A working hypothesis

English: Michael Gove speaking at the Conserva...

During the maelstrom of the last few weeks of birthday parties, weddings and visitors, I haven’t had much time for writing or blog posts, but I have been flicking through my twitter feed and I quite like the weekly e mail that sorts through my twitter feed and tells me what I might be interested in.

A recurrent theme has been the planned changes to the UK National Curriculum. I’ve got a kind of vested interest as I was trained to be a primary teacher in the UK just as the National Curriculum was introduced. I was well trained and because it was a time of great change, it enabled me to be a flexible teacher. But the National Curriculum didn’t let me be a good teacher, so I left. I worked in Mexico which showed me that when the staff  are committed to work together to make the school an educationally excellent establishment, anything can happen. At the end of my two years there my boss told me I would never work in another school like it.

The next school in Madrid was very different, but again I still remember that buzz I felt on my first day when two of the staff who had just completed the TRAINER training in the IB Primary Years Programme gave us their first workshop. During those two days I realised that there was an education system that fitted the way I wanted to teach and this was it.

I loved the PYP so much that I decided that I would never work in anything BUT a PYP school. I was a tad evangelical in those days. I’m a little more reflective and critical nowadays and while I still LOVE the PYP in capital letters, there are areas where it could be better. And as a teacher, working in a school in Paris where the staff are committed to making the school an educationally excellent establishment I am in prime position to do just that. Have you spotted the recurrent theme in my post yet?

So, when I read about the proposed changes to the National Curriculum it makes me a little sad. Learning poetry off by heart? Personally, I cannot memorise anything to save my life, but stick it to music, different story. The thing is I don’t think that Gove is talking about nursery rhymes is he? He’s talking about  the kind of exam which filled me with anxiety because I have no memory and which I failed again and again. Not because I couldn’t do it, but because I couldn’t remember how to do it. The whole concept of the EBacc first makes me laugh, did Gove actually do any research at all?  But then it makes me want to cry, see the previous reason.

Then I read Emma Barnes post on An Awfully Big Blog Adventure, about proposed changes to the teaching of reading and I began to get very interested. I did a bit of research. I found the OFSTED recommendations which seemed to say over and over again: read for enjoyment. I wondered what the fuss was about. I read some of Michael Rosen’s: Letters from a curious parent series and some news headlines and it things became a little clearer. It seems (and this is a MAJOR paraphrase) that Gove has not listened to Ofsted or, if stories are to be believed, his own consultants.

So, as a teacher this is my point. I didn’t have the courage to go through all the PISA: Signs of our Times data, so I used the Guardian’s data where the UK currently lies 20th in reading, 22nd in Maths and 11th in Science. However, there was something in the PISA document that I found interesting and I might go back and read. It was the section about, who makes the education policies. Now I haven’t read it, but I’m going to hazard a guess here, a hypothesis, a supposition: The countries that allow the education experts (like say, Australia who are 6th) to make the policies do better.


2 responses to “A working hypothesis

  1. “Countries that allow the education experts (like say, Australia who are 6th) to make the policies do better.” Totally agree with this. The best example is perhaps Finland, which has been at or near the top of the table for many years, and where education is clearly run by the profession itself. (http://wp.me/p1YZsx-9s)

    The (2009) OECD table is fascinating. I think the latest tables show that Singapore and Hong Kong are now also in the top few places, and according to the research I’ve done these are countries that have adopted the ‘Finnish model’ for teaching, pedagogy and policy making. ( http://wp.me/p1YZsx-sT)

    I’m not sure whether you’ve stumbled across Michael Rosen’s blog yet, but it’s well worth visiting. e.g. http://michaelrosenblog.blogspot.co.uk/2012/09/the-national-exam-and-test-cult.html

    Many thanks for your link.

    • Thanks for the links Gary. I remember doing some coursework about Gender differences years ago, and thinking that if it weren’t for the cold climate I’d be up for moving to Finland. From what I’ve read in your posts, the Finnish system and PYP share many similarities. And while outwardly the Singaporean system seems to be basing its work on the Finnish system, from the little I know, it would seem that the ethos behind the educational changes in Singapore are quite different (but I can’t provide a link to prove it – drat).

      I did stumble across Michael Rosen’s blog in the end, and I just hope that eventually the voice of reason will be heard in the UK. I was educated in the days of ILEA with some far out ideas (that weird synthetic phonics thing for one), but which provided me with some great learning experiences and gave me an idea of the kind of teacher I wanted to be. I feel very privileged to be able to teach the way I want to, but it’s constantly at the back of my mind that I don’t want to work in the system in which I was educated and that my friends who are still teaching in the UK have so many obstacles to overcome before they can actually do any teaching. There has to be a change in the UK, but it needs to be a change for the better and it has to be led by best practice and proven.

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