Showing posts from March, 2012

Why News Reports About Schools Are Often Wrong

Sometimes when I watch news features on schools, I wonder if I am listening in Armenian to someone speak in Lithuanian. Take this report from BBC's Daily Politics. It started off by asking  the old chestnut, 'Have kids got worse?' before looking at some oddly divergent data:

1. Permanent exclusions are at a five year low- 0.08% of the school population, which is jolly low.
2. Reported violent assaults against teachers are at an all time high, with many resulting in hospitalisation.
3. A Teacher Survey indicated that 92% of teachers surveyed said that behaviour had become worse.

Incidentally, claims that students have always been like this are often supported by the tired old mare of Socrates, or sometimes Aristotle, sometimes Plato:

'Children today are tyrants. They contradict their parents, gobble their food, and tyrannize their teachers.'
I've read this dozens and dozens of times. No reference can be found for it, because it's made up. Old Andrew (@oldand…

To see ourselves as others see us. The Ghosts of teachers past.

Been spending some time in an Glasgow attic recently. Not, I stress, as some kind of East Scotland Quasimodo, nor in the capacity of a squatter. At my father's behest, I was invited (read: endlessly told since time began, through the Big Bang, past the Singularity and into the transcendent ether of unknowability) to 'sort out some of that junk upstairs'. Junk indeed. Star Wars jigsaws, vintage Q mags, and Viewfinders, Merlins, Commodore 64s, comics in their thousands and posters of Cindy Crawford, all composting nicely for decades, in countless neat boxes like the US Military warehouse in Raiders of the Lost Ark. A childhood spent efficiently, which is to say, wasted, in a broth of fantasy, imagination and introverted theatrical extravagance.And probably, not many girlfriends.

In between the Dungeons and Dragons Player's Manual and the University essays I found an odd pocket of then: sketchbooks from a time when I fancied my pencil skills before I realised I had the n…

BREAKING: New Ofsted inspection criteria found in lapdancing bar

Ofstedgate: Fresh embarrassment for Ofsted as we can exclusively reveal that inspectors actually receive some form of training. This document, the latest in a series of leaks that one observer has described as 'like the Deepwater Horizon spill, but not as easy to plug,' was discovered by a cleaner in the popular gentleman's lap-dancing 'Pirates and Wenches' private room of Spearmint Rhino, Tottenham Court Road. 'It's awful,' said Olga Grebenschikov, the burlesque host; I feel dirty just knowing it was near me.'

The Department of Education was unavailable for comment.

Teachers 'caused the riots', and failing an Ofsted is good for you- It's Odd Box

Proof, if any was needed, that apes will soon overtake us in the race towards world dominance, comes today in the form of two headlines, each of which are so odd as to suggest that the people who write for the MiniTrue are daring each other to come up with the most spectacularly bizarre assertions. That, or the Gods of Olympus now actively play with us, for sport.

1. Schools should build character, says  the Riots, Communities and Victims Panel.

Where do I start with this? It's like mugging a Womble, I almost feel bad. (No I don't.) I read this twice in case the first time I was having a fit or coming down from a mescalin enema. Yet another report on last year's riot; cometh the report, cometh the righteous finger pointing. Every time I read these things I just think, 'Nah mate, bollocks; get a job' (I'm printing T-shirts that say just that, and selling them outside TED conferences). Seriously, what on earth would these people do if they weren't churning o…

Can Leadership actually be taught? Spoiler: no.

Kent: 'You have that in your countenance which I would fain call master.'King Lear: 'What's that?'Kent: 'Authority.'
King Lear
Much talk in the news and on Twitter recently about leadership, and the needs for Heads to possess it.
But what IS leadership? This is the key issue to be addressed before we can discuss it; it's the classic philosopher's demand to define our terms. Because in most conversations I hear, the structure follows these lines:

P1: Heads are school leaders
P2: Leaders need to be good leaders
C: We should teach people to be good leaders

The invisible assumptions underpinning this argument are:

a) Leadership is a transferable skill set, or group of skills
b) They can be acquired by a teachable, repeatable process.

I would argue against both a) AND b). Leadership is an incredibly slippery fish to nail conceptually. In discussions I've had, I've heard it described as a hundred different things, or worse, a hundred different skills,  …

What is The Children's Commissioner actually FOR? Speakeasy exclusions and good intentions

The Office of the Children's Commissioner is yet again proving that it's worth every penny of the millions ploughed into it annually from the public purse, not the least of which is the gargantuan, supersized salary of the Grand Vizier herself, Maggie Atkinson, at around £138K, plus I imagine an enormous amount of lollipops and Sherbet Dips. When the office was created in 2005, it was envisioned that the Commissioner would give the 11 million children in the UK a voice. 22 million parents, I imagine, are perfectly conversant with the timbre and volume of that voice already, but it was a nice thought.

What is the Children's Commissioner actually for? To represent the interests of children? Well far be it for me to get all 'technical' on your ass, but the Commissioner isn't elected by a mandate, obviously, so it's imposed representation. By adults. So it's adults speaking for children. Isn't that what we do anyway?

And how are children represented by…


Keepin' it real dumb: maths teaching saved by game-changing idea

This article from the BBC website caught my breakfast eye today. Professor Pratt (that's ENOUGH at the back. Any more and you'll see me at the end), a lecturer at the IoE has made the claim that maths is taught backwards- that, much like learning a language, users should learn by doing, before learning the rules.
"The problem with maths is that it is taught in way that is disconnected from the children.
"They don't see how it is relevant to their lives. It is presented only through abstract concepts, rather than in terms of experiences." Which sounds jolly reasonable. I was ace at maths at school- a real test-busting kiss-ass. And to this day I still have no idea what differential calculus is actually for. The mysteries of SOH CAH TOA are as opaque and as inscrutable today as they ever were. Like SIRI, Apple's inexplicable attempt to corner the market in devices that say, 'Sorry: I don't understand,' to people, it makes sounds, but without …

The Interactive White Elephant in the Room: If IT is killing your lesson, pull the plug

My name is Tom Bennett, and I'm a recovering IWB user.

fet-ish /fetiSHNoun
An inanimate object worshipped for its supposed magical powers or because it is considered to be inhabited by a spirit.A course of action to which one has an excessive and irrational commitmentAny form of sex described in a tabloid newspaper that doesn't involve two people having sex face-to-face through a white sheet with a joy hole cut out. How many times have you taught a lesson from a PowerPoint, or similar? Title, aim, date starter....the four unholy corners of the starter square, and I DO mean square, man. Have you plodded through slide after slide, maybe a bit of video embedded from Youtube, then questions or a task....? I BET you  have; don't think I can't see you, you pervert. Speaking of which, Interactive White Boards have become the modern classroom fetish, certainly in the first two senses given above, and just give it time for the triple.

By this I mean that it is unthinkable for a…

Bad Girls, Bad Girls- What You Gonna Do? Tips for Teaching in a Women's Prison

I was asked to advise someone working in a young offender institution. Because my experience is solely in  secondary comprehensives, and I'm not entirely an ars*h*le, I asked someone who had more knowledge in this area. Obviously this flies in the face of current educational voodoo, which recommends that I instead discuss it in a group of other people who don't know the answer either, and then feed our collectively-conjoined ignorance back to the class as the new right answer. Or 'share ways forward', as they say in Hades. No, I went old-school and asked an expert.

Here's what an experienced women's prison teacher told me about managing classes- not quite a secondary comp, but perhaps we can just see it as an exciting further-education academy where break-out zones mean something else entirely, and the teachers actively discourage creative thinking in the workshop, particularly when it comes to fashioning crude katanas from toothbrushes and razorblades. The te…

First they came for the people on Myspace: a moving poem

First they came for the people on Myspace
And I did not speak out, because I was not on Myspace

Not many people were, TBH

Then they came for the people on Facebook
And I did not speak out, because I was not on Facebook

Because I'm not twelve

Then they came for the people on Pinterest
And I did not speak out, because I can only look at so many pictures of pancakes, dogs and sunsets

Then they came for the people on Twitter
And I was on Twitter.

But people speaking out was not a problem there, let me assure you.

Oh no.