Thursday, July 05, 2007

The Blues

I know it’s getting near the end of term… it hasn’t stopped raining for weeks and I’ve just started reading Cormac McCarthy’s ‘The Road’ (A father and his young son walk alone through burned America, heading slowly for the coast. Nothing moves in the ravaged landscape save the ash on the wind) the start of ‘doom lit’; the cat’s gone to the vets again (he routinely gets beat up by the other cats and his face has swelled up with an abscess, yes, we have got pet insurance and they only pay out when the bill is more than £50), but I’ve really got the ‘What-The-Hell-Am-I-Doing-In-Teaching-Who-The-Hell-Invented-All-This-Useless-Useless-Planning… Blues’

The staff meeting was on the new ‘Standards Planning Framework’ for literacy and maths. At a recent meeting for coordinators the local authority consultants gave out the message, ‘It’s Compulsory! You Have To Do It! No Exceptions! No Excuses!’

We dutifully trawled through the web site with reams of objectives, targets and assessments. For anyone who didn’t have Doctor Spock’s ability in speed-reading, it would take hours to plough through it all.

Who exactly is planning for? Consultants? Ofsted? Certainly not teachers or children. Time spent on detailed, irrelevant planning is time that could be spent preparing an interesting lesson or reading books.

The grey bureaucrats at the DfES probably believe that creativity and imagination is something that can be achieved by measured, incremental steps, all directed by them from their office in Central London.

Writing results at Key Stage 2 are still way behind government targets. Why can’t children write well? There are all kinds of complex reasons, partly to do with cultural questions and the influence of television and videos. But one truism is that a ‘good reader is a good writer’ (I’d qualify that – an engaged, interested, questioning reader is a good writer, too many children are good mechanical readers, they can decode text). Get them reading good books and not the scraps of text doled out by the ‘Literacy Strategy’ - today children we’re looking at this boring, turgid piece that I’ve been instructed to teach you.

We really have become mere technicians mindlessly regurgitating this dull, prescriptive curriculum overloaded with targets, levels and tests.

In September we’ve got two days training on ‘Planning Using The New Frameworks’. I’m breathless with excitement.

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"Get them reading good books and not the scraps of text doled out by the ‘Literacy Strategy’"
You are so right, good, engaged readers come from reading good, engaging, real books.These children then have something to say in their own writing, they have absorbed a sense of story and sometimes a positive glee in using language. How you find time to to this with them in amongst all the nonsense is beyond me!
11 days to go....
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