Tuesday, 25 March 2014

Teacher Bashing: A Very British Sport

There must a limit on how much Maths or Science a person needs to get through life. And is it necessary to memorise it all in detail, or would a once-only exploration suffice?
Michael Gove wants us, students and teachers, to learn more and to teach more, but he doesn't really care what It is as long as long you can test and measure and compare it to some other anything - school, county, country - whatever.
However he absolutely denies the training, expertise and experience of one of the most "educated" groups of people.
GCSEs, A levels, university, teacher training, CPD, secondments, learning from peers, and from the students themselves, then working in other industries, and having children ourselves, - all this helps teachers understand what makes their charges tick.
So I am having trouble understanding any ministers from the loathsome Blair, Adonis, Balls up to this latest monkey with a machine gun,. Why aren't they just proud of teachers and their commitment? Why do laypeople have such strong views on a profession they have not studied? Where did this mistrust come from?  Where's Spitting Image when you need it?

There is a limit on how many teachers you can alienate before there won't be enough to go round. 

Wednesday, 12 March 2014

Unnatural competition

1. Our education system should not be guided by international league tables. It should be guided by every single child's individual needs - personal, social, academic.

2. "Stretching" a child to get more than a "C"! Why. If a C is a child's natural grade, why put them through torture to obtain a document that tells any future employers something that is not quite accurate, something they can never again live up to? 

3. Thorough academic research [Terry Wrigley and co, for a start] from Manchester and Durham Universities has proved that academisation, per se, or even at all, does not improve schools. 

4. When league tables and Ofsted measure schools, they are measuring Poverty. When they condemn the teachers in the inner-city, they are actually condemning the effect of poverty and social deprivation on the children, and showing up their own total ignorance of the education system works and why teachers go nto this profession in the first place!

Sunday, 9 February 2014

When is a Public Consultation not a Public Consultation?

When is a public consultation not a public consultation? Answer, when the public don't know about it. 

This is best done by private academy consultation company, Artelia, who used similar methods at Heath Hayes Primary School, in Staffordshire, as they are trying it on at City of Leeds School.

The only piece of advertising for this public consultation in public was in the North Leeds News, a local newspaper with intentionally a small circulation. Sadly, the date given of the public meeting was inaccurate, so the very few who were readers weren't given a chance to attend. 

City of Leeds School has, for decades, attracted its students from all round Leeds, in particular, but by no means exclusively, from those areas at the other end of the No 1 bus route: Beeston and Holbeck, and also, Harehills, Chapeltown and East End Park. Were their local papers not considered worth contacting?

At the school Reception there was a little display of the academy proposal fliers, but this is a high school. Students are either dropped off in cars or make their own way.

The only  parents waiting in reception tend to be the Polish speaking, Polish reading parents, waiting to enrol their children (yes increase the numbers on roll, and in all different school years). Not only Polish, of course, but you get the point -  new parents, whose interest in and understanding of the intricacies of UK education system will necessarily be restricted to - can my children come here?

In my opinion, if, as it said on the natty little green and white document, our "views are important to us", if this true, and if you have the money to employ this private firm, with its Sevenoaks' office address, then you have money to take an advert out in the Yorkshire Evening Post. Or even do a press release to the local tv and radio stations, as well as the local papers.
If you do get hold of the document, the middle section is turquoise green, most writing in black, fairly hard to read. At least the important contact details were on a different colour! Sadly that colour is red. Now that is unreadable. As are the words: Consultation ends at 9a.m. On 30th January 2014. 9 a.m!

At the most recent Anti-Acadmies Alliance AGM, we found out that Artelia used the same tactics at Heath Hayes - lack of proper publicity, same hard to read colour scheme etc. All a bit shabby, all a bit can't really be bothered. 

This fight is for City of Leeds to lose. And, if Artelia loses it, well, there's plenty more schools in deprived areas, and the more traumatised immigrants [I'm simplifying here!]
they get, the worse the academic results, and hey presto - it's the school that under-performing! And, all the good teachers must have left! 

Three years ago, City of Leeds School became the first UK School of Sanctuary. No mention of this anymore; and the sign outside the gates, long since taken down.

Monday, 27 January 2014

Save and Protect City of Leeds School

Five threats later, it looks like City of Leeds is about to fall on its own sword. The main argument that it puts forward in favour of academisation is that the school has no money.

The flier puts out some half-hearted arguments about standards, EAL, and multi-culturalism, a fresh start, and the alleged expertise of the proposed sponsor.

But actually all, and I mean all that is wrong with City of Leeds School is that numbers are low. Made low by several factors:

1. League tables prove only that children in deprived areas, which include newly arrived arrived immigrants and those in extreme poverty, tend not to achieve their academic potential at the normal age. They are not a genuine measure of the teachers' skills.

2. After the school finally defederated from Primrose, the school found that the 6th form, and all the money that sixth-formers bring in, and all numbers and potential numbers for retakes and pastoral learners, as well as A levels had been given to Primrose. How did that happen?

3. Five proper full consultations to close or merge or academise City of Leeds has made local aspirational parents understandably nervous about the quality of the education here. Then, that outburst on Radio Leeds, from Chris Edwards, leader of the infamous Education Leeds. Who would send their children to City of Leeds? Well, Chris, I did. And 9 A to Cs, and 3 A levels later . .

This school, condemned by rumour, actually has never been placed in Special Measures, nor had any formal criticism until last year. This building was enlarged to high standards with public money, with none of the fancy watch tower designs and grandiose facades that PFI has given the more recent new builds.

The school enjoys great community relations (the prime reason I sent my two white children there), is renowned by reputation for its EAL teaching, and was awarded the UK first School of Sanctuary.

The high quality teaching staff are drawn to this school for all the right reasons, and include Advanced Skills Teachers, and published authors.

The academy proposal suggests that the school would benefit from a fresh start. I lived through Foxwood's fresh start as East Leeds, and Cross Green's as Copperfields. Both schools lasted 4 and 5 years respectively. Changing a school's name does not change the local perception of the institution, and alienates those loyal to it, while also cancelling history. and children don't learn any better, stuffed into blazers and throttled by ties.

Really there is nothing that an academy can do that a school can't: change the school day timings, uniform etc. But there is one big thing: they can lower the teachers' pay. And that is exactly what Leeds City College is presently consulting on for it's own.

Meantime, City of Leeds has a new headteacher,  and is now host to the Lighthouse School, and to the Leeds ArtForms Music Service, both of whom pay rent and who enjoy the friendly atmosphere and the good behaviour of the students. It has also re-acquired the CLC, and with an almost rural city centre location, is ideally placed for conferences etc.

This school is already back on the up, and does not require to be bribed into giving all its land and its building and control of all its staff to an FE college, whose head is coincidentally on the Interim Governing Body [an undemocratically group of people, who represent neither school staff nor the local community].

Friday, 27 December 2013

Everybody expects the Ofsted Inquisition

Everybody expects the Ofsted Inquisition

letters | Published in TES magazine on 6 December, 2013 | By: Victoria Jaquiss
I see that the Inquisition has found its way to Nottingham, with schools inspectorate for England Ofsted blasting the whole town. You have to conclude that if so many groups of dedicated, experienced and trained professionals aren't getting the right answers, then Ofsted is probably asking the wrong questions.
There is more to life than exam results and academic success. Parents are obliged to send their children to school, and the least they can expect is that the school will take care of all their needs - social, personal, academic, sporting, creative. Children should not all be asked to jump through the same hoops. They have different requirements and different abilities.
Especially in a world when a job is not guaranteed, it is more important than ever that the personal and creative needs of every child are addressed. And it's high time that we all stood up to this government, refused to set Sats exams and refused entry to Ofsted at the school gates.
Whatever its original purpose, Ofsted is now a thoroughly nasty instrument of government, keeping us all in a state of terror. We ask our children not to give in to bullies, so why do we?
Victoria Jaquiss, Teacher and fellow of the Royal Society for the Encouragement of Arts, Manufactures and Commerce.

Tuesday, 17 December 2013

Gove Will get the Education System he deserves; sadly, we will get the education system that he deserves . .

Who says kids are underperforming? Only people who have a vested interest in rubbishing teachers. 

How can you compare one country against another; one child against another? Why make children, or even countries jump through the same hoops when they come: countries and kids, in different shapes and sizes, with different needs at different times, and are at different stages of their development?

Trotting the old lines about getting the basics right gets us nowhere. You're not advantaging every child; you're giving industry a bigger pool of candidates to dip into, and thus, a bigger group of would-be workers to reject. What all this Maths and English if there's no job, or if your job requires a different type of basics? 

What the politicians and the public pronouncers don't know are the subtleties of teaching even these basics. Good English teaching is enhanced by good Music teaching, for example. A top mathematician is not much use to themselves or society if they have no morals, or if they are a bully? You can't just open children up and pour knowledge in. You must motivate them to want to learn; and really the more of one subject that you try to force in, the more they are likely to resent and resist.

Children, and countries also develop and mature at different rates, and measuring everyone at the same age is the most pointless, damaging, dangerous, ignorant thing to do. You learn nothing by it, and, if you then go on to make decisions based on these bizarre and unscientific measurements, you waste time, money and everyone's lives.

When the experts: teachers, teacher-trainers, professionals, teacher-unions - when these people speak out against the SATS, the Ofsteds, the academies and the like, the public pronouncers close their ears because it doesn't suit their arguments and their plans. They rubbish the very people that they really need to keep motivated. The best teachers will leave the profession and by the time the UK education has really fallen apart, Gove and henchmen will safely tucked up in their clubs. 

Saturday, 7 December 2013

Who are we competing against, and why!

Any Answers  read my email and phoned me up - did  I want to speak? I opined that I hadn't got over the first time. I wrote this below, and ended with some personal info to prove that highly qualified teachers were in the inner-city, and trying hard to stay there!

One of the greatest damage done to school children, especially inner-city, poor school children is the careless, ignorant, unresearched talk that comes from people in power [ie MPs] on the lines of "We need to get the best teachers into the poorest schools". 

Well, we were there, still are there - teachers admired their city-over by people in the business, people in the know. We are people with Advanced Skills teacher status, published authors, people with awards and all the right qualifications. 

When children in poverty, when newly arrived monoglot, and often traumatised immigrants don't make the grades, they need the special kind of teaching that correctly identifies the need for academic teaching combined with counselling, personal support; they need someone who cares. They don't need to be pushed into the grade race. And the "social mobility", ie removing them from their families should only be considered carefully.

But careless talk cost teachers' careers and lives, demoralises the profession, closes their schools and hands them over to capitalists, who can only measure a school by its exam grades. 

I expect nothing better from this dangerous Tory government,  but I despair when a so-called Labour spokesman or woman trots out the trite and simplistic statements like "Pisa is a wake -up call" [actually that was Rachel Reeves on Questiontime, -  they are all at it!]. Why can't somebody in power challenge the whole sorry set of assertions and assumptions?
Here's some thoughts:
1. Wales dropped Ofsted; therefore it dropped standards. Scientifically proven? No.
2. UK/England is dropping behind its "competitors". Since when were other countries in a different stage of their educational development, our competitors?
3. PISA makes us 28th or whatever in the world. What is PISA? How is it calculated? What does it matter?
4. South Korea has great grades and great young suicides. Is this a good thing?
5. What is education for - industry or people?
6.What can't the professionals be trusted? Why are they [we] always regarded as the opposition?

Cheers, Victoria Jaquiss
behaviour management specialist
co-author of "Including SEN in the Curriculum: Music" published David Fulton's 2005
author of the "Foxwood Songsheets"
writer of articles and reviews in various music and Special Needs magazines
nationally recognised trainer of teaching steel pans 
life-long inner-city teacher 
active NUT and MU member
education campaigner