Showing posts from September, 2010

Die SEF, die, die, and die again!

Michael Gove has become an unlikely ally to the teacher; as of yesterday he announced the death of the SEF! Like a hideous vampire, this awful beast has roamed through the villages and cities of our schools, terrifying teachers (actually, boring them to death) and providing Head Masters with something to actually do since 2005. But now the beast has been cornered in its castle, and Gove has made official what teachers have been saying since this hideous piece of bureaucracy was dropped, unwanted from the loins of its laboratory origins: the SEF is an enormous waste of teachers' and schools' time. Here's how he drilled the stake into the monster's cadaverous heart:

Date: 23 September 2010 'Education Secretary Michael Gove today announced another step in the lifting of the bureaucratic burden on heads and teachers. The school Self Evaluation Form (SEF) process takes days out of heads’ time and can cost schools tens of thousands of pounds. The Secretary of State has …

How schools destroy expectations

There is a moment for every new teacher: the NQT with energy, enthusiasm and high aspirations, leaves the rarified air of the training experience and lands on Planet School. And suddenly you walk into an atmosphere that seems unable to sustain life, let alone learning.But this is what New Teachers are fed as soon as they born, like some hideous Matrix, or Brave New World: don't expect too much; accept bad behaviour; let them get away with it; the kids can't help it. It's pathetic; it's an absurd, surreal inversion of what we came here to do, and it's such a clear assault on the way children should be raised and educated that it could be reasonably claimed to fall under the definition of child abuse.Children start off knowing next to nothing about the world (apologies to the Continental Rationalists); they learn almost everything From their parents, peers and educators. If they are taught that cussing a teacher is acceptable, then they will do…

Help! Homeopaths are stealing my soul

Doctor I have a confession: Ben Goldacre's Bad Science blog is one of the best I've seen; he writes eloquently and with scorn about the ways in which quacks, medicine men, frauds and hucksters misrepresent science to turn a buck. His book is excellent and I'm a big fan.

Education is also full of sham scientific claims; I think it's more vulnerable to pseudo science than even medicine, because educational theories are informed even more by sociology, psychology etc which are much 'softer' sciences than the natural sciences. Basically, it's easy to verify beyond dispute that water boils at 100 degrees because it's so easy to test and disprove. It's much harder to prove that three-part lessons improve child concentration, or that school uniform has a causal link to grade performance, because there are so many factors potentially affecting the outcome that it's extremely difficult to make any conclusive hypotheses.

But that&#…

Here's Tom with the weather.

Had my four minutes in the limelight today, appearing for interview on the BBC1 Breakfast Show (with Charlie and Susanna!). Taxi arrived at 6am, confirming that it was actually real, and not some dodgy cheese I ate. Got to White City in about half an hour- I really recommend having rush hour at six o'clock- it's much quieter.

Got to a spookily empty looking Beeb and led through the fables corridors, which are exactly as utilitarian as a public service should be. Sat in the Green Room (the peasants' one, for people like me, not the Russell Brand one) and sat with all the other rent-a-gobs until it was my time.

Endured the red-faced shame of having man make-up. I think I may now have tide marks. I apologise for knowing what they are. Anyway, I was led on by the floor manager into a set with about five people on it; not intimidating at all. Charlie (he does wear a lot of make up. Looks about twenty years younger for it, so maybe he's got the right idea) and Susanna were bri…

Television! Drug of the Nation!

I've just been asked to appear on BBC1 Breakfast News at around 7.20am tomorrow (Friday) so I can whore myself shamelessly for two minutes, while talking about the importance of school uniform. Read that anyway you like. Apparently the taxi will come to pick me up at 6am, presumably to whisk me into make-up, and Marmalade jokes with Carol Thatcher in the Green Room.

Might tell them I'll get the Tube instead, and claim the fare back off my licence fee. I'll try not to be too awful.

The Dangers of watching a kettle boil

'The Behaviour Guru' came out last week; all the right aunties etc have received their free copy. I even swallowed my pride and signed a few at the request of friends, although I suspect I've just damned myself to Hell forever for doing so.

Amazon UK has a strange feature; it informs you exactly where you are in the book sales ranking. There is nothing in the world better at reminding you that you are a speck of dust in an infinite galaxy than logging on to the sales charts. It's like gazing into the abyss. And quite right too. Worrying about your rank is like worrying about how many people like you. I don't write this stuff to make pals (although it's undoubtedly nice when it happens) but to try to pass on useful knowledge and skills to people who are going through the same obstacle courses I did in education. The goal is a bit more than getting to number one. I mean, right now, Tony Blair is number one in the book charts, and he's definitelygoing to Hell.
'UK slipping down graduate league'
BBC online, 8/9/10

The Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development (who dem?) says in a report today that the UK has fallen from third highest to fifteenth among top industrialised nations for the proportion of young people graduating. The tone of this, and similar reports suggests that the general mood should be one of panic, as the UK finally succumbs to the death rattle of a pneumonic nation in decline.

Quite apart from the creepy racism implicit in this kind of thinking ('we're even below them,' you can hear them shudder. 'The Poles. The Irish. Our children will be cannibals.') there are other reasons to unclench our buttocks and relax after hearing this kind of thing.

1. It's not a race. Who benefits from the knowledge of these enormously relative positions anyway? Did you know what position we were in last year? Or the year before that? How would you have felt if the headline had read, 'Britain in top …