Tag Archives: Michael Gove

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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Teacher unions prepare for battle

17 Apr

At their conferences in April 2013, the National Union of Teachers (NUT) in Liverpool and the National of Union Schoolmasters Union of Women Teachers (NASUWT) in Bournemouth reaffirmed their commitment to strike action on pay, pensions and conditions of service – in particular, the new performance management arrangements that will kick in on 1 September 2013.

The NUT was the more radical of the two unions.  The delegates unanimously passed a resolution of no-confidence in the Secretary of State Michael Gove.  Further, a significant segment of the members called for a boycott of Ofsted inspections urging members not to co-operate with inspectors when they arrived in their schools.

The unions are unlikely to win much support from Jo Public at a time when everybody has to share in the financial pain caused by the collapse of the economy in 2008.   Protesting against the new performance management arrangements and salaries based on their outcomes is also going to win little sympathy because such a system already exists in industry and within the senior leadership teams of schools.

Calling for a boycott against Ofsted flies in the face of accountability.  Government, local authorities and professionals are doing their utmost to improve the quality of education, raise the standards of all our young people and increase their chances of surviving in an increasing difficult and hostile environment.   Boycotting Ofsted inspections doesn’t help.  Besides, operating in this manner is not consonant with the good behaviour teachers are keen to promote among the pupils they teach.  Such modelling will undermine this objective.  Young people are likely (quite rightly) to accuse them of espousing the adage:  “Do as I say rather than do as I do.”

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Gove presses ahead with some aspects of GCSE reforms

17 Apr

The government intends to proceed with its timetable for new GCSEs and A levels to be introduced from 1 September 2015, a year after the new national curriculum is taught in maintained schools.  Ofqual, the examination regulator, described the timetable as “challenging”.  The NUT argued (rather dramatically) that it “could lead to a collapse of the system”.  Malcolm Trobe, deputy general secretary of the Association of School and College Leaders (ASCL), called for the introduction of the GCSEs to be delayed to September 2016, with the new A levels postponed for first teaching in 2018.

The government plans to introduce a new grading structure for the reformed GCSEs in English Language, English Literature, Mathematics, History, Geography, Computer Sciences and other Sciences from September 2015. News grades for the other subjects will follopw a year later.  Exam boards are hoping that the changes will include a new A** grade for the exceptionally bright or pupils having the opportunity of gaining an A* with merit.  Michael Gove, the Secretary of State for Education, is clear that the bar for the C grade should be raised.

Gove also wants (despite opposition) to abandon the two-tier system of examinations in some subjects like Mathematics and to introduce only external assessments.  However, he has abandoned plans to franchise English, Mathematics and the Science to single exam boards, despite 82% of respondents (during the consultation) being in favour, stating that that was “a bridge too far”.   In the meantime, Gove has decided to scrap plans to introduce the English Baccalaureate Certificate (EBC).

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