Took Grace to Winchester University open day on Saturday to check out the place and it’s education courses. It’s unfortunate for my children to have me as a father as when I go to universities I get all excited and over-stimulated and want to join the academic party. I thought I managed to contain myself quite well, but Grace said after that she’d rather go on visits with Kate in the future.
It’s a lovely university with a central ethos that shines through, I know it’s them putting on a show but you do get a strong sense going round a place. Now I know that there is a very strong bias for kids from a wealthier background getting into university, especially oxbridge (I love watching University Challenge but I’ve had enough of that arrogant, oxbridge biased twat paxman presiding in his sneering way towards the non-oxbridge teams). But once at university there is at least some mix of students that many won’t have experienced at school, especially those from private schools, from both perspectives (some privileged oxbridge colleges excepted). And there is increasing evidence that those students from comprehensive schools perform better than their peers at university.
I think that part of the reason for this is that intelligence is mainly genetic, there is increasing evidence for this, so that when young folk get to university the not quite so clever as they’ve been led to believe suddenly find themselves struggling when on a more level playing field.
As long ago as 1957, a year when a number of significant individuals were born, a psychologist by the name of Philip E Vernon reported after his investigation of secondary school education and selection that: “Experimental proof indicates that performance on intelligence and achievement tests tends to be raised by attendance at the better grammar schools and to drop relatively, or fail to increase rapidly, in the less stimulating modern schools. Greater flexibility can be attained when all pupils attend a common school.”. So, the selection of the apparently more able into schools such as grammars leads to raised performance and those who suffer rejection perform worse in the ‘secondary moderns’.
Now there has been ample evidence to confirm this since but we still have the old bollocks trotted out about selection and grammar schools as good old English class bollocks and the like trumps actual evidence. And Mr Vernon’s other conclusion that when all attend a common school there can be ‘greater flexibility’. Now I think this is what happens at university, despite there being still selection it is more nuanced and based on slightly more evidence than the 11 plus. And those from comprehensive schools do better at university.
So why don’t we have a proper comprehensive school system? Well, can’t you just hear all the howls of indignation and gnashing of privately tended teeth? All the old tropes trotted out with the underlying class bollocks. It is and has been a political choice, one made, for example, by the Finns who opted for a totally comprehensive system with highly educated and supported teachers and where are they now in international comparative terms? Certainly higher than dear old blighty.
And I have lived through the introduction of a national curriculum which has been altered annually and is, at last, falling apart under the weight of all it’s contradictions, ill-thought through ramifications and general distortion of our much abused education system. Which brings me to the latest report from a Dr Paul Cappon called: ‘Preparing English Young People for Work and Life: an International Perspective’ http://www.skope.ox.ac.uk/wordpress/wp-content/uploads/2015/09/Paul-Cappon-Preparing-English-young-people-for-work-and-life.pdf
Now one of the mantras oft repeated at schools and teachers is ‘accountability’ and one that, despite teachers understanding and appreciation of our accountability primarily to our pupils, has been used to impose an extremely unpleasant system upon schools and teachers called ofsted. It has resulted in incessant governmental meddling and abuse of the teaching profession, probably the main reason there is an incredibly high drop-out rate of teachers soon after qualifying. I’ll quote one of the report’s recommendations:
“By rebalancing accountability, England would reverse the current reality whereby central government approaches are empiricist, innovative, highly mutable and inconsistent; whilst local educational institutions are frequently rigid, conformist, compliance-driven, lacking innovativeness and risk averse”
It was increasingly my experience of this as a teacher that really fucked me off; I and other teachers were not respected enough and had to work within institutions that were ‘rigid, conformist, compliance-driven, lacking innovativeness and risk averse’. I even did an M Phil that explored this risk averseness!
The report reports that this country is now the ONLY country in the OECD “whose young adults have literacy levels lower than older generations”. And that the “ofsted-led accountability system” has presented no evidence of improving national standards, in fact more the contrary. So it’s official: ofsted is shit. And so is our current school system and we have piddling little england bollocks about grammar schools and the like and I am so pissed off with it all.
But I really liked Winchester University, despite being overwhelmingly white, I really got a strong sense of them making their students feel safe and supported. And it is this that should underpin any proper future developments of our educational system. I’m sad I feel like this after being a teacher for so much of my life, I’ve held on to my beliefs, I kept practising them as a classroom teacher and eventually I created classes in which pupils felt safer, were more able to respond positively have fun and learn and that I could as quickly as possible tick lots of twattish boxes.
Going to meet up with my fellow crabby ones on Wednesday with Kate.
And an Aussie Kiwi final, who’d have predicted that eh?
Keep on keeping on, love Duncan