Wednesday, March 14, 2007
I’m an optimist by nature, but I’m also a realist. I’d rather be writing about the joy of teaching young children, but here goes…
I’ve just read the DfES proposals for children from birth to five. Babies will be assessed on gurgling, babbling and toe-playing abilities. Every nursery, childminder and reception class will use 13 scales, give them a score and then pass on the information to the DfES.
By the time children enter Year 1 they will be expected to read simple sentences using phonics, count up to 10, sing simple songs from memory, as well as respecting others’ beliefs. Honestly, I’m not making it up.
Any organisation that wants to opt-out must apply for exemption.
On the birth to 11 months assessment carers will be expected to note the interest infants show “in the marks they make when they rub a rusk round the tray of a feeding chair”.
Just imagine the following scenario –
“Quick Thelma, look at this, he’s copying the painting on the ceiling of the Sistine Chapel. We can tick that box.”
“No he isn’t you daft bugger, he’s just having fun!”
What happens when there’s excessive form filling? Rather than spend time making lessons interesting staff spend hours ticking boxes. In Finland they encourage creativity, outdoor learning and cooperation - formal learning begins at seven or earlier if children are ready for it. Still I suppose the targets culture and testing will prepare our tots for the school regime that will grind them down with 100 formal tests by the time they are 18.
Ted Wragg memorably raged against the ‘foundation stage profiles’ in 2004 and asked why nursery staff weren’t out demonstrating on the streets. Maybe there are people out there in the wilderness of cyber space raging against it. Surely when Unicef say we have the most miserable children out of the wealthiest countries there should be some pause for thought?
Ted Wragg always said that when it came to education - ‘irony is dead’. What did he say about tick boxes for infants in 2004? “…in the totalitarian society in which we now live there is absolutely nothing anyone can do about it. Except vomit.”
My partner, after changing career at the age of 40, retraining, relocating, started teaching last year. Last week he resigned.
His new headteacher (came in in September) is a major fan of targets, paperwork, assessments, targets, targets, paperwork, paperwork and more paperwork. 5 of the original 10 members of staff have resigned.
My partner is now stressed out, suffering from depression for the first time in his life.
I'm trying to encourage him to do supply work in the summer term, to see if other schools are better, or whether, as he fears, this new head is the new thing, with attitudes that are rapidly approved of and spreading throughout the education system here.... it isn't just the 5 fold increase in paperwork... it's things like, mark in green pen, not red, as red is "threatening" and has "negative connotations"....stroof!
Anyway....... ever thought of quitting? Does it get any better? How do you survive?
He had reached the stage where he was having to do an 80 hour week- with no good feedback, just constant nit-picking. He couldn't take it anymore....