Monday, 30 July 2018

A LITERARY PUZZLE (just for fun!!!)

This particular person is one of the most famous writers the world has known.

OK I am not the famous writer but I am standing in a tunnel this writer had dug.It passes under the road situated at the front of the last house this writer lived in, to a small plot of land on the opposite side. There a Swiss Cottage was constructed. The top room of the Swiss Cottage was used for writing in. There were views out towards the sea and an estuary nearby. I think the act of entering the tunnel and emerging the other side was an emotional and psychological act, passing from their domestic home life and coming out into the world in which they wrote.They had a telescope set up on the top floor to view the shipping and life on the estuary.

The Swiss Cottage, not in its original location but now in the garden of a museum in a nearby town.

A cathedral features in this writer's last novel . A dark, sinister, mysterious tale as far as it goes. The writer was writing it on the morning of their death and so the novel remains unfinished. 

This house , which features in one of the writers most famous novels , was the home to an unfortunate female character. When you read the novel, in many ways you want to sympathise and empathise with her but she is somewhat repellent and has become the stuff of nightmares!!!

The letter box has been refurbished but it is the original. It is located in a wall on the left of the entrance to this writers house. It was one of the first of its kind and the writer in question asked for it to be installed. This famous writer and their family all used this letter box to post  letters.

In at least three of this writers novels, characters walk along this high street.

The last house this writer lived in. They died here. The location has Shakespearean connections.

WHO DO YOU THINK THE WRITER WAS? If you can get the names of the novels alluded to and the locations portrayed in the photographs , you are amazing!!!!

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


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 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, the socially advantaged and the socially deprived and as Disraeli was aware of in his day, in the present day case of Grenfell, one group did not understand the other. 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 perceived, underprivelaged, upbringing. 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. 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.

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 these people become lawyers, managing directors, accountants, surgeons. Grammar schools can compete on equal terms with these 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  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 the environment a person lives in. The school system we have just entrenches this.

Theresa May, in 2016, announced her radical ideas for education. She wanted Grammar Schools to expand.  She wanted more working class children to go to them. She also thought public schools should sponsor and develop new comprehensive secondary schools in their area. Universities should also provide support by  annexing or creating new schools local to them . This was her (Conservative) approach to expanding opportunites and creating a meritocartic society. If you look at what she proposes it is more of the same, in larger doses, creating more divisions rather than bridging and removing the divides in our society.  

An example of why her proposals cannot work is an experiment carried out In 1965, the Marlborough experiment. The Witlshire Local Education authority along with Marlborough School set up the experiment. Twenty one boys from Swindon schools were chosen, after they had completed their o'levels, to go to Marlborough to do their A levels. By the end of their time at Marlborough, eight boys had succeeded but the rest had  not achieved well. The eight boys who did well appeared to have rejected their background and adapted to the new culture of Marlborough. The rest had been unable to adapt to what they saw as an alien world with traditions, rules and attitudes they did not understand.

We need a truly comprehensive system in this country. This patchwork of systems, public, private, grammar, academy chains and a dwindling number of education authority schools 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 then as one people. The lack of social cohesion and the gulf in our society would be given a chance to fade and heal.Schools could once again be grouped under a similar system to education authorites because that worked. I worked for Surrey Education Authority and in my early teaching years they provided in-service training for the individual needs of teachers and the particular needs of schools.Within the county network schools were allowed a certain autonomy which made each school unique. The county had an amazing team of subject inspectors who got to know teachers and schools personally.

A comprehensive school system, beginning from infancy,  can allow each child to achieve their potential. Skills learning should be seen as building blocks to problem solving. Project lead cross curricular  work is exciting and meaningful and should become more important in the way teachers and pupils learn and progress. Children need to feel that they have purpose in their learning.  Project lead learning energises pupils.It allows for problem solving, analysis and conceptual thinking.

A meaningful educational environment for all. Child centered education is achievable.Teachers can differentiate work and assess each child, regularly, in their class. This feeds back to future planning, the next lesson and the needs of individual children.. 

If every child in the country went to a comprehensive the whole education system could focus on all our children together as equals and value their individuality and personal needs and provide a high standard of education for the whole population and not be distracted and demeaned and damaged by other systems competing. Schools should be grounded in their community and create their own ethos and traditions. Being community based, members of the community should have a say in its education policies.  A school should provide a broad education for everybody and what is more, provide lifelong learning.

Confidence and a sense of self are so important to our development as human beings. If that sense is destroyed  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?

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

Outstanding teachers.
"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  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 any 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.” We were equal partners in the process, equally helping each other. The head came in and observe once a term.  It was  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 a great teacher as they gain experience over the years. It takes time, maybe even years to develop as a good teacher. A new teacher to the profession can develop naturally with the ,"critical friend,"  approach.  Then the government, in 1992, set up an inspection process called OFSTED.  The supportive atmosphere within schools changed.A pass or fail environment was created. The  teacher development gained a sense of desperation. OFSTED had its criteria and its assessment grades, fail,  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 unarguable. I 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  comes into your classroom and they have a tick chart with the criteria on them and they tick 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,” approach  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  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.

So what about discipline?
People worry about discipline. To be able to create good discipline in a classroom is a long learning process for any teacher. In the heat of failure, and there are failures at times, a teacher can go two ways, they can begin to slowly adapt or they can fail to adapt. Personality, being able to pick yourself up from a failure, shear guts, all combine to become successul at discipline.It is a hard process that changes the individual almost from the genetic level. It is  as though your brain cells are  changed. You reach a stage where you subconscioulsy know how to act. You achieve an unshakeable calm confidence in the harshest moments. It changes your behaviour.I can only describe it as achieving a sort of equilibrium in the middle of a tornado. This strength shows in your demeanor, the look in your eye, the tone of your voice and the words you say to children.There is only one way to achieve this state and it is through positivity.

 When you first get a 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 an approach  which you can apply to any school. A new teacher will have learned some strategies already.  A set of rules might go something like this;

  • .        Move around the class with good reason.
  •        Keep your hands and feet to yourself.
  •        Work to the best of your ability.
  • .            Listen to the teacher.
  •         Be polite.

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,an exclusion.Some classrooms  have a chart to record behaviour.

Teachers, when they first start with a class should go over the rules with the children 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. In my case I put the rules at the back of my mind. They are there but they are not paramount.  I do not use them as the first line of action. They are there as a support. Developing a positive relationship  with the children is more important.  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 , in that case,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. The way you use questions, the words you say, all matter.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 will take an effort  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 progress in a state school ." All that is rubbish. Those statements are mere 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 child isn’t it? 
Do we want an equal society or not? 
Do we?