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Tag Archives: Michael Gove

Education, education, education…

I’ve written many times about education as it is close to my heart and also because our country requires the education system to deliver the skills and knowledge which will drive it in the future.

There is a major disconnect within education and of course a general dumbing down of curriculums. Apparently primary school children arrive at secondary schools without achieving the correct level of attainment required to begin the secondary curriculum. When students arrive at Universities they also have not achieved the correct level of attainment required to begin their chosen subject. When students arrive at their new employers they also have not achieved the correct level of attainment required to begin their chosen job. Ho hum…

Then we have the “universities” which used to be “colleges”. I’m not altogether sure what they actually achieve although they must? How easy is it now to gain a degree from these establishments?

Our “learners”, up to the end of secondary, are incredibly negative about their education. Their education gets in the way of their lives and the things they want to pursue. I’d imagine a part of this is down to maturity or the lack of it.

The system lets everyone in education down and that includes teachers. That is a great pity. Some learners manage just fine and go on to wonderful careers, the middle of the group manage despite educational hurdles and the bottom scrape by and mark time until they are “released”.

My own definition of the success of education goes like this – if driving past a school at 7.00 am there would be a queue at the gates by pupils and some teachers who were desperate to get into school to get access to learn as much as they could. The same would be the case if driving past a school in the early evening. Again pupils would be still there working on their own initiative to gain as much knowledge etc. as they possibly could.

Not like the Korean system and also not like Mr Goves vision which is based on an independent model obviously.

That’s fine as far as it goes but what next? The learners are required to select a career, which they feel suitably enthused about and which will maintain their chosen lifestyle as they see fit. Here lies probably the biggest disconnect.

If someone decides they want to become a surveyor for example they take the course at university, which will give them the qualifications they need. Then they will then apply for surveyor type jobs. That makes perfect sense does it not? Well no actually it doesn’t.

The universities and colleges might churn out hundreds of surveyors who end up chasing much fewer jobs. There is no current system, which matches supply, to demand and the tragedy of this is that we are dealing with human beings not goods and services.

Presently we end up with people having degrees and expecting to be employed in a discipline that they have been trained in. This is a further problem because the universities and colleges suggest to their students that they are more than capable of carrying out the work and they will be given jobs because they have the right qualifications. Again the real world demonstrates that this is much less the case.

Sorting out education is a major task and it goes well beyond just the education system as it presently stands now.

There is much more that could and should be done.

The question is what can we do about it?

 

 

 

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That nice Mr Gove…

That nice Mr Gove got a bit of a kicking in the palace of Westminster. Various thugs had a go at him whilst the cameras were rolling. Apparently Police are going through the footage to identify the assailants but so far they have made little process as the officers watching the videos keep falling asleep.

And who would blame them?

Lets be fair here shall we?

Gove has been trying his best to nudge education away from dumbing down and the “everyone is a winner” mentality, which has been eroding education in the west for years now. That’s not to say that he may have become a bit over-ambitious right enough.

But then consider the opposition.

The exam body in England – are they not interested in driving higher standards of learner/pupil/student knowledge and ability?

Teachers unions – Teachers need someone to protect them but is a union the right type of organisation to do so? Do the teaching unions not want teachers to have a better structure in which to teach a better quality of appropriate content?

Teachers themselves? – Do teachers not want to divest themselves of all the paperwork and tiresome meetings etc. and solely spend their time helping the learner/pupil/student achieve more?

Parents? – Do they want their children to achieve real, worthwhile and needed knowledge and skills, which will allow them to get a great job?

Gove is trying to steer education to deliver all of the above. Okay maybe at times the way he goes about it isn’t ideal but he is trying to push back decades of leftie “everyone is the same” tosh.

Our society is shockingly imbalanced and I didn’t see Labour do anything to address that as their history suggests they should have. In fact they made it worse.

Perhaps a return to exam only assessment is too much of a step. That’s not because I think it should never happen. It’s more like I would like each learner/pupil/student to be taught to “learn in a way that allows them to make the most of themselves. It’s ludicrous that our children go to school and the system is the same for almost them all.

They are individuals. They are precious because of this. Our greatest steps in achieving new ways of doing things come from individuals who go and look and try and succeed. Teams rarely achieve this if ever. Sporting teams sometimes do but only because the team and the back up staff is full of individuals, all of whom have to step up to the mark every time they perform.

Mr Gove should be applauded and encouraged and questions should be asked of other governmental ministers as to why they are not trying to get their departments to achieve significant change which would benefit us all.

 
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Posted by on February 9, 2013 in Education, Family, Politics

 

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Educational musings

Over the past few weeks I’ve been laying out radical changes, which may benefit the education system within Scotland. I’ve worked closely with education establishments on a number of projects although I’m no teacher.

In Scotland we took great pride in being able to boast that we hade the best education system in the world. What we didn’t mention was that our reign as best in the world was a long, long time ago. Our education system still worked pretty well until the late sixties when the basic structure of the system was altered in an attempt to create a more level playing field for our children.

It’s patently obvious that this system hasn’t worked and the longer it has been in place the worse things have got. How do we know the education system isn’t working? Because the system is aimed almost entirely at having our young people achieve a degree whilst at the same time the quality of the degrees available have been greatly diluted.

In order to address this, significant and far-reaching change is necessary. This is required so that our young people have a real opportunity to achieve their full potential. This immediately flags up a significant problem; since all of your young people are individuals with differing strengths and weaknesses could we ever develop a flexible enough education system, which would provide the learning, experience and support on an individual basis?

The easy answer is of course NO. Then this is qualified by saying it would be far too expensive, the additional resources required would require substantial budget increases, which are just not affordable. I would argue that we cannot afford not to give every one of our young people the best possible opportunity to be the best they can be. As a country we need this, as a country we have successfully achieved this albeit on a much smaller scale and a long time ago.

The first ten points I’ve identified are as follows –

  1. EVERY pupil/student should achieve their full potential;
  2. EVERY student teacher should achieve their full potential;
  3. There is NO PLACE for politicisation within education;
  4. There is NO PLACE for religion in any area of education;
  5. REDUCE the size and influence of local education department to the lowest possible level required to support schools.
  6. EVERY pupil should be treated as an individual and not be subject to a dress code.
  7. Successful methodologies and best practice should be adopted in order to provide the BEST learning experience possible for pupils/students.
  8. The pupil/student RATIO should be around 6:1.
  9. Teacher advancement would be measured solely on pupil/student ACHIEVEMENT.
  10. Schools should EXPLOIT the greater school community to provide a rich content learning experience for pupils/students.

Essentially the system would need to be developed on the basis that every learner would receive the encouragement and support they required in a manner tailored to their needs. The learner becomes a partner within the educational system. They have needs and wants which require guidance and support which builds on their strengths and helps them be aware of their weaknesses.

This can’t be done in a class of 40 or a class of 20 for that matter. Whilst various strategies have ben tried and tested to stream learners by age and ability the basic flaws have not been addressed. The flaw of course is that each time leaners are streamed they are placed into one of three sub-groups: the top 5-10%, the middle 80-90% and the bottom 5-10%. Their position within these streaming may alter depending on subject or peer group although it is unlikely that they will dramatically vary their over all group. If they do then it’s likely that a much higher position in a subject stream exposes a potential talent whilst a much lower position in a subject exposes a lack of suitability for that subject.

The central aim is to have every learner achieve his or her full potential within a system, which encourages and delivers the correct environment for this to take place.

This can only be achieved if teachers are also supported and encouraged to achieve their full potential as a teacher. The management structures within schools would then have to alter with teachers being the most important element within each school. This would almost certainly reduce the role of the Head Teacher who would no longer be directing the activities and structural delivery of the teaching. Head Teachers would teach and work directly with all teaching staff to enable “every learner achieve their full potential”.

The structure of teaching career paths would have to alter significantly too. Good teachers would not be promoted out of teaching they would be promoted to increased teaching not just of learners but of student and lesser experienced teachers. In such a system teachers would be able to gain more money and status within the school based solely on their ability as teachers.

Administrators would be there to support teachers to maximise teaching time. Perhaps they would be student teachers learning not just how to teach but also on what is required to allow good quality teaching to take place.

I’ll return to this subject again and again over the next few weeks.

 
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Posted by on February 8, 2012 in Education, Politics

 

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Achieving full potential within the entire education system – Part 3

A few weeks ago I identified the following aims, which could be considered as potential starting points for improvements to the education system as it stands at the moment.

  1. EVERY pupil/student should achieve their full potential;
  2. EVERY student teacher should achieve their full potential;
  3. There is NO PLACE for politicisation within education;
  4. There is No PLACE for religion in any area of education;
  5. REDUCE the size and influence of local education department to the lowest possible level required to support schools.
  6. EVERY pupil should be treated as an individual and not be subject to a dress code.
  7. Successful methodologies and best practice should be adopted in order to provide the BEST learning experience possible for pupils/students.

I finished off by posing the question – “how many pupils could a teacher genuinely teach to ensure each pupil received the individual attention necessary to satisfy aim number one?”

Having given it some thought, discussed it on-line and discussed it with a teacher I’ve come to the conclusion that the ratio of teacher to pupil would be around 6:1, that’s six pupils/students to one teacher not the other way around. 10:1 is too many 5/6 probably just about right. So I’ll immediately update the aims list as follows –

  1. EVERY pupil/student should achieve their full potential;
  2. EVERY student teacher should achieve their full potential;
  3. There is NO PLACE for politicisation within education;
  4. There is No PLACE for religion in any area of education;
  5. REDUCE the size and influence of local education department to the lowest possible level required to support schools.
  6. EVERY pupil should be treated as an individual and not be subject to a dress code.
  7. Successful methodologies and best practice should be adopted in order to provide the BEST learning experience possible for pupils/students.
  8. The student/pupil teacher ratio should be around 6:1.

The first thought is cost. If the current system is straining to pay for 20:1 then 6:1 would be budget busting, bank account busting and overdraft drowningly expensive. Ah but you may have forgotten about the removal of as much of the local council Education Department. The savings from reducing the number of employees, administration and regulation should adequately pay for the 6:1 ratio.

This ratio would open up teaching as a real career with more layers which teachers could work through to enhance their salary and their standing as the years pass by. However, the advancement of teachers would be based on achievement and experience. There would be far more room for teachers to experiment, build resources, share those resources but advancement would only be measured on single criteria – that pupils/students/ have achieved. No other criteria would be used. Back to the list then.

  1. EVERY pupil/student should achieve their full potential;
  2. EVERY student teacher should achieve their full potential;
  3. There is NO PLACE for politicisation within education;
  4. There is No PLACE for religion in any area of education;
  5. REDUCE the size and influence of local education department to the lowest possible level required to support schools.
  6. EVERY pupil should be treated as an individual and not be subject to a dress code.
  7. Successful methodologies and best practice should be adopted in order to provide the BEST learning experience possible for pupils/students.
  8. The pupil/student ratio should be around 6:1.
  9. Teacher advancement would be measured solely on pupil/student achievement.

The next part is a puzzle. Businesses continue to complain that school leavers and graduates do not have either the skills or the work ethic which businesses require.  I’m not entirely sure they really mean what they say and I can demonstrate it perhaps.

Years ago broadband was being pushed as a business enabler, which every business should have. Business people with a platform warned of the dangers of not having a good quality Internet connection for business to benefit from. I was working with a government agency helping them deliver broadband awareness and options for all sorts of businesses. They kept getting the same complaints and letter were written to the papers saying more should be done.

In order to clarify the demand and the opinions of business people they commissioned a survey. A questionnaire was developed by people who know about these things and more than 3000 businesses were asked about their needs and priorities. The main result provide a top ten list which showed the answers to questions relating to what their priorities were, what they had to have and the effect the wider economy had on them.

Broadband which was expected to be number one was in fact number seven on the list. Rhetoric didn’t match actuals.

I’m sure more progress could be made in helping pupils/students be more suitable for employment. There is a reasonable but neglected mechanism for achieving this.

Any school is at the centre of various communities. There’s the school pupils and staff which is the core, then there’s the parents and families of the pupils which is the first layer. The second layer is the ex-pupils and ex- teachers. The third layer is the community in general where the school is located and the fourth is the assets, which have value to the school within the local community and the local business community in particular.

Involving the business community in schools works although it’s success down to the business people who are involved. Young Enterprise provides access to business people for schools, which provide more of an awareness of the pupils/students of what work and business is about.

Learning how wealth creation works makes pupils/students better consumers as well as understanding how products and services work. It also gives them an insight into the world of work from the viewpoint of recognising an area of activity, which might lead to a potential career for them.

So today’s final aim is added to the list as follows –

  1. EVERY pupil/student should achieve their full potential;
  2. EVERY student teacher should achieve their full potential;
  3. There is NO PLACE for politicisation within education;
  4. There is NO PLACE for religion in any area of education;
  5. REDUCE the size and influence of local education department to the lowest possible level required to support schools.
  6. EVERY pupil should be treated as an individual and not be subject to a dress code.
  7. Successful methodologies and best practice should be adopted in order to provide the BEST learning experience possible for pupils/students.
  8. The pupil/student RATIO should be around 6:1.
  9. Teacher advancement would be measured solely on pupil/student ACHIEVEMENT.
  10.  Schools should EXPLOIT the greater school community to provide a rich content learning experience for pupils/students.
 
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Posted by on February 4, 2012 in Education, Politics

 

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Achieving full potential within the entire education system – Part 2

The following article was originally published on the Subrosa Blog and is reproduced here with permission.

Last week I identified the following identified aims which could be considered as potential starting points for improvements to the education system to take place.

Identified aims –

  1. EVERY pupil/student should achieve their full potential;
  2. EVERY student teacher should achieve their full potential;
  3. There is NO PLACE for politicisation within education;
  4. There is No PLACE for religion in any area of education;
  5. REDUCE the size and influence of local education department to the lowest possible level required to support schools.

There are a few loose ends fto clarify rom last week. First, the suggestion that every school should have Cadet training as an activity, primarily as a means of reaching higher levels of discipline from the pupils/students. Cadets would of course be dressed in a military style uniform and be taught to march and to receive instructions, which they should obey without recourse.

This is a bad idea. Militarisation of schools? Using schools as the ground to deal with social ills? Bad idea. Keep the social issues out of schools by dealing with them in society. We don’t want our children cloned, as in wearing any sort of uniform and certainly not military style. We need individuals and a system of teaching, which will engage those who find learning difficult or who do not have achieved access to the types of subjects, which they will enjoy want to do and get benefit from.

That said let’s add another aim to the list of “identified aims”-

  1. EVERY pupil should be treated as an individual and not be subject to a dress code.

Second is Steiner Schools. In truth I’m not a big fan of Steiner. I can see some benefits within the system and if you have a child who has difficulties it seems to help. However, there are elements within the Steiner system, which might benefit al pupils/students.

For example the age at which structured learning begins. As things stand, are our children included in formal education too early? They learn more when they are young is the common argument and that may well be the case but perhaps the type of exposure to education should be much less formal and be more tailored to each child’s maturity and ability?

Considering our aims it’s apparent that ideas and successes should be evaluated from all teaching methodologies, including Steiner, home education, independent, state, teachers and from all corners of the globe. This should provide potential improvements, which are already proven.

The list of “identified aims” now looks like this –

  1. EVERY pupil/student should achieve their full potential;
  2. EVERY student teacher should achieve their full potential;
  3. There is NO PLACE for politicisation within education;
  4. There is No PLACE for religion in any area of education;
  5. REDUCE the size and influence of local education department to the lowest possible level required to support schools.
  6. EVERY pupil should be treated as an individual and not be subject to a dress code.
  7. Successful methodologies and best practice should be adopted in order to provide the BEST learning experience possible for pupils/students.

The list of aims would deliver significant change in the way our children would be educated. I’m sure I read a comment from a teacher heavily involved in developing and introducing the “Curriculum for Excellence. He had come to the conclusion that evolution was not powerful enough; only revolution would provide a curriculum suitable for the 21st century,

Revolution is expensive and the changes would require a number of years to fully develop. Time for another quote “If you think education is expensive – try ignorance” as attributed to Derek Bok, a former Harvard President. All well and good you say what about all the cuts to public spending?

The savings gained through the reduction in size of the Education Department at council level would be used in part to increase the number of teachers per pupil. This would meet the first “identified aim” by providing a completely different environment for teachers to work within.

The question is how many pupils could a teacher genuinely teach to ensure each pupil received the individual attention necessary to satisfy aim number one?

What do you think?

This subject may well take more than three posts to cover.

 
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Posted by on January 15, 2012 in Education

 

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It’s a class thing…

 

The new “Free Schools” are up and running then and the next batch being discussed.  That sounds like progress although only time will tell. There’s likely to be some fall-out and bad experiences but that happens with any new initiative. Just as long as no children are harmed during the making of the “Free Schools” programme.

To some however, children are going to be harmed regardless. They don’t see the “Free Schools” project positively at all. You may have heard them on TV, the radio or in newspapers? I’ve heard a few comments. “Divisive” seems to be a word that’s popular for the Local Authority Education backers. They also claim the new schools will be “elitist”.  They are even trying to go on the offensive to make sure parents don’t send their children to “Free Schools”.

It’s to be expected.

We already have different types of education available for our children. There are lots of different Independent Schools and it’s “you pays your money and your makes your choice”.  Why not?

Maybe some people have forgotten or perhaps choose to forget that we are still fairly free. We are still allowed to hold opinions and we can think for ourselves. We still have a reasonable amount of self-determination. People can decide, within certain limits, where their children go to school.

Perhaps those who favour Local Authority governed education should spend time trying to improve those schools performances? After all there’s always room for improvement. Onwards and upwards and all that.   In an ideal world schools should be sharing best practice anyway, regardless of which sector, religion, fee paying etc. etc. that would be fine if this was just about what’s best for children.

Our children are our greatest asset and we owe them the opportunity to be the best they can be. Education is their best chance to start moving in the right direction. That won’t suit them all but the school system should be able to cater for all manner of differing abilities and have differing teaching techniques to cope with that.

Politics should have no place in schools. It’s such a pity that education has become such a hot potato for politicians.

 

 

 
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Posted by on September 14, 2011 in Education

 

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