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Guest blog: teachers' unions have a 'leftist' academic agenda - what do you think?

(129 Posts)
KateMumsnet (MNHQ) Fri 05-Apr-13 15:11:23

In today's guest blog Munira Mirza, London's Deputy Mayor for Education and Culture, defends the government's planned changes to the national curriculum - and says that teaching unions who oppose the plans are still in thrall to a 'leftist' academic agenda.

Do tell us what you think - and if you're interested in this subject, you might want to have a look at yesterday's guest blog from the NUT, on why they're calling for reduced teaching-hours.

"Last week at City Hall, we held an event to launch a £24m London Schools Excellence Fund which aims to drive up standards in state schools and support better practice amongst teachers.

Amongst those present, there was particular excitement about the idea of teaching a more rigorous, knowledge-based curriculum. Unfortunately, this enthusiasm is not shared by some activists in the teaching unions who have reacted with hostility to the new national curriculum proposed by the Government. At the National Union of Teachers' Easter conference last week some delegates attacked what they described as a 'pub-quiz style curriculum', claiming that children didn't need to be taught facts anymore as they could simply Google them. Additionally, a hundred left-leaning education academics wrote a letter criticising what they claim is an "endless lists of spelling, facts and rules" that demands "too much too young".

Reports in the media can give the impression that teachers are unanimously hostile to the new curriculum. Perhaps that's because some journalists conflate the highly politicised and often unrepresentative teaching unions with ordinary teachers.

In fact, I believe many teachers on the ground have a more positive attitude.

They know that state schools in Britain need to improve. Even in London, where schools have made big strides over the last decade (thanks to the efforts of many great school leaders), one in five children still leaves primary school unable to read and write properly and four in ten students leave secondary school without five good GCSEs. Many more could be stretched further, getting As and A*s rather than Cs and Bs.

The problem is not the quality of our teachers but the way they have been instructed to teach. Britain's schools remain very much under the influence of ideas of certain leftist academics from the 1960s and 1970s (though certainly not ideas shared by all left-wing people). These so-called experts had a view of education which emphasises vaguely-defined 'skills' over concrete knowledge, play over rigour, and child-centred approaches instead of teacher authority. They claimed that the emphasis on subject knowledge throttles young people's creativity and disadvantages poorer children. This thinking has spread through state schools since and unintentionally damaged the life chances of generations of children. Not, of course, the offspring of the wealthy whose private schools give their pupils a huge advantage by teaching hard facts and avoiding the dumbing down of the all-must-have-prizes approach.

The education establishment today can't bring itself to acknowledge these problems. Instead of engaging in a constructive debate about the right balance between knowledge and skills, rigour and creativity, it has a knee jerk reaction to anything that sounds vaguely traditional. It peddles assorted myths about the new curriculum: it's too "prescriptive" (it's actually slimmer than before); it promotes only facts and "rote learning" (no, it lays out broad areas of core knowledge that all children are expected to know, but doesn't prescribe teaching methods); it ignores the views of "teaching experts" (it was, in fact, drawn up in consultation with an expert advisory panel chaired by Professor Tim Oates, plus wide consultation with subject specialists), and that there is no evidence that an emphasis on "core knowledge" works (there is plenty of international evidence, from the US, Singapore, Finland and Sweden among other places).

Very few people want a full-blooded return to the 1950s classroom, but some aspects of it - a grasp of core subject knowledge, a commitment to rigour and discipline, and yes, even some memorisation - do have their place in the twenty-first classroom. Tellingly, many people in the elite of society - politicians and lawyers, artists and journalists, businesspeople and academics - who choose not to educate their children privately nevertheless go to great lengths to get their kids into the kinds of state schools which insist on 'old-fashioned' standards.

Many state school teachers also disagree with the educational establishment. The head of Ofsted, Sir Michael Wilshaw, who ran one of the best comprehensive schools in Britain - Mossbourne Academy - has praised the new curriculum for bringing much needed rigour back. Many of the new generation of free schools are now demonstrating how a knowledge-based curriculum is perfectly suitable for poorer children. In one I visited recently, two experienced teachers - both Oxbridge graduates - told me of their determination to teach a more rigorous curriculum and challenge the low expectations they'd seen whilst working in other state schools.

Rather than reacting defensively, shouldn't teaching unions and academics welcome a proper debate about the value of knowledge and how schools can impart it? There are plenty of teachers and parents who have looked at the evidence and come to a more favourable conclusion about the new curriculum; they deserve to be heard too."

Munira Mirza is London's Deputy Mayor for Education and Culture - more info here.

moondog Fri 05-Apr-13 16:35:43

Hear hear. Absolute music to my ears.
Oh and good to see that MN isn't giving a platform to another left winger peddling guff.

racheyp Fri 05-Apr-13 18:54:34

Message deleted by Mumsnet for breaking our Talk Guidelines. Replies may also be deleted.

MrsWembley Fri 05-Apr-13 19:31:56

<crying with relief that someone has said this and that, shock, it's been repeated here on MN>

stargirl1701 Fri 05-Apr-13 19:44:19


You should read Scotland's 'Curriculum for Excellence'!

Flisspaps Fri 05-Apr-13 19:44:41

None of the teachers I know are remotely positive about any the changes.

The one I'm married to is appalled by the proposed changes to his subject.

CrikeeThree Fri 05-Apr-13 20:03:13

Same as Flisspaps .
I don't know any teachers who are positive about the changes. And I know many teachers.
I am a teacher, my dad was a teacher, my sister is a teacher.
It might be that, by some weird coincidence, every teacher I've ever met (a large number, from a wide range of backgrounds) is also "in thrall to a 'leftist' academic agenda".

Or maybe it's just that they've been in a classroom more than once or twice.
And know something about teaching.
And therefore know that what the government is proposing will damage teaching, teachers and pupils.

(But, of course, it might be that people in Whitehall know more than all of us. Yes. I suppose so....)

ouryve Fri 05-Apr-13 20:05:22

I'm sure the education system was wonderful back in the 50s and 60s before the left wingers got hold of it in the 70s. My dad leaving school at 15, barely literate, is testament to thathmm

Is there really any evidence that children were leaving school, back then, so much better than they are now, because I'm not seeing it in my parents generation, that's for sure?

It's all very well harking back to the good old days with rose tinted glasses on (and whatever other cliches you care to pull from your own personal armoury) but what teachers really need to be teaching is a curriculum designed in the light of real evidence from real experts. Something that Mr Gove fantasised about in the shower is not going to cut it and is going to do nothing to improve the chances of children from poor backgrounds or anyone else.

SuffolkNWhat Fri 05-Apr-13 20:15:20

I'm eternally grateful that Gove et al can't get their hands on my subject.

PollyEthelEileen Fri 05-Apr-13 20:21:48

I agree that we need to value a knowledge-based curriculum.

The hierarchy of learning has knowledge as its base. With adequate knowledge, the learner can progress to higher level skills.

You have to start with knowledge before moving onto understanding, application, analysis, evaluation and synthesis/creativity.

A lot of what has disturbed me about parts of the curriculum in recent years is that it demanded students to exhibit higher learning skills before acquiring basic recall of knowledge.

Our challenge is to ensure students recall the appropriate amount of knowledge in this Information Age and equip them to Google effectively for the types of facts their grandparents could recite in their sleep, and then progress to higher skills.

exoticfruits Fri 05-Apr-13 20:26:54

I agree with Flisspaps and CrickeeThree and I am not remotely left wing.
I think that teachers get to the point where they really don't care- they just want a period without change. Nothing is ever given long enough. After a few years 'the powers that be' decide it isn't working and it is 'in with the new'. We need stability- and just time -before the next change comes along.

HumphreyCobbler Fri 05-Apr-13 21:25:27

yy Moondog.

I welcome these changes.

MGMidget Fri 05-Apr-13 22:08:52

Yes, I agree with PollyEthelEileen. Children need a base of factual knowledge in order to do further research. It is also an important skill to learn how to commit some information to memory. Many jobs require this skill. You would look like an idiot in many 'professional' jobs if you couldn't answer basic questions requiring a bit of expertise without having to research the answers first! I think 'poor' students are disadvantaged more by not having a requirement to commit some factual knowledge to memory in the curriculum because they aren't being prepared for an important skill they are going to need for some of the better paid jobs.

mercibucket Fri 05-Apr-13 22:22:09

i'm intrigued to know why one of the very people advising on the new curriculum is not going to be teaching it in her school.

also, when and why did education in england become so politicised? and can it stop now please

mercibucket Fri 05-Apr-13 22:26:13

and finally, are you seriously suggesting that the fact that the children of the very very rich manage to get top jobs in the economic, political, media etc circles, is due to them learning some facts off by heart?!?

joannita Fri 05-Apr-13 22:38:40

I wonder what would happen if successive goverments would just stop using education as a political football and allow teachers to teach and students to learn.

Every few years teachers are expected to change the way they teach their subject which leads to confusion and is counter-productive. In a couple of years this government will be voted out and Labour will come along and shake things up all over again. And so it will continue.

How are teachers supposed to inspire if they are constantly having the rug pulled from under them so that they have to struggle just to keep up with the pace of change? Teaching is so bureaucratic now and making teachers jump through more hoops is just going to add to their workload, causing stress and making them less effective in the classroom.

Education secretaries seem to have this bloody-minded urge to destroy in the same way that Prime Ministers feel like the history books will ignore them if they don't lead us into a war during their period of office. Just back off, cool down and focus on something more helpful is what I say.

Gove is in danger of sounding like Mr Gradgrind. Learning facts has its place, but learning how to acquire knowledge, evaluate, transfer knowledge from one sphere to another, and understand how facts fit into a system or continuum is more important.

Creativity is also crucial in education. Creative industries such as music, graphic design and fashion bring an enormous amount of wealth to our economy and yet such pursuits are often dismissed as mickey-mouse by conservatives with a small C. We should help children to fulfil their potential and if they are strongly creative but no so hot on facts, please let's not create an education system that tells them they are no good.

There are many different forms of intelligence. I for one was a strongly academic straight A student and teachers in my state comprehensive were pretty sure I'd be successful in life. But guess what? Others who were less academic at school have been much more financially successful than me. Academic success is not the be-all and end-all. People with excellent people skills, those who are technical but not exam clever, people who are natually business-savvy and good at negotiating; there are so many types who are made to feel average or below average at school, but who go on to be highly successful.

We need to find a balance in our education system. We need to learn to value different forms of intelligence, because even just from an economic viewpoint, allowing potential to go unnoticed means wasting a vital resource. By all means ask children to learn some facts, but let's not swing too far in that direction and make knowledge for its own sake our guiding educational philosophy.

And lastly. If we have to have change, let it be organic and et it be guided by those at the chalk-face who will have to implement it.

I had an 80s education. Primary was okayish, but didn't learn a bloody thing at secondary.

My grammar is appalling, as is my spelling. I don't know my timestables. The one thing I do have is excellent readable handwritting and fantastic exam technique, the two things that my DF taught me. With those I managed to wing myself a few GCSEs with pretty much no engagement with the subjects. Then A-levels happened and I didn't have a clue about anything sad

I was bright. I was not taught.

ProphetOfDoom Fri 05-Apr-13 23:32:48

Message withdrawn at poster's request.

HandbagCrab Sat 06-Apr-13 00:10:10

Education goes in circles, over and over again. In twenty years time this politician's replacement will be bemoaning a factual curriculum and insisting we move to a more creative and flexible one.

I'm a bit disappointed mumsnet that you're giving this room at the top of talk as it really doesn't deserve it.

Cassidee Sat 06-Apr-13 04:50:29

SchmaltzingMatilda, I'm just having a lightbulb moment - feel like I've been on a dimmer switch - so you're saying that the exam boards have reacted to Gove's pronouncements by making it very difficult indeed for current cohorts to get an A/A*?

Those poor dc! And unis haven't lowered their offers.

exoticfruits Sat 06-Apr-13 06:35:04

I agree 100% joannita.

QueenoftheHolly Sat 06-Apr-13 06:48:25

My parents moved me from a 'good' state school (ex grammar) to a private school after my father had a row with the history teacher at a parents evening.
He asked why she never corrected my spelling mistakes etc & she said that it was her job to teach history not English. He also asked why we never did any tests & she said that teaching history wasn't about remembering facts.

That was the final straw for him. I had previously been at a tiny rural primary school which, despite being small had been very competitive. Moving to a vast (in comparison) secondary had been a horrible eye opener. I hadn't been used to all the gender stereotyping for example (girls aren't good at science or maths), the lack of ambition and the general idea that difficult knowledge & skills weren't that important. In 'textiles' for eg, we were never taught how to use a sewing machine or to sew confused.

I was so much happier in my new all girls school. The expectations were high & the classes demanding. My new history teacher was an inspiration - an Oxford 'blue stocking' with no time for grammatical errors! I read history at university but most of my ingrained knowledge is what she taught me.

This was during the 1990's & seems to be a good example of what Michael Gove is talking about.

exoticfruits Sat 06-Apr-13 07:13:58

It would seem to me that you were not at a 'good' state school. hmm

SmileAndPeopleSmileWithYou Sat 06-Apr-13 08:41:22

I am a primary school teacher and to suggest that teachers are not teaching facts for children to build on is an insult. It is being suggested that children need to rote learn times tables, spellings etc as though it was only done in the 50's!
What do you think I have been doing???

I put enormous emphasis on the importance of learning number skills and spelling rules. But these can then be applied to a creative and imaginative curriculum.

I am not against change generally, however these changes are rediculous. I can't see how it is "slimmed down" as the writer suggests. For example; year 4 science objectives have doubled (including some that are currently y3 and y5). Year 4 maths objectives include Roman numerals??! Why? And an understanding of where Arabic numbers came from and the introduction of the concept of 0... I'm sure that's going to be very worthwhile instead of spending the time teaching them practical skills like money or time!!!

It seems like going back in time is the only thing Gove can think of at the minute. I wonder if he will suggest bringing back the cane too?

CrikeeThree Sat 06-Apr-13 09:08:55

Some really good points being made here.
But is anyone going to take note of them?
Simply dismissing everyone that disagrees with the government as "leftist" is so insulting and patronising. People disagree with Gove from across the political spectrum.
We don't care about politics here. Politics gets in the way of teaching. We just care about our pupils.

I think the main gripe of teachers right now is that we feel that whatever we say, no one will listen.

A colleague of mine said that, whatever you think of Gove, you have to at least admire the fact that he really believes in what he is doing. He's not doing this job as a way of getting into another more prized role.

But surely, when so many people disagree with him, people that work day to day in Education (and have done for years), he has to start listeing at one point? Having so much zeal and enthusiasm is an asset. But not at the expense of listening to others.

How utterly irresponsible to pretend that teachers don't teach 'facts' in schools at the moment. By shamelessly misrepresenting the current situation in state schools, you're inflicting irreparable harm on teachers, but more importantly the pupils who are currently going through the system, which is in tatters thanks to the misguided efforts of people who seem to know very little about it, but have their own agendas and appear to be using state education as a little more than a career stepping stone.

You can't separate skills and knowledge - and it's ridiculous to pretend anyone can or does. Teachers are completely demoralised - every week seems to bring more changes, while pay and conditions are eroded, demands on our time outside the classroom are higher and higher, goalposts are changed constantly, nothing can be embedded, developed or improved. And yet teachers repeatedly rise to the challenge and DO deliver a decent standard of education in the most ridiculous circumstances - IN SPITE OF, not BECAUSE of the government's ham-fisted interference.

And please stop saying "rigour" as if it's an actual thing. It's a meaningless soundbite.

Feenie Sat 06-Apr-13 10:17:28

Simply dismissing everyone that disagrees with the government as "leftist" is so insulting and patronising. People disagree with Gove from across the political spectrum.
We don't care about politics here. Politics gets in the way of teaching. We just care about our pupils.

This ^

Brilliant post, CrikeeThree.

pollypandemonium Sat 06-Apr-13 10:33:42

The teaching unions particularly NUT have always been defensive about change regardless of which government is in power.

This has nothing to do with political leanings and rightly so.
In fact Mirza is being defensive in assuming it is.

The NUT represent a voice for children and if government won't hear them they are ignoring the welfare of children and students.

moondog Sat 06-Apr-13 10:42:00


moondog Sat 06-Apr-13 10:43:10

'The NUT represent a voice for children and if government won't hear them they are ignoring the welfare of children and students.'

Rarely, even on Mumsnet have I heard a more hysterical statement. Pass the smelling salts.

EuroShaggleton Sat 06-Apr-13 10:59:05

starlight - same here. 80s education. "Experimented on". Definitely missed some crucial bits as a result.

Grammar was a particular lacuna. We were apparently supposed to pick it up by some form of osmosis rather than learning it. hmm Language teachers in later years used to despair at the lack of basic grammar teaching in English before pupils started learning another language. I remember someone in my French A-level class being unsure what a verb was. History was all about exploring the processes by which history was "proved" rather than learning about what actually happened.

I was at one of the better state grammar schools. I now work in a professional environment and am sometimes embarrassed by my lack of knowledge, particularly of historical events (thank for google!).

We need to stop experimenting on children and teach them the skills and information they need in later life.

purits Sat 06-Apr-13 11:07:44

Interesting. So, when talking about pupils, teachers complain that Learning facts has its place, but learning how to acquire knowledge, evaluate, transfer knowledge from one sphere to another, and understand how facts fit into a system or continuum is more important. But, all of a sudden when talking about themselves, they say How are teachers supposed to inspire if they are constantly having the rug pulled from under them so that they have to struggle just to keep up with the pace of change?
You can't ask for stability for yourself but deny it to the children. You can't insist that they learn transferable skills but refuse to be flexible yourself.

purits Sat 06-Apr-13 11:10:09

Can I win the pedant's prize for snurking at the teacher who puts "enormous emphasis on the importance of learning number skills and spelling rules" who thinks that the changes are "rediculous".

HumphreyCobbler Sat 06-Apr-13 11:10:50

"Grammar was a particular lacuna. We were apparently supposed to pick it up by some form of osmosis rather than learning it."

This is exactly my experience.

moondog Sat 06-Apr-13 11:10:56


I teach - and have always taught - grammar, spelling and punctuation. Let's not pretend schools are the same as they were in the 80s, please.

Feenie Sat 06-Apr-13 11:36:29

I have always taught them too - and tables - and all have always been on the curriculum in the last twenty or so years.

No idea why education in the 80s is relevant to this thread.

It's not. However, some people who were educated in the 80s (and possibly 70s?) know they weren't taught formal grammar, and therefore appear to assume that this is still the case now. It's not, but it's the kind of casual assumption which means Gove's claims about a woolly "skills based curriculum" gain credibility, despite being a misrepresentation of the truth.

SuffolkNWhat Sat 06-Apr-13 11:54:40

I was taught grammar in the 80s, don't know what kind of schools you went to!

Yes Fact. 80's education IS relevant now because those who were educated in the 80s make up a large proportion of parents of school age kids who think teachers are rubbish and who vote.

exoticfruits Sat 06-Apr-13 12:00:34

I was teaching in the 70's and I taught grammar and tables. The great difference was that back then you had greater freedom -now you have to teach the way you are told to teach, even in some cases down to what you actually say!! It wouldn't be so bad if wasn't then all changed-the 'old' was all wrong and it is in with the 'new'.

exoticfruits Sat 06-Apr-13 12:03:42

* large proportion of parents of school age kids who think teachers are rubbish and who vote*

With views like that you really will get the teachers you deserve! If they are continually told they are 'rubbish' they leave and you get left with the ones who can't get jobs elsewhere. Is that really what you want-overworked, undervalued teachers? hmm

Feenie Sat 06-Apr-13 12:04:29

But the curriculum now bears no resemblance to the 80s, and has changed around a million times - that's the point.

I know that Feenie, being one of the few in my family that didn't go into teaching but probably should have. But I don't think the voting population do. And even if they know it has changed, why would they think it was 'better'?

Actually exotic teachers HAVE been rubbish at teaching my ds. Nothing to do with capability, everything to do with attitude.

EuroShaggleton Sat 06-Apr-13 12:34:29

suffolk I have said - in my case, ironically, one of the best state grammars in the country!

The 80s are relevant because the theme is the leftist agenda from teaching unions (see the title). I was posting about the impact that leftist agenda had on my own education, in the 80s.

But regardless of what did or didn't happen in the 80s, the government and associated bodies (yes Ofsted, I mean you) and currently misrepresenting the truth of the situation to push their own agendas. And that's not acceptable. So teaching unions oppose it, and can only be seen as left-wing, because they're opposing the policies of the right. Is it possible to take the politics out of it? Probably not - but the very thing they are claiming to be getting rid of (this "content-lite" curriculum) doesn't exist.

It doesn't exist for a number of reasons:
a) the national curriculum is not national, whatever percentage of schools are currently free/academies/private are exempt from it.
b) facts are being taught (of course!) It would be near impossible to teach 'skills' in isolation - it's just that there isn't currently a centralised list of Facts that someone deems it crucial for all pupils to know, and in what order/at what age etc.

So what are they doing? Nothing more than undermining support for schools and teachers. If there is a 'grand plan' behind this, then I can only imagine it's a very bleak one for state education as a whole, regardless of politics.

ProphetOfDoom Sat 06-Apr-13 13:07:29

Message withdrawn at poster's request.

ProphetOfDoom Sat 06-Apr-13 13:08:08

Message withdrawn at poster's request.

exoticfruits Sat 06-Apr-13 13:15:22

Actually exotic teachers HAVE been rubbish at teaching my ds.

You can't write off the entire teaching profession because of that!

ouryve Sat 06-Apr-13 13:20:09

The lack of grammar teaching in the 70s and 80s has been addressed since then. I taught summer schools in the early 00s for children moving up to secondary school who were deemed to need some help with their literacy and the curriculum for the summer school for children who had left primary school at level 3 included aspects of grammar and sentence construction which I had never been actively taught.

And be assured that my DS in year 4 knows all about verbs, nouns, adjectives etc. He's known his times tables since he was in reception, but his class are expected to learn them by heart, just as I was in the 70s.

Feenie Sat 06-Apr-13 14:53:49

The 80s are relevant because the theme is the leftist agenda from teaching unions

As has been discussed already, teachers' only agenda is what is best for the children. And, incidentally, it's worth noting that the Conservatives were in government throughout the 80s - anything on the curriculum at that time must be attributed to them.

mercibucket Sat 06-Apr-13 14:55:07

Isn't that precisely the point about Gove, though? That he has his eyes set on a higher up job and this is his way to make a mark?

moondog Sat 06-Apr-13 17:10:16

Love Gove.
I'd be delighted if he was pm.
It would be a sad loss to education thoguh.

partystress Sat 06-Apr-13 17:43:29

I left a successful career and retrained as a primary teacher in my late 40s. I did it because I could see from my DC's experience that teaching was a hugely important job and I felt I had the skills and qualities to be a good teacher and be a positive influence in some children's lives. Being able to pursue some kind of leftist agenda did not come into the equation and at no point during my training did I feel there was any bias - left or right wing.

3 years on, my experience is that most teachers (primary at least) are extremely compliant and non-political. They change their practice because they are told to, and they do it without question. They may grumble among themselves, there may be a little bit of passive aggressive jobsworthing if the change has a big impact, but actually they get on with it. The kind of changes I have had to implement have all been apparently on a whim, because the school down the road is doing it or the head believes it to be what Ofsted want to see. Not one of the new ways of working has been presented with an ounce of evidence or even any attempt to justify it. It all appears to be fear-driven: if we do all this stuff, we will show that we are tackling the problems that Ofsted will seize on and so immunise ourselves against a poor judgement. This is where more 'rigour' would be refreshing - let's really look at what works in what context and encourage schools to learn from one another rather than compete.

I don't know who the Deputy Mayor has in mind as 'the educational establishment' who are 'peddling myths'. Teachers are working together to try to work out how they will implement the new curriculum. Some subjects are indeed slimmed down, but overall there is significantly more to be packed into the primary years. Teachers are anxious about how this can be achieved because already children are not experiencing the breadth of curriculum the last couple of generations enjoyed: high stakes testing of maths and English and the overnight introduction of a new grammar test means that many Year 6 pupils do nothing but English and maths.

Never mind live on £53, how about any politician who wants to spout off about education needs to spend half a term as a teacher first? They are removing the need to be qualified, so there is no real obstacle to them taking a little sabbatical from politics (though the CRB check might be an issue for some...)

JakeBullet Sat 06-Apr-13 17:45:40

Personally I'd trust a teacher over a politician any day.....however leaving politics out of it...interesting that an opposing view is dismissed as "leftist" hmm.

FWIW I would just be grateful for an education which recognises that children have different needs and where a SENCO (or several) does NOT tell me their school "will struggle" to meet DS's needs when what they ACTUALLY mean is "your son wont help our league table results and we are in competition with the school up the road so don't send him HERE"!

Interestingly my DS knows his time tables and some of the "fact based" teaching appears to have gone on in his primary school. He is not "academic" though and too many secondary school want to put me off applying while the local authority with it's scarcity of special school places deem him "too able" for anything BUT mainstream. If Gove can sort THAT situation out (faced by far too many of us) then he will have my support. Sadly all I can see are cuts to budgets.

CrikeeThree Sat 06-Apr-13 17:54:06

I've got to say, I'm baffled by all the references to 80s education!
As people have pointed out, the Conservatives were in power then, and the education system has changed since, anyway.

If we're talking an 80s education here, I went to the local comprehensive that other parents moved house to avoid sending their kids to. Yet I was taught grammar, punctuation, spellings and times-tables. Maybe, there were just bad teachers in the particular grammar school that was talked about? Maybe I was just lucky?

But it seems to be a theme in this whole debate to harp back to past times with either rose-tinted spectacles or with personal experiences that supposedly represent an entire system.

I think that Gove is a misguided Zealot, who fails to listen to people around him. Luckily, I don't believe that he represents the entire cohort of the House of Commons, or even of the Conservative Party.
I don't believe that my dislike of Gove is a reason, for example, to write off the entire democratic process....

CrikeeThree Sat 06-Apr-13 17:57:59

partystress - I can really relate to everything you say (and I teach in a secondary school)

'As has been discussed already, teachers' only agenda is what is best for the children'

Now this IS rubbish. I don't doubt that what is best for children is high up on their agenda for many, but it is downright nonsense that this is their only agenda.

' Not one of the new ways of working has been presented with an ounce of evidence or even any attempt to justify it. It all appears to be fear-driven: if we do all this stuff, we will show that we are tackling the problems that Ofsted will seize on and so immunise ourselves against a poor judgement. This is where more 'rigour' would be refreshing - let's really look at what works in what context and encourage schools to learn from one another rather than compete.'

Yes yes.

Wishiwasanheiress Sat 06-Apr-13 18:23:23

In answer to the question, yes, I do think this view has some merit to it. Unions by their very nature tend to be more left leaning don't they? Kind of goes together there. When I was at school in the 80's teachers were known as NUTters. Basically because they went out on strike / off work at every sneeze in the news. I was in my early teens but this tendency was well noted by myself and my peers.

Interestingly also people site teaching methods being better from the 50s onwards as being better neatly forgetting the Tories were also in there as well for, well, quite a time or long enough depending on your persuasion.

Finally, all of the teachers and tutors now would have been taught by those 'indoctrinated' so to speak as they grew up and were trained during these periods so the leftist agenda is actually ingrained so deeply that its not even noticed it, just is. You site these as the best ways to teach, really? Isn't it more likely that its just the way it is, has always been, and you don't want to try something else? I realise its difficult, but teaching is in danger of stagnating some things don't alter.

chicaguapa Sat 06-Apr-13 18:57:41

I suppose it comes down to what your idea of education is. I do think education is more skills-based than fact-based because it's providing an all round education. And I agree that this is how it should be. But the two aren't mutually-exclusive.

Some people clearly value bare facts and knowledge and others recognise the importance of being able to apply that knowledge in different situations. Some might think being able to memorise facts and figures makes them clever and others that being able to approach tasks from different angles is a product of a good education.

As a linguist I think of it this way: what is better to have - a huge extensive vocabulary or the ability to be able to communicate effectively?

partystress Sat 06-Apr-13 19:12:05

Wishiwas 'all of the teachers and tutors now would have been taught by those 'indoctrinated''? confused I trained in 2010, but was at school in the '60s, being taught by people who may well have trained themselves before WWII. Teachers of a similar age to me but with much longer experience do indeed look back on an era where they had more freedom, but it is not some Marxist paradigm they long to return to; rather they wish they were back with the freedom to depart from the script, be occasionally opportunist, read a whole book rather than an extract or 'exemplar', teach something because it is interesting and/or useful, rather than because the children need it to achieve some contrived 'level'.

Undoubtedly there is a leftist agenda among teaching union activists (as there would be in any unionised environment, hardly a surprise), but it is not logical to infer from that that teachers or academics are influenced by a political ideology.

chicaguapa Sat 06-Apr-13 19:44:46

I do think that what motivates a lot of people to go into teaching is a sense of responsibility to society as whole and a desire to contribute to that. This probably subscribes more to a left wing ideology than right.

ravenAK Sat 06-Apr-13 19:50:26


Look, it'll be a bloody awful mess for a few years, until teachers learn to game the newest version of the NC effectively, & then it'll all settle down for a bit until the next ambitious idiot gets the job of Ed Sec & writes another version on the back of another envelope.

It'll be a load more pointless work for teachers, but at least that'll give us something to moan about, so we should be thrilled, no?

Good teachers will still do the best job we are allowed to, & crap ones will still bimble on.

I wish this wasn't happening when my eldest will be hitting secondary in 2015, just when we'll have kicked this lot out & it'll all be in even more chaos as we're trying to repair some of the damage, mind you.

Feenie Sat 06-Apr-13 19:51:03

'As has been discussed already, teachers' only agenda is what is best for the children'

Now this IS rubbish. I don't doubt that what is best for children is high up on their agenda for many, but it is downright nonsense that this is their only agenda.

What do you think is their/our agenda then, Starlight? Because it isn't nonsense to me, or to my colleagues.

Wishiwasanheiress, it's 'cite', not 'site'. smile

moondog Sat 06-Apr-13 19:54:21

Come, come Feenie
The principal agenda of any group is to look after its own interests.

Parkinson's First Law: Work expands to fill the time available.
Parkinson's Second Law: Expenditures rise to meet income.
Parkinson's Third Law: Expansion means complexity; and complexity decay.
Parkinson's Fourth Law: The number of people in any working group tends to increase regardless of the amount of work to be done.
Parkinson's Fifth Law: If there is a way to delay an important decision the good bureaucracy, public or private, will find it.
Parkinson's Law of Science: The progress of science varies inversely with the number of journals published.
Parkinson's Law of Delay: Delay is the deadliest form of denial.
Parkinson's Law of Data: Data expands to fill the space available.
Parkinson's Law of Meetings: The time spent in a meeting on an item is inversely proportional to its value (up to a limit).
Parkinson's Law of 1000: An enterprise employing more than 1000 people becomes a self-perpetuating empire, creating so much internal work that it no longer needs any contact with the outside world.

Feenie Sat 06-Apr-13 20:03:36

See, now bollocks to all of that, my interest is in making sure every child reaches their potential happily - much the same as you in your career, Moondog.

moondog Sat 06-Apr-13 20:05:46

The fact that you even have to articulate such a bleedingly obvious agenda speaks volumes.
It reminds me of those inane policing/council/PCT slogans.
'Making Wigan safer'

Gosh really? Thanks for reminding me in such insufferably smug tones that you are doing the job you are paid to do. hmm

Feenie Sat 06-Apr-13 20:09:30

I wasn't intending to be smug at all - just pointing out that that really is my interest, and those around me.

Most of my job revolves around proving that I am doing so, and that invariably takes me away from actually doing, as you so rudely put it, what I am paid to do.

ravenAK Sat 06-Apr-13 20:10:01

Apparently there are quite a number of people who need reminding that that's what we're doing, moondog.

chibi Sat 06-Apr-13 20:52:21

what's your agenda, moondog?

Teachers 'stagnating'? Chance'd be a fine thing grin

'What do you think is their/our agenda then, Starlight?'

You agenda, I would hope, is to do the best job for the children that you can possibly do within your constraints, but that isn't the same thing as wanting what is best for them.

I can tell you quite frankly that no-one wanted what was best for my child with SEN. They wanted what was cheap and easy and found ways of justifying the refusal to do anything beyond the bare minimum and to hide the fact they were not fulfilling his statement. Not just one school or one teacher. He was in 5 settings before the age of 6.

He supposedly had a 1:1. When I asked for a few simple measurable targets that required data collection I was told that his TA didn't have time as she was far too busy. Too busy doing what? Well, without fail, in all settings, the answer was too busy being the class TA.

And teachers KNOW that children with SEN are failed. But what are they doing about it?

Are they striking about that or their working hours/pay?

Are they supporting parents to rally against LA's? Do they find ways of providing evidence to get more written into the child's statement when it will come out of the school's coffers? Do they even admit that many statements are 'loosly interpreted' and probably never even read by many of the staff working with the kids?

Nope. They gang up against the parents. Deny need. Refuse support. And only want a partnership arrangement with parents if it is more like an 'outreach' model where they can feel good, and go running if a parent comes to them.

ravenAK Sat 06-Apr-13 21:24:28

I'm spending quite a lot of my time compiling evidence about one of my tutees to get him support he badly needs, actually, starlight.

Couldn't give a stuff about the school's coffers - we have a bursar to worry about that.

Feenie Sat 06-Apr-13 21:26:14

That's not a situation I recognise, Starlight - in fact my primary school is sought after by parents with children with SEN, due to our reputation. I am sorry you've had such a bad experience.

Unfortunately, I can't see anything that Gove is proposing that will help any, I'm afraid.

pollypandemonium Sat 06-Apr-13 21:27:49

Ouch Starlight but I agree with some of what you say about SEN.

That's very good to hear Raven.

However my experience is that a teacher is rarely motivated to do this extra work unless it is of direct benefit to them i.e. the child is throwing chairs or disruptive the lesson and the teacher needs another adult in the room and/or feels the child should be placed at a different school or in the corridoor.

In addition, teachers are very poorly trained in SEN and as a group don't do anything about it (the odd individual excepted). They don't appear motivated to read-up or train further in the field. Worse, they can often see and treat teachers of SEN children as 'carers' rather than teachers and SEN Governors are often seen and treated as party-poopers.

My experience btw, extends beyond simply being a parent of a child with SEN.

'Unfortunately, I can't see anything that Gove is proposing that will help any, I'm afraid'

I'm not sure tbh. He may not, but on the other hand there is a lot more talk about evidence-based practice in public services and I would welcome that.

I do however share the concerns of many teachers about what it is that is important to measure and what evidence to collect/use and why.

ravenAK Sat 06-Apr-13 21:40:10

No, I completely agree with you Starlight that SEN isn't always well supported in mainstream schools. & I also agree that we aren't all well trained.

I'm not as well informed as I probably should be. I know a little bit about autism because dh works in the field, but SEN generally are massively neglected on INSET, & there is a general culture, certainly at secondary, of it being the SEN Dept's 'area', which can mostly be left to them - it's absolutely not good enough.

I just don't agree with you that we don't give a shit, iyswim. I think it's more about us having the words 'Ofsted! League table! C/D borderline!' shouted in our ears so loudly that it drowns other important issues out (until, as you say, a chair gets thrown).

Feenie's right that Gove isn't proposing anything that's going to make the situation better.

MiniTheMinx Sat 06-Apr-13 21:44:02

I worry when I hear that education will move towards a knowledge based curriculum. Not because I think knowledge is not a worthy goal but because I then want to know what ideology that knowledge serves. An example might be history, whilst some facts are irrefutable, causation, politics and a material conception of history could be over looked in favour of propagandising.

What I find fascinating is that almost everyone agrees that education is a preparation for the world of adult work. A child is expected to learn the skills and social attitudes that will ensure good prospects. Where many of us depart is the question of what skills and what attitudes and to whom those benefits are accrued.

"To put this more scientifically, I shall say that the reproduction of labour power requires not only a reproduction of its skills, but also, at the same time, a reproduction of its submission to the rules of the established order, i.e. a reproduction of submission to the ruling ideology for the workers, and a reproduction of the ability to manipulate the ruling ideology correctly for the agents of exploitation and repression, so that they, too, will provide for the domination of the ruling class" Louis Althusser 1970

We have a two tier education system, one system teaches the skills and attitudes that prepare children to rule, the other system teaches children to serve the interests of those who rule. Both system teach the child not to question this right wing ideology.

A further move towards a right wing agenda spells almost total disaster for future generations of ordinary children.

I do not trust Gove or anyone else in the conservative government to put the interests of my child's education above their own class interest, ie the perpetuation of inequalities.

chicaguapa Sat 06-Apr-13 21:44:25

It is hard when your DC isn't having a positive time at school and when you feel the teacher is to blame. But I don't think the solution is to attack the entire profession.

It is proof that they can't win whatever they do. Some of the things I've read in the last couple of days.

If you don't like it, get another job.
I don't care about the teachers' work and conditions.
Then: Teachers are crap and don't care about my DC's education. confused

Also If you don't like it, do something about it.
Then Teachers are wingers, why can't they just get on with it and stop moaning? hmm

ProphetOfDoom Sat 06-Apr-13 21:46:32

Message withdrawn at poster's request.

pollypandemonium Sat 06-Apr-13 21:48:45

My DD was educated for half of her school hours someone that earned £8 an hour. There's something not quite right about that.

Feenie Sat 06-Apr-13 21:56:24

Wingers grin

I agree, Polly.

pollypandemonium Sat 06-Apr-13 22:08:01

The disability equality movement and inclusion turned education upside down because schools had to think of the needs of children before the needs of the system. Teaching was always top-down and now it has to be a bit more bottom-up. However it has been an agonising process to get schools to accept that children shouldn't all have to fit into one formula.

Now Gove has stuck his tuppenceworth in it will all go back to the sausage factory ideal. The kids that aren't able to fit in the machine will be set aside to live an alternative existence.

pollypandemonium Sat 06-Apr-13 22:15:15

As Mirza says:

"These so-called experts had a view of education which emphasises vaguely-defined 'skills' over concrete knowledge, play over rigour, and child-centred approaches instead of teacher authority."

It's bloody laughable.

MiniTheMinx Sat 06-Apr-13 22:25:11

Why shouldn't education be "child centred" ? it shouldn't be centred on anything other than what children need.

joanofarchitrave Sat 06-Apr-13 22:25:13

What is hard about facts, exactly? Why is it 'hard' that Henry VIII dissolved the monasteries in 1936, and 'soft' to be able to carry out a project in a group of 6 without falling out with your groupmates and including each one of them in the project? I know which I think is harder to learn.

I have never, never seen a public school website that says 'we teach hard facts only here and that's why we are worth £12000 per year per child'. It's SMALL CLASSES, lots of outdoor space, more sport, drama and music, a motivated and able peer group, and fewer tests. That's what people pay for, as a rule - and like most MNers I have read a LOT of threads about why people send their children to private school.

British schools have a larger differential between private school class size and state school class size than in any other country. I would vote for pretty much any party that said they would cut state class sizes to 25 maximum and had a credible plan to fund it.

Funny, I have been quite vocally disapproving in my time of the lack of grammatical education I received in the 80s. I suddenly have affection for my English teachers, who leftishly taught a rigorous appreciation of poetry and a deep familiarity with a range of classic and modern texts (and who, not coincidentally, were the only teachers who ever told me off; I could fool any teacher who was trying to teach me 'hard facts', but not the ones who could see that I wasn't prepared to put in the effort to read Wuthering Heights with my whole mind). I note that every single person here who didn't learn any grammar can nonetheless post perfectly understandable sentences, so chalk one up for Noam.

joanofarchitrave Sat 06-Apr-13 22:25:40

Oh Jesu! 1536! blush

JessicaLong Sat 06-Apr-13 22:40:11

'Not, of course, the offspring of the wealthy whose private schools give their pupils a huge advantage by teaching hard facts and avoiding the dumbing down of the all-must-have-prizes approach.'

This is factually incorrect, I have worked in both the state sector and the independent sector and the curriculum taught is the same in both - the only difference is the extra curricular opportunities and the smaller class sizes available in the private sector. The teaching is no different and not better, this is a common misconception.

pollypandemonium Sat 06-Apr-13 22:49:00

Just to be clear I agree with you Minnie and Jessica.

Mirza's blog is horrific. It is also unfounded, containing no hard facts, no quotes, no references to names of these lefty pedagogues, just soft touch PR blurb.

And surprise surprise, one in five children leave primary school in London without being able to read or write 'Properly'. Perhaps that's because most of them have only been in the country a year or two and don't speak English at home.

Wishiwasanheiress Sun 07-Apr-13 08:15:20

Having worked in the city in various training/hr areas one thing our firms have no requirement for is young adults with 'working skills' such as project management. We can teach those quite adequately once they begin. What most certainly was required was the ability to speak and write appropriately to an individual or group outlining an argument or set of facts. (Basically, a letter/email)

We needed smart young adults with confidence in writing, speaking and basic maths. Knowledge of wider subjects like history, geography and art for personality and interest/opinion broadening and languages to communicate to multiple areas. (English included)

It would be nice, whichever government or political ideology is in power and whichever group is running/checking schools could keep ensuring that young adults leave being able to be confident in reading writing and maths and conversational interest (or deeper of their own volition) / knowledge in a few other areas.

I say this having worked with essentially elite kids, those of the labour conservative governments and further afield. Some were startlingly thick tbh on basics. Some were startlingly unconfident in areas which should have been a breeze, like conversing /debating with adults.

Work of any type can teach work skills for its own requirements. What it cannot do is make up for a lack of basic skills. If they get to work and can't do basic stuff it's too late. I've seen very privileged young adults and 'normal' adults struggle painfully with very sad and unnecessary outcomes because of this simple thing. It's heartbreaking.

Wishiwasanheiress Sun 07-Apr-13 08:16:43

FYI not all were British by a long shot, this isn't a uk only issue tbh.... sad

Bonsoir Sun 07-Apr-13 09:32:10

WishIwasanheiress - I agree that those basic skills are the ones that schools should be ensuring our children acquire. I tear my hair out in despair at the emails, letters and presentations that many teachers produce because their own skill levels in basic communication techniques are so abysmal that they cannot ever impart reasonable skills to the DC they teach.

mercibucket Sun 07-Apr-13 10:23:19

Lol joanofarchitrave, like the noam reference.

Yes, hard facts or skills - which is more useful in the working world? Hard facts - pretty easy to google, skills, not so much. Hard facts - easy to memorise with no real depth of understanding. Hard facts - easy to write on your shirt sleeve and copy out in the exams. Hard facts - easy for those of average intelligence to learn and think it makes them somehow superior to someone who happens not to know, say, the date of the coronation of king whoever. Grammar rules involving, say, the positioning of an apostrophe, make you feel smug and clever without involving any real intelligence. Hence, imo, the obsession by many of dubious intelligence with hard facts and punctuation.

My children's primary school (ooh how clever of me to use a punctuation mark, gold star to me) teaches times tables off by heart and punctuation and grammar, using rather formal language as well. There seem to be enough hard facts already. I don't have any problem with what they currently teach and would rather the curriculum was not more and more politicised by each successive government.

Fillyjonk75 Sun 07-Apr-13 11:03:05

Of course unions are left wing! Good thing too as there are no left wing major political parties, we have a nasty right wing government with an education secretary bent on destroying education, the majority of national newspapers are right wing and there is a dearth of satire in the media. Good job there is some opposition!

Fillyjonk75 Sun 07-Apr-13 11:11:13

i Some were startlingly unconfident in areas which should have been a breeze, like conversing /debating with adults.

I found the exact reverse working in London, recent graduates absolutely startlingly confident.

Tanith Sun 07-Apr-13 11:43:07

Starlight, 'evidence-based' means more paperwork! Nothing more than that. Education and Early Years are currently drowning in a sea of unnecessary paperwork to keep the administrators of Whitehall happy and Gove wants even more.

I childmind for several teachers. They are passionately committed to the children they teach, but are restricted by tight budgets. All of them provide resources from their own pockets (or borrow mine smile). I have lent books dealing with SEN and I know they have bought others with their own money: they cost around £18-£25 a time - it's not like picking up a cheap paperback from WHSmiths.

It's not a lack of commitment that means SEN pupils often don't get the education they deserve (and incidentally, neither do many other children). It's a combined lack of time and money, neither of which will be helped by increasing the already heavy paperwork demand.

'Starlight, 'evidence-based' means more paperwork! Nothing more than that.'

Then you're doing it wrong.

'It's a combined lack of time and money, neither of which will be helped by increasing the already heavy paperwork demand'

Evidence-based practice does not mean more paperwork. It means focussing on the aspects of teaching AND paperwork that lead to the most efficient and effective outcomes.

If done properly it should mean LESS paperwork, LESS money and LESS time to deliver, because you can focus in a more directed and efficient way.

pollypandemonium Sun 07-Apr-13 12:17:20

heiress I think one of the reasons that children aren't able to speak confidently is that they don't get much of an opportunity to speak to teachers at school, or be forced to speak publicly and clearly. They speak to their peers and their parents. Children are not used to being listened to or taken seriously and confidence in speaking only comes when that happens.

I am surprised though that the 'elite' children mentioned also have this problem.

MiniTheMinx Sun 07-Apr-13 12:29:58

I have never met a UMC young person who lacks confidence and the social skills to cope but I have seen plenty of working class youngster struggle.

DS1 aged 12 has just gone back into school after two years of HEd and his first question to the headmaster was "is there a debating society?" The HT said no and looked at me and asked if I thought this was important.

I can't see how a move towards teacher authority over child centred practice is going to instill social confidence in young people. It isn't, which is why this government think it will be good to move away from inquiry based educating to rote learning facts, those facts will be carefully prescribed and unquestionable.......what need do they have of youngsters who have critical enquiring minds ? what is needed is a docile manageable workforce that problem solve only the problems carefully presented. What is not desirable to those on the right and the ruling elite is highly intelligent young people, empowered with confidence and the ability to cast a critical eye over the status quo.

The sole purpose of education from a right wing perspective is to provide "human capital" to be exploited much like any other input into a business.

Fillyjonk75 Sun 07-Apr-13 13:06:57

Great post Mini, my thoughts exactly.

pollypandemonium Sun 07-Apr-13 13:42:40

The reason they can't express themselves clearly is that there is not enough time. It would take at least an hour for 30 children to take turns to speak for just 2 minutes.

Arisbottle Sun 07-Apr-13 18:01:46

I don't think they have a lefty academic agenda , not sure what that even is.

Unions will have a left wing agenda , because they are standing up for the workers , that is naturally a left wing thing to do . If they were trying to maximise profits or solely reduce profits or be about survival of the fittest - that may be a right wing agenda .

From experience teachers do tend to be left of centre because they have chosen a career not about big business or profit. In my previous career I was surrounded by Tories, my husband who works in the private sector is surrounded by Tories . In particular he us in an industry in which the focus is on making money so it is a right of centre heartland .

I teach history and teach facts constantly and always have done , it is nonsense to say otherwise . I am not a low brow wishy washy type who endorses prizes for all and ignores spelling errors . I am an Oxbridge graduate with an excellent degree and post graduate qualifications.

chibi Sun 07-Apr-13 19:06:32

teachers not teaching facts, bonkers assertion

i teach chemistry- i expect people think we sit around talking about how atoms make us feel or sharing opinions on how to calculate acid concentrations. hmm wink

chibi Sun 07-Apr-13 19:07:24

mini your last post was spot on

MiniTheMinx Sun 07-Apr-13 20:46:32

I don't have the facts at my finger tips, what I could do is google (I won't, I'm busy grin) but wouldn't it be fair to say that more children from ordinary homes got into Uni under labour. Of course Torries assert this is because the exams are too easy, the levels have been down graded blah, blah, blah......their rationale seems to be not that standards have improved but that state school pupils can't possibly be bright enough to attain As and Bs therefore the course and exams must be too easy. That is not only insulting to teachers but to every child in state education.

PollyEthelEileen Sun 07-Apr-13 20:47:52

I think it is more likely to be down to the expansion of higher education!

Solopower1 Sun 07-Apr-13 22:18:01

H'mm. So the people who have read most (ie more than the general population, I'm assuming, since it's what they do for a living) about history, politics, economics, sociology etc, and who teach these subjects have a leftist agenda?

I wonder why.

Solopower1 Sun 07-Apr-13 22:20:03

(Sorry to butt in - had to post quickly)

Rowlers Sun 07-Apr-13 23:15:54

Guest blogger - you claim that schools have made big strides over the last decade (thanks to the efforts of many great school leaders) - I think you'll find that the great strides have been made predominantly by the TEACHERS IN THE CLASSROOM, and not by the HTs who can spend most of their time swanning off to conferences / meetings.

You refer to certain leftist academics from the 1960s and 1970s - WHO? Explain who these people are because I have no idea who you are talking about. In the school I work in, and in almost all schools in our area (I have lots of friends and colleagues in a large number of schools, both private and state), many of us do a lot of educational research and staff training over the last 20 years has been led by research-based evidence. All teachers I know are more than familiar with e.g. Bloom's taxonomy and Alistair Smith's Accelerated Learning Cycle, just to give two obvious examples.

You seem to dislike child-centred approaches - why? Our students are actively encouraged to investigate thier individual learning styles and all staff are provided with information on the type of learners we have in our classroom. Being able to tailor our lessons to suit those children and provide opportunities for them to learn SKILLS AND KNOWLEDGE in a huge variety of styles has to be a positive thing, surley? Maybe I'm wrong. After all, I'm a teacher in a classroom and have been for almost 20 years. I can't know much, now can I?

Tellingly, many people in the elite of society - politicians and lawyers, artists and journalists, businesspeople and academics - who choose not to educate their children privately nevertheless go to great lengths to get their kids into the kinds of state schools which insist on 'old-fashioned' standards - show me your evidence for this, please.
How do you KNOW this stuff? Or is it really that you know a few people who have done this?

In one I visited recently, two experienced teachers - both Oxbridge graduates - told me of their determination to teach a more rigorous curriculum and challenge the low expectations they'd seen whilst working in other state schools.
OK, two points here. Firstly, why do you need to point out that these people are Oxbridge graduates? Does this make ANY difference? Secondly, This is the type of comment that really pissess me off - so you've spoken to TWO teachers and use that as part of your argument? FFS. Shame on you.

On the subject of the new NC, I personally am interested in any new approach to our job, as ALL of the teachers I know are. My colleagues are professional and dedicated. We work extremely hard to do the best for our students.

With regard to those posters who have been critical of teachers, you are absolutey entitled to your opinions; I'm all for free speech. However, I'd request thet occassionally you post your own job title so that we teachers can also make gross generalisations about a whole profession based on personal but very limited experience. That would be fair.

Feenie Mon 08-Apr-13 00:12:59

<Stands up to applause Rowlers>

chicaguapa Mon 08-Apr-13 00:33:39

Tellingly, many people in the elite of society - politicians and lawyers, artists and journalists, businesspeople and academics - who choose not to educate their children privately nevertheless go to great lengths to get their kids into the kinds of state schools which insist on 'old-fashioned' standards

Interestingly our local comp is the type that parents feel they're getting a private education at for free and a lot of the parents would send their DC to private school if it wasn't for the fact that they can go to this school. And the school goes to great lengths to portray a façade that it is an exam factory, whilst behind the scenes using a more child-centred approach.

Not sure what argument this is supporting. confusedI think it maybe shows that the parents in our area do seem to want 'old-fashioned' standards and the school is happy to let them think they're getting that, but clearly feels this doesn't suit the DC and operates differently behind the scenes. The parents are happy with the results though.

exoticfruits Mon 08-Apr-13 07:14:38

Well said Rowlers! - (and I started teaching in 1970s and have never been left wing- teachers then were trying to do what was best for the children- the same as they are today.)

Tanith Mon 08-Apr-13 07:58:58

Starlight: Unfortunately, it's not you who is requesting all this "evidence-based" learning - it's the Government, ofsted and the LAs.

They demand paper-based evidence, and realms of it. I've no doubt they are doing it wrong, as you say.

Do you honestly think we produce all this paperwork for any other reason?

Bonsoir Mon 08-Apr-13 10:10:02

Teachers can be simultaneously doing what they believe to be best for the children, but getting it wrong! At my DD's school the whole of a teaching department has a theory about an aspect of teaching that is outdated and not upheld by any other similar school. But the teachers fervently believe that they are working in the best interests of the children and are hurt by any suggestion that they might be getting it wrong... Collective denial is a powerful thing.

moondog Mon 08-Apr-13 10:11:44

So true Bonsoir.
As one of my favourite quotes ever has it 'We are what we do and not what we believe' (Batman)

Yes. IME many teachers deliver the curriculum in the way that they believe is best for the children (and for themselves) and then spend and inordinate amount of time after the event, making it fit to the evidence they are expected to provide, seeing the paperwork as a chore and addition. To some extent, the lessons might be planned in order to fulfil the paperwork requirement.

That is not evidence-based practice, nor is it the only model that Ofsted would approve.

MiniTheMinx Mon 08-Apr-13 17:17:59

Solopower1 brilliant point. Todays news will be tomorrows history and then you have to ask if these are "facts" who's facts are they. Just looking at one example in the news, America makes a public statement that they do not intent to run the planned missile tests because they want to assure North Korea that they are not making threats. This information is put out on every news channel and in every paper. Did you know they planned the missile tests? I didn't and I suspect most people didn't, so what is the purpose of making a public announcement. Propaganda and that will be reported as historical fact. Open a north Korean history book in ten years from now and the "facts" will tell us something different.

This is why I think inquiry based education is better. I want my children to question facts, to have a critical mind and be able to research and analyse. I don't want them to parrot "facts" When I studied history we were taught that the first and second world wars were cultural and national, about borders. The facts were specifically shaped to fit the agenda.

I wouldn't swap with a teacher, you are welcome to it smile just one hrs after school club was enough for me, I used to go home exhausted.The emotional, mental and physical stamina needed is often underestimated. The fact that anyone can do this job for many years, with shifting goal posts and increasing scrutiny and now stagnating wages and stroppy parents never ceases to amaze me.

MiniTheMinx Mon 08-Apr-13 17:18:30


Solopower1 Mon 08-Apr-13 21:44:14

SchmaltzingMatildaFri 05-Apr-13 23:32:48: Yes, agree, and with MiniThe Minx!

It's not the teachers whose agenda is political - it's the politicians whose agenda is political. Obviously. That's why we get a whole swathe of changes each time a new govt comes to power.

So a left-wing govt wants to improve the life's chances of a whole generation of children, and sees that the best way to do that is to build in success, build up self esteem and reduce competition - where there is only one winner and lots of losers.

(But what about the high-flyers, the children who soar above all the others, who delight in academic challenges? A left-wing answer might be: 'Nothing's stopping them. They'll be OK whatever the teacher does - in spite of the teacher in many cases! They are not the ones who need our help.')

A right wing govt wants to perpetuate (conservative means to keep and protect, not change) social divisions, because that is how a society works best, in their opinion. You need rich and you need poor. The rich work hard (or not) to protect their privileges and the poor are driven to work ever harder, in order to get some of the wealth. The best way to do that is to build in unfairness into the system, as it is in society. No level playing fields here. Some schools sink, others swim, same with the kids.

So it's hardly surprising that each sort of government looks at education and wants to make it serve its own ends.

Meanwhile, ime teachers just get on with it, trying to protect the children from the excessive zeal of whoever happens to be in power, while always putting the children first and learning from their experiences.

chicaguapa Tue 09-Apr-13 13:40:32

Good post. flowers

jactherat Fri 12-Apr-13 13:28:33

Hi - my blog for today addresses many of the issues raised in this post and the comments - the Education Wars where division and name calling seems to be an every day event needs to stop. Education is a very complex issue, we must start treating it with some respect and dignity and stop the short sightedness evident in the current debate.
Have a read. Let me know what you think...


PrettyGoodLife Sat 13-Apr-13 10:49:05

Why do politicians assume that we a obsessed by them? Leftist agenda? I have ever heard talk of Trotsky at the school gate! In common with most teachers I know we just want the best for our children and that is based on experience of watching children learn not some over arching political agenda. It would be great to hear academic agenda not prefaced by partisan gumf.

wl85 Mon 29-Apr-13 13:57:02

An interesting read - both the article and all comment below.

Here's a London specific platform, Talk London (created by the Greater London Authority), where education discussions can be started and joined in with:

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