouGov opinion poll.

The survey found that 91% of parents with a child at a free school think local authorities have a key role in ensuring high standards. Free schools may be set up by parents or private companies, and are state-funded but outside local authority control.

The poll indicated widespread support for local authorities: 78% of parents praised the council-run school admissions process as “easy”. It comes amid controversy over free schools, which were thrust into the spotlight last month when Derby’s Al-Madinah school was called dysfunctional by Ofsted and threatened with closure.

A row has erupted over a proposed free school in Islington, London, on a site earmarked for social housing. Nick Ward, a teacher at Bethnal Green Academy, said: “Islington does not need a school run by a private consortium, taking resources from well-performing local schools, without the control of local democracy and staffed by potentially unqualified teachers, but it does need more social housing.”

This to me sounds like parents don’t believe free schools to be as all singing all dancing as Michael Gove is hoping. Local Authority supervision is important as it allows close monitoring of performance of these institutions and bring support to schools not making the mark. Those who read my blog on my take on academies (https://markmelaney.wordpress.com/2013/10/16/academies-my-take/) will know that without LA present, support can and often is very limited or indeed non-existent, exposing these schools to closure, which will affect the parents in terms of finding a new school for their child in an area with limited places. It is understandable knowing this why parents would want the LA supervising.

Tutor trend sweeping the playground

In this world, there has been a new trend in the world of education and parenting – tutors. We’re going tutor mad in an effort to supplement our kids learning! This isn’t just on weekends or evenings either, some parents are even getting tutors in during the school day!

Tutors come into their own when children are approaching exams. There are areas of Britain, especially those with selective education, where a tutor is de rigueur if your child has any chance of passing. It’s not just the skills involved, it’s the technique, the knack: and that’s what they deliver. There are tutors out there with lengthy waiting lists, and when the chairman of the newly formed Tutors’ Association, Thomas Maher, says his members have to pledge to be candid with parents about their child’s ability or potential, you bet they’ll do that: why wouldn’t they? They want results, and for every no-hoper they kick off the 11-plus course, there are another 10 kids eager to get a look in. They certainly are not going to be short of work anytime soon.

Tutoring isn’t just a UK trend either, it’s happening all over the world. Given the preponderance of ambitious middle-class parents across the world, that doesn’t surprise me. Nothing is as contagious as parental anxiety: where one mother or father is worrying about his or her child, you can bet there will be others doing just the same. If a child in your offspring’s class gets a tutor, suddenly everyone is at it. It spreads around like a viral email advertising all sorts of junk nobody wants. Nothing eats away at any of us like the possibility that our child isn’t getting every possible opportunity – and that’s not cultural, it’s human instinct. If a tutor can advantage your child, and you can afford it, you would be willing to pay for it. It’s that emotion and instinct that gives these tutors the work and opportunity to make money out of us.

The downside, of course, is that not everyone can afford it. And there’s the rub: because education is already far from equitable, and the metaphoric rise of tutors is only going to put the cause back. Being able to pay a tutor means parents can advantage their state school-educated children; what’s more, their investment improves the exam results of the children’s school, further muddying the waters. Tutoring heaps inequality on inequality; it adds an invisible advantage that skews the genuine quality of a school’s teaching and gives some children chances others don’t get. We live in a market economy, so as with private schools, private tutors are part of our economic landscape. But whatever their merits for an individual child, we need to be aware of their effect across an entire population. While it is not something I’m in favour of, tutors are here to stay while parents continue to believe in them and the success that they can bring. It’s part of culture now.