I apologise for appearing to be going over the same ground, but how can I help it when the government is making grandiose statements almost daily. Before I get to the meat, a few days ago the PM was pontificating on education in a school and then sat down with the kids. He looked most uncomfortable and I wondered who was pulling his strings, He seems to be following in Blair’s footsteps, making many of the statements himself, which I should have thought were the job of the Ministers involved and concerned. He is downgrading the Cabinet again.
I read that Brown is proposing closing the 1 in 5 schools that are seriously below standard if they don’t improve. The process is to be spread over 6 years. The anomalies that statement raises are unbelievable. First of all, surely weaknesses should be uncovered if they are sufficiently serious to warrant closure, in any failing school, by analysing the exam results, a questionnaire for parents to full in, or failing that talking to them, to elucidate their concerns with the system, and an intelligent inspection of the teaching and teaching staff, Allegedly, only about 30% of children achieve A to C level in GCSE. This situation was supposed to be dealt with starting ten years ago. Having found the reasons for the failure it shouldn’t take closure to put it right, surely? Another report has been issued that literacy is at the same level it was in 1950.
The literary issue, I would explain, is unsurprising and the numeric failure has a similar basic problem, Not long ago I wrote a piece about the 40% fall in library book borrowing, over ’91 to 2002, while borrowing of audio and visual work had increased 100%. TV generally became household equipment in the mid 50s and therefore reading by adults dropped and in consequence encouragement for children to read for pleasure also fell. It takes time, some money and patience to give books to children and read to them in their formative years, and if the example and the wish are absent, there will be no incentive. The pressures on the more impecunious parents are sufficient for many to never pick up a book to read; time is short and they have the TV. The philosophy of the 60s to do away with rote teaching, was an untried fraud – psychobabble! You can’t give change rapidly at a shop counter, with no mechanical device to aid, if the whole process is not so imbedded in the subconscious it is like a language. My daughter, a one time very successful elementary teacher will tell you, small children have an attention span of about 7 to 10 minutes, after that they need relaxation, a laugh, and something else to distract them, and then they can start absorbing once again. She would take a guitar into class and sing them a folk song, tell them stories etc. Above all they need to learn by rote.
Just out of interest, how does one go about closing 670 schools in 6 years? That means you have to reallocate anything over six times 500 children each year, in radii for each school, of. say, to be generous, 4 miles, which would make some kids have to travel 8 miles in the relocation. I was never anything more than 2 miles from school. What happens to the teachers? More to the point what Head would want to take on an additional burden, especially when it is 60% below par. Closing isn’t the solution. It must be to turn the school performance round by a flying force of teachers, specialty chosen and trained if need be, and a management staff, as backup, to weed out the incompetent teachers, and redress the weaknesses.