Sunday, June 24, 2007

Complacent hack or not?

I’ve managed to upset, offend or incur the wrath of various organisations or individuals-

· The National Association of Head Teachers objected when I castigated them for allowing that healthy food alternative, McDonald’s to sponsor their conference – which part of ‘guilt by association’ didn’t they understand?

· ‘Frank Chalk’ and his claque of noisy politically incorrect supporters – council estate kids are all scummy chavs

· Knowsley education bosses who are closing schools and opening ‘Learning Centres’– see Building Schools for Finance

· Those wacky creationists in Norwich who want to take over Heartsease Secondary School and teach children how dinosaurs were running around with Homo Sapiens 6,000 years ago – have they been watching that Raquel Welch film? Follow the debate on Network Norwich.

Guardian journalist Leo Benedictus wasn’t happy with my criticism of ‘Guiding Principal’. Somehow I think the designation “complacent hack” propelled him into action.

Leo pointed out that as 40% of pupils at Bishop Challoner’s in Tower Hamlets receive Free School Meals they were still educating a high proportion of disadvantaged children. Yes, he had missed those little details that the average FSM in Tower Hamlets is 65.5% and that only 3% of pupils there are Bangladeshi against 80 – 90% in other schools. At this point I did have to question Leo’s powers of observation, as he drove through Tower Hamlets did he not notice the ethnic mix in the area, or is this something ‘Guardian’ journalists don’t receive training in?

Leo makes much of Bishop Challoner’s Contextual Value Added (CVA) scores, this is a measure of Byzantine complexity that is designed to show how a school ‘improves’ pupil performance. Heads will of course cherry pick the best figures to hand. Some schools have kept low performing pupils with behavioural problems and put them on modern apprenticeship courses and suffered much lower CVA scores. The TES also had an example of a grammar school in Cheshire with outstanding GCSE results that on CVA was one of the worst 300 schools in the country - OK, I did have a little chortle at this.

Another reason that Bishop Challoner’s CVA scores may be impressive is that they nearly 80% of children gained 5 GCSEs A-C, here again the devil is in the detail. Some schools boosted GCSE results by including GNVQs – one pass is equal to 4 GCSEs. The government aware of the GNVQ scam recently changed the league tables so that passes at English and Maths must be included in the 5 passes. Once these are included at Bishop Challoner the numbers achieving 5 GCSE passes plummets to a distinctly unimpressive 24%. Another example of Leo failing abysmally in undertaking basic research? Yep, the figures are on ‘The Guardian’ web site.

Leo seems to spend a lot of his time interviewing rich business people (the Masters of the Universe) as well as the odd porn actress. Maybe after interviewing so many of the former this has dulled his critical faculties. Does he really believe that working 16 hours a day represents a good role model? His ‘Guardian’ colleague Madeleine Bunting in her book ‘Willing Slaves’ writes that, “A job which demands a huge proportion of an individual’s energy, time, and emotional resources is a job which is unsustainable; it passes on the cost on to the worker in terms of their health and to his or her partner, children, friends and community.”

Leo claims he ‘wrote it as he found it’. Why choose Bishop Challoner? Is it in any way representative? How did he choose it? I’m not a conspiracy theorist but I can see the fingerprints of the DfES spin doctors all over it.

At least Leo did send a lengthy e-mail attempting to justify the article, given that, I would like to unreservedly withdraw the word “complacent”.


Well said Mr Read. I didn't half scoff when I read that article. What's the old phrase: Lies damn lies, and statistics?

I would run a mile from any school that expected the head to work 80 hours a week. God knows what she expects of the staff!

BTW it's a real shame this site doesn't get the comments that Frank Chalk does. It would be good to see some interesting debate, from educated people, instead of the mixture of religious nutjobs, and BNP members that seem to be making up the readership over there!
Thnaks for the comment.

It is a shame there's not more commnents.

It's the same on the TES Staffroom,loads of comments on trivia, but when it comes to SATs, pay, workload very little.

What does this say about the teaching profession? Sometimes I wonder.
It says that we like to leave our work at work and chill out when at home. There is plenty of debate when we are actually at school. However, debate rarely means action which is what people actually want.
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