Teachers + Government = A Generation Of Losers

Teachers are to be balloted on whether they are going to prepare pupils for the national Key Stage tests next year.
The teachers have proposed boycotting the tests this year in an effort to get them abolished, however they have now come up with this radical new method, whereby instead of spending the greater part of Year 6 priming the kids in their charge to excel at stupid questions for four days in May, they will actually teach, or try to, the children something that might be relevant to their forthcoming secondary education, reading words with more than one syllable or stringing a co-herent sentence together for instance.
Well pardon me, but wasn’t that what they were meant to do in the first place?
When the Key Stage tests were introduced they were meant to show where a child was at, at a certain point in their education.
It was something that was supposed to be a snapshot of a child’s progress, but standardised across the country, so parents and schools could tell where there children were compared to their peers nationally.
Not a lot wrong with that ideal really. I have met many parents who think that an average child is a budding genius because they can tie their shoelaces at five; or recite a list of the world’s highest mountains, with no idea of just how high 27,000 feet might be or what continent or country one might find these mountains; or even read Shakespeare but with no understanding of what he is on about, and let’s face it, there’s plenty of adults who have no idea what Shakespeare is on about.
Likewise there are the parents that worry he might be a little slow as he struggles with long multiplication and he’s seven and a half.
So having a set of skills that a child should be able to achieve is not necessarily a bad thing, perhaps a little sad that we can’t just let the kids develop at their own rate and with whatever interests them most, but if it is what people think they need then fair enough, that is the way the world tends to be at the moment.
Even in sports everything is broken down into minutely incremental acievements, so that the kids can be seen to be progressing.
It used to be that the first award possible to get a swimming certificate for was a width of the pool, a distance of 8 yards at least, but now, they can even get badges when they are babies. The pre-school children I teach get their first badge for getting in the water, moving along holding the rail, wetting their faces and getting out. There are a further 13 badges before the child is deemed able to swim confidently 5 metres on their front and two metres on their back. The scheme rewards all sorts of activities such as blowing bubbles, splashing their feet, floating with armbands on, putting their faces in the water, in fact all the sorts of thing that kids do in the water when left to their own devices. But now it’s all micro-managed.
And it’s the same in schools. Once upon a time you would expect that your child would bring home progressively harder reading books and maths questions. They would start counting beans and then learn to use the abstract concept of numerals and so on and so forth, before you knew it they were talking about percentages and compound interest that probably left their parents flummoxed.
But then people wanted to know what was normal or reasonable for a child to do at a certain age and all the little steps were identified and earmarked with a period when they ought to be achieved.
After that, well you have to check that the kids are actually achieving don’t you?
Hence national testing, designed so the teachers couldn’t set questions they knew their pupils could answer – gosh teachers wouldn’t do that would they? Mmmm yes.
And the teachers didn’t like it, they didn’t like it one little bit.
Because where it is perfectly reasonable to expect that a child at a certain age can write structured sentences using capital letters and full stops and spelling correctly, the great emphasis on not stifling creativity meant that many children couldn’t do these things, because they had never had their work corrected from that point of view and in many cases to anyone not experienced in deciphering the random phonic combinations of letters, with little or no punctuation, the “fantastic story Liam, you realy build up a sense of pace…” was just pure gibberish.

But then things got even worse because the Government decided to use the results to say how good or bad a school was and league tables were drawn up, ranking schools in Education Authorities by how many pupils achieved the desired level in Maths, English and Science.
Of course this system was flawed. If a bright kid arrived in year 3 – 1st year junior school – with a level 3 (above average) in all three subjects and left four years later with a level 4 (average) he hadn’t progressed as well as would be expected.
However if a kid came in at W (working towards level 1, literally below the bottom benchline for 7 year olds) and left with a level 4, he’d obviously made brilliant progress.
But the teachers failed to spot this argument and became intent on teaching to the test. First it was just a week or two, then it became a half term and gradually as they tried to prep their pupils to a state of near perfection it took up hours upon hours of lesson time.
And then the govermnent dealt another blow.
Education, education education!
Targets were set.
By 2002 Tony Blair wanted 78% of children to achieve level 4 in Maths and English and something like 80% of children to acieve level 4 in science.
After initial improvements the government realised that even with making their test simpler their targets would still not be met.
With the wilyness of Baldric they came up with a cunning plan, they would pay schools extra money so they could coach those kids who were just below the expected level in a bid to boost them up to level 4.
The extra classes were supposed to be extra curricular, but some teachers weren’t prepared to put in the extra time and objected to other teachers getting the extra money. Many schools started having booster classes within ordinary lessons, with small groups taken out for extra or intensive coaching.

And so the original idea was lost in the desire of the grown ups, both teachers and government, not to be seen to fail, irrespective of the damage done to the children they were all supposed to be so concerned about helping.

And the poor kids have had to put up with this.

The teaching profession and the educationalists have both had thier own interests at heart and forgotten about what they were there for.
A generation of kids have had their education blighted by the self serving interests of those who were meant to help and inspire them.

The best thing that could happen is for the teachers not to prepare the children for the tests, then perhaps the public could see where all the micro-managing of the National Curriculum has got them, and perhaps make a point of telling whoever leads the next government that it should leave teaching to the likes of Chris Woodhead (perhaps not popular amongst teachers because he was so right) and forget about trying to win votes with phony achievements.

The comments in this thread prompted Little Nicky to take a look at an article in The Times which is referred to several times. Reading that article in turn inspired a Boggart Blog post. Well it is a while (three days at least) since we gave education the Boggart Blog treatment. Take a look at How Shite Are SATS

20 thoughts on “Teachers + Government = A Generation Of Losers

  1. Now he was the one who shagged the sixth former….definitely going to look up to him…

    Your post is your own opinion and you are entitled to it of course…I do not agree and find your huge, inaccurate generalisations about the teaching profession offensive.

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    1. Thank you for your comment. Little Nicky Machiavelli blog co-author fatsally was until recently a senior teacher with many years experience as well as being a volunteer swimming teacher.

      Just as a point of interest, I don’t see any generalisations about the teaching profession, just a lot of fairly strident criticisms of education policy under Labour. Would you like to point out exactly what offended you?

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    2. Are you a character out of a Ben Elton book?

      The former sixth former had left school and was a consenting adult as I recall.

      Huge generalisations about the teaching profession….

      These are the people who, although they may work in a successful school all run about like headless chickens, updating schemes of work, filing daily lesson plans, weekly lesson plans and term plans because there is an inspection looming, instead of having the balls to say,
      “This is a good school, the children are happy, the parents are happy, the staff are dedicated, hard-working and happy, the results are good and children make good progress so we must be doing something right.”

      How about that for a huge generalisation?

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      1. Being a professional, experienced and successful in what’s known as an ‘outstanding’ school, I feel no need to justify my thoughts and yes..you do generalise in the original post, significantly so.
        Indeed, if I was to use your post as Paper 1 practice for my students, they would do an excellent job identifying your opinions as opposed to the facts present.
        Also, it may be of interest to you that inspections are now 3 working days notice and therefore a successful school will not be filing and filing for a ‘looming’ inspection.
        If the leadership of the school is what it should be, the school will be welcoming OFSTED at any time with no fear as it will be running exceptionally well as a hub of learning.

        What I found offensive was the very negative portrayal of the teaching profession.
        There are thousands and thousands of inspirational and dynamic teachers who do not deserve the cynicism with which you described them.

        Ben Elton…?
        No!

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      2. At prettyintelligentprincess:

        Dear lady I absolutely assure you there were no generalisations against the teaching profession in the original article although there were some sweeping criticisms of the way the education system has developed under New Labour. There is a consensus that these generalisations are broadly true, they have even been remarked on by people who write for The Guardian but are not yet in the pay of the Politically Correct Thought Police. (I am a Guardian readers so I know)

        What you have shown us then is in the New World Order it is not necessary to have good reding and comprehension skills to teach in an outstanding school so long as one stays “on message.”

        The system is always right, you must never question authority.”

        As someone who has never taught in an “outstanding school” but instead had a proper job and sat in the boardrooms of some of the UK’s biggest companies let me pass on this advice given by the proto-feminist of the ancient world Hypatia of Alexandria: “Always think for yourself, it is better to think and be wrong than not to think.”

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      3. The last shool I taught in was classed as “Outstanding” during it’s last OFSTED.
        Nearly every teacher had at least one lesson classed as excellent, the majority were very good and I think there was only one lesson out of all those observed that was classed as satifactory, and that was an NQT.

        So we were good. Why then did we have to coach the Y6 kids from Spring half term onwards, employing supply teachers to run the booster classes?
        Because the government said so?
        Don’t you think that teaching should be encouraging independent thought and should therefore lead by example instead of just bleating after the rest of the herd?

        Whoops, sorry, which way is room 101, I’ll just take myself off there to be summarily stripped of my DFE number before disappearing forever.

        By the way, if you ever get fed up with teaching, get in touch with Ben Elton, he’ll make you famous.

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      4. @fatsally.
        Well that’s you told. Prettyintelligentprincess is a teacher in a New Labour “outstanding school” and you just can’t argue with facts like that.

        She is also obviously a New Labour fanatic and a supporter of the Brown/Obama axis of indoctrination and has a first in political correctness.

        Who cares if the kids can’t read so long as they are “on message.”

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  2. I have made my point and I will not be so undignified to persue an online slanging match. However, the cliche about a ‘proper job’ was just not very original and really did not enhance your argument.

    On a positive note, I admire the fact you have published my comments as many people who dislike the opinions of others would not have the gumption to do that.

    Not sure why I need a link to Stirrer…should I thank you?

    My advice to you would be (incidentally my own not someone elses) …listen first before completely becoming defensive …it’s okay to disagree…but the manner in which you disagree either proves your worth or your unworthiness.

    I disagree with you, but I would not insult you in such a caustic manner…
    I fear this may lead to another cynical barrage, so I will stop now. (The banter however has been refreshing- and I am being sincere. I do hope you realise that)

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    1. Princess,
      Don’t thank me for a link to the stirrer, I decided it needed a link from Little Nicky si I gave it one. My blog, my rules πŸ˜‰

      Far from making your point you have not answered my question, what are the generalisations that offend you in fatsally’s original artcle? Instead you have done what in my experience many Labour supporting teachers usually do when someone disagrees with them. You have come over all superior. Trying to be patronising may have the desired effect on some people but it is never going to work on someone who was a management consultant. Not for nothing were we known in the business world as the Masters Of The universe.

      You friend’s advice is very poor if it did not include enough information to help you discern whether somebody is being defensive or taking the piss. I know, for example, that my “proper job” remark was not original. I also know it always winds teachers up which is why it is used by so many people πŸ™‚

      So come on, show us these generalisations that you found offensive to the teaching profession. What you appear to be doing is saying “if I say there are generalisations then there are generalisations.” You are not dealing with pupils now.

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  3. I note your mention of Jeremy Bentham. I believe that, despite being an atheist, he agreed to be Godfather to John Stuart Mill. In his turn, Mill, another atheist agreed to be Godfather to Bertrand Russell. Needless to say, Russell became a prominent atheist. What message was in train here ?

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    1. Someone made them all an offer they could not refuse :))

      I know a Hindu woman who is “godmother” to two Christian children. I think we have lost the true meaning of the word, the god in godfather dates back to pre chistian times, what they godfather did was commit to being a surrogate should the biological father peg out early (as they tended to to in days of yore) In fact the only god whose name translates from his own language into the middle English / Norse word god (good in modern Englsh) was Dagda, top guy in the Irish celtic pantheon, whose name means “the good” not so much in the sense of Mr. Nice Guy as being very good at his job which was banjaxing Fenians with a club made from the trunk of a full grown Ash Tree.

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  4. Quote from today’s Times, regarding the boycotting of Key Stage tests.
    “…if tests were abolished they would be replaced with some form of national testing.
    That would not appease teachers, who are angered by schools being judged on academic achievement.”

    I’ve re-read that at least three times to make sure that is what it says.
    So what do they want to be rated on, their abilities to stick pieces of pasta onto sugar paper?

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    1. My dear…it is an opinion……not fact!
      Christ, you must have had such a bad English teacher…

      If you mock the writer of the piece…then bravo…

      If you BELIEVE what the writer of the piece says…you need to get a reality check.
      I am commenting as I can’t believe you actually take the article at face value and BELIEVE it….surely you are just being satirical?

      It’s a biased comment…an opinion…presented as a fact to convince and persuade the reader….clearly it’s worked; with you anyway.

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    2. You’re wasting your time, I still haven’t had any answer on my repeated requests for a pointer to these “offensive generalisations.”

      This servant of the NuLab indoctrination scheme is more evasive than Blair at his slipperiest. (NuLab policy? Education, education, education = give me the child to the age of seven and I will give you the man for life: St Ignatius Blair-Loyola)

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      1. Clearly, you are not worth my time at all.
        Therefore I shall stop wasting it….

        The ‘offensive generalisations’ can be seen by everyone who is not a fanatic and it’s a desperate and narrow fanatical mind that needs them pointing out,(or perhaps a completely unintelligent one). They are there for everyone to see and I have no need to stand up and shout at you…because I know you are not right…not right at all…double entendre intended.

        Have fun in La la land.

        Delightfully not yours,
        Prettyintelligentprincess.

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      2. ooooooh!

        If these generalisations are there for everybody to see why can you not point them out to me.

        All you are doing is affecting superiority, a tactic often employed by teachers when confronted with the real world.

        But I have been toying with you. One of the generalisations you refer to is the paragraph about teachers having to teach to test. That would be a generalisation were it not true. We know from official data and unofficial survets that many thousands of qualified teachers have left the profession in the past decade citing excessive bureaucracy, centralisation and the obsession with testing and league tables as their reason for doing so.

        Seeya, wouldn’t want to be ya.

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