I’ve been surfing the net looking at education news and comment – it’s good displacement activity for the many things I actually should be doing (marking, tidying my house, OU work…). So I thought I’d make use of it for this post.
Here’s one – a complaint that teachers in Welsh schools “lack Oxbridge ambition”. Now I’ve never taught in a Welsh school, so can’t have an informed opinion (though I doubt teachers in such schools are any different from the rest of us). But the thing that stood out to me is the quote: “More pressure must be put on state schools to get pupils into the UK’s top universities”. Firstly – it is not our job, as teachers, to “get pupils in” to any university. It is our job to help pupils make appropriate choices that combine ambition and realism, and to support them in their application, yes. It is our job to educate them and help them get the exam results they deserve, also. But they are the ones who get themselves in – we don’t do it – and nor should we, since a pupil shoe-horned into a university which isn’t right for them is a disaster waiting to happen, particularly in these days of a minimum 2:1 being required for most graduate schemes. Secondly – why is there an assumption that getting into Oxbridge is an unqualified good? As a Cambridge graduate myself, I can confirm I’ve seen a number of people that the place made thoroughly miserable. And thirdly – why on earth does anyone think that putting pressure on teachers will help this? Making information on application to Oxbridge more readily available is helpful, as is giving ideas how to best help an applicant prepare. Waving a big stick is not.
On a different note, I was interested to read SCORE’s response to Gove’s curriculum proposals in science. I really wanted to applaud when I read this: ” SCORE has a significant concern that instead of discovering the intellectual beauty of the sciences as ways of understanding the world, students will be given an inauthentic experience of them as being collections of unconnected facts. This is likely to have a negative impact on the uptake of the sciences post-16 and will inevitably make it unlikely for the Government „to create a culture where people feel science, engineering and technology are relevant to them‟. This is such an important point! I know I nearly got turned off the wonderful subject of chemistry at school because initially it did seem a collection of unconnected facts – unifying principles and a way of thinking are the essence of science, and we must make sure pupils have a chance to see that. It’s also great to see an organisation standing up for science as an intellectual study, rather than just for its “usefulness” – it’s infuriating when so enriching and stimulating a study as the sciences is reduced to its utility. It was also good to see business leaders criticising the plans.
And then, of course, we have Gove’s latest brainwave (the man is an endless source of harebrained ideas) where he wants to lengthen the school day and shorten the holidays for the convenience of parents. You know, it’s the convenience of parents bit that really gets up my nose. Schools are about education, not about child minding. I’m afraid being a parent will occasionally inconvenience you – you do have to look after your own kids sometimes. Also, whether or not you think us lazy teachers ought to be working longer hours – think about the kids! I can assure you that when I teach my classes in the last period of the day, finishing at 4pm, they’ve had enough. Even more so at the end of the term. The kids won’t learn more if you keep them in school longer – they’ll just be more tired and less ready to think.
Grrr my blood-pressure’s rising thinking about that man again! Better stop and do some therapeutic hoovering…