Showing posts with label schools. Show all posts
Showing posts with label schools. Show all posts

Monday, 18 June 2012

Why shouldn't teenagers be able to re-sit their exams?

When I’m not reviewing books, writing novels or blogging, I have a day job as an education journalist. My children have never been keen on me being clued up about key stage 3, phonics and schemes of work, but they’ve had to put up with it. And it’s endlessly fascinating. One week I’m writing about apprenticeships, the next I’m interviewing the head master of Eton (one of the most impressive heads I’ve ever met).

But with A levels still in full swing, I opened The Times this morning to read that education secretary Michael Gove is planning to divide them into two courses, each lasting a year and ending with a set of exams in the summer term. He is convinced that dropping the system of modules would halve the number of exams pupils take in the sixth form and cut the culture of multiple re-sits.

Mr Gove clearly hates the fact that students are currently able to re-sit their A level modules several times in order to improve their grades. But I don’t understand why. I thought that education was supposed to be all about lifelong learning, about striving to improve and enhance our knowledge.

So why shouldn’t students learn from their exam mistakes and try again? Teenagers who don’t find exams easy but keep trying to better their grades should be encouraged. Not slapped down and told “tough luck, you’ve had your chance. You’re not having another go.”

Tuesday, 13 March 2012

Primary school children ask the trickiest questions

My sophisticated student daughter hates to admit it but she liked everything about her North Yorkshire primary school, from the home corner and golden time to skipping in the playground and dressing up as her favourite book character.

I loved taking her into the classroom every morning (she banned me from venturing past the school gate once she reached the heady heights of year 2), having a chat with her teacher and admiring the works of art festooning the walls.

But now, 15 years later, I’m visiting primary schools again – sometimes to interview heads and teachers, but often to talk about writing books. I’ve visited loads in the last 12 months and the sessions are always lively, fun and utterly unpredictable. You can prepare your talk as precisely as a military campaign but you always get a couple of questions that completely floor you.

I recently pitched up at a local primary school clutching a copy of my novel, The Rise and Shine Saturday Show, and several of my favourite children’s books (Madeline, The Swish of the Curtain and Clarice Bean.) After half an hour of talking to the four to seven year olds (and them talking to me about their Batman and Barbie books), the eight to 11 year olds were led into the school hall by their teachers.

I told them a bit about my newspaper days, read the opening chapter of my book and then turned things over to them. Scores of small hands shot up. That was great – you don’t want a hall full of bored, silent children. Their questions were searching and incisive, ranging from where writers get their ideas from to what were my favourite children’s books. That was easy – I thrust my battered copies of Madeline and The Swish of the Curtain in the air.

But then like a bunch of seasoned newspaper hacks, the children began lobbing in a few trickier questions. Did I spend more time writing than looking after my children? How many books will I write in my lifetime? And finally they cut to the chase with a belter – how much do I earn? Cue a long silence. For once in my life, I was completely stuck for words.

Tuesday, 28 February 2012

The trials and tribulations of paperwork

When I went slightly mad a few years ago and decided to try my hand at teaching (I was useless), the main thing that made me throw in the towel was the endless paperwork.

For every lesson I taught at my local FE college, I had to fill in reams and reams of forms. There were the schemes of work to plan out lessons for the whole of the academic year, the lesson plans covering every single second of every single lesson and something called “reflective practice,” where I had to analyse everything from what teaching principles my lessons demonstrated to whether the class seating plan was up to scratch.

Admittedly, I was a trainee teacher so seasoned pros probably don’t have to bother with the reflective stuff, but even so, I was delighted to read in the Huffington Post this week that teachers’ paperwork is being cut right back.

According to the HuffPo report, the government has scrapped hundreds of pages of guidance issued to teachers. Schools minister Nick Gibb said in the House of Commons on Monday: “I am aware that many teachers are doing enormous amounts of overtime and that is a tribute to the professionalism of teachers in our schools today. What is important is that overtime is not spent filling in voluminous forms or reading huge arch lever files of guidance.”

Quite. For every second I spent agonising over my forms I reckon I could have taught my A level English sets the entire works of Tolstoy. Twice over.

PS. When we lived in France, my son loved Golden Grahams (above)But when we came back to the UK I couldn't find them anywhere. But now they've miraculously appeared on supermarket shelves again. Result? One very happy teenager...
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