Tuesday, 28 September 2010

The Age of Austerity.....

As much as it pains me to admit it...I am getting older. Although there is a still a 21year old idiot that jolts and moshes inside my brain, I find my brain is able to sometimes tuck her into bed with a cup of cocoa so I am able to get on with my 'grown up' sort of activities. These include buying a laminator, a dress from Next and immersing myself into the BBC's 'School' season. In fact this whole set up is to talk about the latter.

I have watched Gareth Malone, a Royal Academy trained Choirmaster, show us how to engage boys back into learning. Funnily enough the diagnosis being- make learning more fun! I have also enjoyed the Classroom experiment, where Dylan William (Educational Professor) implemented a classroom experiment with a year 8 class. William replaced grades with comments and enforced a 'no hands up' rule, Pupils were instead encouraged to use whiteboards to write their answers and show to the teacher at the same time. The principal being that the 'more abled' children no longer dominated classroom discussion, whilst children on the other end of the spectrum are unable to shy away in the shadows.

The programme which has evoked the most frustration within me was John Humphrys's 'Unequal Opportunities'. Humphrys looks at the attainment gap between the social classes and repetitively asks why? We are then presented with case study after case study as to 'special measure' schools which are able to turn themselves around with leadership and resources. This programme is great for awareness and to stir the Hornet's nest of Parents, who already feel frustrated with their neo-liberal mask of 'choice' with schools. However the merits of the arguments of the programme are deplorable. Humphrys jumps about from one school to another, suggesting that states schools need better leadership- which they do. State schools only accept inadequate teachers- which is insulting. States schools need to act more like private schools to help buy in the power of the upper working classes/middle class parents- which again is an insult. It worries me deeply when I hear state run schools are offering pupils rowing as a sport activity and asking each year 7 pupil which university they are attaining for.......The answer in bridging the social gap is not to make carbon copies of the upper classes but to accept each child for their potential. Some will be academic, some not and it is these children that fall through the net. What if your niche is a vocational route?Sure I want a qualified Plumber, but they don't need an MA!

Humphrys closing statement is along the lines of- State run schools need better leadership, better teaching and better resources BUT in an age of austerity they will never get it..........Thank you Mr Humphrys for that powerful and revealing insight.

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