Tuesday, November 16, 2010

Layer 379 . . . Education, Supporting Teachers, Changing Schools, Ken Robinson, and a Royal Wedding

Aaaaaarrrgggghhhh! Camilla described the announcement of the royal engagement as "wicked"!!!!!!!!!!!

According to Wikipedia, William Windsor (known as Billy), was a goat who served as a lance corporal in the 1st Battalion, the Royal Welsh, an infantry battalion of the British Army, from 2001 until 2009.

William and Kate are both 28 years old and complete twats. Embarrassingly so.


For more on the value of silence, and on instinctual intelligence and intuition - visit Layer 104.

Also this page in the London Review of Books for a list of books about silence -



Start The Week

"Through poetry we can make the people we love live forever."

On Start The Week this week there was a conversation about the way in which a great poem can make someone - i.e. its subject - immortal. A great poem can capture the absolute essence of someone. The really great thing about Dylan's tribute poem to Woody Guthrie is that it captures the spirit of the man and his life without really describing the man at all - simply likening him to a lamp or a candle or an oil well, or the magnificence of the Grand Canyon, or a bringer of hope. That's real brilliance.


Education Oxzen

Katharine Birbalsingh and John Bangs were on the radio yesterday talking about underachievement and behaviour in English schools. Ms B, of course, created a stir by speaking out polemically at the recent Tory party conference.

How to improve classroom discipline, eh? Hmmmmmm.

Ms B believes we need to be 'a lot harder', impose 'a lot more structure', and 'show less compassion' towards the problem kids. Oh well - that should do it.

Thankfully John Bangs spoke really well about the need to make learning "far more exciting, far more relevant". He accused Ms B of talking 'hyperbolae', though he meant hyperbole. He recommended we pay attention to what people like Tony Sewell say about anger management, about motivating kids properly, and about using 'a range of disciplinary techniques and classroom strategies'. He also pointed out that it's not helpful to make generalisations about schools.


To really understand what's wrong in our most challenging schools it's worth reading the whole of an article that was published in today's Education Guardian.

Why are new teachers leaving in droves?

Nearly half of all newly qualified teachers leave the profession within five years. Charlie Carroll went on the road for a year, working in the most challenging schools, to find out why


The idea, when it came, was fully formed, sparked by a surprising statistic I read one morning in the staffroom: nearly half of all England's newly qualified teachers were leaving the profession within their first five years.

I wanted to know why.

So I took to the road to find out:

I spent a year travelling through the 10 areas of the country that were deemed as having the most challenging schools, one month in each, and teaching in those schools. By witnessing the frontline, I could find an answer to why so many teachers were fleeing the profession, and I could journey through my own country – and experience it as I never had before.

My working day was dominated by confrontations with aggressive, disaffected or miserable teenagers.

These were children with a proliferation of asbos; children on terrifyingly high dosages of Ritalin; some with criminal records and, already in their short lives, histories of violence.

I had also seen in these challenging areas some wonderful schools, which, beset as they were with their difficult intake, would still thrive against the odds – three of the schools I had worked at in particularly difficult areas had achieved outstanding status in their most recent Ofsted inspections. What was it, then, that set these schools apart?

It had felt to me in these schools that a teacher really could make a difference. Supported by good and hands-on senior management teams – rather than by shadowy headteachers who rarely enter their classrooms – the teachers knew that any sanctions they implemented would be backed up, which empowered them, in turn, to support and encourage their students to achieve to the best of their capabilities. In one school, when a pupil shouted an expletive at me, the head put him on a temporary exclusion for swearing at a teacher. This kind of thing is what counts.

My aim had been to find out why so many teachers were leaving. And I think I did find my answer – a score of them, in fact, and a few ideas about what can be done to make things better. In order to stop teachers leaving, it's useless throwing money at them (no teacher teaches for the money), or implementing structural innovations such as academies or free schools. Instead, changes need to be made at a much more fundamental, frontline level, which involves supporting teachers and assisting them to support their students to learn and achieve to their maximum capability – which is, after all, what teachers train to do.

Such changes are not dramatic or expensive. They merely require a slight shift in the cultural attitude. With more power to stop violence in the classrooms, with more freedom to exclude those students who cannot cope with mainstream education, with smaller class-sizes, with an enhanced communication between teachers and parents, with protection for teachers against the overwhelming fear of litigation, with the encouragement of a zero-tolerance approach to such unacceptable misbehaviour as violence and psychological abuse (such as cyber-bullying), and with the removal of the league table culture – where schools are unfairly ranked by a cold system of results-based numbers – perhaps teachers would be encouraged to remain in their profession and continue to provide the service so invaluable to this country's future.

I still teach, and at times still love it, but I don't know for how much longer. For, until such changes are implemented, it is this teacher's opinion that the professional exodus will continue.

• Charlie Carroll is a pseudonym. All names have been changed. On The Edge by Charlie Carroll is published by Monday Books, price £8.99.

The great thing about this piece is that hits the nail right on the head. Yes, there are poor teachers who can't cut the mustard and can't cope, but there are also thousands of teachers who would be able to cope and even do well if they had the proper backing of senior management that are determined to get to grips with the really challenging kids and their families. It's true that this requires the determination to spend hundreds of hours of unstinting attention focused on the aggressive and disruptive kids, talking with and counselling children and parents - but there simply is no other way.

You try to understand why the kids are unable to show proper self-control and why they lack so much emotional and social and spiritual intelligence. Then you make it very clear to them where the boundaries lie, and what action will be taken if they fail to control themselves, fail to opt into the school's ethos, and fail to keep within the boundaries. You then apply the sanctions you have outlined in your discussions, which will be gradual, and not harsh, but will eventually end with fixed term and even permanent exclusions.

Of course this assumes that the school is also doing its utmost to make every part of every day worthwhile for the kids - enjoyable, stimulating, rewarding, creative, satisfying and motivating. The child has to WANT to come to school.


Ken Robinson and the Coming Education Revolution

Everyone who's interested in education simply has to take a look at this brilliant video of Ken Robinson talking about education and schools, and changing paradigms:




Also this TED talk:


See also Layers 162, 171 and 233. 


Here's something I've missed about Sats, the schools' boycott, the NUT, the NAHT, and Gove



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