Archive for June, 2009

Play the ‘Mock the week’ Ofsted exam game

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In their wisdom Ofsted have decided they are going to make it harder for schools to achieve an ‘outstanding’ rating by placing greater emphasis on raw exam results.

What a great idea. Just when we are being lulled into some sense of hope that the general exam regime is being relaxed in favour of other forms of assessment Ofsted chief inspector Christine Gilbert takes a significant step backwards.

“Our focus is on getting a better deal for children and young people,” Ms Gilbert said. I don’t suppose the young people themselves will see it that way. I don’t suppose anyone has bothered to ask them!

Anyone who watches ‘Mock the week’ on BBC 1 (and Dave) will know that there is a section of the programme where the stand up comedians come up with ‘things you are unlikely to hear’ in certain situations. Here is my version:

Things you are unlikely to hear young people say when asked whether they would like exam results to be even more important than they are considered now.

‘It’s a great idea. I don’t think I suffer anything like enough stress at school at the moment’

‘It’s a great idea. It will help teachers just focus on the things we need to do for the exams.’

‘It’s a great idea. I’m enjoying school far too much at the moment’

‘It’s a great idea. Confirms that people who aren’t good at exams are failures’

‘It’s a great idea. Means that schools will do less creative stuff.’

‘It’s a great idea. Means I’ll do much less of the stuff at school that I really enjoy’

‘It’s a great idea. I get very nervous about exams and am not very good at them. This will help me to pull myself together’.

‘It’s a great idea. I burst into tears before my last exam. Hopefully this will mean more people will join me and burst into tears also.’

Why not add yours, either in reply to this post, or @MickLandmann on Twitter, and I will compile them all and do my best to get them to Ms Gilbert.

June 12, 2009 at 1:59 pm 1 comment

‘Stories out of school’ misses the point

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I attended an event called ‘Stories out of school’ in London yesterday, organised by Futurelab and presented by Martin Hughes, professor of education at the University of Bristol. This was based on an ESRC funded research project run by Martin that looked into ways young people learn outside the school environment. The event was, I think, put on as part of the research remit to disseminate the findings widely.

The conclusions of the research itself as presented at the event, that young people want adults to listen to them, to respect them, to not label them, and to recognise that their lives can be tough, presented no revelations. Any parent of teenage kids could tell you this, simply from observation. There was also a general conclusion that kids don’t like school. Hmmm.

The research followed specific young people in their involvement in a chess club, in a rock band, in drama sessions, in sport, in poetry and there were displays of the ‘outcomes’ at the event. Martin Hughes also presented the general findings and showed two DVD’s of dramatic work some of the young people had undertaken and presented.

Whilst I don’t doubt the veracity of this research, I don’t think it went anything like far enough. In particular conspicuous by its absence was any study of the out of school use of technology by young people, i.e. gaming, social networking, etc. or as someone pointed out any study of out of school activities that didn’t involve organised activity as such but rather ‘hanging out’.  These were, in my view, serious omissions given the amount of time young people spend with technology and their love of hanging out.

A clue as to why technology was omitted perhaps is in the fact that Martin Hughes clearly was desperately uncomfortable with technology himself. His PowerPoint slides were awful, he was unable to get a link to a website he wanted to show and after much fiddling he did eventually manage to show DVD’s of some drama activities, but had the volume up intrusively too loud. Clearly he hadn’t bothered to set these things up in advance.

And this was my greatest problem with the whole event. The presentation was appalling, including the scrappy presentation of the young peoples work and conclusions on display panels around the room.

This meant a disappointing afternoon for, I suspect, all attendees, but more significantly showed disrespect for the young people who figured in the study. It is my view that young people are not shown the respect they deserve and are certainly not trusted with any real responsibility for their own learning through the education system. To simply not bother to make the effort to present their views in any sort of reasonable fashion through a study that presumably is intended to fight their corner simply serves to exacerbate that situation.

June 10, 2009 at 10:54 am Leave a comment

Try leading by example!

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To a question I raised on Twitter, ‘Can we persuade parents to be radical with their kids education?’ I received the reply, ‘Try leading by example’. The question arose from my previous blog item, ‘Education. It’s a risky business’ in which I raise the issue of the innate conservatism us parents tend towards when it comes to our kids education.

Yet we have an education system that is out of step with the times, an education system that was made for the needs of industrialism, not for the current needs of information based digital society.

And we do, right now, have a unique opportunity to change that, by invoking digital technology to allow truly personalised learning. However, for this to happen, radical changes to the current system will be required.

For example, we must move away from a classroom model to a more fluid model, we must move away from a 9-3, 3 term, September to September model to one that recognises that learning can and does take place 24/7, we must find ways of  replacing exams with other means of assessment (ideally self assessment), we must value creativity as a lynchpin for all learning and most important of all we must value and trust our young people and give them control of their own learning.

These are radical changes which depend for their implementation on winning the hearts and souls of governments, teachers, parents, and pupils alike.

There is no panacea. I cannot do something with my kids that somehow ‘leads by example’. This would be a misunderstanding of the issue. What I want to see changed is the system itself such that my kids and everybody’s kids can satisfy their natural curiosities and become self fulfilled. I want to see a system that delivers on the promise of the 1967 Plowden report that:

The school sets out … to devise the right environment for children, to allow them to be themselves and to develop in the way and at the pace appropriate to them……… It lays special stress on individual discovery, on first-hand experience and on opportunities for creative work. It insists that knowledge does not fall into neatly separate compartments and that work and play are not opposite but complementary.

The example I can lead with is one of raising the issues, producing evidence, working with the players towards the desired end just as I did in my campaigning efforts that led to a fairer admissions system in Brighton and Hove.

I can also, of course, lead by example by myself being kind, giving, caring, compassionate, all the virtues we would like of our children. In this I do my best.

June 4, 2009 at 12:08 pm 1 comment


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