Friday, 6 July 2018

Jane Austen Today: JANE AUSTEN'S WORLD CUP TEAM!!!!!!!!!

Mr Darcy (Fitzwilliam). 
Centre forward. 
Star striker, goalscorer supreme and team super star. 
Just imagine the crowd chanting. "Darcy ! Darcy ! Darcy!

Jane Austen Today: JANE AUSTEN'S WORLD CUP TEAM!!!!!!!!!: I wrote this eight years ago when England were playing in the The World Cup in South Africa. I put together a Jane Austen Team to beat the USA. I would choose the same team today. It was a bit of fun!!

Wednesday, 4 July 2018


Image result for school teachers teaching

 A teacher getting the children to self assess their work against the lesson aims and objectives.

“Two nations between whom there is no intercourse and no sympathy; who are as ignorant of each other's habits, thoughts, and feelings, as if they were dwellers in different zones, or inhabitants of different planets. The rich and the poor.” Benjamin Disraeli(1804- 1881)

On the 14th June 2017 a fire broke out at The Grenfell Tower in North Kensington. It killed 72 people.

Benjamin Disraeli was acutely aware of the divides in society in the 19th century. He mentions lack of intercourse, lack of sympathy and what is more, ignorance of each other. The response of the Tory Council of Kensington and Chelsea to the fire at Grenfell was appalling. The councilors did not know their own constituents. The leaders of the wealthiest London Borough had no relationship with the poor people of their borough. The head of housing at Westminster and Chelsea had never set foot in Grenfell Tower. The local community around Grenfell responded to the disaster immediately. The councilors had no concept of the disaster. Their response was woefully inadequate. They didn’t know the people they were dealing with. This was a culture they didn’t and couldn’t connect with.

We have a divided Britain, rich and poor, socially advantaged and socially deprived and as Disraeli knew, with Grenfell, one group did not understand the other and in the case of Grenfell they had never communicated. We have people who feel entitled to get top jobs. We have people who are perceived to benefit from an elite educational experience, because of their background. We have people who are destined for the low wage gig economy and who are perceived to have had a poor education all because of their social upbringing and geographical place of birth. It is even more subtle than that. Those who get good educations through the comprehensive system and go to one of the many universities, not Oxford or Cambridge and who are able and talented still do not get the opportunity to rise past a,” glass ceiling.” because of their starting point in life. There is really very little social movement in this country.
A revolution in education is needed. I believe the way education is fractured and divided in this country is the root cause of our societies divisions, our lack of “intercourse and no sympathy,” our feelings of entitlement or lack of entitlement. In this country we have the so called elite public schools, Eton, Harrow, Westminster, Winchester and a few others, private prep schools, a few Grammar Schools, Comprehensives run by local councils, now being coerced more and more into academy chains, state junior and infant schools that may be part of an academy but still are often run by local education authorities. On top of all this we have an OFSTED system of inspection that promotes the ideals of the government, teacher assessments, pay linked to assessments and a national curriculum that is imposed and requires given methods of teaching.

Image result for a lesson inspection
Classroom inspection criteria.

The public schools dominate entrance into Oxford and Cambridge universities. If you go to one of those two universities, you are guaranteed life at the top of society. You become leaders of industry, government ministers and the decision makers. The lesser public schools provide entrance into the rest of the top universities in Britain. Lawyers, managing directors, accountants, surgeons and Grammar schools compete on equal terms with the lesser public schools. Grammar schools are the most damaging. They are a conscious act of dividing society and deciding who gets what in life. With the public schools it is down to birth and the wealth of your family. With Grammar Schools the government purposely, through the blunt instrument of an 11+ style exam, splits one group of children from the rest. Comprehensives provide pupils with entrance into all the other universities, colleges, apprenticeship schemes and vocational courses. The poorest achievers at this level are just lost to society and the low wage economy if they actually get a job. None of these outcomes relate directly to ability and achievement. They relate to being rich and poor and their environment. The school system we have just entrenches this.

We need a truly comprehensive system in this country. This patchwork of systems, public, private and grammar needs to be got rid of and we need a comprehensive system for everybody. A comprehensive school should be part of the local community. It can be a place where everybody from whatever background and ability should be educated together. We would see ourselves as one people. The lack of social cohesion and the gulf in our society would be able to fade and heal.

Confidence and a sense of self are so important to our development as human beings. If that sense is destroyed or boosted the moment, we are born the consequences are dire. Thinking that others are better or less than us destroys us as an individual and destroys society as a whole. I was on a bus recently travelling from Wimbledon to Raynes Park. Some boys from Kings College Wimbledon, an expensive private day school, got on and sat near me. One of them looked out of the window and saw some Raynes Park High School boys. I heard him say. “I am so glad I never had to go to Raynes Park.” The others agreed with him. How destructive is that?

A comprehensive school can allow each child to achieve their potential. Child centered education is achievable. Teachers differentiate work and assess each child in their class in each lesson. This feeds back to future planning and the next lesson. If every child in the country went to a comprehensive the whole education system could focus on all our children together as equals and provide a high standard of education for the whole population and not be distracted and demeaned by other systems. It should be community based so that members of the community have a say in its education policies. It should provide a broad education for the community even providing lifelong learning.

 Image result for classroom displays
 A classroom display with children's work, information and some open and closed questions displayed.

What should a good classroom and a good lesson  look like?
Teaching should be left to the teachers. That is an idea that has been said often but what does it mean? Many years ago when teacher observations started we were assured that teaching colleagues could observe each other and be supportive of each other. This sounded like a very positive and useful thing to do. We tried it. I loved it. After observing one or more of my colleagues’ lessons and they had observed some of my lessons, we would sit down with a coffee and a note book and talk about what went on in the lessons. We gave each other creative ideas. We helped with an individual child that one of us might be struggling with in their behaviour or their learning. We talked strategies. It was a great way to develop as a teacher. This was called, being,” a critical friend.” Both of us were equal partners in the process, equally helping each other. The head would come in and observe once a term.  It was still a friendly supportive process with good advice given.Somebody coming out of University as a newly qualified teacher has reached a certain standard of competence and hopefully they have it in their personality, their imaginations, their creativity and their work ethic to become great teachers as they gain experience over the years. It takes time, maybe even years to develop as a good teacher. A new teacher can develop naturally with the ,"critical frend," supportive and creative approach  Then the government, in 1992, set up an inspection process called OFSTED. This is where it  went wrong. The supportive atmosphere and creative process of support within the school changed. The support and teacher development within a school now has a sense of desperation about it. OFSTED had its criteria and its assessment grades. You can fail, be satisfactory, good or outstanding. The criteria were imposed on teachers and a heavy gut feeling, the weight of authority came down. We had to meet the criteria to pass. 

The criteria are wonderful. I absolutely agree with every one of them. Here are a few of the sixteen criteria and they often have sub criteria attached:

 a positive purposeful atmosphere,
thorough planning,
use of key vocabulary,
a range of classroom resources,
 a productive use of your classroom assistant,
well thought out stimulating displays including examples of children’s work,
a good use of closed and open questioning,
children should be involved at all times in the learning process,
 teacher modelling and demonstration,
reference to other subjects and how learning can overlap,
 referring to the aims of the lesson,
pupil self and peer assessment,
 and finally it must be shown that every child has progressed during the lesson.

 I would not argue with any of this. The list describes a good classroom and good teaching practice. I always tried to achieve these things. But think,  an OFSTED inspector or the head comes in and they have a tick chart with the criteria on them and they are ticking them off as they sit there for thirty minutes of your lesson. Developing good teaching strategies does not happen at once. The pressure from the top imposing these criteria  crushes teachers.The approach is wrong. It is domineering.It creates fear. Your next pay rise and keeping your  job relies on your lesson observations  and the progress your children make. The “critical friend,”  was a supportive, organic,and creative way to help develop as a teacher.  It was enjoyable and made you feel worthwhile and valued because praise was a large part of that process. We looked for the good things in each other’s lessons as well as what needed developing.  Self-reflection is also a big part of what we do as teachers. We look back at the lesson and work out what went right, what might have gone wrong, who needs our help and what sort of help they need?  I know which approach makes good, energised teachers and which exhausts and crushes.

Related image

So what about discipline?
People worry about discipline. It is easily achieved. When you first get a new job in a school, discipline strategies and the school and classroom rules are given to you to implement. As an experienced teacher you will have developed the right approach  which you can apply to any school.  A set of rules might go something like this;

1.     Move around the class with good reason.
2.    Keep your hands and feet to yourself.
3.    Work to the best of your ability.
4.    Listen to the teacher.

There will be a list of consequences too, ranging from time out near the teacher, missing breaktime, being reported to the head and the ultimate, bringing parents in and finally,exclusion.Some classrooms  have a chart to record behaviour.

Teachers, when they first start with a class should go over the rules so that the class is aware of what is expected.There are two approaches to this. A good approach which works and bad a approach which fails.  It could go horribly wrong or it could go right. The teacher who is constantly looking for misdemeanors and handing out consequences  has failed and good discipline in their class will be an uphill challenge . The discipline strategies have become the driving force in trying to get discipline. The teacher who is positive, smiles at the children, praises, encourages and engages with every child will be the winner. This positive approach reduces discipline problems to the minimum and this works for every child no matter what their reputation and past behaviour record is. It might take a bit more of an effort with some but you get there.Using the discipline rules should only be a reminder to the child.

Poor choices.
Many people give excuses for sending their children to private schools saying things like, "well they have smaller classes," " the discipline is better," "my son or daughter would not get on in a state school and they won’t learn as well." All that is rubbish. It is about their own imaginings.  Discipline can go wrong in private schools too. Children fail to learn in  private schools too. I think those parents are scared of the social mix and who their children will be rubbing shoulders with. Of course it is better for their children to be friends with a lawyer’s son or daughter than a bricklayers or postman’s children isn’t it? Do we want an equal society or not? Do we?

Comprehensives and local education authority junior schools with their great teachers and with the provision of good resources and facilities, that is the only way to develop a strong, healthy well educated and equal society.