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Gove on Question Time

(133 Posts)
ipadquietly Fri 22-Mar-13 20:17:47

What a disappointment on so many levels:
1. The panel was totally ignorant about the details of the new curriculum, and, because of this, could only play lip service to Gove.
2. No-one in the audience made any points to challenge Gove. Indeed the only teacher to make a comment happened to work in an independent school which didn't have to follow the curriculum.
3. The challenges from the panel were anecdotal - Horowitz harping on about the parlous state of literacy; one of the women (?) harping on about being a school governor but seemingly knowing nothing about the new curriculum and the labour woman spouting anecdotes about her children (I mean.... politician on Question Time spouting anecdotes about her children shock) with zero political argument.

It gave the slimy little toad a chance to speak crap and get an almost standing ovation.

I could have screamed.

tethersend Mon 25-Mar-13 09:27:01

India- is that you? grin

If I thought for one second that Gove's proposals would improve academic attainment, I'd embrace them wholeheartedly.

To imply that anyone who does not agree with the proposals is against improving attainment is, well, odd. And quite ridiculous.

Hamishbear Mon 25-Mar-13 09:40:35

Rabbit I am with you about 4 year olds & rote learning - all mine did at that age was play with mud and sand - but friends in Asia have a different view and now sometimes I wonder.

Whilst believe that not all children are born equal in terms of their intellectual capacity, they tell me the brain is highly neuroplastic in the early years. Since birth, synaptic connections are made between brain cells and these are constantly pruned as the brain matures. So, they say, the more stimulation a child gets, the more connections are formed, so there's really no limit as to how much more one can achieve when given the right environment and stimulation. So I have quite a few friends that expose their children to a second and third language and times tables etc very young indeed (they say that they may as well know them - in case of times tables - and then they can use them as an arithmetic tool as required - the understanding part comes later). The children are very normal and well balanced smile.

Mine were behind for quite a while as I did nothing at home - beyond sharing picture books in the early years - and they came to reading and writing around 7.

Yellowtip Mon 25-Mar-13 09:45:51

Hamish I find the Asian approach terrifying.

Hamishbear Mon 25-Mar-13 10:12:56

Yellowtip, jumping in here re: History if I may. May I ask for your help re: the below? You clearly know about History. Read this in the Times:

Ofsted subject experts contributed to the new national curriculum and Sir Michael himself was involved in the programme of study for history, which he used to teach. “I was always a very robust critic of the history programmes of study,” he said. “The thematic approach, as far as I’m concerned, didn’t work well. Youngsters didn’t really have a good understanding of sequence and chronology and when things happened.

They therefore didn’t have that robust understanding of what we all want youngsters to have, which is how society has developed in the way that it has and what were the key events in history which shaped out present society.”

From a personal point of view YES to the last paragraph. I find I am very muddled in my thinking - I went from WW2 to 17 and 18th Century French Kings at A'level. Prior to that in primary I seem to have jumped about a lot. Robust understanding? No, I wish!

Of course I can look things up but I always envied Prep school friends & their parents (earlier at Prep school) who knew about: Bible days, The King and the Oak (Ceres was a Greek goddess - who knew? Certainly not me), Geoffrey of Monmouth - the First Great Story Teller, King Arthur and the Knights of the Round Table, Britain Long Ago moving on to King Lear, Boadicea, Julius Ceasar visiting Britain, St Alban, King Alfred the Great and the coming of the Danes, Norman Conquest, William the Conqueror, Hereward The Wake (a bit of poetry thrown in), Thomas a Becket (with a bit of Tennyson), Richard the Lion-Heart and the Crusades, King John/Great Charter, Simon de Monfort, the First Prince of Wales, Edward the Black Prince, Joan of Arc, Printing, Thomas Wolsey, Good Queen Bess, The Armada, Sir Francis Drake, Pilgrim Fathers, Great Writers of the Stuart Period: John Milton, John Bunyan, The Plague and the Great Fire of London, Clive and India, Wolfe and Canada, John Wesley, The First President of the USA, Napoleon and Wellington, Burns and Scott, Queen Victoria, End of Slavery 1833, Florence Nightingale, The Relief of Lucknow, George Stephenson, Union of South Africa, King Edward and Queen Alexandra, Earl Haigh etc... Seniors in their cases did Egyptians and Romans.

I would have KILLED for the above - although I know it's old fashioned and outmoded, and think we'd herald an 11 year old with encyclopedic knowledge of the above as a genius these days. (The only people with this sort of immediate general knowledge now are of Judith Keppel's - Who Wants To Be a Millionaire fame - generation and lauded as remarkable. They used to be all over the place in our Junior schools in the 20s and 30s in the days before X factor and reality TV). Interestingly the old history text books I have suggest every teacher should have a map in the classroom that they point to and refer back to.

I am trying to share some of the above with my children but the problem is they think they should be dressing up as Romans - as they do at school -and making silly jokes (thank you Horrible Histories smile.

I do think it's very sad that the above used to be taught in Junior Schools a long time ago and much of it will be lost forever to many children. Ok, it might not be PC and the world has moved on but haven't we thrown the baby out with the bath water?

Hamishbear Mon 25-Mar-13 10:15:18

Yellowtip - it might look that way from the outside but (and I can only speak for those I know) it is far more balanced than it might appear to 'outsiders'. School only goes on for half a day in many places which means there's more time too. School ends at 1:30pm for my friends so they have the whole afternoon to fit in some extra study, sport and yes, lots of play.

rabbitstew Mon 25-Mar-13 10:47:56

Hi, Hamishbear. My eldest ds1 is excellent at learning by rote. It was absolutely no effort for him to learn his times tables by the age of 5 - he had an interest in it and taught himself. He can also tell you the dates of all the Kings and Queens of England. However, my younger ds2 is far better at applying his knowledge. Ds1 needs more help learning how to use what he knows, so I fear for a curriculum which will make him look astonishingly clever throughout primary school, only to realise at secondary that you actually have to do practical and creative things with everything you have learnt.
As for the teaching of history, I fail to see in what way teaching children about early history as tiny children and then going through it chronologically throughout primary school is going to help those children get a real understanding of the chronology of history. How much do you remember of what you were taught (and did not revisit) at the age of 4 or 5? What I really enjoyed and gave me a better view of history as the Cambridge History Project. At GCSE level, I learnt about the history of medicine over a vast swathe of time (right back to trepanning in the Stone Age), I did an in-depth study of the Elizabethans, I learnt about the Arab-Israeli conflict as a piece of ongoing history, and I learnt about castles and the evidence you can gather from visiting historic sites. That was interesting and useful history. What Michael Gove seems to want is a very partial view of history, including a lot of Kings, Queens and battles - lots of rote learning and picking of the bits of history that Michael Gove is interested in.

rabbitstew Mon 25-Mar-13 10:51:14

I do agree with you, however, that teaching little bits of history without fitting them into some kind of timeline, and never teaching any kind of history which covers a long timeline, and allowing the same era to be taught several times without adding to the knowledge or skills while doing it (ie accidentally, because you didn't know some children had already studied it) is not great.

Copthallresident Mon 25-Mar-13 11:08:16

HamishBear Your are not in the UK, the indies are running about reassuring parents that they will not be bound by the demands of an overly restrictive and prescriptive curriculum that will indeed fail to inspire and prepare pupils for study at higher levels . My DDs Head is particularly outspoken about the way in which the proposals that have failed to include the teaching professionals and academics in their development.

I am particularly caught up in the completely unanimous response of the academic and teaching professions to the proposed History curriculum, it really is a return to "Our Island Story" but as written by Mr Gove (not even as witty and engaging as 1066 and all that). I couldn't have put it better than it is put in the article yellowtip posted. Surely from where you are logging on you can see the dangers of such a narrow anglocentric view. Even the few Historians Gove did consult and were supposedly involved in the drafting have washed their hands of it as it was completely drained of all meaning in Gove's redrafting.

Agreed, I was furious at the way Gove went unchallenged on Question Time.

musicalfamily Mon 25-Mar-13 11:22:46

I am very critical of the way this government seems so bad at consulting with and listening to the experts, this is not only in education but other matters such as health reforms. I don't have enough experience to assess the new curriculum but I would have thought that if ALL professionals are against it they must have valid reasons.

Having said that, I do have experience of what my children are taught in terms of history at their (outstanding) primary and it is frankly rather thin on the ground.

Yes I do have one son who delights in reading the History of Britain at playtime and knows every date and fact in chronological order; but for all the other children, including my other 3, they have absolutely no idea of history in comparison to their peers in my country of origin, for example.

I have looked at children's history textbooks there and they are very well made, simple, inspiring, yet full of interesting facts - not sure why we can't have something similar - we don't need to look that far...

Xenia Mon 25-Mar-13 11:23:14

I hope all children are taught the chronology of history. They are mostly interested in that - where we started and how we got to where we are now. If they change to children have a better overview that sounds like a good plan. I am sure my children have done that (in fee paying schools). You can see the sequence in perp schools up to common entrance.

Part of common entrance history is chronology

Hamishbear Mon 25-Mar-13 11:26:32

Hi, Copthall. I need to look at Yellowtip's article but broadly I agree with you.

I have these wonderful books - old Junior history textbooks - and it's just there's a huge, rich depth of knowledge which I fear is being lost (well its probably already been lost). I guess I am making a broader point. Rabbitstew, I think the chronology as I see it and it appears in the books I've read is hugely informative and appealing (but that's not what Gove is suggesting I know). I am saying there's a joy in the order of history as it used to be taught and a magic in its depth.

Hamishbear Mon 25-Mar-13 11:30:34

Interesting re: the Prep history curriculum Xenia.

bluescissors Mon 25-Mar-13 11:53:46

I agree with Xenia. In prep schools children are taught the chronology of history - they are not going to remember all the facts and details, but children love battles, they love horrible diseases - it brings history to life. It doesn't have to be a list of dates, but it instils a love of learning information and for some it might be the start of a deep affinity with a subject. At my DCs prep there is a lot of rote learning - spelling tests, grammar tests, times tables tests, reading records and book reviews to be written each time they finish a book, exams at least twice a year. The parents fret...the kids just get on with it. IME it gives them a good foundation on which to build and then when they are older they can choose what interests them at a later stage in life. I'm staggered what my DC know at their age. I think we underestimate what DC can do.

Copthallresident Mon 25-Mar-13 11:56:15

Hamish I am off to actually study some History (but not white men's so probably not within Gove's definition of "History") but the irony does not escape me of Gove, a man manifestly ill equipped to understand other perspectives, and who supposedly rejoices in the importance of the development of western liberal values in our island nation, adopting the perspective of the current dynasty of Chinese rulers when it comes to the teaching of History to the next generation wink

Whatever the weaknesses of the current curriculum, undergraduates arrive in our universities today far better prepared with analytical skills and the ability to understand other perspectives and to develop a strong argument from their own conclusions than my generation ever were. These proposals can only erode those skills. Indeed looking at the Pre U curriculum they will leave pupils ill prepared even for that level of study.

Personally I think chronology is over rated, I assimilated that from 1066 and all that, it doesn't take 9 years of unremitting chronology and cramming up with dry facts. What the way History is taught now does is to make it relevant, to highlight that History is made up of many people's stories, some people like us, some people unlike us, and can be seen from different perspectives. All vital skills in the global marketplace (my uni sends most of it's students into the global marketplace) . My DDs have been very inspired by the way they have been taught History, my lifetime of engagement with the study of History was in spite of the way it was taught to me in a 70s Grammar School, not because of it. It is pleasing to see that it is important to my Science geek DD to understand the History of Science and to question the perspectives that have been and are taken within it grin

Hamishbear Mon 25-Mar-13 12:13:48

Interesting, Copthall, but twas ever thus; have you seen what history is being taught in American schools in general terms?

Really, re: University? Interesting.

Chronology doesn't have to be only about dry facts as Bluescissors points out really well. Bluescissors as I quoted upthread, 'rote learning is the trellis that the free thinker can climb'. I really agree with this and SO agree with you when you say I think we underestimate what DC can do.

Who would have thought that Junior aged pupils once learned about Burns and Scott (in history!) and teaching notes suggested the teacher: 'linked with literature lessons, and freely read suitable excerpts from the works of both men. Some extracts could be memorised'. To give but one example. Unthinkable today and would probably be assumed well beyond an 11 year old.

Yellowtip Mon 25-Mar-13 13:05:35

I'm glad to see that Copthall has done a far better job of answering Hamish than I could have done myself smile

But Hamish, I do think you might be slightly glorifying the amount that your prep school friends were taught. I'd have thought the only people with that sort of sweep were those studying History at Oxford in the old days, when undergraduates started at the beginning of British history and went right through the whole lot up until the bitter end.

And Xenia you clearly think that the CE syllabus looks good. To what extent do you consider it varies from the KS3 NC though?

bluescissors Mon 25-Mar-13 13:22:05

Yellowtip - I have had a quick glance at the KS3 NC on the DoE website. It looks similar, if a bit more far reaching, probably because the CE syllabus is being tested 18months after the pupils start it. So if we start from the premise that there is no difference in what the pupils are taught, what you do with the information becomes important.

My DC was studying the Black Death as part of the CE syllabus. So was his friend at the local outstanding secondary. My son had homework which consisted of analysis of 3 sources of the period and later that week a timed essay describing aspects of the period (20 marks) and explaining it's impact on the future of England at the time (10 marks). His friend had a word search to do over the weekend. Just an anecdote, so don't flame me. I repeat, we underestimate what our DC can do.

Farewelltoarms Mon 25-Mar-13 13:22:23

Fwiw I've got a first in modern history from Oxford and I don't have the foggiest about most of the things on the list given by Hamishbear. As she says, such knowledge is most useful for a pub quiz. Not sure what else.
At primary school surely it's not about what facts they learn, but the way they learn them. I want my children to learn how to learn. I don't want them to be able to recite the kings and queens of England.

rabbitstew Mon 25-Mar-13 13:28:00

But Hamishbear - is the new curriculum expecting much of children, beyond rote learning? And is expecting children to learn lots by rote expecting very much of them? Maybe that's just coming from someone with children who have prodigiously good memories...

I repeat, I do not think Michael Gove's ideas for the teaching of history in primary school will help children develop a good understanding of chronology. Nor do I think his ideas will help children develop a love of history. Only excellent history teachers can do that and I haven't heard any history teachers jumping up and down with excitement declaring that at last, thanks to Michael Gove, they can teach properly.

I note, looking at Xenia's link, that prep schools have no apparent interest in life in Britain before 1066.

Anyone else reading Andrew Marr's "A History of the World"? I'm finding that a fascinating read.

Hamishbear Mon 25-Mar-13 13:44:18

The list I got from a history textbook used by some of my parents generation whilst they were at prep school. The history within is deeply fascinating and I do think there's much that's worthwhile there. Looking at the Preface, it's undated but it says it was produced the the 'Board of Education': The syllabus should vary according to the circumstances of the school, children should hear graphic descriptions of great events (and outline narrative does not appeal to children). The history should always be continued to modern times. Some knowledge of ancient history is desirable. Attention should be concentrated on broadest and simplest aspects. Regular revision throughout the course is essential. Informative pictures are indispensable. [All very sensible so far I think]. Lastly, history is an instrument of moral training [not sure all would agree with that].

Farewelltoarms many traditionalists I know say that's exactly the issue what used to be known routinely years back at Junior school isn't known by graduates & undergraduates now. We have become far more skills driven - rightly so in many ways - and as so many say why bother with the detail when you can google? Thing is though I so envied those that that this sort of framework at their fingertips and rich depth and body of knowledge their schooling had afforded.

Bluescissors we are told routinely that homework has been proven to be useless and adds no value at primary school level?

Hamishbear Mon 25-Mar-13 13:48:03

Rabbitstew will look at the book - have heard it's good. Thanks for the reminder.

Hamishbear Mon 25-Mar-13 13:50:26

Re: new Gove's new curriculum - I am not sure I've seen anything that gives enough detail for me to have an informed opinion.

Xenia Mon 25-Mar-13 14:03:09

Yes but the common entrance syllabus is what they learn in the last 2 or 3 years to age 12+. Before that children would always do cave men, Greeks, Egyptians etc.

Then for your GCSE or iGCSE obviously you do fewer topics as you cannot do the whole history of the world. I have no idea if this is the board my children will do for iGCSE - options below

Overview of content
Students study at least
two depth studies
from this list 1-9.
A maximum of one option from
each group can be studied.
Students must study options fr
om more than one country.
The following options may not be combined:
Option 1 and Option 5
Option 2 and Option 4
Option 3 and Option 7
Group A
1 Development of a nation: Unification of Germany, 1848-71
2 Development of a nation: Unification of Italy, 1852-70
3 Autocracy and revolt in Russia, 1881-1914
Group B
4 Development of dict
atorship: Italy, 1918-43
5 Development of dictatorship: Germany, 1918-45
6 A world divided: International
relations between the wars, 1919-39
Group C
7 Dictatorship and co
nflict in Russia, 1924-53
8 A world divided: Superp
ower relations, 1945-62
9 A divided union: Civil
rights in the USA, 1945-74

Students choose
one historical investigation
from this list A1-A6
A1 The French Revolution, c1780-94
A2 The origins and course of the First World War, 1905-18
A3 Russia in revolution, 1914-24
A4 The USA, 1917-29
A5 Colonial rule and the nation
alist challenge in India, 1919-47
A6 The fall of communism in Europe, 1979-91
Students choose
one breadth study in change
from this list B1-B7
B1 Changing nature of warfare, 1803-1905
B2 Changes in medicine, c1845-c1945
B3 The changing role of international ßorganisations: the League and the UN,
B4 Conflict, crisis and chan
ge: The Middle East, c1919-c1995
B5 Conflict, crisis and change: China, c1911-c1989
B6 Change in Africa from colonialism to independence, 1939-2000
B7 The changing nature of warfare, c1936-c2003

rabbitstew Mon 25-Mar-13 14:16:40

Xenia - yes, isn't it more sensible to learn all that in 2 or 3 years up to age 12+, rather than ploddingly between reception and year 6.

One thing Michael Gove is successfully doing is making parents like me consider private education far more seriously. I suspect his reforms are deliberately ludicrous so as to force more parents into private education and more state schools into academising.

Yellowtip Mon 25-Mar-13 14:30:33

Farewell that's very reassuring smile. I don't know when the Oxford syllabus changed, but I'm sure you're far, far too young for the syllabus I'm talking about. My favourite history teacher (the one who did British history until its end) graduated in 1950, which was pretty convenient in cutting the workload, obviously. Maybe there just came a point when they caved in under the realisation that they couldn't pack any more in.

rabbit DC6 is reading it at the moment (he's 15 though, so it's not prodigy stuff).

bluescissors yes, I agree that that's too small a sample to generalise from smile I think Xenia is doing the usual thing of assuming that the state sector can't do anything comparable when in fact, in this regard, it's doing exactly the same, syllabus-wise (which is what the discussion's about). I think Xenia must have assumed there was something unique about the CE specification when she posted the link. That's quite funny. State ed'd DC7 finished the KS3 History syllabus last year and he and his older siblings did all the stuff in the CE specification and even had essays at times shock. The KS4 syllabus is of course also exactly the same. And KS5.

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