Posts filed under ‘responsibility for learning’
When people first heard that we were stranded in Lanzarote as a result of Eyjafjallajoekull a first reaction was to comment how lucky we were. However, the truth belies that.
We were psychologically prepared initially for a one week holiday in a villa on the island. We were not psychologically prepared for our stay to be extended indefinitely, in the event for an additional week.
A great deal of the extra time was spent trying to find a flight home, feeling lost in limbo up to the time we did eventually manage to find one.
There were additional living expenses, which in theory we should be able to claim back from our airline, but in truth are expecting a mighty battle over.
Whilst you might think our kids would have relished this additional time off school there reactions were in fact very different.
Our 15 year old daughter got very upset at the prospect, realising that she would miss key lessons as preparation for GCSE’s, in particular missing a mock GCSE in PE the proper exam of which she is taking next week. She is a high achiever, very motivated, and until this happened on track for some great results. What upset her was the prospect of this being put at risk, through no fault of her own.
To help with this we got the school to email the mock GCSE paper which she then took in our hotel room, emailing the results back to school for marking. Up to the point of taking this mock she had been quite worried and miserable, but it was remarkable how she perked up immediately after having sat the mock.
Our 12 year old son reacted very differently. He is in Year 8, not yet on the GCSE treadmill, apart from in fast track French. For him the extra time off school was a bonus, more time in the pool and in the sea.
They did both miss their friends, Mum and Dad being poor substitutes, despite my efforts to regress which served only to embarrass. They were able to have some Facebook contact but despite all you can’t beat good old face to face stuff.
In response to our email to them explaining the situation the school did manage to inform ‘most’ of their subject teachers. I highlight ‘most’ because I do feel that missing the odd teacher was sloppy. One of my daughters’ subject teachers had no idea of the situation and was completely unprepared for remedial action on her return.
In order to reassure my daughter that she would not miss out as a result of our enforced stay I told her that her circumstances would be taken into account, and if it was adjudged that due to the prevailing circumstances she was put at a disadvantage in her preparation she would be able to take, say her PE GCSE, at a later date. She said this would not be the case. I swore it was. She was right.
It seems that whilst the JCQ (Joint Council for Qualifications) has said that some oral exams and practical tests would be re-arranged they also insist that no written A level or GCSE exams would be rescheduled. Why? I’ll tell you in a minute.
And where does that leave my daughter. She has done absolutely everything that has been asked of her, she is an asset to her school, she is on track, through her own efforts, for some fantastic results in her exams. When some of this is put at risk, through no fault of her own, can she depend on the ‘system’ to be sufficiently flexible to support her appropriately? No she can’t. Why not? Simply because they can’t be arsed – it would require a certain about of reorganisation and I can only assume that it is to avoid the necessity for this that the JCQ have decided, ahead of time, not to offer any flexibility for written exams.
I think this is appalling, and yet another nail in the coffin for an education system that thinks more of itself than it does of its pupils.
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.
There’s a programme on channel 4 at 9.00pm tonight called ‘Boys and girls alone’. It’s about ten boys and ten girls aged between eight and eleven who live on their own in two houses (one for boys and one for girls) for two weeks without adults.
I haven’t seen the programme yet (it’s a four part series) but I heard an interview with the commissioning editor, Dominique Walker and some of the parents and children who participated:
The programme is intended as an exploration of the issue that many parents face of achieving an appropriate balance between doing for your child, and letting them do for themselves. Do we tend to wrap up our children in cotton wool, do everything for them and then wonder why they struggle when released into the world in their own right?
As the Dominique Walker rightly pointed out children these days get very little time when their lives are not being dominated by adults. There is far less unsupervised, unstructured time than ten or twenty years ago when children played more on the streets and were free to wander farther away.
The result of this is that children take far less decisions for themselves than they used to even though they are capable of more than we allow.
By all accounts the experiences of the children in the programme were varied and at times harrowing. What was interesting to me, though, was comment of the mother of a boy of eight called Jason who took part.
Jason, it seems, did have something of a hard time during the two weeks but was also of the view that the whole experience had been worthwhile. The mother said that the lesson she had learned from the experience was that we don’t allow our children enough control, and we tend not to allow them to take responsibility for things.
As a result, since the experience, Jason has been allowed greater control and greater responsibility in many things. The result, she says, is that he takes a pride in discharging these responsibilities and feels a real sense of achievement as a result.
What this says to me is that, ironically, our attempts to protect our children actually dispossesses them and leaves them less prepared for the world.
And this extends to the world of education where our young people are given no real responsibility for their learning, this being undertaken by their elders.