OECD Study puts England at bottom for Maths and Literacy

(252 Posts)
missinglalaland Tue 08-Oct-13 13:19:51

A major study by the Organisation of Economic Cooperation and Development puts England's 16 to 24 year olds at 22nd for Literacy and 21st for Numeracy out of 24 developed countries. Ouch!

What can we do to fix this? More money? Less permissiveness? Sorting by ability? Different teacher training? Longer school years? Different methods?

stringornothing Tue 08-Oct-13 13:30:54

Bear in mind that that cohort developed their essential skills 10-15 years ago, which is ten to fifteen educational revamps ago. Reasoning that because a lot of our 24 year olds are sub literate we should change the methods used to teach today's five year olds would be very risky. You need to work out how that cohort were failed (assuming the data is reliable of course, I haven't checked, and these things are frequently dodgy), and then see if any changes could prevent that have not already been made.

missinglalaland Tue 08-Oct-13 13:51:11

The 24 year olds would have, but not the 16 year olds.

Here is a link to the BBC coverage of the story.

Of course the study could be wrong, but the OECD is generally considered a respectable outfit. It's not a "think tank" with a particular, political axe to grind.

TessDurbeyfield Tue 08-Oct-13 14:01:26

Thanks for starting this thread. On the face of it it looks like a serious study and potentially very worrying for the UK and for children/young people. I work in a University and anecdotally it seems that in the last 5 years or so we have had a significant increase in the numbers of very strong international applicants (though that may only be my experience). The level of international competition for business and jobs is only getting stronger and I worry that we are not preparing our children to succeed in that environment. That's worrying for them and for the country.

Not sure on the solution though...

Erebus Tue 08-Oct-13 15:24:51

I would dearly love to see the actual test they presumable all sat!

I am tbh always a bit suspicious of this sort of thing. It's not that I think 'Our education system is great, how dare anyone disrespect that?' as much as other tests that show where, for instance, the French are so far ahead than the English as measured by a given test- but then of course we discover that an awful lot of French, let alone us, feel the French education system is prescriptive, mired in outdated methodologies, highly politicised, and based on rote learning, not understanding, and teaches 'answers' but not 'problem solving', i.e. maybe not fit-for-purpose in the modern world- but they'd do a fair bit better than a Brit is a native language spelling test! etc.

If one were being pedantic, one might ask 'When can we see the great flowering of the Finnish nation? Or the Estonian one?' This is relevant, this measuring of such results against national achievement on the world stage seeing as it's seized upon to berate the English for being increasingly unable to 'compete' - Though we might note that such countries have much more homogeneous populations than our own, as does South Korea and Japan. Maybe research might be done on the overall educational achievement of a given country based on the ethnic diversity of the cohort? And ask whether the English stats might be a lot better if the test group were all plucked from a predominantly Indian area?

I am not in the slightest bit surprised that such 'findings' are leapt upon to demonstrate how shit we British are. Self-deprecation is an area we excel in!

riddlesgalore Tue 08-Oct-13 16:27:02

Does this report by the independent OECD justify Gove's criticisms of the English education system and give support to government reforms of the curriculum, courses, exams and schools etc.

rabbitstew Tue 08-Oct-13 16:38:05

I think Gove has some valid criticisms. I just think he's an arse that doesn't know how to go about making things better. But then I've seen first hand in a school that bullying from the leadership makes things worse, in general, rather than better and I think the man is a bully (aswell as an arse... grin).

rabbitstew Tue 08-Oct-13 16:44:01

I should also add, if the OECD thinks it's so incredibly brilliant at working out peoples' "REAL" skills, then perhaps it should go setting everyone's exam papers and practical assessments, so as to avoid wasting the time of all these people who are good at passing worthless tests for pointless qualifications. Or perhaps it wasn't actually testing everything you need to know to decide whether a country is going to be economically successful?...

rabbitstew Tue 08-Oct-13 16:46:08

And of course, if you COULD weigh and measure your way to economic success, wouldn't life be EASY??? In reality, there seems to be a growing tendency to ignore vital elements that cannot be weighed and measured easily.

riddlesgalore Tue 08-Oct-13 16:52:42

rabbitstew, shouldn't we learn something from this report rather than reach for a shotgun. Maybe we ignore it at our peril and to the detriment of the young of this country and their future employment. It's a small world now!!

Retropear Tue 08-Oct-13 17:10:06

Perhaps continual ignoring of the writing on the wall has got us into this mess.

A huge wake up call.

Kid of worried if all youngsters are going to be tarred with this brush ie be penalised in foreign uni applations.

Retropear Tue 08-Oct-13 17:10:54

Amazed this thread isn't discussion of the day.


Retropear Tue 08-Oct-13 17:11:45


apologies<cooking tea>

BoneyBackJefferson Tue 08-Oct-13 17:15:16


In order to learn anything from the report, we would have to know everything about it.

jonicomelately Tue 08-Oct-13 17:18:47

This doesn't surprise me at all. It's worrying that people don't appear to think it's a problem!

CecilyP Tue 08-Oct-13 17:25:03

Exactly, Boney, but I doubt if the totality of what respondents were asked to do will ever be in the public domain. Neither can we know much about the level of motivation of individual respondents.

I am smarting a little that the BBC seem to be horrified that the 16-24 year olds did no better than the 55-65 year olds. As I am in the latter category myself, I would expect this age group to do better, as I would expect to do better than my 16-year-old self. We are not exactly in our dotage!

riddlesgalore Tue 08-Oct-13 17:33:19

jonicomelately , maybe we have been brain washed by vested interests over the years into believing that we have the best education system and it's shock to find out how badly it's been letting down such a large percentage of our young. Even though Gove has drummed on non stop about what he sees as failures of the system maybe because educationalists and unions have been so vocal in opposition to his ideas we have listened to them rather than the critics.

Maybe we all share responsibility for the present state.

riddlesgalore Tue 08-Oct-13 17:41:22

cecily, I think the idea is that children should be better educated than their grandparents. England appears to be the only country where this isn't so it seems.

The OECD does many reports, they are respected for their surveys and analysis. Their reports and analysis are used by all political parties, unions and organisations as evidence in debates, why should this report be different. I would be interested to hear.

rabbitstew Tue 08-Oct-13 17:45:46

riddlesgalore - what makes you think I believe there is nothing to learn from the report? What makes me angry is the media reporting on it. There is no way you can say ANYTHING intelligent about the reporting of this, because all that has been reported are crass, basic statistics. Maybe it's because we're all so poorly educated that so many people seem to think they can conclude much from the media reports on it?...

stringornothing Tue 08-Oct-13 17:47:06

I'm less than shocked that, say, South Korea has improved its education system massively in the last 40 years whilst we and the US haven't.

Robert Peston's rather more thorough investigation in the BBC site here points out that our literacy is only minimally behind the rest of the pack, not a huge deal unless you think that we have a god given right to be the best in the world. Our numeracy however is genuinely substandard, and I hope that the debate focusses more on that rather than regashing the phonics wars.

MooncupGoddess Tue 08-Oct-13 17:48:38

The point is I guess than 40 or 50 years ago a lot of people left school at 14 and went straight into manual labour. Now everyone is supposed to stay in education until at least 16 and jobs are more likely to be service sector, so one would expect standards to have improved on average.

rabbitstew Tue 08-Oct-13 17:53:25

We could, of course, conclude that we should stop sucking up to the US so much, since clearly its end is nigh. Would that make you happy?

OddBoots Tue 08-Oct-13 17:53:44

If there is a valid and fair test which compares the same age group across all nations and it says we are behind then that's worrying.

Comparing age groups however is highly flawed. There will be many people in the 55-65 age range with degrees and post-grad qualifications as well as lots of experience gained over the years, are we really expecting new school leavers to have the same skill level? In the UK we have both formally and informally very good access to lifelong learning, this shouldn't be used as a stick to beat youngsters with.

meditrina Tue 08-Oct-13 17:57:23

They're not testing adults now, are they?

This study has been going for decades, and I thought they meant the scores those now 55-65 scored then they were the same age as the cohort that's just been announced.

MooncupGoddess Tue 08-Oct-13 18:02:21

Yes, they are testing today's adults across the age ranges.

Partly the study is skewed by different rates of growth/change in the different countries; e.g. 50 years ago South Korea was really, really poor, and presumably educational standards were correspondingly weak. So it's no surprise the young people in their now very successful and education-focused economy have better skills than those who grew up in the 1960s.

rabbitstew Tue 08-Oct-13 18:04:38

meditrina - how can they go back that way and compare "problem solving in technology rich environments" between the younger and older cohorts? Surely if you look at the old tests, they weren't able to test that in the same way??? It seems to me from Robert Peston's reporting that a basic assumption could be that by concentrating on our problem-solving skills, we have lost ground in literacy and numeracy (but mainly numeracy) and that the problem is not evenly spread - we do badly by the least well off in society, not by everyone. Surely we don't want to throw the baby out with the bathwater and go back to rote learning as a way of quickly bumping up our literacy and numeracy skills, just so that our youngsters can look a bit more like 65 year olds???

missinglalaland Tue 08-Oct-13 18:12:08

As I understand it, the report compares our youth with the youth of other countries and they unfortunately are near bottom and additionally it notes that our children are the only ones in the developed world not to be able to outperform their elders at these tests.

Arguing about the validity of this OECD study is a bit pathetic imho. It reminds me of the far Republican right in the USA arguing about the validity of global warming. If the facts don't suit my personal desires and prejudices, then the facts must be wrong!

Everyone is entitled to their own opinions, but we are not all entitled to our own facts.

riddlesgalore Tue 08-Oct-13 18:17:47

We have a skills problem in England, ask business, making excuses or denying there is a problem won't solve it. Hopefully our teachers and politicians will finally work together to solve it rather than staying entrenched.

rabbitstew, saying that "so many people seem to think they can conclude much from the media reports on it" because "we are all so poorly educated", implies that we haven't read the report ourselves. I presume like me, you have, and that your analysis is based on the evidence given in the report.

Bonsoir Tue 08-Oct-13 18:19:21

I'm not surprised because the A-level system is particularly bad versus other countries' school leaving exams at maintaining numeracy and literacy across the board in a cohort.

All DC need to maintain English and Maths until age 18 - and most countries do.

ipadquietly Tue 08-Oct-13 18:31:41

Anyone found a copy of what they actually test? I haven't had much success.

Bonsoir Tue 08-Oct-13 18:33:10

And in response to the OP: ditch those awful A-levels in favour of something like the IB.

missinglalaland Tue 08-Oct-13 18:42:15

Bonsoir funny you should mention it! This is my dp's argument. He did Science and Maths and feels terribly uneducated because his knowledge of British history ended with the English Civil War at his O-levels. He hasn't read many of the great works of English literature either.

It's not just the folks with little maths who feel left behind.

rabbitstew Tue 08-Oct-13 19:07:41

riddlesgalore - you make very odd assumptions, given the "At a Glance" report is 440 pages long. I suspect you will find the majority of people commenting on this OP will not have read 440 pages of report and will be relying on the media to inform them of what that summary says.

riddlesgalore Tue 08-Oct-13 19:27:39

Yes rabbitstew, I had assumed that because you were so critical of all the media reports that you had read the report yourself and had your own interpretation. I presume you will read the report now and then give us the benefit of your considered opinion and solutions if you decide there is a skills problem among the young.

Aquelven Tue 08-Oct-13 19:28:59

Whichever way you look at it, it strikes me that it isn't a record that the education establishment can be proud of.

rabbitstew Tue 08-Oct-13 19:42:42

No, riddlesgalore I will hope that someone in the media tries to make an intelligent analysis of it. At least Robert Peston has made a good start, although he doesn't appear to think it makes such depressing reading as you appear to. Given that you have read the entire 440 pages, perhaps it would be a good start for YOU to tell us which bit of his assessment you disagree with?

riddlesgalore Tue 08-Oct-13 19:44:28

I agree aqueiven, and we need an honest debate on how to address the problem. I don't think politicians or educationalists should be allowed to duck the problem any longer. They need to take responsibility and admit their failings. Personally I am fed up of those responsible blaming each other, parents need to hold all to account - teachers, schools, unions, politicians.

BoneyBackJefferson Tue 08-Oct-13 20:17:07


"I think the idea is that children should be better educated than their grandparents. England appears to be the only country where this isn't so it seems."

There is no way to prove this assumption.

BoneyBackJefferson Tue 08-Oct-13 20:19:17


You missed parents off the list of those that should be held to account.

rabbitstew Tue 08-Oct-13 20:23:59

But what is, "the problem?" Isn't part of it the power struggle between politicians and educationalists? After all, there has been unprecedented political interference in UK education over the time that standards have apparently been getting worse.

Maybe, if you don't as a country have any clear idea what you are actually supposed to be training your young people up for, you can't come up with a sensible education system. At least Germany knows it needs lots of young people to go into manufacturing. What exactly DO we want our young people to do???

riddlesgalore Tue 08-Oct-13 20:36:05

I think the OECD are very clear in their summary:

*"Some countries have made significant progress in improving skills proficiency

In other countries, the talent pool is shrinking...*

........ However, progress has been highly uneven across countries. In England/Northern Ireland (UK) and the United States, the improvements between younger and older generations are barely apparent.Young people in these countries are entering a much more demanding labour market, yet they are not much better prepared than those who are retiring. England/Northern Ireland (UK) is among the three highest-performing countries in literacy when comparing 55-65 year-olds; but England/Northern Ireland (UK) is among the bottom three countries when comparing literacy proficiency among 16-24 year-olds. In numeracy, the United States performs around the average when comparing the proficiency of 55-65 year-olds, but is lowest in numeracy among all participating countries when comparing proficiency among 16-24 year-olds. This is not necessarily because performance has declined in England/Northern Ireland (UK) or the United States, but because it has risen so much faster in so many other countries across successive generations. ..which could imply a decline in the relative standing of these countries.

Of course, the survey data are results from a cross-section of populations, not cohorts, so some of the observed differences across generations are attributable to changes in the composition of populations, such as increased social diversity, income inequality or migration, or to different rates with which skills depreciate with age. At the same time, the fact that socio- economic patterns explain part of the observed changes is little consolation to countries whose economic success depends on the quality of their actual labour force, not the hypothetical labour force that they might have had in a different context. The implication for these countries is that the stock of skills available to them is bound to decline over the next decades unless action is taken both to improve skills proficiency among young people, both through better teaching of literacy and numeracy in school, and through providing more opportunities for adults to develop and maintain the skills as they age."


CecilyP Tue 08-Oct-13 20:39:05

But what is, "the problem?" Isn't part of it the power struggle between politicians and educationalists? After all, there has been unprecedented political interference in UK education over the time that standards have apparently been getting worse.

Interestingly, in the 1996 International Adult Literacies Survey, again by the OECD, the youngest cohort, the then 16 - 25 year olds did better than any other group. Though I am sure at the time there would have been no newspaper headlines proclaiming an improvement in educational standards.

In that survey, the 3 middle groups did much the same as each other, while the oldest group, then aged 56 - 65 did significantly worse - perhaps because many of them had their education disrupted by WW2. That group is now out of the survey and those in the middle groups are now the oldest group and no less literate or numerate than anybody else.

BoneyBackJefferson Tue 08-Oct-13 21:12:21

unless action is taken both to improve skills proficiency among young people, both through better teaching of literacy and numeracy in school

How can you improve teaching when the managers of the teaching change the rules every couple of years?

I can't think of a gap of more than 3 years where the system in the UK hasn't been fucked around with. In the countries that have "done well" the educationalists have been left alone by the politicians to do their job.

I can't think of any other country where the minister for education has declared "war" on teachers nor where education is used as a political football.

missinglalaland Tue 08-Oct-13 21:22:36

Does anyone know what is different in Finland, South Korea or the Netherlands for instance?
I have recently read articles about children not getting enough sleep in the USA because of all the homework!? In middle class schools with worried parents, everyone is in overdrive. It all looks pointless and self defeating to me, as confirmed by the USA's standing in the OECD report.

rabbitstew Tue 08-Oct-13 21:34:41

The report itself does actually make interesting reading - far more interesting than just being told that we are 22nd/21st out of 24 in literacy and numeracy and that we should all be shocked and ashamed by this. I don't think it actually reveals anything that people weren't already aware of through other studies, though.

rabbitstew Tue 08-Oct-13 21:39:17

Well, on the face of it, the Netherlands and South Korea seem like very different countries. In what ways do their education systems and educational priorities bear any resemblance to each other?

stringornothing Tue 08-Oct-13 21:43:34

Actually missing I suspect the opposite of your insinuation is the case. In England and most of the Far East, the paranoid homework pushing tiger parents are producing very good results (as measured by this particular study). The top end of the English cohort (not sure about the US) are doing just fine - that's not the problem.

OneLittleToddleTerror Tue 08-Oct-13 22:02:39

MooncupGoddess 50 years ago South Korea was really, really poor, and presumably educational standards were correspondingly weak

Are you sure about this? My parents are born and bread in Hong Kong and both are in their mid to late 60s. They are both university educated, and so are many of the parents of my friends. I don't think even in that generation, it is normal to leave school at 14. If you are talking my grandparent's generation (the 80-90yo), then yes, it's true they aren't well educated. One of my grandmother is illiterate, and the other is a trained nurse after leaving school at 13.

South Korea is one of the four Asian Tigers, so I would expect a similar education profile as Hong Kong. If South Korea doesn't have a fairly educated workforce in the 50s and 60s, then who are the leaders of hugely successful companies like Samsung, LG and Hyundai?

rabbitstew Tue 08-Oct-13 22:39:56

I don't see how you can make a sensible comparison between Hong Kong 50 years ago and South Korea 50 years ago and conclude that they were very similar.

Wonderstuff Tue 08-Oct-13 23:07:22

I think that the relative wealth in Finland and the massive welfare spending which means there is a smaller gap between the rich and poor plays a part.

The status that society places on education and teaching is also important.

I think for top graduates in the UK teaching is a poorly paid, fairly high stress, long hours profession. I've worked with Australian and Canadian teachers who are shocked at how much work we do and how poorly we are paid in the UK.

I spoke to a couple of teenagers today who were roaming corridors, not in class, I'm unsure whether they had been kicked out or not gone. I asked them to return, they didn't, I explained that education was in their interest rather than mine, they said it was unnecessary, that not all jobs needed GCSEs, I pointed out that unemployment for young people without an education was very high, limiting their horizons, all that, they told me they planned to deal drugs.. I called SLT

I don't know where we went wrong, I don't believe Gove is the solution. I don't think its 1950s education we need, but 1950s aspiration.

purits Tue 08-Oct-13 23:10:35

Aren't we all to blame? When I say 'we', I mean 'you'.
You only have to read MN and see some of the awful grammar, spelling and typing mistakes that are commonplace. When someone tries to comment they are ridiculed as a pedant. The aggrieved party offers an excuse along the lines of "I'm off duty so I don't have to write properly".
I'm from the older generation, when correct use of English was drummed into us. We couldn't be "off duty" if we tried, it's that ingrained.

We need less of the idea that you don't use Red Ink in school because it crushes the poor little dears creativity, and more correction. You sometimes see posters making embarrassing mistakes and it's obvious that they do it because nobody ever took them to one side to explain. It does them no favours in the long run, it makes them look stupid and ignorant. We then have the problem that it cascades down the generation - again, look at MN for numerous examples of where MNers are lamenting young teachers' poor literacy, that they are trying to pass on to their pupils.

Wonderstuff Tue 08-Oct-13 23:12:24

I don't think that you can say your parents and their friends were university educated in Hong Kong therefore education in S Korea was universal good at that time. S Korea was an emerging economy what 30 years ago, I imagine a great deal of investment in education has happened over that period. MNCs will recruit globally for business leaders.

Wonderstuff Tue 08-Oct-13 23:20:41

That is true. There are drives to improve literacy teaching, it's one of the teacher standards, but a whole generation at school in the 80s weren't taught grammar, and they are now teaching.

Far too many children arrive at secondary having made 'expected progress' or level 4 in English and yet unable to read well. Apparently listening to reading is not good use of teacher time. If parents don't spend time on listening to reading then I can see how children fail to progress.

muminlondon Tue 08-Oct-13 23:33:01

Well , the main conclusions of the report are about social mobility:

- Inequality in skills is associated with inequality in income
- Social background has a major impact on literacy skills.
- Much of learning takes place outside formal education
- Many adults with low skills proficiency are outside the workforce.

Robert Peston's analysis suggests numeracy is the problem, not literacy. But in ability to handle digital data we are better than the US or Japan.

I'd still suggest that most of the highly performing countries, which have more equitable societies, value language learning, although no hint of that in the report. There's a really alarming news story on the drop in language degree courses here - and most of those axed were combined with vocational courses. Worrying.

ClayDavis Tue 08-Oct-13 23:33:45

Might have to go back through the OECD document to check but I think the figure they gave was something like 60% leaving school at the end of primary in 1970 in S. Korea. The introduction of compulsory secondary education definitely given as part of the reason for the large difference between 16-24 year olds and 55-65 year olds' scores there.

They also back up what CecilyP said about 55-64 year olds in England scoring very highly in comparison to similar age groups in other countries. This combined with slightly below average scores in the 16-24 year old group means that both groups perform similarly in this country.

bruffin Tue 08-Oct-13 23:35:07

I worked for a Finnish company for 6 years. The Finns were very very good in their own very narrow field, but in our office it was the British staff that could multitask and think outside the box, where as the Finnish staff floundered if they had to do something outside their normal range.

Finnish is a language with very simple phonics, therefore one of the easiest language for a native born to learn to read and write. It takes just 6 months to learn compared to 18 months for a British child to learn to read and write English.

bruffin Tue 08-Oct-13 23:37:44

That is true. There are drives to improve literacy teaching, it's one of the teacher standards, but a whole generation at school in the 80s weren't taught grammar, and they are now teaching.

I would also add the 70s to that, my children (16 and 18) have been taught far more about grammar and punctuation than I was ever taught. I think we were expected to absorb it somehow.

ClayDavis Tue 08-Oct-13 23:44:29

I've heard that before about Finnish companies looking for British staff because they can think outside the box. Although PISA tests to tend to test those sorts of skills rather than direct curricular knowledge and it doesn't look like they've had a problem with scoring on level 4/5 question in this set of tests.

We tend to fall down at the 'tail end'. We get a larger proportion of pupils scoring at the high end than many other countries but we also have a larger proportion scoring at the very low end and that brings our average score down.

Kenlee Wed 09-Oct-13 00:38:09

This is rather silly....

I amongst many other foreigners send our children to the UK as it still is one of the best all round education avaliable. What people tend to forget it that an ability to rote learn is great and a necessary evil. Without recall critical thinking can not be done. Yet to only rote learn without critical thinking is also not going to work.

I do agree though that numeracy in the UK does fall behind its asian countetpart.

bryte Wed 09-Oct-13 08:15:51

In agreement with Wonderstuff: "I don't know where we went wrong, I don't believe Gove is the solution. I don't think its 1950s education we need, but 1950s aspiration"

Mumzy Wed 09-Oct-13 08:16:59

There are so many factors why we are trailing behind the rest of the world in numeracy and literacy. The Scandinavia countries have very small relatively homogenous populations (Finland's is 5 million) with a high GDP derived mainly from high tech industries also they have small class sizes averaging 20 dcs with well qualified teachers. This would make mixed ability teaching doable with enough differentiation and teachers able to help all dcs. The Asian countries lack of an established welfare state would make parents more likely to ensure their dcs did well educationally in order to secure the best paid jobs and support them in their old age. They tend to have big class sizes of over 30 but I suspect the lack of classroom disruption, streaming by ability, input from outside tutoring paid for by parents would also make this model work.
classroom sizes

cory Wed 09-Oct-13 09:33:09

MooncupGoddess Tue 08-Oct-13 18:02:21

"Partly the study is skewed by different rates of growth/change in the different countries; e.g. 50 years ago South Korea was really, really poor, and presumably educational standards were correspondingly weak. So it's no surprise the young people in their now very successful and education-focused economy have better skills than those who grew up in the 1960s."

This. If all a country's inhabitants were illiterate a generation ago and half of them were now literate they would be ranking higher in this particular survey than a country where 97% of the inhabitants were literate a generation ago and only 96.5% now. But "being more literate than your dad" isn't really enough to compete internationally. In fact, it seems pretty irrelevant.

TessDurbeyfield Wed 09-Oct-13 09:50:04

Cory I don't think the rankings are on improvement. The rankings are on the literacy and numeracy of the current generation of 16-24 year olds and then they also made comparisons with the older generation.

cory Wed 09-Oct-13 09:50:41

Not saying it's not a great achievement in those countries. But it's hardly a sign of failure that the UK already had a great number of literate and numerate people a generation ago.

Hong Kong and South Korea were very different places a generation ago. China has changed out of all recognition, from a country where learning was suspect and even dangerous under the Cultural Revolution. But the older generation are the people who were young then. Somebody who is in their fifties today would have been at school or just about to start school when the Cultural revolution started.

Anyway, don't let's treat "the Asian" countries as if they were all one. Literacy rates in Pakistan are still appalling, particularly for girls: the fact that they happen to be next door to India doesn't help them at all.

Even the Scandinavian countries differ widely educationally. Finland is indeed culturally and ethnically homogenous- Sweden and Denmark have a large immigrant population, many of whom (at least in Sweden) are refugees with very low levels of education and often traumatised from their previous life. Finland has a fairly traditional educational system which hasn't changed greatly over the last couple of generations. Sweden has introduced free schools and generally changed quite a bit since they were heading all the league tables. Not the same, not the same at all.

Speaking as someone who was educated in Sweden under the old system, I was taught spelling, grammar and foreign languages to a high standard. But I was never taught how to express myself or speak in public- no drama lessons, no debating societies, not even proper essay writing. You won't find me making mistakes over my French irregular verbs, but I have had to work very hard to learn to marshal my thoughts and present them neatly: my dc here in the UK learn that much earlier and much better.

cory Wed 09-Oct-13 09:52:40

My apologies if I'm wrong, Tess, I only read the Guardian article, not the report itself. And the way it was presented there it was about improvement and the great shock horror was that we are the only nation who cannot show an upward trend. But the report may well say something different.

riddlesgalore Wed 09-Oct-13 10:22:16

For those who have been relying on media reports the actual OECD report makes interesting reading.




TenthMuse Wed 09-Oct-13 12:27:00

What Wonderstuff said. I think this is inextricably linked to class and social mobility. I've taught in England and also have experience of the education systems of Germany and Spain. I've encountered far more resistance to education (among both parents and children) here than in either of those countries. There are whole swathes of society in the UK that just don't see the point of learning, whereas other more homogeneous, meritocratic countries seem to have much more faith in education as a means of self-improvement.

I think there needs to be a massive cultural shift, with schools and parents being held jointly accountable for pupil outcomes, rather than schools being charged with sole responsibility for everything from obesity to sex education in addition to their educational responsibilities. I've also been shocked by the poor educational standards and lack of aspiration among some of the teachers I've worked with. A significant number of them genuinely seem to prefer the 'social work' aspects of the job to the actual teaching, which is almost regarded as an optional extra. Obviously schools need nurturing and supportive individuals, but they also need people who can effectively instil knowledge and a passion for learning.

I agree that Gove has identified some of the problems, but has no idea how to implement the solutions. He is heavy-handed and patronising, and I'm not remotely surprised that teachers dislike him.

Bonsoir Wed 09-Oct-13 14:19:11

"I've also been shocked by the poor educational standards and lack of aspiration among some of the teachers I've worked with. A significant number of them genuinely seem to prefer the 'social work' aspects of the job to the actual teaching, which is almost regarded as an optional extra."

Agree very strongly that this is a peculiarly British cultural trait among teachers - that their primary role is to sort out society!

TenthMuse Wed 09-Oct-13 15:45:14

Absolutely, Bonsoir - and also the belief that the means of doing so should be through offering children a shoulder to cry on, rather than providing children with the skills they need to improve their lives. Yes, teachers should be supportive and understanding, but I've come across a fair few who would rather spend their days counselling children and sorting out their complex home lives than teaching the subject they originally trained for. Lovely people, all of them, but their altruism often seemed to be coupled with defeatism - the assumption that their pupils would never amount to much educationally, so may as well be 'happy' in the short term.

A past headteacher of mine (large school in a deprived suburb) once told us during a staff meeting that, since he'd calculated that pupils only spent 15% of their time at school, there was little we could do to improve their overall life chances, and should focus instead on 'making sure school was a happy place'.

Bonsoir Wed 09-Oct-13 16:47:27

I've read a good part of the report now.

Parents have come under a good deal of pressure in the past few decades (and this pressure is increasing) to place the daily care of their DC in the hands of people who are significantly less skilled than they are themselves in order for them to use their superior skills to earn money and fuel the greater economy.

Surely, if DC are consistently placed in the care of people significantly less skilled than their parents, it stands to reason that they as adults will be less skilled than their parents are?

wellInever2 Wed 09-Oct-13 18:35:40

That is my experience also Tenthmuse and bonsoir. Teachers often fall into two categories, those than are good subject teachers and inspire, and those that make a career out of pastoral work. Often I feel that many would be happier being social workers, but that wouldn't be an option though as the pay is much less and social workers are held accountable when things go wrong. I think that teachers should stick to teaching their specialised subjects and specialised pastoral social workers should deal with the pastoral side of school. The work of providing youngsters with the skills they need to improve their lives is very important and needs to take priority in schools.

Bonsoir Wed 09-Oct-13 18:48:57

IME the teachers who prefer the kind, pastoral role over the more demanding teaching role are often preferred by weaker pupils and their parents. It's something of a vicious circle.

Wonderstuff Thu 10-Oct-13 10:22:43

The thing is you do need both. We can not work well if we are anxious or are basic needs aren't met, I think that most people are truly shocked when they start working at school at how many children struggle to learn because of anxiety, trauma or neglect. IMO great teachers care for and inspire students.

I think there is also a tendency for the media and politicians to see school as a solution to so much - high teenage pregnancy, improve school sex ed, obesity - healthy schools initiative, more PE, poor children not achieving - get them in nursery education early.. But the family with a poor diet and underachieving children don't see school as a valued institution.

wellInever2 Thu 10-Oct-13 10:45:43

Agreed bonsoir, but should schools be expected to take over the nanny role, or should parents take more responsibility. For those vulnerable students, should specialists who actually know what they are doing, be employed in schools for pastoral and social roles.

On a similar issue, it seems that more teaching assistants than ever are being employed and if reports are correct they are teaching a greater percentage of classes single-handed, and even preparing their own lessons without teacher support. Question is, what affect is this having on educational standards in these schools/academies. Is this another area that needs to be reformed. If teachers undertook less pastoral work maybe they wouldn't need to use TA's to cover for them.

Wonderstuff Thu 10-Oct-13 11:36:50

The million dollar question is how do we raise the achievements of children whose parents have limited education and low aspirations for them, whilst also getting the very best for those from more privileged backgrounds and supporting children with SEN? We are going to see more and more children with complex needs in mainstream education, budgets for services that support these children are being cut, it's difficult. Especially when the Secretary of State wants to see all schools delivering above average results hmm I suppose he further highlights our national numeracy problem.

missinglalaland Thu 10-Oct-13 11:54:17

Parents have come under a good deal of pressure in the past few decades (and this pressure is increasing) to place the daily care of their DC in the hands of people who are significantly less skilled than they are themselves in order for them to use their superior skills to earn money and fuel the greater economy.

Well put Bonsoir and very insightful too.

wordfactory Thu 10-Oct-13 12:02:41

When the first Blair administration came in, I, like many others, was entirely behind his education x 3 initiative.

I thought that education must be the key to improving the life chances of the disadvantaged.

Then I had DC of my own!

Immediately, it became apparent to me that school can never really solve the problems in society. Children are a product of family. This is where they receive their real education. School is just one resource.

Thus, it came as no real surprise when the Sutton Trust confirmed that social mobility had decreased under the Blair administration despite the initiative.

If you ask schools and teachers to do too much outside their primary function, then their primary function will be diluted. You therefore actually provide less 'education' to those that actually need so much more of it.

Counter intuitive, but there you go.

rabbitstew Thu 10-Oct-13 12:07:39

Well, that's not going to get any better, given the huge pressure to make "childcare" cheaper and cheaper so that people can afford to go out to work. Well educated people do not tend to go for low wage jobs.

Bonsoir Thu 10-Oct-13 12:13:45

Absolutely, wordfactory. And the same mechanism operates within families: if parents spend too much time working outside the home and outsourcing childcare, the ability of those parents (however educated) to bring up their children to their own standards will also be diluted.

rabbitstew Thu 10-Oct-13 12:16:41

Maybe people are beginning to realise that bringing children up to be considerate, polite, thoughtful, well socialised, articulate, competent, well adjusted, well educated and independent adults is actually quite a labour intensive and skilful process.

Bonsoir Thu 10-Oct-13 12:20:00

I think it is still a minority obsession, rabbitstew smile

rabbitstew Thu 10-Oct-13 12:37:37

I suspect you're right, Bonsoir. grin

wordfactory Thu 10-Oct-13 13:17:03

Bonsoir I think that may be true of advantaged families.

But disadvanatged families? Will their life chances be significantly worse because their parents work?

I grew up in a disadvanatged family and to be honest more hard cash would have improved things greatly.

Bonsoir Thu 10-Oct-13 13:21:45

It depends on the nature of the disadvantage. I'm not at all convinced that hanging out with a lot of other DC from disadvantaged families all day is better than hanging out with your family, providing your family cares about your progress.

Bonsoir Thu 10-Oct-13 13:25:20

Basically, I think that incentivising (or coercing) caring families to outsource childcare against their better judgement is not necessarily to the advantage to families - only to state coffers (and only then in the short term - but hey ho who cares about the long term, the PM and his cronies will be long dead).

rabbitstew Thu 10-Oct-13 14:06:01

By outsourcing childcare, are you not also losing skills to the general population? Hence more and more work for schools as they try to cover skills and attitudes families used to have the competence to instill in their children, themselves.

rabbitstew Thu 10-Oct-13 14:10:16

Sorry, I mean, are the general population not losing skills!...

Bonsoir Thu 10-Oct-13 14:14:58

rabbitstew - yes. But we are living under some great collective denial that parents actually teach their DC anything much at all, hence the widespread social acceptability of treating parenting as some kind of hobby for the weekend.

missinglalaland Thu 10-Oct-13 18:29:25

Nodding my head vigorously while reading bonsoir and rabbitstew's dialogue.

purits Thu 10-Oct-13 22:46:04

But we are living under some great collective denial that parents actually teach their DC anything much at all, hence the widespread social acceptability of treating parenting as some kind of hobby for the weekend.

Not at all. Children learn by example. They can spot the falsity of 'do as I say, not as I do'. (Do well at school and you too can ... stay at home and change nappieshmm) I didn't need to be with my DS 24/7 to teach them things. I employed childcare staff who were carefully interviewed to ensure that they reinforced my beliefs and ideals. Please don't try to pretend that SAHP have a monopoly on teaching morals, manners and etiquette.

rabbitstew Thu 10-Oct-13 23:05:07

I don't think Bonsoir is a stay at home parent?

rabbitstew Thu 10-Oct-13 23:08:18

And lucky you, purits, that you had the money to go out and find yourself such competent "childcare staff." grin

purits Thu 10-Oct-13 23:11:53

Lucky? Yes, but sometimes you make your own luck.

rabbitstew Thu 10-Oct-13 23:16:01

Ah yes, of course. Sometimes you do and sometimes you can't. But who gives a toss about anyone else, anyway?

Kenlee Fri 11-Oct-13 00:03:53

You know something its great to be rich. To afford the things you want to buy them at a whim. To be able to send your children to the most luxurious private schools.

Although being rich and buying in the best means nothing to your child. I know parents that work from 8 in the morning to sometimes 9 at night. In which their child as part of efficient child care policy is tutored from the time they leave school till the time their parents come home. They do get good results. They can't think for themselves nor can they fend for themselves...In most cases most will have maids to follow the child to and from school.. Then to the tutorial center.

The child is devoid of any family love. The only thing that is talked about is results. NOT how to be a good person. NOT about if they were happy and certainly NOT about being well mannered.

My firm belief is that if you are there no matter how thick you are your child will do well at school. Spending that one hour at a table doing the homework together. To encourage them to think and do it themselves. This not only creates social cohesion in the family it also builds respect and trust. If you give them time at home then they are less likely to rush off to join a gang to gain acceptance. They already have acceptance at home.

Its not about you knowing and teaching ....Its just you being there. I could not read or write Chinese when I arrived in HK. I never learnt. I now can safely say I have primary 6 Chinese as I sat with my daughter and she taught me. Did she do well in her Chinese NO she didnt. Did she pass yes she did. I did get a tutor in but she enjoyed working and teaching me. In the time slot we had she will tell me about her day and we would comment on her behaviour and what she could or could not have done differently.

I also have a maid but she is there to clean the house but not my daughter's room. Somethings are best left fir them to do themselves.

stringornothing Fri 11-Oct-13 00:42:51

Kenlee you are awfully close to implying that if children do not do well at school or get into trouble with the law then that can only be because their parents didn't care for them or spend time with them. Are you absolutely sure that's what you mean?

Kenlee Fri 11-Oct-13 04:04:25

Its not inherent that they will but Yes it could be one of the factors...Although it is not all encompassing.

It would be nice to rule out that factor....before we move on to investigate other factors.

But Yes I do think being with your children and taking an intrest in them does actually help them at school. It also In my opinion foster closer ties with the family. Thus reducing anti social behaviour.

Squiffyagain Fri 11-Oct-13 06:13:02

Kenlee, your comments are whimsical to say the very least. The relationship is between wealth and educational advantage, not between SAHP and educational advantage.

The Sutton trust spent a long time trying to prove the opposite and published a large report purporting to show this. It was published 2 or 3 years back. But when you broke down the detail of the research it showed a very clear statistical link with wealth - the children of working parents who were themslves highly educated performed the same as or better than the children of SAHP, both groups doing statistically better than the children of working parents from a lower educational background.

Also, if you look at the actual data in the detail of this report (not the headlines in the papers) there is a stronger link between wealth and performance in the worst-performing countries (us, Germany, UK) than in the better performing countries - you can see it clearly in the gradients on the diagrams on socio-economic relationships, which once again underlines the Uk problem around accessing the best opportunities/harnessing social mobility.

In the local indie school (and, incidentally, the local boys grammar) the kids do very well indeed, despite the initial indie school intake being non-selective. But the overwhelming majority of families at the indie have parents who both work (they have to, to afford the fees) -something like 12 mums out of every class of 15 (including the early years levels). It is exactly the same at the grammar (full of the kids of vets, doctors, and similar professionals). At the the secondary it is uncommon in a two parent family for both parents to be working. Have asked a teacher at the school about this before and she estimates that 75% ofbkids have a mum who is a SAHM (i think she also included in that figure mums with part time, child-friendly jobs) Also, the difference in the % of free school meals between the grammar and the secondary is huge. So wealth is clearly sifting at a very early stage, whereas dual income households do not appear to be effecting outcomes (although any fool knows that working and not being hands-on in helping teach kids is clearly far worse than either of these in isolation).

So, at 11, the kids have been sifted (one group by money and not IQ or SAHM, the other two groups by IQ and/or involved parenting and not by SAHM), after that the attainment gap grows despite the quality of the teaching (I'd say the quality of teaching is possibly poorer in many subjects in the indie school, but that's a very biased viewpoint). There's a huge US study that I can't be arsed to dig out that shows that this is pretty much driven from then on by peer pressure - where it is culturally cool to be clever kids will over-achieve relative to their innate IQ, and where it's not cool to be clever, they will under-achieve. Class sizes might play a part, sure, as might political tinkering, but attitude drives everything. Whilst it might be nice to live in Zenia's world where the indie kids must inherently be cleverer than other kids, its simply not the case. Nor is it the case that SAHM will by definition drive your kids to success. The problem is how you raise standards across the spectrum and at the same time flatten down the socio-economic advantages that are frankly a very ugly aspect of the more developed societies (and I am quite aware of my massive hypocrisy in taking advantage of a flawed system for my own kids)

Regardless of all the gross generalisations we make in threads like this, this is a fascinating report when you look at the detail, and I really hope a team of people in Whitehall spend a long long time looking into it.

Kenlee Fri 11-Oct-13 07:55:40

I don't find it whimsical in the slightest to know that a child that has a parent to support them would be far better off than one that isn't. It doesn't really matter what IQ level you are at as long as you have the means to attain. That is where I do agree. That the well off seem to have the advantage. Although I think its quite ludicrous to assume that all rich children will automatically be little Einsteins and have the moral character that befits our society because their parents throw money at them.

People like to make a big deal about the rich and the poor as the only reason why our socio depraved economically disadvantaged are where they are at.

I think it is a lot more complex than just having money. I don't really need an expensive study to come to that conclusion . You will find that there are many kinds of poor. There are the poor that want out of being poor and you will find that their children often do well. As the parents install that the only way out is education. If you want to stereotype these would tend to be the immigrant families. Did you report ascertain how many disadvantaged children from these families actually got educated and went on to success.

Obviously we also have the Chav population who tend not to care about their children. In fact many are children themselves.

What has your reported suggested to do with our dysfunctional poor. I have was always taught not to be jealous of another persons riches but to see by what means I can acheive the same effect.

btw do you have a link to the report its seems quite interesting...

Bonsoir Fri 11-Oct-13 08:37:00

"Kenlee, your comments are whimsical to say the very least. The relationship is between wealth and educational advantage, not between SAHP and educational advantage."

That is not a universal truth. Different correlations exist depending on the country/culture. In several European countries their is a strong correlation between SAHP and educational advantage.

wordfactory Fri 11-Oct-13 08:48:42

Which countries Bonsoir?

I thought the countries who were at the top of the table had very few levels of SAHPs?

The research in the UK shows quite clearly that the most influential factor in a child's educational attainment is the education of the Mother. This is absolutley not connected to whether she works or not.

The second greatest factor is wealth. Cold hard dosh. The wealthier a child, the higher their educational attainment (though there's a saturation point).

Since most families obtain wealth by working...

I know someone who is doing research into this issue as we speak. The results should be extremely interesting, I think.

Bonsoir Fri 11-Oct-13 09:03:09

In Germany, the correlation is historically extremely high, as it is in Switzerland. In France, a great deal of dissection of previously under-analysed data shows that the "winning formula" for school success is to have one parent who is a teacher and one who is a high-responsibility, high-earner or to have one SAHP and one high-responsibility, high-earner. Two high-responsibility, high-earning parents are not a formula for school success in France - those DC tend to do less well than their parents.

rabbitstew Fri 11-Oct-13 09:03:33

Of course a SAHP by definition won't drive your kids to success. Nor will a wealthy parent by definition drive your kids to success. It depends on the circumstances behind your choices, or whether you have any choices at all. If you are wealthy you are more likely either to be well educated or to have an investment in society from which you benefit and which you wish to maintain, or both. You might actually be a hopeless drug addict who inherited or dealt their way to wealth, but you are more likely to have some kind of buy-in and, if you do have problems, the capacity to buy help to get out of them, so obviously you are almost always going to see benefits from that. There are a multitude of reasons for being a SAHP, though, some positive, some negative, some in which you do still feel you have a strong investment in the community around you and society in general and others in which you don't, so you are not going to see such a strong link between that and academic success. This doesn't mean that being a SAHP cannot be beneficial to all concerned. After all, it depends what you actually DO with your time, your motivations behind it and what you can afford to do.

Bonsoir Fri 11-Oct-13 09:07:21

Indeed, rabbitstew.

It isn't particularly difficult to imagine that a SAHP who works hard to bring up his/her DC and has a lot of skilled input is going to make a bigger difference than one who swans around all day not paying much attention (whatever the educational attainment level of that parent).

Kenlee Fri 11-Oct-13 10:08:09

I really don't think in this day and age there are a lot of stay at home moms. Anyway If SAHP were the answer. Why are there so many dysfunctional families living in poverty and failing at school.

Maybe its a culture of handouts that has created this malaise in society. Im not sure but you will find people from the poorer countries with less hand outs seem to want their kids to work hard at school....and will give up their social life and even skip a meal to do that.

Although i do think having a parent who interacts with their children will have happier children. With the old age adage that a happy child learns quicker

rabbitstew Fri 11-Oct-13 10:32:03

Kenlee - what makes you think there is more malaise in society now than there was in the past? And where does all the hard work from people in poor countries, for example, actually get them? The poorest in those societies remain dirt poor, so far as I can see.

ZZZenagain Fri 11-Oct-13 10:33:14

Squiff: "the worst-performing countries (us, Germany, UK)"

don't think Germany is one of the worst performing countries - place 11, directly before Denmark and Norway cf. UK - 22 and US - 24. There was a time when I was living there when a ripple of alarm went through Germany after one of these comparative tests showed German pupil attainment to be much lower than people would have expected. They must have done a good job of changing things in the meantime. Certainly there was a lot of talk and various attempts to change the situation. One major change was to increase the number of full-day schools (8-4) as opposed to the previous half-day school system (8-12) which was standard and based upon the assumption that mother was at home to cook lunch and supervise hours of homework. If that made a difference in itself I don't know.

Other than that I don't really know what major changes were introduced to the curriculum or teaching methods. One thing about German schools is that you would never find a teacher who could not use German correctly. German grammar is more complicated than English grammar, yet they master it. I really don't think it would be tolerated that a primary school teacher would make spelling mistakes in German. In fact it is a situation I really could not imagine ever happening.

ZZZenagain Fri 11-Oct-13 10:36:53

just seen the figures I was looking at were for numeracy levels. Perhaps you were referring to an overall score combining literacy and numeracy. I haven't seen those.

MissHC Fri 11-Oct-13 11:01:06

I'm not surprised. Grew up in Flanders (Belgium) - 4th on the list.

Did my master's degree at a UK uni (red brick / Russell Group) 5 years ago. One of my housemates - who was doing a master's in some type of engineering!! - showed me the maths he had to do. I'd done the same level maths in secondary school aged 17 (and no, I'm not some sort of maths genius - didn't even do the "most difficult" option maths my school offered).

The differences I note between the 2 countries:
- In Flanders there is a higher emphasis on theory - in all subjects. Only once you know the theory are you allowed to form an opinion yourself.
- The entire school system is different. It is acknowledged that uni is not for everyone, so there are different options for those wishing to do a more vocational course. This allows those who ARE more academically minded to be pushed more.
- School starts at 2.5. Kindergarten first (2.5-5) which is more like nursery. Primary school starts at 6 - which is also when you learn to read/write. Reading and writing is taught at the same time.
- Teachers seem to have a higher level of numeracy / literacy themselves - sorry. I lived with a girl who was a NQ primary school teacher. She could not spell for the life of her. How is she supposed to teach children how to write? Also for secondary teachers - all secondary school teachers who teach over 14's HAVE to have a master's degree in their subject.
- No GCSE's/A-levels. Schools and teachers do their own exams, 2 or 3 times a year. Parents choose schools based on pupils' performance AFTER THEY LEAVE. So the more rounded their education is, the better they tend to do at uni. There is no teaching just to get kids to pass their exams. To me that's a major issue with English education.
- Schools seem to be a LOT stricter, even though they don't have uniforms.

Make of that what you want, but personally I think it's a system that better allows children of all abilities to achieve the most.

AutumnLeavesaGoGo Fri 11-Oct-13 11:11:30

Yes MissHC, I did engineering and we had French students over on exchange whose knowledge of maths put us to shame.

There needs to be "pushier" stream in our schooling for the academic and good technical schooling. (In fact I think the second of those is the more important for the country/economy as a whole.)

rabbitstew Fri 11-Oct-13 11:19:28

And yet France only comes in at no. 19 in the OECD numeracy tests - only 2 above the UK. So when looking at how France does by its entire population, it doesn't do too well in numeracy... perhaps better not to copy them.

AutumnLeavesaGoGo Fri 11-Oct-13 11:22:10

My primary child is quite a bright one but he's not getting taught the basics thoroughly at school.

I've just realised he can't tell the time properly and that it's long been clear that it's up to me to really teach him times tables, meanwhile school is giving him (dubious) information about healthy eating and they are enjoying studying comparative religions,which I do think is worthwhile but perhaps not aged 7/8. I feel the responsibilities are the wrong way round.

Then the idea of doing maths and english at home is looked down on by so many parent's as being mean or even detrimental (hothousing) it's no surprise we are doing poorly overall.

MissHC Fri 11-Oct-13 11:22:22

I agree Autumn re the different streams.

In Flanders, there are 3 main streams: General Education (for those who want to go into higher education - it's useless for going straight into work), Technical Education (which is more specialised and can still be extremely difficult - e.g. options that focus on maths/engineering), Professional Education (wide range of vocational courses - hairdressing, woodwork, mechanics etc).

General education is just that - they expect you to do everything, and you choose some options that go deeper (e.g. languages, maths, economics, sciences, etc). However everyone within general education gets all of these subjects (+ more) to a decent level to start with.

Technical education is for those who really excel in something and are not very good at something else (e.g. great in maths/sciences but crap at languages) - they'll still get the other subjects but on a lower level.

Professional education is great if you are not very academically minded and would rather do a job rather than higher education - e.g. my cousin is a mechanic. You also get other things (like maths, languages) but it's more a basic level. In most of these subjects from 16 you do several days a week of work placement to learn on the job.

I get the impression everyone here is put through the same average stream - which is fine for average students but you end up with disruptive pupils as it's too hard for them whilst also basically neglecting the brighter ones.

AutumnLeavesaGoGo Fri 11-Oct-13 11:26:16

Yes my experience was only with University level maths.

Living in France I was aware of a huge gulf between different groups, it felt more divided than the UK during the 80s. Then again I had some working-class mates who did like doing dictations for fun ! Surely a overhang from their schooling.

rabbitstew Fri 11-Oct-13 11:28:44

When it comes to "technical schooling," that tends to be better if connected with plenty of technical jobs. It works in Germany, where that is the case. Doesn't work so well here, because it's a big step to train people up for jobs you currently have to move country for to find in great numbers.

AutumnLeavesaGoGo Fri 11-Oct-13 11:33:56

rabbitstew we could look at aspects from other countries without adopting their entire system.

I always thought I'd ensure my kid's got a better maths education than I had, it seems I hadn't started early enough!

The panellist on QTime last night seemed sure standards amongst her undergrads had gone down.

riddlesgalore Fri 11-Oct-13 11:38:06





AutumnLeavesaGoGo Fri 11-Oct-13 11:40:09

Depends which area you live in rabbitstew. And most areas support mechanics, decorators, plumbers and electricians.

Although I have come to the conclusion that if a country doesn't have a political class who understand the necessity of providing long-term power capacity let alone a manufacturing base then I should encourage my children to move elsewhere.

MissHC Fri 11-Oct-13 11:44:05

Autumn and Rabbit - I never said the system in Flanders is perfect - far from it. However I do think it's doing a better job than the English one.

Also re technical schooling - it's not only to create lots of engineers. My best friend is a midwife and she went through the technical stream as she wasn't very good at maths nor languages but quite good at sciences and too bright to do a vocational course. Also a lot of people who want to go into e.g. accountancy go through technical schooling.

I'm just trying to explain how the system works over there.

rabbitstew Fri 11-Oct-13 11:55:44

I agree that maths teaching is pretty dire in some UK primary schools. I also agree that some primary school teachers have poor spelling, punctuation and grammar. I like the idea of technical schools as a concept, if we can get past the snobbery in this country about an academic university education.

rabbitstew Fri 11-Oct-13 12:00:48

AutumnLeavesaGoGo - I think the political class understand the importance of providing long-term power capacity, good transport infrastructure, etc, etc, they just can't see the personal political gain in making the difficult decisions. They thought they could pass the buck by privatising everything, but that doesn't work, because private companies don't want to take the risks, either - they want those covered by the taxpayer.

ZZZenagain Fri 11-Oct-13 12:24:46

technical schools in combination with apprenticeship systems lead people IME not only to be good at what they do but to take pride in being a qualifed worker. I think this is one point where Germany is ahead of the UK and where we could investigate the German system and adopt elements of it. It does limit you of course. You have to decide early on what you are going to do and then having completed an apprenticeship which is a combination of on the job learning and taught courses, it would be hard to switch to something else if jobs are scarce or you find you don't enjoy the work.

Sometimes the specialisations seemed to be unnecessary. I know I saw job advertisements in the paper requiring a "trained and fully qualified shoe salesperson". I may be wrong but I do think really you can acquire any specialist knowledge without much difficulty by just doing the job.

Generally in terms of improving education , I think we should have a good look at the Netherlands as being amongst the highest achievers and yet from the structure of society closer to Britain than Japan or Finland. Finland and Japan do not have the number of dc from immigrant backgrounds that the UK and the Netherlands have, so we have some of the same difficulties - language barriers, parents without English/Dutch as a mother tongue. Class distinctions are not so obvious in the Netherlands and I have a feeling this plays a big role. Of the countries listed, possibly the UK and the US are the two countries where wealth inequality is the biggest problem and both are at the bottom of the list.

AutumnLeavesaGoGo Fri 11-Oct-13 12:26:13

I don't think they do. We will have to agree to disagree!

I think Blair and Brown were too busy politicking to care about genuine uk interests. Not because they are wicked but because their thought processes don't go along those lines.
They are like a parent who wouldn't think of buying their kid's winter coats until it snows.

I think the current underwriting of mortgage lending is the act of a twit as well. Just to be equal opportunities about it!

ClifftopCafe Fri 11-Oct-13 12:34:32

I think the problems start early. We're at an outstanding Primary. The teachers are great. The problem is it's all about ensuring progress rather than enrichment, there's no overarching academic ambition and thrust for those children which would benefit. There seems to be too much teaching to the middle.

I think schools are too creative. Rote learning & traditional methods are frowned on etc but quite honestly point me to a state primary that has children sitting in rows discussing the Rime of the Ancient Mariner and children chanting daily tables for 15 minutes. I don't think you'll find one. My children hate to plan and want to put the roof on before they've built the foundations. They can't be bothered to apply the right spelling and grammar and develop these skills as they've beyond boring and the teachers tell them it is more important to get their ideas down on paper. Before long that habit becomes ingrained and it's a difficult habit to break. (Contrast to other countries where the spelling will be corrected in red and need to be written again three times, yes even in Maths! - we're told that's old hat and didn't work in the past for everyone. I think it worked for most hence the report's findings).

My Y3 finishes their work and then helps the other children which is good for consolidation (apparently). They do posters in literacy and those that work in the library encourage them towards the attractive, brightly coloured books rather than those that offer any challenge. You need to engage them early we're told...Well perhaps but personally I'd prefer school really pushed them and then they could pick out those great picture books when they got home and in their leisure time.

Everything is child led and they want the children to be enthusiastic about learning so teachers read books like Captain Underpants to make them laugh etc. Personally I'd prefer a more academic focus at school. Why not Schofield and Sims Mental Maths workbooks for all (for example) and children can work through at their own pace applying their tables knowledge. Set 5 mins a might for homework like many successful Preps seem to. Little and often. Before long most will be pretty good at mental maths. Simple. Use their comprehension books in literacy from Y3 for those that can manage them (and that should be most children). Can a 7 year old understand a comprehension passage from a children's classic? There is absolutely no reason why not.

These sort of tasks would help with discipline and focus. Whilst our average children are colouring in and dressing up as Roald Dahl characters etc those in other countries of a similar age are building word power through comprehension and reading at a more challenging level etc.

As someone said upthread any kind of 'hot housing' or enrichment out of school is seen as very negative. Also on the rote learning aspects (which I think can be positive) you need to understand the box first before you can think outside it. Or as someone else said on here 'rote learning is the trellis the free thinker can climb'.

Kenlee Fri 11-Oct-13 13:03:26

I would say rote learning should be learnt at primary...but I think critical thinking should be taught in secondary....
I really disagree with teaching to the exam and wish the exans where more based on understanding than on short term memorization of exam questions.

Only then will standards increase....

rabbitstew Fri 11-Oct-13 13:06:47

I think a bit of balance would be good. I have one ds who is a fabulous rote learner, who enjoys memorising things for the sake of it - he would love a system in which rote learning was the be all and end all for the first few years of school. However, he has a non-verbal learning disability, which results in him relying too much on his memory and phenomenal verbal skills to make up for the deficits he has in other areas (which in the end will be more important than his rote learning skills). Not to work with him from an early age to help develop those other skills, which will never come naturally to him, would be to let him down. My other ds, on the other hand, has a good memory but is inclined to find making the effort of memorising things dull, so could do with a bit of a shove from school from time to time on that, but on the other hand, it's because he doesn't like making the effort to memorise things when he doesn't understand the point of them - if he understands the concept, then he automatically remembers, because he is interested and has been given a chance to apply his knowledge and understanding. He would therefore benefit from being made to do a bit more rote learning, but because he is extremely bright, can handle way more than just that NOW, not in a few years time.

missinglalaland Fri 11-Oct-13 13:23:58

Clifftopcaffe your experience with dc's primary school is the same as mine. You have said it so much better than I ever could. Thank you.

wordfactory Fri 11-Oct-13 15:24:59

rabbit balance is all, no?

My DC's primary school walked the line down the middle.

Probably far more rote learning than many parents would be comfortable with (and more homework too) but balanced well with creativity. The children were never bored. Academic attainment was excellent.

But the parents were on board with it. I get the sense that lots and lots of parents would not be on board with that sort of education for their DC.

Bonsoir Fri 11-Oct-13 18:24:02

I agree, wordfactory, that a good balance between committing knowledge to memory and embedding skills and then using that knowledge and those skills in novel and productive expression is something of an educational ideal (right through school).

Mumzy Fri 11-Oct-13 21:33:02

The maths teaching in primary schools is dire I was told my dcs could only used the grid method for long multiplication and chunking for long division in class. Both methods IMO are long winded and cumbersome and all my dcs prefer my quicker 'old fashion' methods.

Kenlee Fri 11-Oct-13 22:58:45

This is also a problem that we are finding that teachers dont like students to do things outside of the box. Even if they get the right answer....

I never understood this policy.

Sierra753 Sun 13-Oct-13 10:08:53

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Australia. Why isn't anyone talking about Australia?

Australia has wealth inequalities every bit as stark as England's. It is also just as multicultural, so like England it doesn't have the advantages of homogeneity. Yet it did comparatively well, finishing 5th and 6th on the list.

I don't reckon it's enough to say that simple wealth inequalities cause poor performance. If that were true, Australia (and Canada - also pretty unequal) would have done much worse than it did. I think it is because in the UK there is a particularly high perception that if you are poor, the odds are against you. This is for historical reasons to do with class. I grew up in the UK but left a decade ago for NZ. Now, NZ's wealth inequality is on some measures even greater than Britain's. However, the perception people (rightly or wrongly) hold is that society is nevertheless fair, and if you work hard at school or after you leave it, you will get on. There is relatively little tolerance for people who complain about their lot. I expect that the attitude in Australia is similar.

NZ wasn't included in this survey, which was a pity, because I would have been interested to see how it performed. I will make the comment that in my experience, Kiwis seem much quicker at basic arithmetic than British people, and tend to be better at spelling and punctuation. However, having a good prose style, turn of phrase isn't really considered as important. Once again, I reckon class has something to do with this, as in the UK being erudite was traditionally a sign of being up the social scale.

I have to say I don't reckon NZ or Aus would come out particularly flash in a survey on modern languages or humanities.

As an aside, Germany and France didn't do particularly well in the surveys, and they tend not to. If the French and the Germans one meets seem fearsomely well-educated, bear in mind that both those countries have their back blocks and sink towns that one is unlikely to visit or meet people from.

Bonsoir Mon 14-Oct-13 08:15:32

The report won't be published in French until 28 October so the French press hasn't yet reacted. Given the mad dumbing down reforms to primary and now nursery education of the Socialist administration, I'm sure the press ( which is very anti the reforms) will have a field day.

Peillon deserves to lose his ministerial post now.

straggle Mon 14-Oct-13 18:08:34

Toadinthehole, I have noticed that about New Zealanders I work with - wasn't sure if it was because the ones granted visa were the better qualified. Interesting comments about perceptions of class (or maybe self-fulfilling prophecies).


I think that must be true to an extent re visas. However, I understand that upwards of 10% of New Zealanders hold British citizenship and thus have work rights, and I imagine an even greater percentage would qualify for ancestry visas, which aren't granted on the basis of skills.

The current prime minister grew up in a council house in a one-parent family, and was educated through the state system. He worked as a currency trader and is now very rich. While his background is generally known, he hasn't ever based his election campaign on it: the implication being that social mobility is taken for granted.

straggle Mon 14-Oct-13 19:00:22

It's almost inconceivable to see a politician reach the top with that background here. If they went to a comprehensive school and/or are the children of immigrants the rightwing press still make them out to be elitist or misfits in some other way - 'not one of us'. Maybe it's worse in Australia for that?

Erebus Tue 15-Oct-13 12:15:11

36% of Australian DC are privately educated That's across the board. Where I lived, 'MC', Sunshine Coast, Queensland, 62% were.

You can't really make a comparison, especially seeing as there is some truth that it's hard to get into Australia, something like 20% of Australians are 'foreign born' therefore had to get a visa, and therefore had to be 'good enough' to get that visa or come from families that valued 'talent'.

Australia makes a Big Deal about its elitist schools, believe me. There is a definite pecking order. And another thing Australia seems to do which is considered anathema here is to start 'training' its less academically able young far sooner that we do. The DC are one a path towards a trade at 13 or 14 in some states.

Squiffyagain Tue 15-Oct-13 12:53:05

Straggle - Alan Johnson was orphaned at 12, brought up by his older sister in a council flat, stacked shelves in Tescos and worked as a postman.

He then went on to become Secretary of State, Home Secretary, and sec of state for education. And never was there a whisper about his background, mostly because he chooses not to trade on it.

moondog Tue 15-Oct-13 13:08:40

As someone who works with very many teachers (and has done for many years) I see how ill trained they are to understand and remedy difficulties with literacy and numeracy both in the early and late stages (by which time it really is too late).
They just haven't got the skills to do it. No fault of their own. Those that do, tend to be the ones who have put a lot of personal time and effort into researching and using evidence based data driven methods of doing so. There aren't many of those about.

It enrages me to hear Christine Blower, of the aptly named NUT, bleating about how phonics testing at 5 stigmatises and 'fails' five year olds. No it doesn't you numpty, it stigmatises and fails useless methods of teaching.
If the child hasn't learnt, the teacher hasn't taught.

musicalfamily Tue 15-Oct-13 13:09:05

Also agree 100% with Clifftopcafe and I could have written exactly the same post.

moondog Tue 15-Oct-13 13:17:11

Yes, Clifftop, I agree with everything you say too and in the many excellent classes I work in, this is what is happening. It is also what I do with my own children after school on a daily basis as I know otherwise, they won't be taught it Sadly, I view school as being essentially an occasion for socialising rather than one for learning.
Expectations are low and interest and motivation is low from all directions. I have just had a phone call telling me I have been chosen to be a governor at my child's school (over 800 pupils). I was delighted as I assumed competition would be stiff and I spent a while working on my mission statement.

How wrong I was. I was the only person trying.

soul2000 Tue 15-Oct-13 14:40:49

The biggest problem England has related to this, is that this report
illustrates the huge difference in social economic circumstances.

England probably is one of the worst countries for social mobility in the
developed or rich G 20 countries. The OECD report goes on to state that
in England if you are born in to poor social economic circumstances, you are 8 times more likely to stay there.

I think in England the level of education people get is stark those from middle class backgrounds probably get an education that is superior to what many of us over the age of 40 got. An example of this is the home work both my niece and nephew were doing from Yr 10, it was very challenging and certainly i could not have coped with it at their age. The difference is they were both grammar school pupils, niece is 2nd year RG
Uni nephew is L6 grammar School. However the most disturbing aspect was that the Times gave an example of a couple of questions from the test. One
question had a picture of an ear and different spellings.Another question
had a temperature gauge set to 80 degrees centigrade and asked what the temperature would be if reduced by 30 degrees centigrade, so you can see pretty simple questions. I think this illustrates the difference in education between the haves and have not's.

Erebus Tue 15-Oct-13 15:08:47

Very controversially, I think the end result of decades of social security policy has come home to roost, along with a decimation of our manufacturing industries and reliance on posh young men in red braces to run our economy.

We have, still, one of the highest teenage pregnancy rates in the developed world. It stands to reason that, among the many young people who get accidentally pregnant and use the event as a trigger to pull their socks up, decide to get a decent education so as to be able to provide for themselves and their baby, thus maybe even achieve a better life-outcome than they otherwise may have done; there are a fair slab more who shrug, 'safe' in the knowledge it doesn't matter, thus leave school with nothing, certainly no education - whose DC stand little chance of getting the support they'll need to succeed at school themselves. With the best will in the world, it's quite hard to pick up and run with your DC's Y8 or 9 chemistry homework to assist them if you're out of your depth with Y4 English, a situation that just might also involve your poverty, your sub-optimal housing, a limited support network, no culture of self-reliance or self-improvement (see remarks made by others that our OECD standing might be better if our teachers spent more time teaching and less social-working!).

I also think it would be hard to model desirable behaviours such as regular work-going, self-study (and the self-discipline to do it) to gain advancement at work and so forth, plus demonstration of the visible signs of 'success' such as a nice enough home, a reliable car, even foreign holidays if you can bring none of that to your 'domestic table'.

This is absolutely not a 'bash the poor' tirade, it's meant to be a further exploration as to why the UK does relatively so badly against other countries with different policies towards benefits, views regarding single parenthood, social responsibility, cycles of entrenched poverty. (Though again, I think if you were to take the DC who were tested from certain areas of the country, the results would be very different from if you took the DC from, often, the neighbouring borough).

We are quite a divided nation and, to me, it seems we want to keep it that way if we're on the winning side. We absolutely would refuse to pay the sorts of taxes the 'more successful' Scandinavian countries do; we don't have a cohesive social 'pact' with each other, we don't have industries that can employ (thus empower) our academically less able like Germany does.


I think England can fairly be compared with Australia, albeit unfavourably.

I would beware of giving the impression that 36% of Australians attend the antipodean equivalent of Porridge Prep or Buggery College. "Private" schools in Australia are mostly run by the RC or Anglican churches and are funded by the state, much like CofE schools are in England.

While it is true that Australia has a high percentage of foreign-born residents, that can pose a great many challenges to do with literacy in English - which Australian schools have to their credit clearly overcome. It is worth remembering that it has been argued that England's multiculturalism (compared to Japan and Finland) is high, and this imposes a disadvantage on the education system. Clearly this is not so for Oz - most of whose immigrants do not come from culturally similar places like New Zealand, the UK, or Ireland.

Interesting remarks about Australians' approach to trade. It isn't so much like that here in NZ, but learning a trade isn't seen at all as second class - probably because tradies get paid as well as many people in the traditional professions and there is no snob factor involved.

Bonsoir Wed 16-Oct-13 08:06:28

I agree, Erebus, that there is a culture of low aspiration in the UK - not just among the disadvantaged themselves but among policy makers and NGOs who seem to believe that the kind course of action is to prop up people who are failing to fend adequately for themselves. Generations of propping has made it seem normal to not need to work hard at school or elsewhere in order to live as an adult.

Erebus Wed 16-Oct-13 08:23:08

Toad tbf, you've actually contradicted yourself a little! In one post you say:"Australia has wealth inequalities every bit as stark as England's"; in the next you say:"but learning a trade isn't seen at all as second class - probably because tradies get paid as well as many people in the traditional professions". Indeed they do!

From my experience, by and large, whilst it's no social nirvana, there is a smaller wealth gap by a fair chalk in Australia, compared to the UK. Where I lived, in our similarly priced houses, the family upper side of me had a lawyer and a physio as parents (Anglican private), below, a plasterer and his SAH wife (RC school). We were IT management and HCP, looking at the closest private, which was Lutheran-lite! (fees of about AU$ 8500 a year)

And by virtue of selecting a school other than the nearest state one for your DC, you are making a 'value statement' regarding your opinion of education! That in itself increases your DC's educational chances and thus performance.

Regarding immigration; again, if your immigrants have had to jump through hoops to get visas, the fact they or maybe more pertinently, their DC's mother tongue isn't English poses less of a barrier than low aspiration- here in the UK there are many stories of non-English speaking DC aceing their class in English 4 years later, because they're motivated and from backgrounds that value education.

musicalfamily Wed 16-Oct-13 08:48:33

Yes valuing education is key. However, when it translates into having to take the lion share of your children's education at home whilst sending them to school, there is something fundamentally wrong with the system as a whole.

Children at primary should go to school and learn things like timetables and handwriting, spellings and grammar. They are there all day after all. Then come home and do baking, dressing up and singing. Unfortunately at the moment the balance is swung the other way. It isn't even about choosing the MC class school in leafy suburb/village, because actually in my limited experience it can be even worse there.


My remark about well-paid tradies actually referred to NZ. However, I expect it is true for Australia too. However, the fact that people other than professionals can earn a decent income doesn't mean wealth inequality has to be less. There are well-paid tradies, poorly-paid tradies, very well-paid owners of business interests, and poorly-paid marginal workers and unemployed. It is different to the UK where if you want to earn decent money (and social respect), by and large you need a degree and membership of a profession.

Statistically, Australia is as unequal as the UK (as is NZ, despite its historic wealth equality for non-Maori).

Re immigration: while I do believe that immigrant families (and those of immigrant extraction) are perhaps more likely to value education, I doubt this is true across the board - it will depend on the culture of the immigrants and their own level of education. Furthermore, it does not follow that immigrant children will do well even if their parents value education. Mrs Toad works with such children a lot. Most are hard workers - some are going off the rails due to cultural dislocation - but generally they will have a lot of ground to make up. Some go on to do very well - some fail.

I should add that I do agree that low aspiration is a particular problem in the UK - comparing the culture there and here. Of course there are kids and families who just don't care - but in my own experience there are just less of them; kids here (unlike the ones I grew up with in the UK) don't seem to believe that the world's against them - probably because no one's telling them that it is.

Mumzy Wed 16-Oct-13 09:23:34

I think when I was growing up in the 80s Britain was still a major player in the world, politically, economically and educationally. However 30 years down the line the world order has changed and the British haven't quite acknowledged the fact that other countries have made great strides in these areas and if not overtaking Britain then definitely catching us up. My parents emigrated to Britain in the 70s from a former British colony where being white and British meant you would instantly be promoted over the natives regardless of your actual ability.
However this is now the past and we British do very little to address how we are to face these new world realities and still feel entitled to have a well funded welfare system, public services, good work/life balance, decent standard of living etc etc. ive worked in NHS for 20 years and in the last 10 years I have seen so much more competition for jobs from excellent candidates who are foreign nationals. On the whole they will accept lower grade jobs, are more focused and moan less about t&c than their British counterparts. DH works in the city and in his team of 12 he is 1 of only 2 British nationals and spends most of his time managing teams in other countries where most of the work is now out sourced as they will do it at far cheaper rates. I fear for our dcs as they will face a world where competition for jobs, housing and public services will be much harder. They will also have to understand that global events will also have a much bigger impact on their lives and they will need the a better standard of education than is currently on offer, life skills and emotional resilience to withstand all of these.

moondog Wed 16-Oct-13 09:44:35

Musical, this is so true
'Children at primary should go to school and learn things like timetables and handwriting, spellings and grammar. They are there all day after all. Then come home and do baking, dressing up and singing. Unfortunately at the moment the balance is swung the other way'

Unfortunately, very few people have the inclination or indeed the ability to plug the gaps left by schools. I would, in a heartbeat, take the money it costs to 'educate' my kids and spend it elsewhere. It enrages me that I am the one who has to press mortar between the bricks, even more so when I have spent all day doing the same for other people's children.

fourseasonsinaday Wed 16-Oct-13 11:55:28

Also I think the tax and benefit system don't really encourage people to work hard. A friend of mine she is lovely and all that it annoys me the fact she never earn enough to pay income tax and of course she and her family can enjoy state benefit that we are never entitled to have. She doesn't want to earn more or improve oh no. Because then she will lose her benefit and pay tax as well. My dh doesn't really have a extremely well pay job but enough to pay 40% tax. We have to pay everything for our selves and not entitled to have any benefit not even child benefit. If I want to do a course in FE I will have to pay the course fees and childcare so I cannot afford it. To buy a house is the same. If it is under£200,000 no stamp duty, upto £250,000 is 1% still ok but beyond that is 3% but why extra extra more? Even if we taxed the same % we will automatically be paying more any way but why if we work harder means we have pay extra extra more. I feel the harder we work and save the more we are rip off by the tax system. For those work less they are rewarded more. I don't have problem helping those who really need help but hate being taken advantages of.

rabbitstew Wed 16-Oct-13 13:07:23

Mind you, moondog, I don't think THAT many parents do baking, dressing up and singing with their children at home, so drop those off the school curriculum and some children won't be doing any of it, they'll just have more time to watch TV, which won't help them in the long run, either. Being excellent at chanting times tables and writing neatly doesn't ensure you know how to run your life effectively and engage effectively in society.

fairisleknitter Wed 16-Oct-13 13:39:13

I know some opposite types rabbitstew.

Those who are very well engaged with their children but may not own any books and think the school are going to sort out education. Their children and mine have been friends and imo they don't need the social engineering side of school: their children are among the most pro-social ones! But the parents don't realise they will have to fill in such gaping holes.

Also there is far too much time spent watching tv in my child's current school.

Bonsoir Wed 16-Oct-13 13:50:26

Well, no, rabbitstew but times tables and spellings are at least a foundation for learning how to work your way around life.

rabbitstew Wed 16-Oct-13 14:11:31

So, be more rigorous with times tables learning and spellings (something my dss' school does perfectly well), but don't drop singing and cooking to fit them in - just drop the TV watching and Captain Underpants reading...

rabbitstew Wed 16-Oct-13 14:14:53

In fact, definitely keep the singing, but set higher standards in that, too. Dumbed down singing and "cooking" are just as bad as dumbed down maths and English.

Slipshodsibyl Wed 16-Oct-13 14:45:00

Sir Michael Wilshaw yesterday pinpointed the issues arising from dysfunctional family attitudes towards parenting and thus education. That is the main problem. The second, which would be more easily addressed if the first were less common, is to have highly qualified and paid staff.

Prof John Goldthorpe,of Nuffield College Oxford, who has studied social mobility for many years has also stated that education alone cannot fix things and that the politicians are wrong to insist education alone is the answer. It is, however, much easier for them than trying to address the real problem.

Bonsoir Wed 16-Oct-13 14:45:31


No cooking at DD's French school but lots of grammar.

Elibean Wed 16-Oct-13 14:59:31

Its perfectly possible to do times tables and spellings AND high level cooking and music!

dds' school is still working on the standard of music, but the other three are great. And there are kids who are flying on the catering front who will never shine amongst their peers on academic subjects - I'm all for keeping the wider curriculum.

Elibean Wed 16-Oct-13 15:00:40

Plus, some of those kids will never learn how to prepare home made three course meals full of vegetables at home (and I'm not talking about the FSM kids, either). Which are a very important basic for living, along with maths and literacy IMO.

Slipshodsibyl Wed 16-Oct-13 15:05:42

Elibean, but I'm not sure whether it is really agreed that school is the right place to learn this. If your school is doing a sound job of teaching children to plan and cook meals then do you think it is in a minority?

moondog Wed 16-Oct-13 15:08:51

'Being excellent at chanting times tables and writing neatly doesn't ensure you know how to run your life effectively and engage effectively in society.'

No, but I'd rather my child was able to do this than to model a castle in foam bricks or glue pictures downloaded from the internet into books. My son has just completed an assignment on the seasons and in the pseudo scientific language of the NC, the 'success criteria' stated that he could included pictures.

I told him that he couldn't. He was going to be writing all of it.
Oh, and if he made a mistake, he was going to have to start again.

moondog Wed 16-Oct-13 15:10:15

The more you try to do to offset the corrosive effects of poor parenting, the more you enable the behaviour of those people who think it is the school's job to in effect, parent their child.

Slipshodsibyl Wed 16-Oct-13 15:15:37

I do think that the emphasis on teachers providing remedial social and pastoral education for children does not help the Uk in climbing league tables of this sort. I also believe that quite a lot of potential teachers are put off teaching as a career because of this.

Elibean Wed 16-Oct-13 15:48:24

Yes, Slipshod, I think it probably is in a minority cooking-wise. And lucky enough to grow its own fruit and veg, to some extent.

I think, in London, that is a rare experience for any child - and hugely valuable, on many levels.

When I went to school, a million years ago, the curriculum was wonderfully varied and creative. I still managed to get to university and become eminently employable.

My mother, OTOH, went through the French system and says she felt like a sausage in a sausage factory. She is, admittedly, an artist.

I'm all for academic excellence (I come from an academic family), but actually think the way forward - especially at primary level - requires a well taught, broad education with engaged, well rounded, happy children.

Which drilling, or dare I say it even well taught academics alone do not achieve.

Bonsoir Wed 16-Oct-13 16:53:11

I do think that the emphasis on teachers providing remedial social and pastoral education for children does not help the UK in climbing league tables of this sort. I also believe that quite a lot of potential teachers are put off teaching as a career because of this.

Agree very strongly, and also that this emphasis attracts some of the wrong sorts of people into teaching. We need more clarity (by far) on what school is for, what home is for (the responsibilities of parenthood) and what all the intermediary professions are for.

Retropear Wed 16-Oct-13 17:39:08

Re gridding and chunking,do they do it in other countries and will it be in the new maths curriculum?

Bonsoir Wed 16-Oct-13 17:52:22

No gridding and chunking at either the DSSs French state primary or DD's French private primary.

Elibean Wed 16-Oct-13 19:42:13

No gridding or chunking at dn's and dnph's French London schools either.

No lateral thinking either, unfortunately (hence very bright dn didn't match criteria for top British secondaries - the sort that like lateral thinking).

rabbitstew Wed 16-Oct-13 20:12:51

I am reliably informed by my sister that French schools in her part of France have started gridding and chunking... grin
Sorry, but learning times tables and spelling is easy for some children and does not require hours worth of repetition in school - they need to be catered for in the schools half you lot seem to be envisaging as a solution to the nation's problems.

wordfactory Wed 16-Oct-13 20:15:40

I'm all for a creative and diverse curriculum at school. One that sits comfortably alongside the academics.

However, some of the things school currently try to cover is not remotely creative. Or diverse. It's just papering over parent shaped cracks.
And this is highly time consuming.

I think it's high time we stopped looking to teachers to deal with every new problem in society!

I come from a working class family. Both my parents left school at 15. My Mother is profoundly dyslexic. And yet they were perfectly able to to teach me to cook, shop, manage a budget and think for myself.

I'm certain that the vast vast majority of parents in the UK can do these basic tasks. And can pass them on to their DC.

rabbitstew Wed 16-Oct-13 20:54:13

I'm certain a great number of parents in the UK cannot and do not teach their children to cook or manage a budget. It is fairly obvious from the state of the nation that parents are mostly capable of teaching their children how to shop, but far too large a proportion of them have no concept of budgeting or cooking themselves, let alone being able to pass these skills onto their children. The nation wouldn't be so obese and in so much debt, otherwise... grin

Kenlee Thu 17-Oct-13 10:34:35

Im sure most families can cook and budget.

It just depends is they want to cook the right stuff or budget for the right things.

If you go to a dysfunctional family home and talk to them. They will always say after Ive bought my fags and beer there is nothing left.

Go to another house who are poor as well but are functional they seen to be ok. It may not be the best of times for them but they will survive.

Sometimes its not about the parents but as wether they are dysfunctional.

Education will help their children. If they cant learn to cook in school where are they gonna learn it

Elibean Thu 17-Oct-13 10:42:41

You have a point.

I come from a well off academic family, with a mother who is an ace cook and both parents know how to budget. Did I learn a thing about either? Did I heck grin

Elibean Thu 17-Oct-13 10:47:37

And a small word re gridding and chunking....they have their place, for a lot of kids, in helping understand decimal place thoroughly and in demystifying numbers for those that aren't naturally mathematically inclined.

I can think of several of my family members, and good friends, who would have welcomed a bit of chunking and gridding in their school days - instead of being left baffled and feeling inadequate. And I'm not talking dunces here, just non-maths-brain-types.

dds' Head explained it as giving the children a full set of tools and then letting them choose the ones they're most comfortable with - for some (my dd1) it is clearly columns. She doesn't see the point of grids at all, and fair enough. But for others in her class, chunking and gridding makes maths accessible.

I think a lot of the problems come when schools (or individuals hmm) become inflexible, black-and-white, and we-know-best-one-rule-fits-all. Whether that's applied to maths techniques, cooking, art or just life.

Elibean Thu 17-Oct-13 10:47:57

blush ok then, a big word

wordfactory Thu 17-Oct-13 10:51:25

But if you keep asking schools to cover the failings of parents, you stretch the curriculum ever thinner. You ask more and more of teaching staff and you dilute the time and energy spent on academics.

State schools are being asked to do ever more year on year to make up for the poor parenting of a minority.

Bonsoir Thu 17-Oct-13 10:54:03

"State schools are being asked to do ever more year on year to make up for the poor parenting of a minority."

I agree, and this is unfair on parents who are doing a conscientious job themselves, as it dilutes the teaching effect in school for all - and distorts perception of what school ought to be about.

musicalfamily Thu 17-Oct-13 11:00:35

State schools are being asked to do ever more year on year to make up for the poor parenting of a minority

I agree. And coming from a poor and disadvantaged family myself, I would say that the biggest positive impact in my life was the excellent education I received at school (different country). I wasn't taught to cook and we mostly had bread and milk or bread and butter at home due to lack of money. However, accessing education gave me all the tools to go and learn to cook myself as an adult, as well as budget sensibly and all the rest.

I know many don't disagree, but I firmly believe that giving all children the best possible education in schools is what gives them more choices and more aspiration later on.

rabbitstew Thu 17-Oct-13 11:02:34

Sorry, but I fail to see how anyone can think including a bit of HE in the curriculum is distorting perception of what school ought to be about. It used to be in the curriculum in a lot of schools, was excluded for a while and then everyone realised how silly it was to squeeze it out. It is not some novel thing introduced to the curriculum in recent years by weirdy do-gooders... Same applies to singing and music in general. If you really want state schools to go back to reading, writing and arithmetic and nothing else, then I'm off out of the state sector to get my children a more rounded education, thank you very much. My children are worth more than hours of rote learning of really quite basic facts they had already grasped by the end of KS1 every day - that's going back to the days when people left school by the age of 14 to enter a workplace which actually had jobs for them.

rabbitstew Thu 17-Oct-13 11:04:25

By the way, some of you appear to be talking about a good education for people of above average intelligence who could go away once they had learned to read and write and teach themselves everything else... so you aren't talking about catering for everyone, just for people like yourselves, anyway.

wordfactory Thu 17-Oct-13 11:11:33

rabbit IME it's about balance.

There's a definite tipping point where school becomes about something other than a decent academic education. Instead it becomes a tapestry of non-core experiences.

Good sound academics need time. As does cooking, music, art etc. Doing a tad of this and rushed hour of that, is doing no one any favours.

An example on MN; a child being asked to make a trifle out of pre-prepared jelly, a tin of custard and a banana! First, making a trifle is very low on my list of school based priorities, Second if you're gonna make trifle, that surely aint it!

If kids from ordinary families want to compete with their counterparts from private schools, selective schools and kids from abroad, we have to ensure they've received a competing education. And trifle making isn't going to do it!

rabbitstew Thu 17-Oct-13 11:17:31

Well, exactly, wordfactory, dumbed down "cooking" as I have already said is just as bad as dumbed down maths and English. Spending more time doing dumbed down maths and English does not improve the experience - you need to improve the quality of a lot of it, not just scrap half of it because you, personally, could teach yourself how to run your own market garden and gourmet cafe once someone taught you where to put your apostrophes...

rabbitstew Thu 17-Oct-13 11:20:21

Anyway, jelly, custard and a banana does not a trifle make. grin

Kenlee Thu 17-Oct-13 13:13:16

Well all I can add to this is my DD...really enjoys her home economic class at school...she made Chicken chow mein....the other week...She claims it was quite good.....

Bonsoir Thu 17-Oct-13 14:47:12

I don't think it is the business of schools to teach children to cook. I do, however, think it is the business of schools to feed children properly at lunch time, to ensure that children stay well hydrated (with water) and that snacking doesn't occur on their premises! If children attend breakfast and after school club, it is also the business of schools to ensure that whomever runs those facilities ensures decent and appropriate nourishment of DC. Oh - and it is also the business of schools to ensure proper table manners.

wordfactory Thu 17-Oct-13 14:52:42

kenlee my DD enjoyed her cooking classes too!

However, the school has a long day, so can afford to play around with their time.

And that said, I don't think it really taught her how to cook. You get that from watching your parents cook day in day out. Then you stride out on your own.

Kenlee Thu 17-Oct-13 15:14:59

I think wasting an hour to play house is great for the kids. I also think a whole afternoon of sports is great too...I also know the kids swim every night after prep. I have always said healthy children are more balanced.

All kids need to have a break from the academia...Its nice to break the day up....

Again I do agree that because the school day is long..It can be done...Although I do suspect a bit of teacher activity....

Elibean Thu 17-Oct-13 15:31:51

I agree that balance is hugely important.

Hence an hour a week of cooking, every other term (or whatever), can play a very positive part. dd has learned an awful lot from her turns at school cooking (all fresh ingredients, teaching kitchen, fab) and the teaching Chefs make sure the children use their maths and literacy in the process.

Cooking isn't necessarily vital - I'm not saying that at all. I'm just saying that creative curriculum can work, when applied as it should be. If our school didn't have an allotment and a teaching kitchen, then maybe it would have to spend that hour doing something else - but I would hope it wouldn't be more times tables or spellings (they are adequately covered).

Balance, yes. Academics, yes. No cooking/music/art/sport/sewing/gardening/playing? Definitely not.

rabbitstew Thu 17-Oct-13 15:34:21

wordfactory - I could maintain that just watching your parents read and being read to every day will TEACH you how to read, because it worked for my kids. However, that would make me a big smug. Personally, I think the same thing applies to cooking. grin

Elibean Thu 17-Oct-13 15:48:53

Watching me cook would not teach them anything beyond five recipes and a baked potato blush

Elibean Thu 17-Oct-13 15:52:19

Also, re 'the business of schools':

If a six or eight year old is at school from 9-3.15 every day, I think its a lot healthier for those 6+ hours to include a variety of stimuli. As opposed to 6 hours of academics, followed by a few hours of creativity/play at home. It just fits normal childhood development and a child's natural rhythms better.

rabbitstew Thu 17-Oct-13 16:34:31

I have to say, I also find it a bit bizarre that, apparently, it is well within a parent's capabilities and finances to ensure their children have good skills in the kitchen, can plan and budget for a nutritious meal, are aware of kitchen hygiene rules and don't waste precious, expensive food, but beyond their abilities to help their kids learn their times tables. To my mind, the times tables are the far more basic skill...

moondog Thu 17-Oct-13 16:56:42

I am happy for kids to cook in school. Cooking involves maths, physics, chemistry, sequencing, nutrition.
Proper cooking that is. Not smearing a bottled sauce onto a ready pizza base or taking little bags of ingredients from home to mix together.
That is food assembly and a bloody insult.

fairisleknitter Thu 17-Oct-13 18:37:44

That's your experience rabbitstew. I had a grandparent who was fantastic at practical things and had a good career in catering but had been notoriously bad at school work and couldn't help their children.

rabbitstew Thu 17-Oct-13 19:20:26

The whole point I was making, fairisleknitter, is that you can't decree that great swathes of the curriculum should be taken out because YOUR parents could have taught you that stuff better at home. MY parents "taught" me to read without any need for school to get involved. However, I am not arguing as a consequence that, therefore, it is no business of schools to be teaching children to read...

rabbitstew Thu 17-Oct-13 19:26:26

ps Unless your grandparent couldn't read numbers, they could have looked through an 8X table provided by the school to see whether their child was chanting out the right numbers when they practised at home, and could have tested them by asking them tables out of order (using the print out to help them if they didn't know their own times tables), and could have sat them down and timed their children when they did speed tables tests - it's not as if they would have had to mark the homework.

Kenlee Fri 18-Oct-13 00:37:53

I think the most important thing schools should provide for children is primarily academia. Children who are of leaving age should be able to read and write and be articulate enough to communicate their ideas to others

Some say cooking is a waste of time. I say at least it gives the oppurtunity for kids to know that food does not come out of a box and that there are alternative methods of cooking rather than the microwave.

I also think that schools should concentrate on sports so kids can learn team work and actually exercise. If you dont force them at school to sweat they may not get any exercise at all. Playing FiFa on the Xbox is not exercise.

Ethics and general manners should be taught and I know this is controversial but Religious study too.

Dont forget not all kids are academic. but not all kids have decent well to do parents

A lot of what is said above sounds like a counsel of despair. However, these surveys are interesting:

TIMMS survey (England 10th in maths for Y9 pupils

PIRLS survey (England 11th in reading for Y9 pupils

These results will apply to children only just coming up to 16. It suggests that over the last decade the English education system has been improving.

anitasmall Sat 19-Oct-13 16:24:10

I checked the Timss website and it compares countries based on few data:

™ 1: Are primary schools providing a solid foundation in core subjects—
reading, mathematics, and science? (this question is relevant)
The survey also deals with other issues that has nothing to do to academia:
™2: How does reading ability impact mathematics and science achievement? 3: What are the characteristics of effective schools in reading, mathematics, and science? 4: How do homes support literacy and numeracy.

Fiona2011231 Tue 03-Dec-13 15:34:09

I am very interested in this topic. I am very worried that UK students seem to be rather bad compared with other countries.

However, today a friend of mine, who is originally from China, claims that while she is proud of this result as a Chinese person, she still thinks in the end, UK students would be better than Chinese students once they become adults. Her 'theory' is that somehow UK students are more creative, independent and so they will be more successful than Chinese counterparts in real life.

Do you think it is true, or is it just a myth that we British are still 'the best'?

Talkinpeace Tue 03-Dec-13 16:50:12

well if China had allowed their results for anywhere outside Shanghai to be published it might be a comparison

so lets see how schools in NW1 did as a comparison shall we?

and yes, rote learning is great for the PISA test

- where the questions are different in every country
- student selection is different in every country
- the number of questions answered varies
- not all students answered all questions
- India chose not to take part this year (with 1/7 of the world population)

but the ideas are not coming out of the far east - the brute strength is, but not the ideas

monet3 Tue 03-Dec-13 17:26:32

All children should have to stay in school until 18.
We should abolish options at 14 and 16 and continue with all subjects up to 18, children could still specialize but keep the other subjects at a lesser level, not drop them altogether.
There should be summer schools for children that need to improve.
After school or lunch time catch up sessions if a child misses a lesson.
Parents should be taught how to teach/help their child at home.
The media needs to stop promoting acting thick/stupid as being cool.

Talkinpeace Tue 03-Dec-13 17:45:04

All children should have to stay in school until 18
Already the law
We should abolish options at 14 and 16 and continue with all subjects up to 18, children could still specialize but keep the other subjects at a lesser level, not drop them altogether.
Why? What would that achieve?
There should be summer schools for children that need to improve.
There have been for over 20 years
After school or lunch time catch up sessions if a child misses a lesson.
Standard practice for the last 20 years
Parents should be taught how to teach/help their child at home.
Sadly Gove cut the funding for Sure Start which did exactly that
The media needs to stop promoting acting thick/stupid as being cool.
the reputable media does not. Its up to parents to ensure their kids do not see crap

ErrolTheDragon Tue 03-Dec-13 17:54:41

>continue with all subjects up to 18
That's a terrible idea. Continue with maths/English maybe but inflicting subjects that a teen either hates or just doesn't have an aptitude for would be a huge waste of time and a big demotivator for many.

monet3 Tue 03-Dec-13 17:57:43

The IB continues all subjects until 18.

monet3 Tue 03-Dec-13 18:02:11

I dont agree with anything you have said Talking.

Children can leave school at 16.
There are summer schools but only if you pay.
Children should not stop languages, History, geog, science, maths oe English at 16....its too young.
Catch up sessions are not the norm at every school.
Its not just the parents job to stop the children seeing crap....its everywhere how can we police it. It is the medias responsibility too.

ErrolTheDragon Tue 03-Dec-13 18:03:24

>The IB continues all subjects until 18.
What do you define as 'all subjects'?

ErrolTheDragon Tue 03-Dec-13 18:10:11

One size doesn't fit all, monet. Your prescription wouldn't fit a kid who's itching to get on with an apprenticeship, or go to e.g. an agricultural college to learn various more practical skills. It wouldn't fit kids who adore science and electronics but really don't get on with languages - and vice-versa.

monet3 Tue 03-Dec-13 18:14:57

Children are children until they are 18, they can still do apprenticeships at 18 rather than 16.
I agree that some children dont enjoy certain subjects but an extra 2 years would give them a better understanding of them at least. There are no jobs for 16 year olds so they may as well stay on at school.

The whole education system is outdated, it was designed for a different age. The bottom line is it needs updating

Talkinpeace Tue 03-Dec-13 18:15:10

I dont agree with anything you have said Talking
Fine, how about what the Government says
or what the IB people say about the 6 subjects it includes
and you are very ill informed about your other points as well.

monet3 Tue 03-Dec-13 18:37:58

You’ll have to stay in some form of education or training until you turn 18, if you started year 11 in September 2013 or later.

I said they should stay AT SCHOOL I know the new rules.

The six subjects are:

a first language (your child’s mother tongue)
a second language
experimental sciences (biology, chemistry, physics, design technology)
mathematics and computer science
the arts (visual, theatre and music)
individuals and society (history, psychology, geography)

So basically all academic subjects.

Why am I misinformed ?

ErrolTheDragon Tue 03-Dec-13 18:47:07

Well, fortunately the government doesn't agree with that prescription. Send your kids somewhere that does the IB if that's what suits their talents but for goodness sakes don't try to impose it on everyone.

monet3 Tue 03-Dec-13 18:50:42

That is why we are behind in the world ranking, most other countries do a similar system to the IB.LOL

mathanxiety Tue 03-Dec-13 19:20:06

I agree with Monet.

I think Bonsoir also made the point upthread that the A level system allows students to drop too many subjects at 16, leading to a university population where knowledge areas are very cut off from each other, and cross fertilisation of ideas is hard to come by.

Apart altogether from the effect of this unwarranted early specialisation on PISA testing, the effects on career prospects of graduates who haven't done maths or science, or who haven't done serious, structured writing since age 16 can be very negative.

DD1 graduated from a leading US university and along the way did biology, chemistry and physics, Persian, French to the point of fluency in speaking and writing, calc 3, English Lit, fine arts, and on top of that her major, economics. DS, whose degree will be in biology, has a similar profile of courses, and DD2 is embarking on her own university career with two years of core courses to master in a variety of areas. No such thing as dropping maths or science or history or foreign languages for US students who want to go to university, and while there is certainly a huge disparity between top and bottom in US education, the top is very good indeed, and versatile, and able to make connections between different bodies of knowledge.

Interesting to see Ireland doing pretty well again on the PISA scores. especially reading. The Leaving Cert offers a broad curriculum and iirc three different areas of focus so that those interested in more vocational courses afterwards, or apprenticeships, can be served, while those who fall into the category of educationally at risk can also be served with a curriculum that focuses on their needs while raising their expectations and suggesting to them that education is useful and potentially rewarding, not an arena where they are set up to fail, which used to be the case for the lowest achieving group.

I think the biggest stumbling block in British education is the class system and its effect on what is available, school wise, for British children and the insidious effect on aspiration that the existence of such a wide range of schools and standards has. (Same goes for the US.) People who are used to the existence of vastly different opportunities and educational environments because they are living in it day in and day out all their lives don't see it for the monstrosity that it is.

mathanxiety Tue 03-Dec-13 19:27:05

Irish Leaving Certificate description (wiki).

To those students who can't stand any or large parts of what is available -- suck it up.

Talkinpeace Tue 03-Dec-13 22:14:45

Where in the PISA test does it test English writing and creative composition, history, geography, languages, art, music, drama ?

As a pro science person I'm glad they measure science
but as students in different countries are set different questions the statistical validity of the whole thing is pretty suspect

Talkinpeace Tue 03-Dec-13 22:15:40

And please tell me why its essential for plumbers, carpenters, mechanics, hairdressers, bricklayers and bin men to be qualified to A level in a foreign language?

jonicomelately Tue 03-Dec-13 22:18:26

All the jobs you've listed are traditionally performed by the working-classes. Why the hell should they not be pushed to attain an A level in a foreign language?

Talkinpeace Tue 03-Dec-13 22:22:03

so should middle class academic kids be forced to do courses in bricklaying, oil changes and fitting a radiator?

or is it just the working class who should be forced to waste their time on stuff they will never use?

jonicomelately Tue 03-Dec-13 22:25:28

How do you know they'll never use them confused You make a lot of assumptions about working-class people. Believe it or not, some of them would like to work abroad or be able to communicate when they go on holiday to Spain or France. I find your attitude absolutely disgusting. No wonder working-class kids are fucked in the UK with attitudes like this.

Talkinpeace Tue 03-Dec-13 22:29:20

for a start I'm not rude enough to call my clients "working class" but I know their interests because I do their accounts.

So, should grammar school kids be taught how to fit a radiator and oil change their car?- esential skills in a global economy after all

jonicomelately Tue 03-Dec-13 22:33:40

Only on mumsnet could somebody say they understand the interests of the working-classes because they do their accounts. FFs.
And yes, 'grammar school kids' (I assume this is your way of describing middle-class kids hmm should know how to change the oil in their car!

Talkinpeace Tue 03-Dec-13 22:38:59

get back to the point.

You think that the non academic should be forced to do a Language A level even if they do not want to
they could be into sports, arts, music, driving, building
or a multitude of other non academic pursuits.
What purpose is served by forcing them to sit in a classroom?

Bear in mind that nearly one in 5 french kids never finish the French Baccalaureate

jonicomelately Tue 03-Dec-13 22:45:28

'Get back to the point'.

Do you realise how pompous your posts are Talkinpeace?

How do you define non-academic? In my view most children would be capable of achieving a decent academic standard in most subjects INCLUDING mfl if the teaching is of a good standard. Don't write off working-class kids. Social mobility is on a downward spiral in
the UK because that pleases the middle classes and it is a fucking scandal. Famously a girl in the Rhonda Valley was recently advised by her careers teacher not to pursue a career as a barrister. That makes my blood boil.

Talkinpeace Tue 03-Dec-13 22:47:53

my view most children would be capable of achieving a decent academic standard in most subjects INCLUDING mfl if the teaching is of a good standard.
your view does not accord with the facts

there are kids at DCs school who in year 11 are nearly at KS2 level 5 English and Maths and its NOTHING to do with weakness of teaching.

jonicomelately Tue 03-Dec-13 22:56:43

Bollocks. They are the minority. Most children who do not have special educational needs should as I have said attain a decent academic standard. Why would anyone argue against that? At my comprehensive school in the middle of a economically deprived area there were kids who were achieving very low standards of education. The thing is though these kids were bright. They were capable of achieving so much more thAn they did but because Thatcher had no interest in the w-c being educated and becoming doctors and lawyers and teachers nobody pushed us. Yes, not even our teachers. Boys became mechanics, girls became hairdressers. Only a few of us thought fuck that and went to University. These children are no less clever than yoursTalkinpeace but the cards are not stacked in their favour.

duchesse Tue 03-Dec-13 23:32:52

This working class/ middle class thing is a complete red herring imo. You can get very academic children in very non-academic families and vice-versa. So everyone should be educated to their strengths. Unfortunately many children in this country are educated to lowest common denominator- they have been brought up to expect everything to be easy and accessible with little mental effort.

If you saw the number of song/dance routines teachers are expected to put on to "engage" the "kids" on a daily basis, several times a day, your eyes would drop out of your head. Pupils are required to make minimum effort and learning is somehow to drip into their heads. There are no adequate means in many schools to exact a decent standard of work from them.

This PISA result does not surprise me in the slightest- what many of our pupils lack is not intelligence, not parental involvement, not resources at home, but motivation. They simply can't see the point of it (ofsted and SMT will say that's because the teachers are "engaging" enough) and don't want to make any effort.

I have seen entire classes of year 11 pupils apparently unable to add two 2 figure numbers together, which is woeful. I recently found I'd kept the admission lists for a school I taught at in a year I was teaching every single class of year 7s. So I had access to all their reading ages. And (bearing in mind they were all 11), more than 2/3 of them had a reading age below 9. A significant number more had RA of 9-12. Maybe 1 or 2 per class of 26 had a reading above their actual age (often 15.3 which as high I think as that scale goes).

We are not talking about a problem area- this was a school in a leafy Surrey town. There is no need whatsoever for children to be arriving at secondary with a reading age of 7. They cannot access the curriculum in any meaningful way.

I really feel that a good solution would be "nurture" groups for children with problems, identified during year 2 as being behind, and for them to have an enriched curriculum in smaller groups. You can definitely tell by 7 whether they are struggling and they're still young enough to catch up by 11. But it all takes money, and quite a lot of it.

duchesse Tue 03-Dec-13 23:54:22

I suppose what I'm trying to say is that in the UK school system there are hordes of children who are pathologically non-compliant. And that is what holds them back academically- not class, not ability, not teaching. And if compliance makes you more successful in the school system (and really, with 30 per class and stretched resources, why wouldn't it?) then I would imagine that many Asian children will have the upper edge. I agree however with Kenlee's friend far down this thread that UK children are potentially more successful long-term. I'm not sure that compliance (also a prequisite in the French system- I agree with Elibean's mum's view) is a good long-term life skill.

FWIW I have taught some extremely motivated children of very low ability (always a delight to teach as you can celebrate every progress); very motivated children with car-crash backgrounds -delightful family I'm thinking of with 9 children, disabled mum disabled by an inherited connective tissue disorder that had left her partially sighted, illiterate dad and multiple siblings with same inherited disorder- who I loved teaching as well; and reams of horrible children from all sorts of backgrounds with attitude problems and parents excusing their behaviour as "personality clashes"- these children are very rarely a delight to teach.

jonicomelately Tue 03-Dec-13 23:59:23

I agree duchesse. Children from different family backgrounds could achieve the same academic standards if given the opportunity. Funny how the dustmen, plumbers, hairdressers that Talkinpeace cites usually come from working-class backgrounds. I could give you a hundred examples of people who are doing jobs they are too bright to do and vice versa. It's a shame some people on here are happy to keep that status quo.

mathanxiety Wed 04-Dec-13 02:57:59

And please tell me why its essential for plumbers, carpenters, mechanics, hairdressers, bricklayers and bin men to be qualified to A level in a foreign language?

So that they will be able to be plumbers, carpenters, mechanics, hairdressers, bricklayers and bin men in another country should the fancy take them? So they will not feel confined to Britain or English speaking countries and can set themselves up in business elsewhere in the EU, where they are entitled to work, with very little red tape preventing them from setting up shop, no visa applications, no waiting for word from an embassy? So they can take advantage of the strong economy in Germany rather than sitting around at home?

I have a question for you, Talkinpeace -- why should education be confined only to what is deemed essential by someone who thinks they know what the lower orders need and what is appropriate for their station? Education should provide opportunity and should anticipate needs beyond what is immediately obvious. Above all, it should provide someone with choice, and with versatility as their lives go on. It's a scandal that an average British education still does not include a modern European language to A level when Britain joined the EEC back in 1973.

Maybe the plumbers, etc., would like to become language teachers?

mathanxiety Wed 04-Dec-13 03:02:50

If my mother's family, the eight children of a small farmer who left school at 14, had had that shortsighted notion of what sort of education would be appropriate for them not a single one would have got a PhD. None of them would be in the tax bracket they ended up in. None of them would have sent their own children to university. In all likelihood, none of them would have stayed in Ireland. They would have had to pack their bags and head for Australia, where almost the whole of the previous generation had to go.

mathanxiety Wed 04-Dec-13 03:26:08

You think that the non academic should be forced to do a Language A level even if they do not want to. They could be into sports, arts, music, driving, building or a multitude of other non academic pursuits. What purpose is served by forcing them to sit in a classroom?

At some point, someone older and wiser needs to assess future needs of the economy and realise that the days of the horse drawn plough, etc., are over. Or the individual man who can drive making a living and supporting a family without recourse to welfare. At some point even the least inclined to sit in a classroom need to take instruction from someone who actually knows how to 'build' or drive or do some other non-academic pursuit. (Art and Music are absolutely not non-academic pursuits).

In Ireland educational policymakers established Regional Technical Colleges back in the late 60s and early 70s. They are now Institutes of Technology. They provide a huge number of the sort of not-traditionally-academic courses that will actually help an economy grow, for the sort of students who used to emigrate in droves to provide unskilled labour in Britain and America, hard work for little or no pay -- driving, and building. The sort of glorious jobs-with-a-future you think British youngsters should aspire to, in other words.

In order to get into an Institute of Technology, you do your Leaving Cert and you pass the necessary subjects - maths, science, language, English, Irish, and whatever other subjects you may have chosen in your Leaving Cert curriculum. The purpose that is served by sitting in a classroom is to gain entrance to a college where you will earn a diploma or a degree in some useful area, a qualification that an employer can check. In the space of one generation the existence of the techs has opened up a new world of opportunity to parts of Irish society that previously did not see much use in school.

Here are the hopes of the Irish Steering Committee on Technical Education, also called The Mulcahy Report (1967) for the regional techs:

'we believe that the long-term function of the colleges will be to educate for trade and industry over a broad spectrum of occupations ranging from craft to professional, notably in engineering and science but also in commercial, linguistic and other specialties. They will, however, be more immediately concerned with providing courses aimed at filling gaps in the industrial manpower structure, particularly in the technician area...

...we do not foresee any final fixed pattern of courses in the colleges. If they are to make their most effective contribution to the needs of society and the economy, they must be capable of continuing adaptation to social, economic and technological changes. Initiative at local and national levels will largely determine how far this vital characteristic is developed. We are concerned that the progress of these colleges should not be deterred by any artificial limitation of either the scope or the level of their educational achievements'

This was a tremendously bold ambition, given that Ireland was a desperately poor country in 1967, and had not even joined the EEC at that point.

The same could happen in Britain, but classism and complacency get in the way.

Bear in mind that nearly one in 5 french kids never finish the French Baccalaureate

And France is going down the toilet faster than you can say 'pardon'.

monet3 Wed 04-Dec-13 09:57:33

talkinpeace; Where in the PISA test does it test English writing and creative composition, history, geography, languages, art, music, drama ?

Nowhere I was answering the question in the OP.

And please tell me why its essential for plumbers, carpenters, mechanics, hairdressers, bricklayers and bin men to be qualified to A level in a foreign language?

Are you for real ? Take Trevor Sorbie MBE for example he has traveled all over the world as a hairdresser do you honestly think it would not have benefited him to learn a language at school?

sadsometimes Wed 04-Dec-13 10:29:42

Duchesse's post about motivation and hard work is the key.

jonicomelately Wed 04-Dec-13 11:15:15

On the point of hairdressers, if you travel abroad, especially on a cruise, you'll find loads of hairdressers who can speak several languages. It's a travesty our education system doesn't afford everyone the same opportunity.

sadsometimes Wed 04-Dec-13 12:23:28

Isn't also just good for your brain and self-development to learn a language? Good to do anything that you find hard and stretches you. Even if you never use it. I have never used O level German for example or Latin but learning languages is a way of developing yourself IMO.

MillyMollyMama Wed 04-Dec-13 13:00:08

I think we have a problem with the lowest achieving 20% of children and this is why we do not improve in the tables. Other countries have less of a "bottom set" which may only be 5% not achieving the modest targets set. Therefore we have to be much more creative in how these underachieving children are taught. Also, they will not be plumbers, electricians or hairdressers because they will probably not get on the relevant courses, especially if some reasonable standard of maths is required. We do need to ensure the lowest achievers are given special attention as early as possible. Not exactly Korean style, but we need to stop making excuses for under achievement. We know many children are already behind when they attend reception class. We know parenting is poor for many of these children. Grammar schools, languages at A level will not matter one jot for the underachievers.

I agree these tests are very narrow and skewed towards other educational styles which we do not want to copy, but we need to look at why we have a group of society who never improve. Teachers are considered top professionals in other countries but have top academic qualifications too. We need the best people to teach. We need to stop making excuses for poor learning and we need to ensure the lower achievers spend a lot more time having effective nursery and teaching time. We might then have a chance of moving up the tables. All the political infighting and free schools will not help at all.

Talkinpeace Wed 04-Dec-13 17:09:43

Teachers are considered top professionals in other countries but have top academic qualifications too. We need the best people to teach. We need to stop making excuses for poor learning

But here in the UK we have an Education secretary who is
- against teaching qualifications
- thinks that parents know better than teaching professionals what should be on the curriculum
- changes the goalposts on pupils after they have started their courses (why bother on a piece of work as Gove might tear it up after you've done it?)
- constantly tells pupils that grade improvements are due to them dumbing down
- publicly castigates their teachers as unprofessional

Maybe a bit of respect for teaching from the politicians would help?

Timetoask Wed 04-Dec-13 17:32:05

milly "We do need to ensure the lowest achievers are given special attention as early as possible."

I have read countless threads on mumsnet about how the lower achievers and the higher achievers get all the help. It's the one in the middle that are not pushed forward.

MillyMollyMama Thu 05-Dec-13 13:31:37

Talkinpeace. I do agree. Government is far too involved in micro managing education and Gove is making matters worse. Makes me wonder why any top class graduate with the right skills would consider being a teacher.

Timetoask. I was referring to the 20% of lower achievers in the UK identified in these particular tests (look at the tables published yesterday and not just the headlines) which is clearly a greater number of lower performers than many other countries. Therefore one can argue that Mumsnetters are wrong in that it is not the middle or the better children who are falling significantly behind, although the middle group are not reaching Asian levels. Have a look at the analysis in The Times yesterday. If we had 5% not making the grade, as in other comparable countries, we would be much higher in the tables. Our best achievers are on a par with elsewhere. Don't forget people on this forum have personal stories but are generally unaware of the bigger picture. The USA and Russia have more lower achievers.

The was also an informative article on Asian maths language which makes maths easier to learn from an early age than in this country using our maths language. This is not necessarily an explanation, but it is part of the overall picture. It is nonetheless true that if we can significantly reduce the 20% we would be looking a great deal better. It is also widely recognised that if children arrive in school already significantly behind, this gap is so difficult to close. Only the very best teaching gives us a chance and parents really must start valuing education and teachers as they do abroad.

mathanxiety Thu 05-Dec-13 14:41:23

I agree with Milly. The lowest 20% (perhaps as low as one third, are so far behind the rest by the time they get to school at age 4 they never catch up, and it's partly because of the culture that exists in their homes. By that I mean the level of parenting skills more then the attitude to school or the availability of educational resources at home.

The lowest 20-33% have been identified time and time again in analyses by the department of Education - the PISA result is not news here.

Intervention needs to start well before school entrance.

duchesse Thu 05-Dec-13 15:08:33

I actually DO think that the lower achievers should be given extra help, but I feel they should get far earlier and in far greater quantities than is currently the case. I really like the "nurture groups" model because they achieve the most concentrated results to the benefit of all the children (including the ones no longer being disrupted on a daily basis by children not able to cope with the curriculum). They would also work with children how arrive without a word of English. Not sure how widespread they are in the UK though. And they are expensive because they the staff/pupil ratio is so much lower.

Summerworld Thu 05-Dec-13 15:48:53

Kenlee: My firm belief is that if you are there no matter how thick you are your child will do well at school. Spending that one hour at a table doing the homework together.
This is true of a middle-class educated parent, maybe for a working class aspirational parent. But, sadly, it is not true of a disadvantaged family. If disadvantaged parents do not work, they do not necessarily spend more time with their children, let alone spend productive time with their children/ educate them. What is more likely to happen, the telly/Xbox will get switched on to get the kids off their back, not sit down with them at a table doing homework. I know this a a sweeping generalisation, but this is exactly what I have seen of disadvantaged families. They are not interested in education, they see no value in it. They wouldn't know what to do with it. So need need to waste your life on it.

Summerworld Thu 05-Dec-13 16:17:16

*AutumnLeavesaGoGo Fri 11-Oct-13 11:22:10
Then the idea of doing maths and english at home is looked down on by so many parent's as being mean or even detrimental (hothousing) it's no surprise we are doing poorly overall.*
This is the one thing I really do not get being a foreigner. Surely, life is not a bed of roses and the earlier this dawns upon the individual the better? Where I come from, doing extra work at home with your children is seen as responsible and involved parenting, encouraged by the society. Leaving your children "to enjoy their childhood" and laze about will raise a few eyebrows. This would rather be considered a neglectful, lazy and irresponsible parenting. Just a different a cultural attitude.

MillyMollyMama Thu 05-Dec-13 16:43:27

Can I just say that there are very many parents who are so poorly educated themselves they CANNOT help their children!!! Very many parents used to say "X can read better than I can". X was in primary school. There is too little understanding of the real problems we face. I was Chairman of Governors in a school where children repeatedly lost their reading books at home. Did some parents ever listen to their child read? Doubtful. It is not the middle class or aspiring parent who has children in the lowest 20%! (slight sweeping assumption here).

When I worked for a Local Authority we did have nurture groups run by experienced and specialist teachers. The children were referred by the schools via our SEN peripatetic teaching staff. We had different locations for each specialism. We also did a reading recovery programme with very good results. We spent £30,000 on books for this. No doubt we should have done maths as well! It was expensive to run, but we were very good. No-one really learns from good practice in this country. Too much political interference and not enough money into the right schemes. We also had early attendance at nursery for the most needy.

Summerworld Thu 05-Dec-13 16:44:49

CliffTopCafe: Everything is child led and they want the children to be enthusiastic about learning so teachers read books like Captain Underpants to make them laugh etc. Personally I'd prefer a more academic focus at school. Why not Schofield and Sims Mental Maths workbooks for all (for example)
or Bond books - an excellent systematic course both for English and Maths. Or is it too high-brow for a state primary?

mathanxiety Thu 05-Dec-13 18:03:41

It goes deeper than being unable to tackle the homework with your children, and it starts going downhill well before school age. Seeking only to get the kids off your back is far closer to a description of the problem.

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