Tag Archives: England

Our lowest attainers; how can we support them?

17 Apr

(1)       The Wood and the Trees

If the overarching objective of a business is to generate profit, that of a school is to ensure that young people are well educated and take their places confidently in adult society.   In 1997, the late Professor Ted Wragg of Exeter University proposed in A Cubic Curriculum a multi-dimension view of what it is to be “well educated” founded on four propositions.

(a)        First, education must incorporate a vision of the future.  If it doesn’t, we will be ill-serving the children in our care.   To cater for this, we have to take account of what will be affecting their lives, but not be wholly bound by it.   For instance, if they are living in the mountains, children need to learn the art of climbing and managing the heights. This does not mean that they may not at some time move down to the plains.

(b)        Second, they have to meet the increasing demands of citizens living in a shrinking world which continues to expand in population – currently standing at 7 billion people.  Employers require higher qualifications in a constantly changing environment.

(c)        Third, because of the increasing complexity in which we live, children need to be taught how to learn so that they can adapt to new developments.  How they learn is at least as important as what is learnt.

(d)        Finally, the curriculum has to be viewed as multi-faceted and not one-dimensional.   Yes, it has to incorporate subject matter but needs to go beyond that and include skills, attitudes, values, behaviour and beliefs.

Within their classrooms, good teachers teach the subjects – e.g. English and mathematics – in cross-curricular themes (such as developing young people’s thinking skills and imaginations, among other things) using a pedagogy that stimulates rather than stultifies the young – deploying a range of methods – such as telling, team-working, practising and imitating.

That’s the wood of which we may be losing sight because we have been obsessing with the trees – i.e. the stubborn fact that 25% of our youngsters leave schools without the basic proficiency – i.e. level 2 or GCSE at grade C – in English and mathematics.   In Sweden it is 14%, in Canada – 12% and in the USA – 11%.   Altogether, 4% of young people leave school without a single GCSE at even Grade G.

The challenge for us is to keep the overarching objectives for education (the wood) in mind while not neglecting the basics (i.e. the trees) that includes helping children develop a good command of literacy and numeracy.  If children are unable to read, write, add up and subtract, their lives are blighted. They will not be able to benefit from Ted Wragg’s vision and fail to live fulfilled and happy lives.

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Carving up the responsibility cake for members of the Governing Body

17 Apr

As Ofsted raises the stakes on governors causing them to take a deeper interest in discharging the main function of schools, i.e. providing a stimulating curriculum that lifts standards, there is a danger that they could fall foul of their most senior managers, i.e. the headteachers, for meddling in matters in which they should have no business. It must be said at this point that the overwhelming majority of governors and managers in the country’s schools have a splendid working relationship and wish to keep it that way.

Governors also recognise that they carry out their functions in a voluntary capacity.  Most have day jobs that bring home the bacon and keep them out of mischief.   Not only don’t they wish to meddle with management issues but they simply don’t have the time to do so.

Occasionally, however, we do come across “rogue” governors who are keen to embark on ego trips and cause their headteachers’ grief.

Generally, at the first meeting of an academic year, the governing body reviews the terms of reference of its committees, appoints members to them and delegates responsibilities to individual members – nominating governors to oversee discrete areas of school life such as Special Needs, Equal Opportunities and Health and Safety.

The Department for Education published in 2012 a very helpful decision planner for governors, from which every governing body can derive considerable benefit.   The planner is set out at four levels: responsibilities that the full governing body may assume, duties that can be delegated to committees, tasks to be carried out by individual governors and aspects of school life for which the headteacher takes charge.

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