Children need time and space to grow. The early onset of institutional education does little or nothing to support this notion. Read an Australian view - here.
Children need time and space to grow. The early onset of institutional education does little or nothing to support this notion. Read an Australian view - here.
Photo: An upside-down look at the World
On 29th September last year and again on 5th November I wrote about the idea that institutional education the way it stands in England was in real danger of stealing childhood. My PLN today (Tricia Neal) pointed me towards an Independent article published on 12 January 2014 - ‘Give childhood back to children: if we want our offspring to have happy, productive and moral lives, we must allow more time for play, not less.’
It is a good read in support of my argument.
The scores are in and governments all around the world will be trying to justify their position … The east rules … as far as these tests are concerned … but what price have their young people paid to be at the top of the tree. Reports suggest that in Korea (5th in the list) children come home from school and then go to a night school to work more … sometimes up to 14 hours a day.
Is this really what anyone would want for their children? See my last post for my views on education stealing childhood.
I suppose now we are in for a time of gnashing of teeth and back to basics. Liz Truss has come out in favour of text books. I suppose technology will take a hit next. The Finns will certainly suffer the slings and arrows … and I suspect teachers in many countries will be told again that they are not good enough.
Think its time to go and have a long lie down … lies, damn lies and statistics !
But that would be just too easy.
Teachers don’t become teachers to fail their pupils. They have a passion to educate and they do this to the best of their ability. The best of the best collaborate, cooperate and learn from each other by watching what works and sharing ideas and expertise. The Pisa scores are not meaningless they just don’t tell the whole story.
And just to prove me wrong Mr Gove has come out in praise of teachers … here is his ‘wish list’
There is no single intervention - or single nation - which has all the answers to our education challenges. But if we look at many of the high-performing and fast-improving education systems certain common features recur:
On 29 September I wrote about the stealing of childhood by institutional interference in the early years. Today I read a report on the BBC News : Two-year-olds should start school, says Ofsted chief .This post-birth institutionalisation seems to be a rehearsal for beginning ’school’ … whatever ’school’ means in this context.
For young children today is not a rehearsal for tomorrow it is an exciting entity in itself and should be treated as such.
Yesterday I read a book by Tom Barrett, ‘Can Computers Keep Secrets?’, that should be read by all those suggesting early formalisation. The essence of the book is: “Tom illuminates the global educational landscape with his insights into children’s minds. He captures the essential awe and wonder of discovery and learning.”
Children need space to grow not formality to constrain.
All at sea …
We start schooling and institutionalisation of children much to early. Today I read on the BBC that:
Childcare workers are calling for more play in the early years after a survey suggested social rather than academic skills were key to school readiness.
A good debate started here about what it means to be ’school ready’
The storm is passing, there are fair skies following
BBC Scotland today report on students using Twitter …
Graeme Pate delivers courses in Primary Education at Glasgow University’s School of Interdisciplinary Studies.He believes students who use social media during his lectures are more likely “to learn and to interact”. He is hoping that they will tweet questions, raise issues and make comments in “much the same way as delegates do at a conference”.
Moving on …
The horizon, at the moment, is a little blurred, but it will clear as time passes
It is a long time since I have been here and commented on the state of the current education system.
But this week saw the start of the next cohort of PGCE students starting off on their year and it fell to me to talk to them about the rise and rise of technology that they would experience and then utilise in their course. The sessions were more than interesting as I asked them what they had seen in their pre-course placement and then asked them to compare this with schools who had been awarded the Naace ‘3rd Millennium Award’. Eyes were opened …
It was interesting to note how few took notes electronically but I was heartening by how many of them had taken advice from an earlier session and were getting to grips with dropbox and Pinterest - getting electronically organised! Introducing Computing rather than ICT was no problem as there was no baggage and positivity was the feeling of the sessions. It is good to know that the majority of the next generation of teachers could be open to pedagogical innovation through technological devices.
So again people who have worked in the armed forces are going to be given preferential treatment and ‘fast tracked’ into teaching. And this, for some, without having a degree. I thought that teaching was moving toward becoming a ‘Masters’ profession.
How many more times will the profession of teachers be undermined by politically expedient ideas?
Just because you haven’t seen or read me here recently doesn’t mean that I haven’t been thinking. Probably thinking too much and doing a little internalised crying at the fact that we still haven’t managed to change the nature of educating our young people. In spite of all of the passionate and brilliant teachers we are still, it seems, stuck in the same tram lines going in the same direction.
Today in England young people will be starting to make their mark by ’sitting’ the Sats Tests. They will be faced by things that could have well come from a Dickensian system (http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/education-22484415). How can we sit back and let this happen? Why do we steal so much of childhood with things that are not really relevant? When did you use ‘a minus times a minus is a plus) for anything sensible in your life? When did you last need to divide 6742 by 37?
Sit back and listen to John Legend and think … just think.
“And those who were seen dancing were thought to be insane by those who could not hear the music.” — Friedrich Nietzsche
Thanks to Tricia for this quotation
These comments are meant to be biased and opinionated and are not meant to be taken as a fair sample of BETT 2013. They are the things I fell over as I spent Friday wandering around.
This year was the first time for 21 years that I was not on a stand at BETT talking to people and explaining my take on technologies and education. It came as a shock on Tuesday to realise that I was not getting ready for four days of excitement, learning, friendship, boredom, sore feet, frustration and apathy.
Friday found me on the early train out of Loughborough heading for Excel … the new home of BETT. The high speed train from St Pancras to Stratford International and then the DLR brought me to the gates on nirvana. Was I impressed with this windowless aircraft hanger with its ‘mall-like’ eateries? Well no … I wasn’t. Efficient though the systems were I longed for the wonderful high Victorian ceiling of Olympia with its glimpses of daylight. And I longed to climb the blue carpet and wander around the balcony looking down on the corporate flagships below. All gone … and for many not known to forget. But for me it is in the soul and BETT is really no more.
What is left is a ‘trade show’, and a growing International Trade Show (with capital letters to indicate importance), in ranks with perfect right angles but side paths that leave you disorientated. I used to love to browse the smaller stands away from the corporates where, just sometimes, a gem of innovation could be found poking its digital head up through the sward of ordinariness. Were there such things at BETT 2013 … I don’t know? The ‘innovation area’ had spark and passion but was there real innovation there? I did not find it and people I asked did not seem to find it either. What we did find was Interactive Whiteboards breeding and strewn with content claiming to be finest and the most complete, some of dubious educational worth. We found Apps by the container load in every shape, colour and subject orientation. New VLEs for old, new VLEs for old could easily have been the cry. And there were so many people wanting to manage your system for you money could have easily been made by managing them.
But there were really good things too … some great.
I loved the way that the system has stopped charging for people to go to the seminars and that there were lots and lots of them … enough for most tastes and interests and led by enthusiasts who were passionate about what they were doing. Stars of the show for me were the students from Plymouth University and their explanation of the ideas underpinning ‘becoming a digitally literate teacher’ … with training teachers like these education clearly can move on.
The Learn Live idea should live on but the theatres need to be cushioned from the noise of the hall to give the speakers a chance to be heard and so that the audience are not continually distracted by cheering over-loud microphone pollution from adjacent stands.
I missed Brian Cox in the main Arena, as did the many people who were hanging out of the sides of an overpacked area (pity about the throw-away line concerning technology and blackboards!) …but the idea was right, invite world class speakers … would have loved to stay for Saturday to listen to Sugata Mitra.
Many more stands this year had ‘live action’ rather than just sales staff. There were children demonstrating and explaining (following in the earlier footsteps of Stephen Heppell) and the ‘teachmeet-takeover’ idea seemed to have spread like flames in a tinder-dry forest.
I liked the way that RM had opened up their stand and were there to talk and explain rather than heavily sell and I liked the way some of the hardware stands had education experts demonstrating what they do rather than just people there showing the kit.
As far as awards and software goes for me, in my biased way, J2E have triumphed yet again taking their basic ideas and moving them forward with time and trends without throwing the good ideas away. Chapeau to the team. Similarly Cricksoft with the ‘Clicker’ Apps … always a super idea translated onto today’s digital platform.
I know I did not see all and, in fact, recognise I left out lots but I saw, hugged, kissed, shook many hands and talked to many friends and feel better for having done so. The highlight of the day for me was being recognised on the Sherston stand as ‘Magic Grandad’ - sign of the times.
I would have loved to have been in Wellington, New Zealand, these last few days to listen and learn from the world’s foremost educationalists at ICOT13 - The 16th International Conference on Thinking.
There I would have had the opportunity to listen to Sugata Mitra open up ideas about the future of learning ideas I have been ‘trying out’ on people for some time now with little success.
There are two things (in fact there are lots of things) which are taxing me at the moment. The first is the question of the New National Curriculum. It doesn’t matter what the curriculum is for in this taxing it is more of a question of ‘who’ it is for. If the trend in secondary education continues then soon there will only be a few schools that are not academies. Currently the information on the DfE web site states: Figures out today (Friday 11 January 2013) reveal that there are now 3,167 schools in England either open as Academies or in the pipeline to become Academies. This looks slightly different if you look at the figures closely: There are 974 open primary Academies – six per cent of all primaries.There are 1,584 open secondary Academies – 48 per cent of all secondaries.
So nearly half of our previously State secondary schools are now academies … they do not have to teach to the NNC so what is the point of having one?
I wonder when and if primaries will catch on or up?
The second thing that is irritating me is the meddling of ‘expert groups’ in curriculum change. The NNC for whatever ICT is going to be called has been left in the hands of The British Computer Society (BCS) and the Royal Academy of Engineering (RAEng) and other partners but it is these two groups who wish to change the name of the subject from ICT to Computing.
I am sure they have their own reasons for this but NO let’s not go there. We have/had an education system which spans a wide age front and ‘computing’ is not what we are talking about in the early stages of this compulsory period of schooling. We must not forget that nor should we allow other to forget it.
While the Horizon Reports may not always tell the whole story about innovation within an educational context they do give a flavour of what to expect and it is always interesting to go back and view previous years to see if time has seen told the truth … horizon-reports1
The 2013 Report will be out in February but a preview is available which should give educationalists and technologists food for thought and debate.
I have always thought that education takes time and that assessment of learning is such a transitory thing that we should not be wasting any of the valuable education time on it. Today I read ‘SLOW SCHOOLS MEAN DEEP LEARNING’ by Professor Maurice Holt and have to agree with much of what I read. He says that ‘it is the actual process of schooling that matters’ … it is not about right answers but about gaining capacity to solve problems and this comes with time and experience. I suppose it could be true to say here that the assessment is the solution.
And so I say let’s all re-read Plowden and begin to understand what Maria Montessori was trying to put forward. Let’s open it up and slow it down.
Sitting under the mistletoe
(Pale-green, fairy mistletoe),
One last candle burning low,
All the sleepy dancers gone,
Just one candle burning on,
Shadows lurking everywhere:
Some one came, and kissed me there.
Tired I was; my head would go
Nodding under the mistletoe
(Pale-green, fairy mistletoe),
No footsteps came, no voice, but only,
Just as I sat there, sleepy, lonely,
Stooped in the still and shadowy air
Lips unseen - and kissed me there.
See also September 20th and October 4th
‘It is all looking a bit foggy’
During the last three days I have had the excitement of sitting in the 2012 WISE Conference from Doha and have listened to those interested in educational from all over the World explaining their views and their aspirations for their people and for the World. In the delegates eyes education is the empowerer that transforms.
This is what WISE is all about :
The World Innovation Summit for Education (WISE) was established by Qatar Foundation in 2009 under the patronage of its Chairperson, Her Highness Sheikha Moza bint Nasser. WISE is an international, multi-sectoral platform for creative thinking, debate and purposeful action in order to build the future of education through innovation. WISE is now an ongoing initiative and a global reference in new approaches to education. Through both the annual Summit and a range of continuing programs WISE is promoting collaboration and building the future of education.
Mr Gove should have been there and listening. It is interesting to compare the views of key world educationalists and those of Mr Gove … well worth a read is the article in the NewStatesman today, written by David Harris - Is Michael Gove abdicating responsibility for education? The stage is set for the wholesale sell-off of state education.
Interesting times …
Today I read on the BBC ‘News, Education & Family’ that four hundred … YES - 400 … of the worst primary schools are to be turned into academies. Am I surprised by this. Not at all. This is in a bid to drive up standards so David Cameron says. The report goes on to say this four hundred will be join the two hundred poor schools already on their way to becoming academies.
I am just not sure how this will fit with the development of a new curriculum that these schools will not be obliged to follow. DC says … Time and time again we have seen how academies with their freedom to innovate, inspire and raise standards are fuelling aspirations and helping to spread success. Could this be because they tread their own pathway unencumbered by Government straight-jacketing?
Interesting times …
… and on another subject, this from the Independent, how does this - A spokeswoman for the Department for Education said: “We make no apologies for wanting to raise standards across the board so that young people leave school equipped with the skills they need for work or further study. - square up with Sir Ken Robinson’s comment that we have no idea what the next five years will look like never mind what the world of work for our young people will look like in ten or twenty years time …
I think it is safe to say that things have come full circle .. again and now it is not about skills but about facts. The ‘it’ being what children in primary schools should learn.
Mr Gove’s advisers have been reading again and listening to the people that they want to hear and have come up with some surprising ideas (!) … as the BBC reports.
It seems that we are into a definition of ‘cultural literacy’ that has floated across the Atlantic and landed in a, yet to be opened, academy - Pimlico Academy - by a lady who is yet to become a teacher - she does not yet have a teaching qualification. Watch out for Civitas, they have produced a series called ‘Core Knowledge UK Resource Books’ … check out here what your Y2 child should know. Remember back in 2005 they gave us ‘Our Island Story’. I think that they are working with the Pimlico Academy - could be a match made in … !
E. D. Hirsch is the man to read about - here - it is his ideas that are coming through and could influence the new national curriculum. But if all of the schools turn towards academy status how many of them will follow it (the NC) will remain to be seen.
Hirsch asserts that “the principal aim of schooling is to promote literacy as an enabling competence”. General knowledge should be a goal of education because it “makes people competent regardless of race, class or ethnicity while also making people more competent in the tasks of life.” This general knowledge includes knowing facts. Hirsch says that highly skilled intellectual competence only comes after one knows a lot of facts.
We have television programmes based on this idea. From ‘The Weakest Link’ to ‘Eggheads’; from ‘Pointless’ to ‘Mastermind’; from ‘University Challenge’ to the incredible ‘Only Connect’; not to forget ‘Qi’; we have more than a full set of ‘its what you can remember’ models.
I find that I quite like the idea of children knowing things and discover that they like it too … exciting perhaps … new it is not.
There was once an agency that supportively advised schools on their ICT procurement … it was Government funded quango IPAS, an offshoot of Becta.
Read here for the implications of not centralising help and support.
I am reminded by my good friend Tricia Neal that poetry can tell us a lot … in fact , for me everything is poetry and the words and gestures and silence and emptiness are, in reality, feelings. To this end, and perhaps because I am racing in the London City Race this weekend, and I have turned again to friends for whom running is breathing and reminded myself of Charles Hamilton Sorley’s poem ‘The Song of the Ungirt Runners’.
As the new cohort of students start on their PGCE year, go to one of my favourite and much visited poems by Anis Mojagani ‘Shake the Dust’. This together with R Nukerji’s ‘About School’ …
He always wanted to say things. But no one understood.
He always wanted to explain things. But no one cared.
So he drew.
Sometimes he would just draw and it wasn’t anything. He
wanted to carve it in stone or write it in the sky.
He would lie out on the grass and look up in the sky and it would
be only him and the sky and the things inside that needed
And it was after that, that he drew the picture. It was a beautiful
picture. He kept it under the pillow and would let no one
And he would look at it every night and think about it. And when
it was dark, and his eyes were closed, he could still see it.
And it was all of him. And he loved it.
When he started school he brought it with him. Not to show
anyone, but just to have it with him like a friend.
It was funny about school.
He sat in a square, brown desk like all the other square, brown
desks and he thought it should be red.
And his room was a square, brown room. Like all the other
And it was tight and close. And stiff.
He hated to hold the pencil and the chalk, with his arm stiff
and his feet flat on the floor, with the teacher watching
And then he had to write numbers. And they weren’t anything.
They were worse than the letters that could be something if you
put them together.
And the numbers were tight and square and he hated the
The teacher came and spoke to him. She told him to wear a tie
like all the other boys. He said he didn’t like them and she
said it didn’t matter.
And after that they drew. And he drew all yellow and it was the way
he felt about morning. And it was beautiful.
The teacher came and smiled at him. “What’s this?” she said.
“Why couldn’t you draw something like Ken’s drawing?” Isn’t
It was all questions.
After that his mother brought him a tie and he always drew
airplanes and rocket ships like everyone else.
And he threw the old picture away.
And when he lay out alone looking at the sky, it was big and
blue and of everything, but he wasn’t anymore.
It had stopped pushing. It was crushed. Stiff.
Like everything else.
On Monday of this week I did an ‘opening’ stand-up to 172 PGCE and Schools Direct starters at the University of Leicester School of Education. Mindful of my closing comments to students at Plymouth University in June I suggested to these new professionals that there were a number of things that should be important to them right from the beginning. Particularly getting organised, extending their ‘Personal learning Network’ and always carrying their towel with them just in case.
I was heartened by the fact that they had already organised their Fb group and that 135 of them had already joined. I forgot to introduce them to SNOT … when it came to needing help … Self - Neighbour - other - tutor … but stressed time and time again that the strength of the course was in the people on it.
I spent the rest of the day helping them to log on to the VLE - Bb and getting Eduroam up and working on their iPads and smartphones … great to see how things have moved on. But only a handful of Twitter users!
I shared with them the gist of an email that I sent to a friend’s daughter who is just about to start a teacher training experience in New Zealand …
I just want you to be clear that as you go through your course. Some ideas will resonate with you some will not … make sure that you sit back and enjoy the ride … There will be notes/slides or many presentations during your year but the important things you will take with you in your head and your heart … and maybe, on a small piece of paper … I am passionate …. About teaching and learning … and I would want you to be for …We live in a world where the transformational power of technology has opened up areas and interests that we could only dream about a decade ago and we can now make connection with people and ideas that are far beyond our geographic limits.
Today, and in the future, no-one’s learning should be tethered by where they live, their gender or their culture – the connections are open and growing . Education, in its widest definition, is the key to the safe navigation of the opportunities that advancing technology has created.
And we all must be able to play our part. You are privileged … you will teach other peoples children … WoW !!
The boundaries between teacher and learner are blurring more and more as our world is getting flatter and flatter. And change will be an inevitable result of this … Are you ready for managing the change? As an example ….Do you know what a basis skill for tomorrow or next year or 10/20/30 years time will
look like? Can you see the connections… and will you able to make them? Is your chooser chart of what is available constantly being updated both in terms of knowledge and capability? Does your PLN (personal learning network) keep you in touch with developments or is your learning closing in?
Remember when you are working with young people and the day has been
tough:There is nothing in a caterpillar that tells you it’s going to be a butterfly (Buckminster Fuller).
Sir Ken Robinson argues that we are educating young people into a world in which we have no idea of what skills and techniques they will need to get the best from their lives in order to become active, healthy participants in developing and supporting the lives of others. He says that there are 3 drivers for educational change: Economic, Cultural and Personal … the latter being the key …
The more education becomes standardised the more impersonal it becomes. We as educators/mentors/supporters and props need to find the individual keys that opens the doors to a world in which people respond to challenges and passions in a way that marks them out as individuals but also fits them as
engaged participants in an exciting, developing environment. So where will you sit /stand in all of this? What will be your total power …. Who will you be when it comes to helping the young people of today to be
world citizens of tomorrow? For now, as I have said, the world is flat and noone’s education should be tethered by their geography, their age, their race or creed.
Technology has the potential to institute change in a changing world. But it is not without its downside … the newspapers are full of the wows of the current digital revolution in terms of social networking .Just make sure that you know where you stand on this and make sure that your digital footprint on the planet is professional and what you would wish it to be.
Please read this material today … as a start to your continued professional use of ICT to support you and your teaching and learning http://www.childnet.com/kia/traineeteachers/
But most of all … good luck … enjoy and welcome to teaching.
Dear Mr Cameron
I agree with you about how wonderful the Olympics have been and how GB has shone through in so many ways … just a number of things I am not sure about though.
Is the volunteer army part of the ‘big society’ thing or is it just ordinary people having the opportunity to do extraordinary things. It has cost many of them hundreds or even thousands of pounds to support the event.
Just not sure how this next bit will work : Competitive team sports will be made compulsory for all primary school children in England, Prime Minister David Cameron will say later.
Does this fit in with the ‘free schools’ or ‘academies’ idea that they don’t need to follow the National Curriculum …
He (Cameron) will announce that the national curriculum for primary schools in England will be re-written with an explicit reference to competitive team sports.The new curriculum will make it compulsory to take part in “recognised and recognisable sports” and will set out requirements for “team outdoor and adventurous activity”.
I think that this is a great idea if you remove the word ‘compulsory’ and I love the way he has taken a hand in defining the word ’sport’ … and wonder about who recognises what as a sport in the big society … feel sure the darts, snooker, angling, ballroom dancing, golf lobbies might have views on this.
Just love the idea of beach volleyball being included in the curriculum and am looking forward to the haggle over appropriate dress and school uniform.
Another wait and see moment I think … meanwhile I wonder what Mr Gove is thinking?
… that the doctrines were handed down from the DfE for consultation … and they came in three colours - English, Mathematics and Science. ICT did not have a colour as it was too important … well, I think that was the implication: Having considered the responses to the consultation, the Government has decided to proceed with disapplication. In this interim period, schools will still be required to teach ICT to pupils at all key stages but teachers will have the flexibility to decide what is best for their pupils without central Government prescription.
I think it means that we know what we are doing so should be allowed to get on with it.
I have now read the bit about spelling and can hear teachers all over the country winding up the photocopier and preparing next years class spelling lists (Did we not always do this?) and I have prepared my poem list - headed by The Jabberwocky ready to meet the phonics and poetry objective in one go.
I really can’t bring myself to go through each bit and match it to the old bits to see what changes have been made and feel sure that someone in the next few days will do just that and save me the effort. And will it matter? Will schools take one look and bite the ‘Academy’ bullet?
Copies of the documents can be found here.
Exciting times …
May went past but now June is here and I have just read about the ‘happenings’ in Scotland re Glow and am getting more and more interested in how schools will cope with ownership of technology by children/students. I wonder when schools will stop feeling/thinking that the own the rights to access information and can dictate how and when things are done. Learning is learning and pedagogy needs to blend smoothly into andragogy and heutagogy.
BYOD is part of the solution and also part of the problem.
We need to move on … have a look at this …