Wednesday, 13 July 2016

Whilst politicians cheat and deceive half our kids are failures

Supermum Leadsome and the adulterer Boris decided being ‘leavers’ was advantageous to their ambitions and manipulated the electorate. That the good people of Sunderland and Grimsby weighed up the likelihood of a fall in stock exchange values against the promise of £350 million a week for the NHS is admirable. The immediate 42% increase in race hate crimes is no-one’s fault.(BBC 08-07-16)

The sneaky duplicitous Gove says it is his, “privilege to serve,” but loyalty to Shaggy Boris was a step too far. I hope his love of classical education will comfort him as he descends Dante’s Hell, through those levels reserved for the greedy, the fraudulent and finally settling for eternity with the most treacherous. He may well meet 172 Labour MPs down there.

The politicians’ lack of care, understanding or interest ensures that teachers bore, alienate and fail our kids in homage to a romantic past, an education ideal that never existed. We witnessed dishonest, opportunistic slogan chanting in the referendum where they seduced the electorate they despise, only to reject within moments of victory their own promises on the NHS and immigration.

That hundreds of thousands of children are being falsely labelled failures matters not one jot compared to MP’s thirst for self-promotion.

Dodgy Dave, never tires of telling us about his blessed family, and tearfully used his affection for his dad as the reason he lied to parliament. If your underpants are too tight stop wriggling.

Last week one of Gove’s dwindling underlings, Pointless Morgan, tried desperately to explain that telling 47% of the country’s 11 year olds they had failed the new version of the 3Rs was nothing to worry about.

It is deliberate policy to instil failure into the majority of children and to identify the schools they attend as unworthy. It does take us nearer to the Tory dream of grammar schools – the good old days before working class families got uppity and their kids found ambition in schools that valued their achievements.

The first part of the failure game was to test the children at age 5 so that schools’ performance could be judged by progress at age 7. Incompetent officials discovered that their three measures were incompatible and the tests had to be abandoned. Amusingly, headteachers had been busy finding the hardest tests for 5 year olds, so that the children would score hardly anything and the school could show tremendous progress later on.

How long before teachers have to literally get into bed with pregnant mums to chant subordinate adverbial clauses at embryos?

Now we have tests at age 7, giving children three separate marks out of 100. The DfE has said it’s OK for schools not to pass the results to children or their parents. Well, what are they for, then? Here’s a test question for 7 year olds that some found ambiguous:

“There were some people on atrain.
19 people got off at the 1st stop.
17 people get on the train.
Now there are 63 people on the train.
How many people were on the train to begin with?”

(The answer: comes from x-19+17=63; so X=65.)

Recently Morgan decided there would no longer be parent places on school governing bodies, relegating them to tea making at school bazaars. Did the DfE officials – the experts – advise ministers that this might alienate parents who some of us see as vital to the success of the education process. Or is this a “jobsworth” situation

We do not need a knowledge based curriculum with an exam system designed to fail more kids. We do need a skills based education where children discover, discuss and decide, alone and in groups, in writing and orally, using ICT programs to present their solutions, able to evaluate and target their own success.

Tests at age 7 and 11 are taken by children who have spent months preparing, revising and relearning material solely relevant to the tests. The rest of what should be a creative, stimulating curriculum of discovery and mastery is cast aside because the tests are used to batter the primary schools.

We heard of previously happy children driven to tears of frustration and self-harming fear of failure by the mind numbing repetition of practising for the tests. The schools are blamed and dammed. Morgan told headteachers at a conference in May that she expected many more schools would see fewer pupils hitting expected scores. However she said the results would be “manipulated” to ensure the number of failing schools would be in the hundreds, not thousands.

Publicly' shamelessly and with no sense of irony the Secretary of State for Education announced that she will fiddle the results.

Weary teachers giggled when Gove told the Commons Select Committee that, “all schools must be above average.” Chancellor Osborne could not do a times table sum and Education minister Gibb failed a test question for 11 year olds. Nicky Morgan to refused to answer test questions. “…there will be one where I get it wrong and that's the one that everyone's going to be focused on.” (Daily Mirror 13-1-16) All the ministers were worried they would make mistakes if put under test conditions.

I've written books on English language. I reckon I can write to be understood, or wrap in camouflage and metaphor when the desire for obscurity appeals. Can I do the 11 year olds’ grammar test? How much use have we had for ‘determiners?’ Here’s guidance on how to teach them:

“The class may participate in a discussion about which words are determiners; for example, a child may be given the phrase 'happy girl' and suggest that the word 'happy' is a determiner. Class discussion could then lead to the teacher explaining that 'happy' is in fact an adjective.” (

Teacher assessments, coursework, resits, oral exams and controlled assessments have been abandoned because some kids in Shanghai take lots of tests. So we will test children against national standards at age 5, 7, 11, 14, 16 and 18 to emulate societies that we do not wish to mirror. Morgan says that the harder the test, the more they have learned. Thus we have GCSE Maths, now with A Level content so that it is inaccessible to around 50% of students. .

Back in 1980, Biology teachers at Little Ilford School set an exam where 3.5% was, “a really good mark.” What was the point? Then Biology, Chemistry and Physics teachers started to compete for kids to choose their subject. 98% became a fairly common score. Where was the learning?

There is a relationship between students, their parents and their teachers which praises effort, encourages progress built on self- belief, great teaching and respect, showing students what they can achieve by working hard. Show them that there’s no point in trying and things are going to get tough in our schools.

It's hard not to feel sorry for the civil servants working in the DfE. Those with principles fled into other jobs. Think for a moment of those who had to remain because of mortgages, access to stationery and their dreams of pensions and possibly a mention in the queen’s honours list for time serving. As they scurry around pleasuring the ministers, carrying out any number of contradictory tasks and producing nonsense like our assessment system remember that the bright ones left. Those with experience and understanding of state education left years ago. Gove told his senior staff I don't want your advice I want you to put in place what I say.

Out of DfE staff bonuses last year, the top civil servants received up to £17,500.((Schools Week 05-07-16) Do they still get luncheon vouchers?

Perhaps the DfE is full of Trotskyist cadres waiting for things to get so bad that they can step forward as the new leadership of an education revolution after which we will be freed to be creative, inspirational and sane.

Or will they mindlessly do exactly as they are told and excuse their compliance with, “I was just following orders?” Where did I hear that before?

Little more than a production line worker alienated from the product of his labour, the DfE officials are plodding along, “Yes Gove, Yes Gibbs, Yes Morgan,” as an alternative to unemployment.

In the last few days we have watched the parliamentary debate on Arts Education, where 12 MPs and Nick Gibb responded to hundreds of thousands of us in petitions. He dismissed the facts and that’s the end of debate. Such is democracy now. I wonder how heavy is the hand of history on Iraq-War Blair’s unaccountable shoulders this week.

Despite appeasing Tory MPs by publicly abandoning forced academisation Morgan was advised that Local Authorities will be forced to academies all schools due to a lack of money to keep open primaries. Dissembling is nothing but lies.

Stupidly, and he must know it, minister Gibb said that market forces will drive up teachers’ pay at a time when schools have deficit budgets .Let’s hope he’s been thoroughly tested; spouting nonsense might be contagious.

And if he or the Morgan-Gove folk think that I am going to make 50% of our kids waste their precious learning time on cramming, again, for the insult that is resit SATs on their first term at secondary school….

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