NEWS FOCUS SecEd: On Your Side
Academia, vocation and the EBacc...
“So, JeSSicaennis, you feel you have done well at the heptathlon and achieved good results in all seven events. Unfortunately, you have not competed in the marathon and therefore do not qualify as a true athlete. The thing is, we are looking for rigour, challenge and stretch and we feel that some people are entering for a suite of less demanding events. “We realise that you have done arduous training and
shown great commitment. indeed it is commendable that you have achieved so many personal bests in your performance. The problem is you are little. Big people are supposed to be the elite athletes so your events are obviously watered down. “Yes, you may be held in the highest esteem by your
fellow athletes but they have come to accept the standards they see. Best in the world ever, maybe; but it is not the marathon, is it?” Many of our young people have recently received
their results and achieved their own personal bests. They feel grades seem to count for little as they achieve good grades in music, design technology, or art. The government has fallen into the same trap as previous ones by linking individual achievement with school performance. The arbitrary decision to include the chosen subjects in their retrospective english Baccalaureate is beautifully arrogant. There has been no debate over whether a Bacc is a good
thing or not and less debate over what should be in it. The Taunton Report of 1868 seems to be the basis of much of it and the rest seems to be the result of who screamed most loudly. if a Bacc is a good idea to encourage a rounded education, then maybe the model of the international forerunner would be worth considering with elements of contribution and growth beyond examination success. if the focus should be on that which is needed for our society, then where might icT and technology fit and how do we explain Latin or classical Greek in preference to Mandarin or Punjabi? economics is obviously not a requirement at a time when we are told that our society faces its biggest challenge ever. Perhaps one element should be a study of an applied
nature such as a BTech. if a vocational element had to be included, then independent schools would see their league positions dramatically changed. Perhaps the combination could include a balanced proportion of qualifications achieved through final examination and continuous assessment. Forty years ago, just 15 per cent of 16-year-olds were
entered for an ordinary level qualification. This move returns us to a position where 15 per cent are seen as successful. There seems little attempt to determine whether this counts as success, even by comparison with the so called best in the world. There is a moral duty on the part of governors, heads and teachers to expose the wrong that is being wrought on learners. The trouble is that many will work to ensure that their pupils are not disadvantaged and involuntarily comply with arrogance. it is not the principle of the Bacc that is questionable.
There is something quite distasteful about the way it is being done. Maybe the five subjects are not that challenging at all. Possibly they are easier to achieve for the type of people who enter them.a bit like being elected to Parliament in a safe seat; not much is required but once you are through, you can do as you wish. Maybe some of those with academic achievement would benefit from some vocational knowledge and skill. Having a Bacc will not be much use for DiY moat-cleaning, or chandelier bulb- changing or a duck house installing. Keep rowing, Steve; we know it is hard. Keep riding,
chris; we know the wheels don’t turn themselves.an
d Jessica, don’t fret; we know you are better than that Usain chap. He only runs short races.
• Mick Waters is a professor of education and president of the Curriculum Foundation. He is also a board member of the 21st Century Learning Alliance. Pete Henshaw is publisher and editor of Seced. Email email@example.com
and visit www.sec-ed.co.uk
. You can also follow us on Twitter at www.twitter.com/SecEd_Education
Hilary Moriarty, national director of the Boarding Schools’ Association, reports from the recent State Boarding Schools
conference, where speakers included Professor Sir Tim Brighouse and Ian Hislop
THe BeST news for delegates attending the State Boarding Schools’ association (SBSa) conference in mid-January was that ian Hislop was able to give the after-dinner speech. When you book a speaker like
ian, you just cross your fingers and hope that no BBc big-shot will sneak in and steal him before he gets to the table. Happily on this occasion he was able instead to enjoy dinner before regaling his audience with tales of BBc big- shots, behind the scenes glimpses of Have I Got News for You? and reflections on his time at Private Eye, where getting sued in your first week is actually a feather in your cap. Less happy news for delegates
was that their first speaker, Dr Piers Sellers oBe, Britain’s first astronaut and a former pupil at cranbrook School in Kent, which hosted the conference this year, was recalled to NaSa duties following the shooting of congresswoman Gabrielle Gifford. The congresswoman’s husband
and his twin are both astronauts, so their personal tragedy affected plans for the whole team. Standing in at short notice
was adam Nicolson, author and broadcaster, sharing his thoughts on the King James Bible – wait for the BBc programme later this year. at a time when “real history” is back in the news, this was a timely presentation on the creation of one of the most influential books in our culture. Professor Sir Tim Brighouse
reminded delegates of some of the ingredients and processes which make good schools great, and called for longitudinal research to prove what boarding schools would say – that boarding has a hugely positive impact on pupils’ progress.
Politicians took the floor during
the event as well – local MP Helen Grant, Damian Hinds, MP and member of the education Select committee, and Kent councillor Gary cooke offered their views on the changing landscape of education under the new government. indeed, the changing landscape
was uppermost in many minds: several state boarding schools are well on their way to becoming academies, a process not without difficulty because of their boarding operations. Members of the association committee have been working hard with officials of the Department for education (Dfe) to smooth the way for these excellent schools to achieve academy status. The political will is certainly
there; the problems which had to be addressed first centred on the fact that in this county education is free at the point of delivery, but state boarding schools are able to charge to cover boarding costs. How would academy legislation handle this apparently odd species of school? Between them, state boarding schools have no fewer than 5,000 boarders. Getting the rules right for these schools to become academies if they choose is vital. one might imagine that this
process would be all the easier, given that three of the present academies intend to start boarding operations in September 2011, and have received substantial funding to build new boarding houses. Harefield academy in north
London, The Priory academy in Lincoln, and Wellington academy in Wiltshire are all in the throes of building to accommodate their first tranche of boarding pupils in the autumn. it would be reasonable to presume that at Dfe level, the details of fees and admissions had been worked out well in advance.
Increasing powers for teachers to search pupils and removing the need for teachers to give notice of detentions outside school hours – as outlined in the Education Bill published this week – will lead to relationships with parents and carers suffering. The claim comes from
the Association of Teachers and Lecturers (ATL) after it released the findings of a survey. The union spoke to 220 of its
members from across England, Wales and Northern Ireland who also felt the changes will have a negative impact on student-teacher relationships. The results showed that 58
per cent believe being able to search students and confiscate items such as cigarettes and weapons would increase rule-compliance, while 41 per cent believe it will see a negative impact on student- teacher relationships, and 30 per cent believe it will hinder relationships with parents and carers.
Elsewhere, 62 per cent believe
relationships with parents will suffer if the requirement for schools to give parents and carers notice of detentions outside of school hours is removed, with 31 per cent saying it would have a negative impact on pupils. However, 40 per cent believe it would improve learning in the classroom.
Survey respondents: “if done sensitively i believe it could help restore some authority to teachers while sending a message that these things are not appropriate.”
“i am unsure of the plausibility of such powers. i can see a number of civil claims made by vindictive parents who will claim that, if searched or ‘frisked’, their child was ‘damaged’ in some way.”
“an increase of allegations against staff will ensue. Staff-parent relationships may be negative as already has proved the case. increased pressure and workload on teachers to carry out the role
and accusations of theft and damage of confiscated property will cause extra stress.”
Dr Mary Bousted, ATL general secretary: “Teachers already have powers to search pupils. extending and continuing to emphasise these powers will undermine teachers’ role as educators, putting them increasingly into a policing role.
Members are worried that
searching pupils risks alienating them and their parents, perhaps even resulting in civil claims and could lead to challenges and confrontation which would have a negative impact on learning. We are pleased that the White
Paper, issued in November, recognises that these extra powers could result in allegations being made against teachers and will put in place safeguards to protect teachers from malicious allegations, speed up investigations and legislate to grant teachers anonymity. any powers to search must be accompanied by clear guidance
with the aim of protecting staff and pupils alike.”
Department for Education spokesman: “We are pleased to see that the aTL survey shows the majority of teachers backing our new powers. Their survey found that almost three in five (58.1 per cent) of those questioned said the measures would help to encourage pupils to comply with rules in the classroom, while half (52.9 per cent) said they would have a positive impact on learning. The public also backs the
coalition’s plans with a recent YouGov survey showing that eight in 10 parents say that teachers should have the power to search and physically restrain pupils where needed. That’s why we are ensuring
that teachers have the powers at their disposal, should they need them, to tackle bad behaviour and disruption quickly and decisively and to stop their authority being undermined by a minority of pupils.”
On board: Graeme Edmonds, Cranbrook chef, with guest chefs Tim Johnson and Paul Dunstane (top from left); Angela Daly, Cranbrook head, Ray McGovern, chair of the SBSA; Adam Nicolson, author and broadcaster (above from left); Ian Hislop during his speech (right)
SBSa chair Ray McGovern,
head of Sexey’s School in Somerset, opened the conference by welcoming these newcomers. While the number of state boarding schools has been stable for some years, there are fewer now than there were 15 years ago. it was a great pleasure to be
able to announce that this year the association has grown by three new members, day schools which have seen the wisdom of adding a boarding house to their already thriving operation. and in the mid of earnest and
serious debate about issues of concern and interest to delegates,
cranbrook School chef Graeme edmonds drew in two Michelin- starred chefs, Tim Johnson and Paul Dunstane, to assist him in preparing the annual conference dinner. With seven courses of banquet-quality food, the chefs and the school catering team excelled themselves. The School Food Trust would have been proud.
• Hilary Moriarty is national director of the Boarding Schools’ Association and the State Boarding Schools’ Association.
SecEd • February 3 2011
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