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to think the pace of change in schools has speeded up in last 30 years

(44 Posts)
morningtoncrescent62 Mon 05-Jan-15 12:03:10

I'm interested in what people from different age groups think about this.

I finished school in the early 1980s. If a teenage time-traveller from a 1950 grammar school had arrived in my school around the time I left I think they'd have felt pretty much at home. We did the same subjects (perhaps not as much Latin, it was optional and taken mainly by the higher streams, but the grammar to comprehensive change probably accounts for that), we spent most lessons listening to teachers droning on and writing down/memorising what they said for eventual regurgitation in an exam, there was the occasional 'experiment' in science where you knew the result you were supposed to get and pretended you'd got it even if you didn't but that was the only practical activity going on, independent research was limited and severely constrained by what books you could access, and corporal punishment was still around, though probably more of a last resort than in 1950.

Fast forward 30 years, and if a time traveller from an early 1980s school were to find themselves in a school now, they'd be completely lost. Several new subjects are on the timetable. There's a lot more emphasis on activity, and the remaining whole-class teaching looks and feels different with whiteboards and powerpoint presentations rather than chalk and talk. Technology makes unlimited information available inside and outside the classroom in a way that would bewilder a 1980s visitor and pupils seem to be increasingly treated like consumers, with schools having policies on 'student voice', pupils involved in interviewing for new teachers and the like.

My actual experience is limited - my only evidence is the school I went to as a pupil in the 1970s/early 80s, my DDs' schools (DD2 left four years ago), and what I read in the press and on t'internet. So what do others think? NB I'm not commenting on what kinds of curriculum and teaching are better, or more fit for purpose, or whether we should get back to basics. For better or worse, by the time my DDs left school it was beginning to feel like a completely different universe to the one I'd been in, and I want views on whether that's an unreasonable conclusion.

Skatingfastonthinice Mon 05-Jan-15 12:08:03

Well, I think you've got a point, and I started teaching in the early
The pace of change started speeding up, and then continued to accelerate until it has reached unsustainable levels. It is a very different world in many areas and aspects.

BabyDubsEverywhere Mon 05-Jan-15 12:15:34

I left school in 2000, it was mostly still chalk and talk, but our technology lessons were more active and less reading/writing... (seemed like a total cop out at the time!) Most of our classes, and I was in the top sets for everything, seemed to be about crowd control. We knew the teachers had no power over us, and being obnoxious teens that meant no control too. Just a run of the mill comp, normal kids, our teachers needed a medal!!

SirChenjin Mon 05-Jan-15 12:22:24

I finished school in 1987 <weeps>, and now have 3 DC going through the state system too. Technology has certainly changed the way they are taught, but I think their experience is far more positive. I went to one of the top state schools in the country, but feel they are supported and nurtured far more than we ever were - it was sink or swim in my school, and you either went onto University, the local tech/secretarial college, or a poorly paid starter job. My DCs have far more opportunities than we ever did.

I think that the school experience now reflects the changes in the workplace - although literacy and numeracy is in definite need of improvement, if the school leavers I see are anything to go by.

ReallyTired Mon 05-Jan-15 12:31:41

I think that children have become better at exams and are far more taught to the test. In the 80s teachers had more freedom and were trusted to do their jobs. Schools went at the pace that children's intelligence allowed rather than what the national curriculum dicated. The maths at my junior school 30 years ago was more challenging than the typical year 6 national curriculum class because the majority of chidlren were a lot brighter than average.

If you look at old o-level papers you would realise how much education has been dumbed down. O-level maths is a good example. In the 80s you had to master calculus to to pass and there was no access to a calculator. I am not sure that its a bad thing that exams have been dumbed down as its a bit silly to a qualification that the majority of people fail.

fedupbutfine Mon 05-Jan-15 13:13:15

the biggest difference as I see it (and I teach) is that the responsibility for passing/failing now falls on the teacher, not the pupil. I failed a couple of 'O' levels (as they were then) and I know as a top set student, that simply wouldn't happen today. I would be mentored and intervened with to within an inch of my life! This is fine with bright students who are being a bit lazy. It is more complex with students who are struggling and are lazy as well and who don't care whether they pass or fail. We are expected to prove that we did everything possible to get them a good outcome - in my day, it was our own responsibility.

Skatingfastonthinice Mon 05-Jan-15 13:16:33

I'd agree with that fedup, as a teacher and as the parent of children who have been through the system in the last 20 years. It's the flipside of
' but feel they are supported and nurtured far more than we ever were'

SirChenjin Mon 05-Jan-15 13:33:41

Agree fedup - and also it's the flip side of pupils being supported/nurtured more.
It's a difficult one - both my teen DC have been supported hugely by their school for different reasons (we are incredibly grateful) whereas I know that 30-odd years ago my school would not have intervened.

Skatingfastonthinice Mon 05-Jan-15 13:45:30

Mine too SirC, for different reasons.
There's still a lot of children who won't rise to a challenge, won't try again if they've failed once and find it hard to work independently. Those children often make it to uni or the workplace and fon't have the skills they need to cope.

Quadrophonic Mon 05-Jan-15 14:29:48

I sat my GCSE'S in 1989 and i now have a DS in yr 9 and a DD in year 7. I am amazed at the level of expectation there is now - the standard of the work my two are expected to do is far greater than anything I was I'm sure. DS will be sitting his GCSE a maths a year early next year, DD already does oral language tests that expect her to be able to speak conversational Welsh to a reasonable standard. Plus the range of subjects is far more. I only sat 8 GCSEs that was the maximum I was able to do. The pressure on kids these days is immense!

rumbleinthrjungle Mon 05-Jan-15 15:16:27

A lot of it is that it was only in the late 80s that Education became one of the favourite political footballs. The initiatives from the DfE flood in so fast that you don't get one initiative properly implemented before that's changed and three others have arrived.

As my manager said at the last meeting, we're going to sit this one out, we'll catch the next one. It'll be along in a minute.

morningtoncrescent62 Mon 05-Jan-15 15:28:40

Interesting points, glad it's not just me! Yes, I certainly agree with the point about the shifting of responsibility. When I was at school the teachers' attitude was 'I've taught it so you should know it - and if you don't, tough, your fault'. That had definitely changed by the time my DDs were in secondary.

Do the flying initiatives really change anything? I mean, the thing about shifting responsibilities is a deep-seated attitudinal change, bound up with changes in society, different views of children and young people, different management practices throughout the public sector and so on. Do the two-a-penny initiatives that you can safely sit out accomplish anything either on their own or cumulatively?

TeenAndTween Mon 05-Jan-15 15:31:08

I did O levels in 82 at a selective indie, my DD1 is now in y11 at local leafy comp.

The main differences I see are:
- more emphasis on interpretation & analysis, less on facts (esp. History)
- shorter, more formulaic questions, (e.g. English, History, RE also to some extent Science)
- MFL teaching is now plain weird (learn by heart attitude)

Maths I don't see too much difference to be honest. There is now one calculator paper, and one non-calculator. Some things may have been dropped, but others have been added (e.g. more stats).

I think my DD is getting a pretty 'comprehensive' education that will equip her well for later life. I particularly like the fact that she wasn't streamed into CSE v O level when she was only 11 or 13, and has allowed her to be a late developer.

However I agree that the jump 1950-1980 is probably not as big as 1980-2010.

scousadelic Mon 05-Jan-15 15:56:47

I did my O levels in 1976 and A levels in 1978, my DCs have left school (last one finished in 2008) and DD is now teaching so, between us, we have over 40 years to look at and things have changed dramatically

I think one of the biggest changes is that, particularly in the primary years, pupils are not taught to sit down and learn (if that makes sense). Children now have to be entertained for every minute so the learning happens almost incidentally. The amount of work DD has to put in to find new and innovative ways to put information across in an accessible and fun way is huge. While I understand that learning should be interesting and fun and I'm certainly not in favour of the old-fashioned chalk and talk, I think it has possibly swung too far the other way in primary schools.
This has a knock-on effect of young people at senior school not having the attention span, type of behaviour and learning ethic that was considered normal in days gone by. In turn DD found a big jump between school where information was all bitesize and accessible and university where it was written very academically whereas I was used to information that was technical and academic from O level onwards

As ReallyTired said, standards in some subjects have been dramatically lowered but that probably reflects the needs of society, how many people now need to know calculus, etc as they can use a computer to do it. Having said all of that I do not hold with the idea that young people now are in any way less intelligent than in the past, my DCs are every bit as intelligent and hardworking as DH and I were.

ReallyTired Mon 05-Jan-15 18:08:36

I don't believe that children are less intelligent than the 80s. Far from it. In fact children are more intelligent because of a better diet, less smoking in the home, better obstetics, higher rates of breastfeeding and more involved parents.

However intelligence levels vary between different schools and always have done. A school in an an expensive area with lots of professional parents will have ON AVERAGE a higher level of intelligence than a school where 90% of families are on long term benefits. In the past schools could go at the pace of the class rather than the national curriculum because they did not have to prepare for tests.

I suppose one of the biggest different was that SEN was not recongised in the 80s. If you were dyslexic then you were considered to be as thick as pig shit in the 80s. Teachers were also allowed to use the cane and belittle children. Ironically teachers had more respect in the 80s from parents.

Schools may well be a kinder place for children, but I am not sure they are a kinder place for teachers.

chrome100 Mon 05-Jan-15 18:53:32

I went to school in the 80s (started school in 86, left in 2000) and can assure you teachers were NOT allowed to use the cane!

SirChenjin Mon 05-Jan-15 19:08:55

Oh yes they were allowed to cane - the cane was banned in state schools in 1987, 1999/2000 in private schools.

Mumzy Mon 05-Jan-15 19:10:53

I remember the cane being used in my secondary school in 80s as it was not banned until 1987

maddy68 Mon 05-Jan-15 19:21:29

You should try being a teacher with all the changes. That's why so many are leaving. Sad times

morningtoncrescent62 Mon 05-Jan-15 19:26:17

chrome, I just looked it up (to see whether both the primary and secondary schools I went to were breaking the law!) and corporal punishment was banned in state schools in the UK in 1987, later in private schools. The occasional smack on the hand or backside featured quite a lot in my primary school - no implements were used, but a smack for being noisy or rude was reasonably commonplace in the classroom. There was more formal corporal punishment in my secondary school, known to us as caning, though I don't know what exactly the implement was as I was never caned and it only happened as a last resort in the head's office.

I came across this article while I was looking it up - wow, what a change of attitudes. Hitting a girl so hard that the marks showed 10 days later for eating crisps in class was seen as completely acceptable. In 1976! shock This extract, though, from the editorial of the local paper at the time made me think of what ReallyTired said about respect for and kindness to teachers:

But one thing is sure. We have not yet reached the stage in the practical day to day running of our schools where the responsibilities of a head teacher have been taken over by a committee or a "people's court" of any sort. A headmaster or headmistress is chosen by the County Council to run a school, with a broad set of rules for guidance but a free hand as to their interpretation. That is as it must be. If head teachers are so worried that their actions may lead to court appearances and public argument then they just cannot do their work properly. And when that situation arises it is bad for the whole community.

ReallyTired Mon 05-Jan-15 20:41:17

Children definately know their rights without having any responsiblities. In the early 80s discipline through fear happened in a lot of schools. In the 21st century the balance of power has shifted far too far towards children.

Schools are very different places. In the 80s secondary schools were far smaller and on a human scale. There were not so many mega schools with thousands of children.

chrome100 I think that many LEAs banned the cane before legistation. I started school in 1980s and there was very little corporal punishment. Good teachers do not hit their pupils. I think that there is a lack of belief in teachers nowadays. My junior school had fabulous academic standards inspite of having no national curriculum, league tables and allowing the teachers to teach as they saw fit.

wiendanddined Mon 05-Jan-15 20:49:27


(Glad to see eating crisps happened in 1976 too. I do get fed up of guzzling children! grin)

I had awful teachers in primary school. Really, really dire. Year 6 was spent working out of textbooks while the teacher sat with his newspaper! Sarcasm, nasty remarks were par for the course. I was bullied by my head of year when I went up to secondary school.

I'm a teacher now, though and do feel the pendulum has swung too far the other way - as noted above, children who think their human rights are impinged by asking them not to gulp water and eat biscuits. Children who whine. Children who throw tantrums. (I teach 11-18 year olds.) It does get trying!

scousadelic Mon 05-Jan-15 20:53:34

Really I didn't mean to imply that you thought young people were less intelligent, I was just saying I don't think that. Sorry if my post was phrased badly.
I remember standing seething in a queue when DCs were still at school listening to two old ladies proclaiming loudly how GCSEs were so easy now and how you get one for spelling your name right!

ReallyTired Mon 05-Jan-15 22:54:40

The nature of the challenge of public exams has changed. there is far less memory work than the past. For some people this is easier.

I think there is less depth of knowledge requires to pass a GCSE but the children sit 10 subjects. Life is tougher than ever for our teens.

rollonthesummer Mon 05-Jan-15 23:08:21

I also wonder where this new curriculum will take us.

In ks1 certainly, most of the content has been shifted down a year, so what used to be expected by a y2 child, will now be expected from a y1 child.

I expect Gove thought this would raise standards. I suspect what will really happen is that children won't have solid foundation in basic principles as it will all be rushed through in order to have ticked boxes (or teachers won't get pay rises) OR lots of children and schools will fail to meet their targets as it's just trying to teach them too much too soon and they're developmentally not all ready-and teachers won't get a pay rise..,

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