Sunday, 7 September 2014

Happy is Good

My letter printed in TES last week; my point is that happy is good, and actually not because it makes for good exam results, but it would take a particularly stupid education "chief" not to get that bit at least:
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TES letters

news | Published in TES magazine on 5 September, 2014
  • Last Updated:

    5 September, 2014
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Without the arts there can be no happy medium

There’s no hope for us until the government takes notice of our dear Sir Ken Robinson (“Cha-cha-change the balance in schools”, 8 August). Why do the powers that be not realise that happy people are happy workers? Why does it take an official survey (“Don’t worry, be happy – and get better grades”, 22 August) to tell us the bloomin’ obvious: that happy teachers get better results? And why is it that people still believe you can only learn maths through being taught maths? The arts play a vital role in enabling students to absorb information.
[Michael Wilshaw's comment that, if teachers are complaining, you must be doing right is as bizarre and unintelligent as it is nasty. Speaking about headteachers, in the Guardian 2012 Wilshaw once commented,and presumably still thinks, 'If anyone says to you "staff morale is at an all time low" you know you are doing something right'.]*

Children should not be going to school to learn stuff in order to be factory fodder. They should be going there to discover themselves, to find out what they are good at, and maybe to recognise and accept their weaknesses, too.
Some happy kids playing pans with me and V at school event
If industry wants calculus to the nth degree, it can offer training or apprenticeships. The way we work now is to stuff all our kids with more maths than they need, then offer them up to industry – which helps itself to the “best”. This leaves the rest with no job, no self-awareness and a great hole where their natural skills and their happiness could have resided.
Victoria Jaquiss
Fellow of the Royal Society of Arts, teacher and education campaigner
* not printed  in TES

Friday, 25 April 2014

School Deserves praise for Stand on English

YEP Letters: April 24

I support the City of Leeds School’s brave stand in declaring so publicly that its students need extra lessons in English as an Additional Language.

Head teacher Georgie Sale points out correctly that even four years in the UK is not long enough to have acquired enough academic English to get the exam grades that reflect any child’s natural ability.
However, as a previous long-serving and ultimately ousted governor, I know that this is a long held view; that attention has always been given to EAL, and that, despite our children not getting the grades that would keep Ed Balls and now Michael Gove off our backs, we went on passing inspections, with the EAL d honourable mention in the dispatches.
Two years ago we gained School of Sanctuary status - the first UK high school to do so. What an honour!
And how would anyone like to be remembered as the teacher, the support assistant, the school that supported you in your darkest hours as well as your best, or the robot following orders in the exam factory?
Sadly, I see that the IEB (Interim Executive Board) has applied for academy status. This will not, in any way, improve the overall average grades.
The school will continue to languish quite unfairly in the eyes of the Government, the media and the local public.
sunset over City of Leeds carpark spring 2014
Worse, all the emphasis on EAL will inevitably be directed to improving average grades; and inevitably away from offering the individual children the sanctuary and personal support that any school should be offering as well.
However, until we get a government that has an Education Secretary who genuinely understands David Blunkett’s old slogan that “Every Child Matters”, children will be forced down inappropriate routes that only serve in the pointless competition that is pitting one country’s educational system against another.
And we won’t get this government unless we as citizens stand up for ourselves and we as teachers, stand up for our charges.
Victoria Jaquiss FRSA, (teacher, writer, ex-governor, local resident), by email

Thursday, 24 April 2014

Newsnight, You and Yours, Teachers v Government:70 Years An Official Complaint

rally in Leeds Museum March 2014
Someone helpfully tweeted the BBC Complaints link, so I wrote this to them. It cut off after however many words,  and I cut some out, but most of it got through. [It's not polished, but I did have lessons to plan and family to recognise, and it needed to be sent as soon as.]
I am writing to complain about the presentations on the NUT and teachers on Radio 4 and Newsnight over past 2 days. Initially I was pleased to see the teachers’ conference covered so prominently on Newsnight, but it was a story about the “left-wing” [as in a minority faction of unrepresentative union leaders] taking over NUT leadership, and was really a story suggesting that the union did not represent its membership, nor teachers in general. Suddenly in the end, we find that the takeover is unlikely, so what was the scare story for?
In You and Yours the education correspondent, Gillian Something tried to minimise the effects and influence of the last NUT strike, in particular making much of how little was 12% of schools was. Well this was thousands of schools and thousands of families affected. It’s all in the spin.
Then there was R4 Wednesday evening at 8pm with a bizarre account of teaching thro the ages [even called Teachers v Government, and in which only the Government got the speaking parts] This was portrayed as strong and intelligent celebrity secretary of states who insisted on their “reforms” against union wishes, portraying teachers as unprofessional, as not having the children’s interests at heart. There was no mention of educational theory thinking/philosophy, text books, teacher-training. At one point Baker was asked, "Were the teachers wrong to object to X", "Yes" he said. I think a teacher being asked to respond to this particular question might have been an interesting piece of balance. But no.
In all cases Gove, in particular, is portrayed as successful and strong, and his random ideas are referred to as “reforms”. One programme described teachers as always complaining. At least You and Yours got a few on to talk about the joys of the job.
The situation in education is extremely serious. The BBC owes it to parents who are not in the profession to explain this situation honestly and with integrity. The highly motivated staff who have been in it for years and will stay, will retire and/or die in harness. The next generation will look see how enthusiasm and professionalism is rewarded and not go there. [Payment by results! What a joke, what an insult!]
However, I was inspired by the Lenny Henry presentation on the OU – not exactly on at peak time!  
Victoria Jaquiss FRSA - Teacher, parent, blogger, writer, ex-governor

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].