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A Pause…

March 15, 2010

..between the morning and the afternoon meetings allows some early thoughts.   Snow dominates all , of course (the sight of yachts frozen into the harbour was remarkable as was the passage of people across the ice as if it was the most natural shortcut in the world) but so does the quality of teaching.

The Frozen Harbour

By that I mean that the focus of all our discussions has been – sooner or later – that outcomes are secured by the nature of the inputs, and in the case of education that means the nature of the learning experience.   So if there is a fall off in any performance then the first question is not  “what is wrong with the pupils” but rather “what needs to change in the teaching”.

This is achieved, however, not in a judgemental way but in a positive and supportive way. Inspections were abolished in the 1970’s and there is only a single national assessment at the end of the school process.   “We don’t let teaching get in the way of learning” is one way that someone put it this morning and that applies to teacher education as well – the emphasis is on securing the best with the best but personal help and personal encouragement.  Not by prescription or top down diktat, as someone else put it.

Now we are off to talk about evaluation of the learning experience for both pupils and teachers.

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One Comment leave one →
  1. A. Park permalink
    March 15, 2010 10:50 pm

    Having taught in Scottish primary schools for 22 years, I am very interested in the nature of the experiences you have on your travels.
    Classroom teachers are in the firing line such a lot of the time and I feel that the question which springs to everyone’s lips in the event of pupils’ failure to meet targets is, ” What’s wrong with the teacher?” Education chiefs want to blame the frontline troops when children fail but the failures are as a result of flawed policies and edicts.
    Within primary schools we are expected to be experts in an ever increasing number of curricular areas, within which are an increasing number of sub-sections. It seems to me that we are clinging on within a culture of ” having to be seen to be doing” rather than actually trusting the workforce to do the job that they train so hard for and that we are actually losing the depth of teaching required for children to be truly secure at various levels.
    On the subject of training I wonder why it is that post-graduate students are allowed to teach in schools after only a year’s training. Surely it must be more appropriate that the only degree pathway into teaching would be an education degree. After all, I would not expect to become , for example, a doctor or lawyer after a one year post-grad course tagged on at the end of my teaching degree.
    The success of Scottish education depends upon confident, calm, intelligent,dedicated, well-trained and practised teachers who have the wherewithal to determine the needs of their pupils and to react with greater autonomy to address these needs. Of course there must still be standards and quality monitoring of some description, but I feel that if we were freed from the spectre of inspection the workforce would be more positive and under less stress, therefore more able to move forward. The inspection is most definitely not a positive, useful experience and H.T.s pass down their their stresses when preparing for that dreaded event.
    At the moment staff morale is very low and although Curriculum for Excellence was sold to us as a more freeing move which would enable teachers to be creative, with less rigidity and dictation about how goals would be reached, the reality on the ground is very different. Local authorities seem very vague about their direction and it is left to schools and cluster groups to try to ‘tease out’ or ‘unpack’ guidelines. The result is that we are tying ourselves in ever increasing knots and ending up with an even more proscriptive regime than the outgoing 5-14 curriculum. The energies expended in running scared about accountability and HMIe visits are diminishing the energies we have in reserve to make best use of our time with the children.
    The objective of having well educated citizens in our country who will, in turn, contribute to the country’s development is drifting further away into the mists as we struggle to have children jump through hoops held ever higher by staff who can’t navigate through the maze of demands from their superiors.
    I appreciate your consideration of these issues and I sincerely hope that you enjoy your visits and come away with some positives for Scottish education. I believe it’s time for greater change.

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