Monday, 22 August 2016

New Year and New Start?

The count down has begun! 

In a few weeks the new Year 7's will be pouring into schools, some excited, some scared, some confident and some feeling like they own the place. 

In an ideal world all those students will be appearing in school uniform, neatly pressed and clean with a full set of pens, pencils and an open enquiring mind. In this world, all the students will be kind and compassionate to each other, be polite and well mannered. No bullying and no name calling and no leaving children to stand alone at breaks.

But we don't live in this ideal world. Schools throughout the country will offer totally different learning experiences. Some schools with unqualified teachers, some schools with no clear ethos on behaviour and discipline, some schools who have handpicked their students, some schools where its more about behaviour control and some brilliant schools. 

So how do you know that your child is going to have a positive learning experience?

Firstly a quick tale. I remember teaching in a school that quite frankly was scary. The students basically marauded like pack animals, others running in and out classrooms and the uniform was a joke. In one class I had two students who were polite, clean and both told me about how they were frightened at school. One of them told me that their parents believed that they should go to any school and that they would somehow be a big fish in a small pond. How wrong they were and how much I wanted to contact the parents and ask them if they genuinely cared about their children's education.

Anyway on a more positive note, here is a quick checklist! 

And although you may feel that some items are not important believe me it makes so much difference to behaviour and learning.

  • The school has a strict uniform policy
  • You have been invited into the school and have been given information relating to homework, discipline procedures and home/school agreement.
  • If your child has special needs, you have been approached by the Primary AND Secondary School to ensure support is in place at the START of the term.
  • That you can meet the SENCO - The Special Needs person in charge! - and discuss your child before they start.
  • That you know of the Head of Year and the team, with appropriate email and phone numbers.
  • The school runs various clubs and activities outside of teaching hours.
  • When meeting the staff, they appear approachable and friendly.
  • They have a strict bullying and harassment policy.
  • Make sure you attend all the preschool meetings, you need to know as much as your child does before starting.
  • Remember that it is a massive leap from students spending time with one or two teachers, to "travelling" from class to class to see different teachers. Expect that it will take some weeks before they settle in and they will arrived exhausted for the first few weeks.
  • Make sure you keep an eye on homework. Get involved! Help your child organise when they do homework and have an appropriate place to complete it. (Even though I personally don't agree with homework!)
  • And finally? Read the start of my blog on who to contact if a problem occurs!
And another 5 years you will be thinking about Colleges......

Saturday, 6 August 2016

Technology & Using IPads in schools - Shucks!

Oh dear.

One of my favourite ever schools, I have just found out that all students are expected to "buy" a school I Pad.

I was dismayed to hear this.

Firstly, what about those students not in a family position to be able to afford such a thing? What about those students who do not have a safe place to keep them? Why oh why should teachers need students to have such a thing?

I am not disputing that there are some fantastic educational apps and that students can work, be tested and submit work via them. And that it reduces paper. But what is stopping the teachers having a supply of class I Pads that can be used for a particular lesson?

We seem to be moving away from the pen and paper skill... and lets just stay focused for the moment. 

Are all exams done on a computer? No. 
Do students still need to know how to write? Yes. 
Has ICT as a subject been diminished to the point that students are not taught exclusively in ICT lessons about Internet Safety? Yes.
Are main exams still pen and paper. Yes.
In the workplace will students use I Pads for work? Certainly more No than Yes.
Are Universities equipped to students using I Pads? No. (If anything Universities are still lagging behind when it comes to using technology.)
Are we seeing the end of textbooks? Yes.

So why should we expect students to use and carry these things around?

And another matter and this is a true story. A mother friend of mines daughter accidentally damaged her I Pad. She had been told that all the I Pads were insured. What she was not told was that there was a £50 excess which she had to pay. (And no it wasn't in the small print either!)

I am not suggesting that we should not embrace technology, what I am saying is that the Current Governments thinking on Computer Science and the dismantling of the ICT Curriculum does not play hand in hand with the use of I Pads.

I await a few years down the line when employers are stating yet again that we are not equipping students for a world of work.

I am truly dismayed.

Friday, 5 August 2016

Academy. The Strange New Government Invention

So what is an Academy?

Academies are state funded schools, funded by Central Government and moved away from the local authority. (And moved away from the expertise and local knowledge that the authorities had)

Although the day to day remains the same with a Head or Principal they are overseen by charitable bodies called "Academy Trusts" and could even by part of an academy chain. They have more freedom over the curriculum and don't need to follow hard fought teachers pay and conditions. Head Teachers may be paid on "bums on seats" so for some the larger the school the better.

And of course it starts off with money. They receive "conversion" costs and more money per student. It can "buy in" services that used to be provided by the local authorities.

So in a nutshell it's about privatising the Educational System. 

And the facts and fiction:
  • Students do not perform better in an Academy
  • Schools become less accountable as they are out of local authority control
  • Teachers potentially may be told that they may not join a union
  • Teachers may be paid less and the pay scales not recognised
  • Academies have a high rate of student exclusions 
  • Academies funded by narrow interest groups could choose to teach, for example creationism over biology
  • It may be that certain students are granted admission
  • A "teacher" may not have formal teaching qualifications in an Academy
And "Free Schools?" - Read on McDuff.....