This morning there was a meme going round about how children who had survived the Grenfell fire disaster had been turned away from school by the headteacher. This was allegedly reported by the Daily Mail. It turns out, as far as I can tell, to be fake news and I can't find any trace of the story on the DM or other websites.
So what is that all about? In fact, there are some true stories of a pupil turning up the morning after the fire to sit a GCSE Chemistry exam. (It was a young women named Ines Alves, reported here: https://www.theguardian.com/uk-news/2017/jun/15/grenfell-tower-fire-teenage-survivor-exam
It's interesting that 'being turned away from school for not having uniform despite tragedy' is the kind of story that people would make up - and perhaps even more interesting that it is, in this current neoconservative climate, believable. But of course the (probably fictional) headteacher and local authority were vilified on social media- which may be a measure of the current anti-establishment feeling which has been engendered by the Corbyn election campaign and post - election events (the Prime Minister's supposed 'unfeelingness' in not meeting fire victims, Andrea Leadsom's support of her, and so on). I'm not too sure what to make of all this, but certainly the 'Fake News' issue, which has been made so clear by Trump and his comments on the inauguration day crowd photographs, is one that needs to be held firmly in mind.
A Montessori school in Sussex? In the early 1900s my grandmother trained as a Montessori teacher, so it is interesting to see the idea coming back 100 years on. The concept of alternative schooling for many is embodied in Summerhill school - as well as in various forms of alternative provision which exist for 'naughty' children or those for whom it is deemed that mainstream- or academy provision, (increasingly less mainstream) is not appropriate. I'll watch this development with interest- I like the idea of children, and adults, deciding what to learn based on a 'spark'.
In today's TES Ed Dorrell talks about how a period of calm in education ( and 'no' government' ) might well be better than bad government. Certainly social media reacted very strongly earlier this week to the backstabber Michael Gove's surprise Cabinet appointment to Environment. The feeling was that he had already messed up Education and Justice - and that a move to the environment, when Gove had tried to make sure that climate change was not on the curriculum in schools, was not seen as positive - lots of Twitter mentions of 'Minister in Charge of wheatfields', alluding to The PM's 'naughtiness', garnering retweets. But Justine Greening has on the whole been quiet, and since her reappointment as education secretary, has stayed so. Thank fully.
I am hoping that there will be no re-election in September , which might well be disastrous as the students will not be in their university constituencies at that time, but that October will be when it is called. In the meantime, perhaps we can have some time to rest, take stock assimilate and think forwards before the Autumn term arrives.
Post written Monday 5 June 2017, three days before the general election.
Things are hard in schools at the moment. Things are hard for teachers, and they’re even harder for many children.
Many of the teachers I work with tell me how they spend their own money on supplies for school.
In fact, nearly two-thirds of teachers spend over £120 a year on supplies for school; partly because school budgets don’t always run to ink for printers or coloured paper for projects, and partly because 73% of children in both primary and secondary school are coming to school without the basic equipment they need for lessons (1) . Maybe, this lack of preparedness is a result of the fact that nearly 30% of children in the UK live in poverty.
As well as teachers buying pens, paper and glue sticks, what I am now seeing is teachers buying food for their pupils; teachers are buying fruit and cereal bars to put in ‘help yourself’ boxes on their desks – and the boxes are regularly emptied by hungry pupils. At one school, the staff regularly bring food in so children from disadvantaged families can collect a small ‘bagful’ to take home– because with no income from employment and no benefits, that’s the only way they can afford to eat.
A recent Guardian article (2) tells of other indicators of child poverty that teachers see; surely buying sanitary towels for pupils shouldn’t be necessary? Indeed, in a caring state where we strive for equity and social justice, it wouldn't be necessary. But under our current right-wing government, and with proposed Tory policies predicted to drive up child poverty and make disadvantaged families even worse off over the next three years (3) , the situation is unlikely to improve. We must move, and move fast, towards a socially responsive agenda and a reversal of short-sighted policies to ensure our children aren’t hungry in school, that girls can afford basic sanitary towels so as not to avoid school , and that young people can concentrate on learning, not on their empty bellies.
A simple new questionnaire based on emoticon-style facial expressions could help teachers and others who work with children as young as four to engage them on their happiness and wellbeing levels in the classroom
A simple new questionnaire based on emoticon-style facial expressions could help teachers and others who work with children as young as four to engage them on their happiness and wellbeing levels in the classroom.
The How I Feel About My School questionnaire, designed by experts at the University of Exeter Medical School, is available to download for free. It uses emoticon-style faces with options of happy, ok or sad. It asks children to rate how they feel in seven situations including on the way to school, in the classroom and in the playground. It is designed to help teachers and others to communicate with very young children on complex emotions.
The project was supported by the National Institute for Health Research Collaboration for Applied Health Research and Care South West Peninsula ( NIHR PenCLAHRC).
Professor Tamsin Ford, Professor of Child and Adolescent Psychiatry at the University of Exeter Medical School, led the design, involving children to give feedback on which style of questionnaire they could relate to best. She said: "When we're carrying out research in schools, it can be really hard to meaningfully assess how very young children are feeling. We couldn't find anything that could provide what we needed, so we decided to create something."
The questionnaire is now the subject of a paper in Clinical Child Psychology and Psychiatry. It finds that parents and teachers consistently score children's happiness levels slightly higher than children score their own. The team consulted children to find a format that they could relate to and engage with. Once completed, the questionnaire has an easy scoring system, out of 14. An average score is around 11 or 12, with children who are encountering particular difficulties at school scoring lower. Those experiencing suspension or expulsion from school, for example, typically scored around eight or lower.
The need arose from the Supporting Teachers and Children in Schools study, led by Professor Ford, which is analysing whether a course designed to improve teachers' classroom management skills is effective. Professor Ford said: "We needed a simple way for children of all ages to tell us how they are feeling in relation to different areas of schooling. Our new resource makes that possible. More than 2,000 children in Devon have now completed the questionnaire. It has proved a very useful tool, and I hope schools will take advantage of this free resource to open up conversations with children in talking about their feelings and to give them a voice, particularly around key decisions that may affect them."
As Ken Robinson might say, why would anyone think they wouldn't?
But perhaps we need to think more carefully about the effects on children's development, about the meaning of the work education, and about its derivation - e-ducare (to lead forth) too? Here is the BBC article, published 3rd February 2017.
bbc.co.ukTight budgets harm standards, says world school ranking boss - BBC News
Image caption Andreas Schleicher said budget pressure on schools would harm quality
Financial pressure on schools in England will harm standards, one of the most influential figures in world education has warned.
Tighter school budgets mean "you lose and lack in quality", said Andreas Schleicher, boss of the PISA global education rankings.
His comments came amid growing concern among educationalists about school funding shortages in England.
Ministers said it was "incorrect" to say they were making cuts.
"If you take the same system and you take money out of it you lose and lack in quality. I think there's no question around it," Mr Schleicher, told the Times Educational Supplement (TES).
Budget squeezeIn December, the National Audit Office warned that schools in England were facing real terms cuts.
And head teachers have been warning about having to cut school hours, governors have threatened to refuse to sign off budgets and grammar school leaders have said they might have to start charging parents.
Last week, heads were angered when it was revealed that £384m earmarked for converting schools into academies last year had been taken back by the Treasury.
And a government plan to overhaul how school funding is allocated, which is intended to resolve long-standing anomalies in levels of funding, will alsorisk cuts in most schools, according to teachers' unions.
Mr Schleicher, education director of the Organisation of Economic Co-operation and Development, which runs the PISA rankings, told the TES that in high performing education systems like China, parents and government prioritised spending on education children.
"They invest in the future," he said. "The UK has already spent the money on consumption today, that's where the debt crisis came from.
"It's a value choice of societies to make. Education really is an important choice; that is the future.
"The school system today is your economy tomorrow, and that is something I worry about when governments have an attitude of. 'Oh well, let's cut some corners here'."
Flat resultsThe latest PISA ranking, published in December, showed the UK lagging behind, having made little progress since the previous set of results, published three years previously.
The rankings, based on tests taken by 15-year-olds in more than 70 countries, showed the UK not only behind top performers such as Singapore and Finland but also trailing Vietnam, Poland and Estonia.
Image copyright NTU
Image caption Singapore had the highest achieving schools
England had the strongest results in the UK - but they were described at the time as "flat in a changing world".
At the time, Mr Schleicher raised concerns that teacher shortages were "a major bottleneck" to raising standards.
In response to his latest comments, a Department for Education spokesman said the government had protected core schools' funding "and it is now at a record level - more than £40bn this year".
The spokesman said these figures meant it was "incorrect to say that we are taking money out of the system".
"We recognise, however, that schools are facing cost pressures, which is why we will continue to provide advice and support to help them use their funding in cost effective ways, including improving the way they buy goods and services, so they get the best possible value for their pupils."
This year's A level analysis from the Guardian.
'The small range of movement in exam results is a result of the use of a technique called comparable outcomes, adopted by exam regulator Ofqual in 2011 as a means of curbing grade inflation. It ties A-level grades to the same year group’s previous results in GCSE exams two years earlier.'
It will be interesting to see whether the comparable outcomes technique remains for subsequent years.
Excellent article. Ignore PISA. And subvert the discourses of neoliberalism. https://www.tes.com/news/school-news/breaking-news/ignore-pisa-entirely-argues-top-academic
Archer, M.S (1979) Social Origins of Educational Systems. Abingdon, Oxfordshire: Routledge.
Margaret Archer’s book, which considers the structural and cultural origins and determinants of educational systems, was first published in 1979. Nonetheless, events in education over the last 20 years in England indicate how powerful and relevant her analysis of centralized and decentralized education systems still is. In Archer’s analysis, government is identified as a significant barrier to educational change in polity-driven centralized education systems.
In the 1990s, Blair and Blunkett, and more recently Gove and Morgan, introduced and have supported a centralized model of education where governmentality is key. In such a model, the professional and political demands of the teaching profession and of other interest groups cannot and do not have a direct impact on education. In contrast, the introduction of comprehensive schools in the 1960s and 1970s (interestingly, with the pace of change being faster under the Tories than under Labour) belonged largely to teachers, who Archer suggests were able to ‘make their own comprehensive schools’ rather than having to adhere to a ‘doctrinaire’ about ‘a comprehensive school’ (p.595). This more decentralized model resulted in successful change. However, since then, successive education secretaries, most notably Blunkett and Gove, have eroded the agentic powers of teachers and of the teaching profession, for example through the introduction of academies and multi-academy trusts, the establishment to the National Curriculum and the insistence on standardized testing.
The reintroduction of a new College of Teaching could have held out the promise of an end to this erosion of teachers’ agency. But sadly, early indications are that the College will not have the incisor-like teeth that the BMA has. There is no real hope, at least as yet, that the College will be able to facilitate teachers in taking back control.
Archer’s conceptual framework and analysis of educational change still stands up in 2016. Her warning, that the 1968 French événements were to some extent a result of educational centralization, is one that we should take seriously. In a post-Brexit England, where the prescribing and proscribing influences of parochialism and neoliberal governmentality seem frighteningly ever more close, we would do well to heed the lesson that the grande dame of social theory gave us nearly forty years ago.
I went to a grammar school. The school was single sex; we girls were beret-wearing, leather briefcase-carrying, and ever so slightly smug at having 'passed' the 11-plus, rather than having been 'selected' for secondart modern education. I was really aware of being on the other side of the divide from my mum, who taught in a secondary modern. So the attempt by May to reintroduce selective education (which after all was based on a series of lies and research 'inaccuracies' by Cyril Burt) is frightening. Social injustice can only be fought though true inclusion, rather than through division and enhancing the loves of those who are often already born to privilege. Here's an article by Paul Mason in hte Guadai, which includes som personla refections as well as some opinion anbout the possible reintriduction of grammar schools.
I was a psychology and social sciences teacher for many years and now I am in the throes of a teaching and research career in HE. I care passionately about education. This blog will show you why and how.