Showing posts from April, 2011

Emma Watson isn't being bullied. Slow news: hot topics.

The news is often strange. And rarely more so when it reports that something you probably weren't even aware of, didn't actually happen anyway, much like what goes on (or doesn't) on the dark side of the Moon, or inside your bread bin when you're asleep.

This was certainly the case in the news reports that Emma Watson, the elegant, elven superwaif best known for going through adolescence via her fictional avatar Hermione, denies the claim that she was being bullied at University. Did you know there was such a claim? You'd have to be a pretty devoted stalker to have noticed. Nevertheless, an enormous section of today's media has been set aside and made holy for the purpose of reassuring your worst fears before they can blossom, by instantly raising them up and then cutting them down, like unto a reaper. Such is the transformative, restorative power of the press. Yea, blessed be the red tops, for they shall forgiveth all iniquities, healeth all diseases, even the…

Royal Wedding Special: are there some in the Montessori movement who want to have their cake and eat it?

I wasn't going to write word one about the big do in Westminster today, but destiny conspires against me. During a spot of research into Montessori for my third book (watch this space), I kept running into His Royal Highness in a manner that suggested that he was actually stalking me, when he should have been memorising the route to take up a red carpet and practising ambi-waving.

The link between Da Dook and the world of mixed-age education probably seems slight; and so it probably is. But every time I read a website that supported or endorsed the Montessori method, I invariably came across comments like, 'Famous alumni of Montessori schools include George Clooney, P Diddy [I'm not making this up]...and Princes William and Harry.' There it was; time and time again; the second and third in line to the throne were seeded in the pot of the famous Italian pedagogue. Best of all were the comments that invariably revolved around the sentiment of, 'The Princes owe much o…

The elephant in the classroom is behaviour- until we fix that, nothing else matters

The focus of the Fourth Estate drifts from shore to shore; recently it seems to have dropped anchor on behaviour in schools, for a number of reasons; the Coalition has been talking up the problem since before it took office, and what it proposes to do about it; Jamie's Dream School has presented the casual, non specialist viewer with a smorgasbord of ghastly behaviour from a range of drop outs who display the full spectrum of poor 'behaviour for learning' (as it is hellishly described in educational robot-policy-wonk-speak) from the deserving poor to the undeserving spoilt brat; and today, this survey, from the NASUWT, Britain's second biggest teachers' trade union.

It's media Heaven, as I get to pick, like a Crow, on the carrion smoothie of opinion, fact, and fudge that passes for reason in matters pedagogic. I am constantly amazed by the number of people who would be embarrassed to pontificate on, say, technical matters relating to the re-entry angle of the Ap…

Sunday Times Festival of Education: let teacher speak unto teacher

I'll be speaking at the Sunday Times Festival of Education on Sunday the 26th of June at 2:45- the topic will be the behaviour crisis in schools, how we got here and where we go from here. It's being held in Wellington College, which appears, from their website, to be based in Berkshire's answer to the Palace of Versailles. Other speakers include Niall Ferguson, Robert Winston, Bad Boy D'Abbs, David Starkey, Dominic Lawson, Katherine Birbalsingh, A C Grayling, A A Gill, Toby Young, and many other worthies. I can only presume that I'm the warm-up act or something, or that there's another Tom Bennett they've confused me with.

It also hasn't escaped my notice that there are a few alumni from Jamie's Dream School on the guest list, so the opportunity to see some of my favourite fictional characters in the flesh is almost more than I can bear.

Still, very excited about the opportunity to do this. The only problem is; where do I park my helicopter?


Ofsted 'should be split into a million pieces, and then buried in the heart of a dying star', suggest Education Committee.

The Commons Education Committee made a surprising announcement today when it announced that the Office for Standards in Education, Children's' Services and Skills (Ofsted) should be split, not into the two parts detractors had previously imagined, but instead 'annihilated by some as-yet undiscovered disintegrator ray,' before the remaining dust pile is 'cast into the Lake of Fire in Mordor', preferably by a ruined, obsessive hobbit.

When asked to explain this apparently disproportionate response to recent reports that Ofsted was too big, too unwieldy to serve any of its functions with efficiency and focus, Graham Stuart MP, Head of the Committee gave this reply:

'Naturally we are alive to accusations of excess, particularly in the current economic climate when the electorate are, quite understandably, seeking solutions that are both cost-efficient and future-proof. At first we were simply going to propose that the body be split into two agencies, one with r…

Jamie's Dream School 7: What have we learned?

I'm grieving, because Dream School has withered on the vine; like the closing scene of Grease, everyone has hugged, congratulated each other on how marvellous everything was, and ridden off on a fun ride, or something. Like a rose, its beauty lay in its transience. It is over, and now the edusphere is silent. It's like when I as a child, and I would stop reading a favourite book before the last page, so that I would always have something to return to. But even the children of Narnia had to go home sometime, and like everyone else who writes about popular education I'll have to find something else to get excited about. It's not looking good.

Dream School was always intended to be a lesson, and like currently fashionable idea about real lessons, it concludes with a recap of the aims, or a plenary: what have we learned. There were a lot of people summing up what the project was about- Mr Oliver was the most vocal: 'This has always been about the ones who have been exc…

Jamie's Dream School 6: Not everyone gets to fly the plane.

I wonder if the program makers were aware that this week's episode ('No Child Left Behind') was named after the 2001 Act of Congress that required all states to provide standardised tests if they wanted to qualify for federal funding. As Charles Murray put it, 'The law of the land is that every child is to be above average.' If they were, then they have a strange way of matching title to content; this week we saw the continuation of the project's commitment to reinventing school to re-engage twenty Prima Donnas and Desperados through a combination of no perceivable rules, bottomless resources, celebrity supply teachers and a legitimised smoker's corner (hardly makes it worth bothering with then, doesn't it? Don't worry, they still find the energy to 'engage' with their Benson and Hedges).

This week saw the abyss of reality start to peek through the blinds, like dawn rising in Transylvania, and even Jamie acknowledged he was worried about wha…

British Children 'bad losers', claims survey by people who want to sell you something.

An article on today's BBC Education portal highlights the no doubt vertiginous decline in the average school child's ability to lose gracefully or, indeed, to win gracefully. I wonder how they came up with a sufficiently large data set to arrive at this conclusion, given that school sports days appear to have gone the way of the Daily Sport and vanished from most school's year planner, on the basis that the very rumour of competition will have less physically able children curled up in a foetal ball of misery and self-loathing akin to a diabetic fit.

But given that they actually found enough children who were allowed to actually compete with one another, the findings seem, on the surface, to be a cause for concern.

'Two-thirds of parents of eight to 16-year-olds said their children reacted badly when they lost, the poll found.
A further two-thirds of respondents said parents behaved badly when watching children's matches.
Some 1,008 parents and 1,007 children aged …