The think-tank Demos has proposed a fundamental change in how schools are assessed, to take the views of teachers, parents and pupils into account.
From ‘flashdance’ teachers becoming an online hit, to boys being put off by ‘long’ books, plans for extra years to study for core subjects and parents being reprimanded for wearing nightware to school meetings – what’s making the headlines in the world of education? We take our monthly poke around the papers to find out what’s got people talking.
Two years more studying for English & maths
Education Secretary Michael Gove has announced plans to tackle the number of pupils leaving school without a basic grasp of English or maths, says The Guardian.
Addressing MPs, Mr Gove said pupils who fail to achieve a good GCSE in English and maths will be made to study these subjects for a further two years, or to take a high-quality alternative qualification, until they leave school at 18.
The plans are part of the government’s response to a specially commissioned review into vocational qualifications. The review found that up to 400,000 teenagers were “wasting their time on college courses that did not lead to jobs or further training”.
Boys put off by long books
A survey into boys’ reading habits has found many teachers may be avoiding longer texts, as they believe boys ‘switch off’ if a book is too long, reports the Daily Telegraph.
The poll questioned 500 teachers of 11-13 year olds and found around a quarter believe that boys’ interest is often lost in the first few pages. Around one in five (22%) say it can happen within 50 pages and a further 24% at around the 100-page mark.
The research was conducted to mark the launch of Heroes, a school reading series aimed at boys. Of 260 boys aged 11-13 questioned, one in five said they prefer books with 100 pages or less.
Teachers become YouTube hit
Teachers at a high school in Fife have become a YouTube hit since they surprised pupils with an impromptu ‘flashdance’ performance, reports the Daily Mail.
Around 40 teachers at Bell Baxter High School in Cupar broke into a medley of cheesy pop songs in the school’s busy canteen, in honour of older pupils who were due to leave the school. Stunned pupils watched as teachers sang and danced to classic hits such as ‘YMCA’ and ‘Thriller’ before erupting into rapturous applause for the unexpected display. The YouTube hit has now racked up over 350,000 views.
The long and short of it
A 12-year old pupil from Cambridge decided to tackle a rule he thought was discriminatory, by wearing a knee length skirt to school in protest, reports the Daily Telegraph.
Aspiring politician Chris Whitehead decided to wear the skirt in protest that boys are banned from wearing shorts during the summer months, while girls can wear skirts. He marched to school while a group of pupils waved banners, before addressing over 1000 pupils in morning assembly wearing the skirt.
Teacher in the mire over Facebook comments
A teacher in Cornwall has apologised after branding a pupil’s coursework as ‘s**te’ on Facebook. The teacher, from Falmouth School, made the comments after working late into the evening marking year 11 coursework. They were immediately contacted by the pupil who said the comments were a ‘bit harsh’.
Unions have warned that the line between private and professional life is blurring and that teachers need to be very wary, says the Daily Mail.
In a similar case, a group of primary school teachers, including a deputy head, have been criticised by parents for posting photos of themselves on Facebook. The photos show the group on a night out, wearing army gear and posing ‘provocatively’. Privacy settings were not used to keep the images out of the public view, again reports the Daily Mail.
Pole dancing classes spark outrage
Meanwhile a dance school which is running pole dancing classes for children as young as twelve has caused outrage among residents, Christian groups and a local MP, says the Daily Mirror.
The Art of Dance pole dance and burlesque school in Plymouth is reportedly offering the classes for children aged 12 to 15 for £5-an-hour, saying it is a ‘gymnastic art, helping pupils get fitter, stronger and more confident’.
Kent school excludes eight pupils a day
The head teacher of a school where more than 400 pupils have been excluded in the space of six months has quit, reports the Daily Mirror. Christopher Sweetman has left Bishop of Rochester Academy in Kent, a school where 738 incidents of bad behaviour were logged by teachers in just one week.
Parents reprimanded for attending meetings in nightwear
It seems it’s no longer just naughty pupils who are getting into trouble with head teachers; the parents of pupils at 11 Middlesbrough primary schools have been asked to improve their ‘decency and respect’ by ensuring they come to the school gates properly dressed, reports The Daily Express.
Parents have been issued with letters making the request following an increase in the number of parents turning up to drop off and collect pupils, and even attending meetings with teaching staff, wearing pyjamas or nightwear.
But, claims the Express, wearing pyjamas outdoors is ‘common in the town’, it quotes one pyjama wearer as saying: “I can’t be bothered getting dressed.”
Skim-reading through the party political manifestos and some of the press last week made for fairly confusing, sometimes depressing – and, once in a while, entertaining reading. As we might expect, education – and specifically how schools are controlled – was once again either at the forefront of national debate, or a political football, depending on how you view the situation!
Whether the control of schools should be taken away from the ‘state’ and given to ‘society’ (if society wants the job!), and what form ‘parent power’ should actually take, seems to be one crux of the debate between Tories and Labour.
The Guardian reported that a 51-strong group of headteachers had slated the Tories’ plans to give parents the freedom to set up schools, saying they feared “across-the-board cuts” to schooling under the Conservatives. But a Conservative spokesman said they wanted to give heads and teachers more control of schools, and claimed over a hundred headteachers support their proposals for taking on greater freedoms.
A reader then chimed in that the 51-strong group was no more than an “organised network of Labour cheerleaders”!
In the same piece, Labour said the Tories’ plans would result in a “postcode lottery” for education – a comment that was also promptly pounced upon by readers: “Conservative plans would create a postcode lottery? I’m already in one and my children are losing out badly,” opined one.
Meanwhile over on the Daily Telegraph blogs, Toby Young announced his intention to vote Conservative because he’s leading the efforts of a group of parents to set up a new kind of secondary school in Ealing. He saw a clear difference between the parties, in that under the Tories there would be a gradual move of education away from the state and towards ‘society’, whereas, according to him: “under Labour we’d be blocked at every step of the way…. we’d face one bureaucratic hurdle after another.”
Toby Young might want to set up his own school, but it seems not everyone feels the same way: Channel 4 News featured Jon Snow conducting some entertaining high street vox pops about the Conservative manifesto launch with the people of recession-hit Dartford in Kent – 13th on the list of Tory target seats:
Snow: “Tory party manifesto: it’s going to be ‘power to the people’.”
Woman in street: “That’s probably just a gimmick though, innit?”
Snow: “He [Cameron?] thinks it would be a good idea – if you wanted to and weren’t happy with the local school, you could set up your own. What about that?”
Woman in street: “I don’t think that’s ever going to happen in reality, do you?”
Second woman: “I can’t see it being like that either, you know: just going out and setting up your own school and that.”
First woman: “It’s like setting up our own NHS and our own doctors and our own dentists; they can’t do a decent job of it so they’re palming onto the public!”
Labour’s response to ‘drive up standards’ and offer ‘parent power’ is apparently to take over schools, offer mergers, accelerate the academies programme and end “take it or leave it” services, while the Lib Dems pledge to replace academies with schools accountable to local authorities, with a charity or parent group as a sponsor.
So how should our schools be controlled? Is this even the most important education question? And which of the parties’ policies will actually see the light of day, and will we have to live with until the next election?
How do you deal with the parent in the playground that is undermining you to others? What about the parent who believes you are not stretching their child? Are you the type of teacher who becomes very defensive or do you actively go out and recruit them into your classroom?
There are two distinct camps when it comes to the role of parents in primary schools. Those who believe they should drop their children off at the gates and collect them at the end of the day and the other that actively encourage parents to be involved in school life.
Personally I have always believed the better you know your parents, their skills and concerns, the more it benefits you and the children. Getting fathers and grandfathers in to work with children is an excellent way to have positive role models especially for boys. It can open up areas of the curriculum that you are not a specialist in such as IT and DT. Additional hands are always great for offering cooking, gardening, sewing and activities outside. In my sons school they give reading training to parents who then listen to the children, so increasing the number of times they are heard in a week.
Many of these forays into school can lead to parents becoming fully fledged members of the school community with them moving across into the PTA and school governors.
So tell me what’s not to gain by having parents in? Tell me are there ways secondary’s can also benefit?
This week in the eteach office we have been talking about Mothering Sunday and which jobs fit well with family life. In the past teaching has been seen to be a career that fits well, with teachers being able to take holidays with their children and not have to worry about getting family or friends to cover the long vacations. I remember my own mother who was a teacher all her life, always being able to collect us after school and was rarely aware of her job affecting our family life.
Today in the light of the curriculum, assessment and after school activities I do not feel the original advantages associated with this job still exist in the same way. Large chunks of weekends are now spent creating huge amounts of planning and preparing for the coming week. Holidays are spent catching up with reports, assessment and filing and coordinator work. I have spent two weeks of my summer holiday washing lego and equipment in my new Reception class, because building work from the summer holiday had covered the whole lot in dust. Not fun I can tell you!
I believe that we need more teachers who are parents in education because they bring a wealth of additional experience to the job that can only benefit both pupils and schools. I look back on my own career and even though I felt I did a good job I would certainly have a greater empathy with parents and their concerns for their children had I been a parent then.
Finally I think schools could be missing a trick. All the working mums I know are extremely efficient and professional with their time. Rather than over looking them for posts because they can’t give you 24/7, how about thinking outside the box and offering more job shares or part time roles? I bet you would find them more effective for time they are with you and their maturity a real support for the younger staff.
Are you a parent looking to find a teaching role that fits in with your family life? Eteach offers many part time positions on our website. If you are a working parent let us know what you look for from a school you want to work in. Do you thinking teaching still works well with family life?