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A New Summing Up

September 16, 2012

Every so often I like to try and sum up my overall thoughts on the education system, so as to help sum up the message, and future direction, of this blog.

The central contention of this blog is that our state school system is simply not good enough. It does not provide a decent quality of education for the vast majority, and most would avoid it if they could afford to. Too many people with power over education are content to provide a service that they would not think good enough for their own children.

There are three key issues. The first is the dumbing-down of the curriculum and teaching methods. The second is the Behaviour Crisis. The third is bureaucratic and incompetent management. I will deal with each in turn.

1) Dumbing-Down.

The most widely publicised form of dumbing-down is grade inflation. Exams have become significantly easier over time. It has resulted from so many different types of change (content, grade thresholds, predictability of questions, modularisation, early entry, choices in what content can be followed) over so many years that the only way to really see it is to actually sit down and look at old papers and mark schemes. This has meant that while virtually every experienced teacher knows exams have got significantly easier, and multiple studies for individual subjects have catalogued it, those who wish to deny it need only declare that when they look at the exam papers they, personally, don’t see it. However, it is now acknowledged by the exams regulator Ofqual and by both government and opposition front benches. The second most widely publicised form of dumbing-down was the shift in the last ten years towards “equivalent” qualifications. Worthless “vocational” (i.e. non-academic) qualifications, mainly assessed by coursework (i.e. done by cutting and pasting from the internet or with help from teachers) were given inflated values, sometimes equivalent to 4 GCSEs. This encouraged schools to opt out of proper subjects and then claim credit for improving results. Progress has been made on these two issues, with the introduction of the Ebacc; the revaluation of vocational qualifications, and an apparent effort on the part of Ofqual to confront the problem.

However, to a large degree these problems are only the symptom not the cause. The bigger problem is an anti-academic ethos in schools that allowed these things to happen. Since the turn of the twentieth century there has been a “progressive” movement in education which has sought to minimise the direct teaching of knowledge. The grounds for doing so vary dramatically. Sometimes progressives seeks to suggest that the aim of education is something other than intellectual improvement, and puts forward socialisation, therapy, enjoyment/happiness, or social and political change as alternative aims. At other times they seek to deny that intellectual improvement is mainly about knowledge, and suggests the teaching of skills, attitudes or vague attributes such as “creativity”. Or they may make claims about pedagogy, such as claiming that children learn best from being manipulated or entertained, or by being left to work things out for themselves, which seek to minimise the need for teaching. Regardless of the precise argument used (and there are many, many arguments) the end result is a classroom where instruction is replaced by activities (usually in groups) and effort on the part of students is minimised. This has been dominant in UK states schools since the sixties and, despite various attempts by public and politicians to undo the damage, (often, unfortunately, based on centralisation or the idea that examination system can be used as a tool for change) it still remains the orthodoxy in schools to the point where it is considered controversial, contrarian or provocative to actually challenge the basic doctrines of progressive education. Every mechanism that government has attempted to use to challenge the hold of progressive education – for instance: the National Curriculum, National Curriculum tests, OFSTED, the National Strategies – has invariably been captured either immediately or over time by the progressives and used to strengthen their hold on the system. Every attempt to reduce the power of particular groups identified as being behind progressive education (e.g. unions, Local Authorities, teacher training institutions) has had no effect at all as they continue to exercise influence from elsewhere (quangos, private consultancies, SMT).

2) The Behaviour Crisis.

If children are going to learn then it is absolutely vital that they do what they are told in lessons. If schools are going to be safe and orderly then it is essential that they also do what they are told outside of lessons. If teachers are going to be effective then they cannot be constantly faced with the stress of confrontation, defiance and chaos. The minimum standard required for effective teaching is that all teachers (not just SMT or teachers who have been around for years) can expect students to comply with all of their instructions first time. The minimum standard for teaching to be a desirable profession is that teachers have freedom from fear when it comes to giving instructions and enforcing rules. Too many schools simply do not have those standards, and as a result teaching is very often stressful and unpleasant.

At the heart of the problem is, again, the progressive education ideology. If education is not about instruction in knowledge then teachers are not there to be listened to or to be authorities. If the education experience is to be characterised by entertainment, inspiration and pleasure, with no need for hard work, then students will never want to thwart it. If students learn best when left to their own devices, then they will not need to be told what to do and the more freedom from external constraint they have the more they will learn. The progressive rejection of a tradition of knowledge to be passed on can be turned into an implicit moral judgement:  traditional teaching is inherently immoral and children, if uncorrupted by it, are inherently good.

This implicit belief in the saintliness of children lies at the heart of many contemporary developments in education. Any apparent wrongdoing by children must have a cause other than the moral failings of the child. Their teachers must have provoked it and should be blamed for it and never supported. They must have a condition of some kind that made them do it (this assumption underlies much of the SEN system).  They must be reacting to a harsh and unkind life, and, therefore, need to be treated with affection and compassion which will change them, rather than punishment that will make life worse. Even the worst behaved children should not be excluded. All punishment is inherently  suspect.  Additionally, as children are basically good, their wants must actually reflect underlying needs, not selfish desires. They should get what they want. They should be consulted on matters related to the running of the school. Adult authority is not to be supported.

As with dumbing-down there are grounds for optimism. There has been a significant shift within the education system. It is now much more common to hear people recommend zero-tolerance discipline policies (i.e. actually punishing kids when they do something wrong) and there are celebrated success stories where such an approach has been taken, of which Mossbourne Academy is the most famous. A few years ago it was a given that schools were meant to comply with a principle of “inclusion” which meant keeping the worst kids in mainstream schools and mainstream classrooms within their schools no matter what they did. There are also signs that teachers are more willing to take industrial action where discipline isn’t enforced properly. However, progress is slow and many schools are as bad as ever. While “inclusion” is no longer the buzz-word it was, the new buzz-word is “engagement” and the argument is frequently made that behaviour is best managed by “engaging” students, an argument which ignores the need to have high expectations at all times, and replaces it with pressure on teachers to entertain or appease.

3) Management Failure.

Schools are bureaucracies. By that I mean they are systems which engage in pointless and unnecessary activity rather than concentrating on their core purpose. Again, the ideology of progressive education plays a role.  Once schools lose sight of the fact that they are there to educate then other types of activity will multiply and additional infrastructure will be created to manage them. Some of the progressive education ideas, like replacing exams with coursework or teacher assessment do create more paperwork, as does widening the scope of assessment to include more than academic achievement.

However, this time there are at least another two significant causes. As concern about standards has (understandably) increased, politicians have been all too keen assume that what is missing is accountability. A culture has been created where paperwork is created entirely to please those who will scrutinise you. For teachers, this means their managers now have power to demand all sorts of extra written work (lesson plans, marking, assessment records) beyond what is necessary to look for actual neglect or incompetence. For schools, it means managers are preoccupied with producing policies, assessments, and “evidence” for OFSTED. What was meant to ensure that people were doing their job has actually ensured that they aren’t because they are too busy creating a paper trail. Further pressures from outside have turned exam entries from a routine piece of paperwork to a prolonged exercise in strategy, deciding exactly which type of exam from which exam board will do most to boost results.

The other cause is the structure of management. Management teams have grown to ridiculous sizes. SMT have been encouraged to be “leaders” rather than managers, which seems to mean identifying trendy initiatives (often based on forcing teachers to adopt progressive education methods) while actual management of both staff and students has been increasingly delegated downwards. Groups of teachers who would once have been teams, are now divided into managers and managed. If you are a classroom teacher, a head of department is no longer a more experienced colleague who will give you support when you ask; they are a boss checking up on you, telling you how to teach and chasing you for paperwork. The more minor positions in the school, which once were about getting paperwork (like exam entries or schemes of work) out of the way are now about creating more paperwork and pressure for staff to do. Workload, always an issue, has now become an insurmountable obstacle leaving many teachers concerned only with faking compliance with the pressures from above so as to cope at work, rather than putting their time and effort into their classes.

Keeping up appearances and finding someone to blame when you can’t, is now a far higher priority than effective teaching or successful learning. With so many rungs on the management ladder, and so much pointless activity, there is no accountability for managers who will change responsibilities long before their performance can be judged. We now have an enormous “management class” who are overwhelmingly unable to manage and often barely able to teach. Often it is truly shocking how bad at teaching managers are, not to mention how intellectually limited and prone to bullying some of them are.  Even though managers are not promoted for being good teachers, they are still, nevertheless, given responsibility for telling other people how to teach. Ideas about management have also got more and more confused, with an increasing focus on leadership (i.e. vision and setting direction), something which, while desirable in a leader, is useless when nobody is actually managing the effective day-to-day running of the school.

Unlike dumbing-down and the behaviour crisis, there is no reason for optimism about management failure. The government seems convinced that it is classroom teachers, not managers, who are to blame for falling standards and low aspirations and seems determined to increase the power of managers while worsening conditions for those on the frontline.

Of course, you can always just pretend that nothing I describe is actually happening

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32 comments

  1. I would have to concur with every sentence. Concise and perceptive- as ever.


  2. Spot on.

    A concomitant effect of the split between SLT and ordinary classroom teachers is that the former are now responsible for the series of pointless ‘initiatives’ which the latter hapless group are supposed to put into practice. This means that ‘appraisement’ observations are largely based on the extent to which we are using AFL, or Higher Order Questioning, or Differentiation, or whatever the buzzword is this term; and basic stuff like controlling classes and actually teaching stuff go by the board.


  3. I should have added that frequently the SLT are not themselves convinced of the utility of these initiatives, but their position in the hierarchy means that they have to play the game.


  4. Whilst I agree that the “progressive educational ideologies” have overtaken true learning in schools, I feel that what has truly transpired is a lack of focus regarding the intentions of schooling.
    Until it is understood, education and it’s political masters will lurch from one “solution” to another.

    Do we want a system that looks to test pupils in order to find they have met a desired standard of educational learning – or are we trying to create youngsters with a lifelong desire to better themselves through learning?
    Is the system intended to create opportunities for the majority or select the minority for higher levels of study?
    Are we wanting to create learned citizens or create skilled workers?

    At the moment each school has different end-points in mind, pulled as they are by their political masters. Employers scream that we’re not teaching youngsters the skills they need to be employable so education lurches in one direction.Universities then scream that youngsters are not ready for degree courses and come ill-equipped for the demands of higher education, so we lurch in that direction.

    We have a muddle that needs clarification.
    Take for instance the need for clarity regarding criterion based examination success and norm-referenced examination success.
    Under the former, if teaching improves then exam results would rise accordingly. This would be a gradual process, so long as the examinations were rigorously maintained to ensure standards remain high.
    Under the latter, results can never improve. Better teaching and learning cannot be rewarded.


    • I agree there is confusion over aims. I just don’t think it lies, primarily, with the politicians right now. They seem quite clear at the moment that education is meant to develop the intellect. It is within the system that the alternatives are put forward. I accept this hasn’t always been the case, Every Child Matters was a political fudge, but it was the sort of fudge that happens when politicians listen to the educational establishment.


  5. I definitely agree with and experience everything you mention here and I work in a private school in Perth, Western Australia. In Australia there has been a more towards a National curriculum (I know, it’s amazing it has taken this long for the government to understand that this is necessary) and the maths curriculum at least is far more rigorous, especially in senior school, than our current West Australian version.
    I have never worked in the public system here, only private, but the fourth issue that I see are many incompetent and apathetic teachers, who tend to buy into notions like students shouldn’t do homework (we’re talking teenagers here), that 15 minutes of work is a solid amount for any student, that there should be lots of time for fun, games, messing around on the computer, writing on the board, fiddling with the smartboard and that tests should be written to achieve a 70% average.
    While I agree that senior management are completely ineffective at any form of management, and certainly at identifying the difference between competent and incompetent teachers, isn’t there a fourth dimension to this situation?
    Aren’t there teachers who have no interest in teaching knowledge and support the system as it currently stands?
    (I’ve recently been watching a UK documentary “The School” and it illustrates all these plus the fourth dimension so very well).


    • My view is we have the teachers we deserve. Certainly, for every naturally incompetent teacher I see, I can see ten who are incompetent because management want them to be incompetent (or they are management).


  6. While you make so very good points in parts 2 and 3 I’m afraid that I was rather disappointed by your rant in part 1 which seemed to skim over the usual issues, and was based the usual elitist bias and lack of research which underpins so much amateurish interference in education (ie by politicians) without examining the fundamental issues at stake. By that I mean providing a high quality education for all children, and promoting the skills and personal capabilities to ensure the economic and social welfare of our country. Let me take you to task on a couple of points:

    1. “Dumbing Down …..it is now acknowledged by the exams regulator Ofqual and by both government and opposition front benches”: Ofqual was appointed by, and works or has worked for, both these groups – So you’d expect them to agree wouldn’t you? There are many other knowledgeable groups and individuals who would take the opposite view but, since they are ‘progressives’ (as opposed to regressives, perhaps?), you dismiss their expert opinion, arrived at after years of actual experience, out of hand.

    2. “The second most widely publicised form of dumbing-down was the shift in the last ten years towards “equivalent” qualifications. Worthless “vocational” (i.e. non-academic) qualifications, mainly assessed by coursework”: Unfortunately, you seem to start from the assumption that any vocational or ‘non-academic’ subject, especially one assessed by coursework, is by definition of a lower value. I trust that the mechanic who fixes your car’s brakes and steering simply sat a 3 hour written exam rather than dirtying their hands with ‘practical’ coursework assessment tasks? Intrestingly, most of the high-flying academics I know (eg several PhD Maths) would have trouble finding the oil dipstick in their own vehicles.

    I totally agree that some of these ‘equivalent’ qualifications may have dubious value and there is a need to rigorous with regard to all qualifications if they are to have any currency. However, anyone involved in secondary education knows that much of this has been created in response to the crude ‘league table’ approach to assessing schools, as an attempt to improve results by schools not populated by high-flying ‘academic’ students, and thereby to prevent being branded as ‘failing’. (It is interesting to note that politicians in Scotland and Wales have chosen to drop the use of these league tables.) It’s not enough to concentrate on only the elite students and simply fail those who can’t make the grade (and if we use a norm-based assessment system there must always be failures) . As educators, parents, and even politicians, we must address the needs of ALL our young people.


    • Obviously a summing up post is not the place to reference the research, but you really shouldn’t assume that people who disagree with you haven’t researched or explored the issues. Far from having avoided the fundamental issue of “providing a high quality education for all children, and promoting the skills and personal capabilities to ensure the economic and social welfare of our country” I have looked into it and concluded that a focus on skills just causes dumbing-down http://teachingbattleground.wordpress.com/2011/12/02/skills-or-knowledge/ and that having broad social and economic aims don’t really work either http://teachingbattleground.wordpress.com/2011/01/24/bad-ideas-about-the-aim-of-education-3-fitting-children-to-their-future-role-in-society/

      With regard to dumbing-down, no I wouldn’t expect the exam regulators to admit they have failed, or the party who were in government while some of the worst happened to admit they screwed up, unless it was blatantly obvious that it happened. The fact that both do accept it speaks volumes. I am very dismissive of the denialists on the issue because we can look at the exam papers (and mark schemes) and see they are either blatantly lying; are kidding themselves to the point of delusion, or have so little grasp of the relevant academic disciplines that they can’t tell easy from hard. I have never had any discussion on this which didn’t end with the denialist pointing at something obviously easy and saying “that’s not easy” or something clearly quite challenging and saying “that’s not hard”.

      I would never say work-based training is a bad thing, but the usual vocational qualifications in our schools are worthless. Ultimately, vocational qualifications require a lot of resources and talent to get right and are not something that schools can easily turn themselves too, particularly on a large scale.

      While I don’t like league table culture, I should point out that Scotland never had league tables and that Wales is widely thought to have declined since abandoning them.


    • artboy,
      I agree there are some subjects inherently more ‘hands on’ than others. Clearly ‘Art’ for example is a very different subject from Maths or Chemistry and needs slightly different assessment.

      BUT

      in your example of a mechanic, whilst physical motor skills and competence (no pun intended) have to be practically demonstrated to a qualified observer, there is no reason why a demanding terminal exam cannot be applied.

      These days the motor trade is complex and mechanics need to be numerate and literate. Their life is one of numbers, codes, receipts, order forms, insurance dockets, MOT certs, VN certs, log books. Searches for parts on various websites, internal software protocols etc.

      Then you have the emergence of new motor technology and a vast array of old technology, the use of electronics, different oil grades, water pressures and complex instructions manuals.

      All of this could be put into a GCSE or A-level qualification of fair rigour (ie more demanding than todays joke GCSEs/ A-levels).

      Obviously if you have a grease monkey who can change a tyre or old spark plug and wash down the cars, but isn’t trusted to do anything else, then there is no reason to value him/her as much as a highly competent technician who has excellent practical and theoretical knowledge.

      As to league tables I am undecided. As a teacher I don’t like them. But as a parent I do. Very much.


  7. I tried and failed at teaching and I’m never quite sure where I stand on this stuff. My instincts are progressive – I question the validity of traditional approaches and want to see things move towards a better model. However, on so many of these points, I agree with you. Is there maybe some middle ground in which standards, discipline and management are fixed, but we still persevere to increase the relevance of what is being taught?


    • There is nothing wrong with a honest desire to improve the school system. Things usually can be improved; it is improbable that the traditional approach happens to be the best possible solution ever.

      The important part is that all new ideas have to be tested experimentally. And if they don’t work, we should accept that. Bad things happen when people are not willing to test their ideas, or not willing to accept the result that their ideas are harmful. (Sometimes it is more complicated, for example the idea may work only in some circumstances and not in others, etc. But this also can be tested.) Bad things happen when people promote an idea not because it works, but simply because they like it.

      You should listen to your instincts when they tell you to try something better. But you should also listen to reality if it tells you that it didn’t work.


  8. OK Artboy 1

    What you have to do is this:

    Get hold of a Maths or Science syllabus from 20 or 30 years ago, or an O Level syllabus. Spend some time learning the content and then do a paper or two from that time.Then repeat with last year’s AQA or Edexcel equivalents. After doing so, you will never, ever have to go onto a website such as this claim that there has been no decline in standards You will know the truth for yourself. You might even like to post your scores back on this website…

    Otherwise, some very prescient points well made in the initial post. Particularly about management. I’m not in total agreement about behaviour as I work in a EBD centre and it’s a wonder some children even bother doing anything in a morning, nevermind come in to see us, such are their dysfunctional family situations. No wonder they cannot cope well in a mainstream environment. But yeah,keep sticking it to the useless and thoroughly classroom phobic ‘middle managers’ and cough ‘leaders’.


  9. Cognitivist and constructivist psychology has dominated educational practice since shortly after the war and it’s only recently, with the interest shown by neuroscientists in learning, that there has been any sign of that suffocating stranglehold weakening.

    Neither position values the concept of scholarship: hence the determined and relentless undermining of the teacher as a figure of respect, never mind a possessor of knowledge.


  10. Judge Nutmeg,

    Here are two questions form GCE O level papers, Maths and Physics circa 1960. Fundamentally both arguments from both camps can be summed up as “it has changed” and “it was much tougher then” positions. In my view they are both right but I think some of the questions from the old papers were very searching.

    From my maths O level revision papers of 1961 (RJ Otter)
    Make a the subject of the formula lt=l0(1+at) and find a when lt=50.01275,lo=50, t=15.
    Express your answer as Kx10^-b, where K is a number between 1 and 10.

    And from my M. Nelkon’s Principles of Physics;
    State Fleming’s left hand rule for the force on a current carrying straight conductor. A straight wire is placed (i) at right angles (ii) parallel to a horizontal magnetic field. Draw diagrams illustrating the directions of any force acting on the conductor when it carries a current first in one direction and then in the reverse direction.

    Plus, of course, the time to answer these questions was very limited, six minues if I recall correctly, for the maths one.

    Oh and me? I sort of passed but not well enough to continue on to A level.


    • The above questions made my head spin. I don’t recollect anything quite so hard in my 1992 GSCE maths paper. Now that my head has stopped spinning, I ask:
      a) what percentage of pupils actually sat GCE O-level in 1961?
      b) is it not misleading to compare GCE O-level to GCSE given that GCE O-level was only ever sat by better-performing pupils?


      • Tim, regards your point b), that is the entire point. Where is the intelectual rigour that our best performing pupils need to stretch and develop their abilities?

        By playing the “All Must Have Prizes” game and bringing in a simgle qualification, the REMFs in the education heirarchy have removed that distiction between life’s best and the also rans.
        Yes, the older system may have been unfair to the lower ability children, but when has life ever really been fair?


        • Bob, I think saying that standards have slipped requires looking at exams overall, not just the hardest questions. One also has to look at levels acceptable for a pass and compare grade bands.

          Back in the day, more able pupils sat O-levels and less able pupils sat CSE (or so I understand; it was before my time). As both were considered acceptable examinations in their day, any comparison between now and then must include CSE exams.

          Otherwise, any comparisons are just as biased as one that took the harder 50% of questions from this year’s paper in any given subject and compared them with the entire paper for the same subject in a previous year. This would be obviously misleading.


          • I know what you mean- you make a good point actually.

            However when GCSEs came in- they were supposed to have direct grade comparison.

            ie CSE grade 1 = O Level grade C = GCSE Grade C

            But they do not.

            My best guess of the reality:

            1975 Grade C is = 1980 Grade B = 1995 Grade A

            2012 Grade A = 1980 Grade C

            Its difficult to do this kind of guess work and so many kids get As and A*s now its difficult to ascertain what they would have got under the old o- level system. And there are variations across subjects and I have no doubt many would argue with me.

            But get 10 kids of grade B ability in the uk and give them a 4 week course of 1960’s curriculum and then give them 3 o level exams in maths, chemistry and english from 1960- my bet is not one will get even a D let alone a B.

            Do you know I may even do this in the coming term with kids in my classes- Im sure some kids will be up for it- I shall report back if I do.


  11. In these neverending education debates inthe UK I haven’t heard of anyone considering why schools in English-speaking Commonwealth countries do so much better. PISA rankings for maths, for example:
    5. Canada
    7. New Zealand
    9. Australia

    This is comfortably above just about all EU states.

    Australia and New Zealand are particularly similar to the UK in culture, and their success warrants consideration. Compare by contrast:

    22. UK
    26. Ireland


  12. Paysan,
    I assume you didn’t have access to calculators back then so a sum quoting 5 decimal places would be quite demanding under exam conditions and time pressures. Get your slide rules/booklets out kids! Or were you even allowed them!- was it long hand sums!

    And the Physics question demands a very precise and detailed understanding of the concepts and phenomena. Very easy to get the field in the wrong direction. This requires specific knowledge retention, the use of a mnemonic and correct and flawless application of knowledge proving genuine understanding.

    Both questions I think are out of range of the vast majority of GCSE candidates and I would humbly submit would be a challenging enough test for a current and good AS-level student.


    • Actually, the physics question is not as hard as it looks. The difficult thing isn’t remembering the arrangement of fields, it’s remembering if you should be using the right-hand rule or the left hand one.

      The first part of the question gives the game away.


      • TeacherP- I know but still, some kids get the fingers wrong as they have to learn a mnemonic to use LHR. Then they have to interpret it correctly into drawing the field lines. This is memory, knowledge and 3d visualisation. Its rigour.

        I know its still taught at GCSE, I have observed it quite recently- but its something only the top sets can cope with and come exam time I bet even good students would struggle to get full marks- especially under pressure.


  13. Tim;
    I don’t know the percentage of children taking O level but several secondary schools in my home town didn’t offer O level. The kids left at 15; the cleverer took trade apprenticeships, the less able jobs in factories, on production lines and in local shops etc..
    Those that left after O level, would depending on their family connections, get jobs such as bank clerks, clerks in insurance offices, that sort of thing. Remember there was full employment then.
    Some factories encouraged children to go into the factories to observe and learn how they worked. I, along with some friends, used to visit the local railway signal box where we learnt how accept and pass on trains and various railway safety procedures. The railway management actively promoted this saying there would be jobs for us on the railway when we left school.
    Rob,
    Calculators didn’t become widely available until the 80s. At exams four figure log tables were provided for questions that were designed to test one’s facility with these tables. The others you worked out. I didn’t use a slide rule until I embarked on the old ONC, but we did use standard form.
    For the physics question remember “motors drive on the left”.


    • Scientific calculators were widely available before the 80s. Commodore more or less had the UK market to themselves in the mid 70s (little cream coloured calculators that ran on PP3 batteries) until Casio took over around 1978 with fluorescent green display calculators that ran on AA batteries for a lot longer than the Commodore ones. Sinclair also sold a heck of a lot of basic calculators in the 1970s.

      I can remember the uptake rate for calculators was incredible. In the early 70s, there was a lot of debate about if schools should provide calculators as they were unaffordable but by the late 70s calculators were practically being given away in cereal packets and the occasional classroom set that had been bought stayed in the cupboard because it was hopelessly out of date compared with what even the poorest kids were bringing to school.

      (In fact, what’s really incredible now is that high-quality scientific calculators are unbelievably cheap and the kids now don’t bring them to lessons!

      Of course, they never forget their iPhones or Blackberrys.)


      • As I recall it, maths students in the 70s were permitted to use calculators or slide-rules in GCE exams, but it was generally recommended that they not do so because they would gain points for demonstrating (via written working-out in the right-hand margin of their answer paper) that they knew how to calculate a problem even if they got the final answer wrong.

        (Certainly this was the case with JMB GCE O-level Maths and Physics 1973, and AEC A-level Maths 1975.)


  14. Paysan,

    I think these days kids would have heart attacks if given log tables or slide rules.

    And how do American kids learn which Fleming rules to use??

    :)


  15. [...] A new summing-up [...]


  16. [...] A new summing-up [...]


  17. Reblogged this on Healthy Skepticism and commented:
    A lucid and unapologetic summary of issues faced in the Education Battleground we work in today.


  18. […] education blogs, far ahead of me, have built up coherent manifestos of their own: for instance, Old Andrew and headteacher Tom […]


  19. Depressingly familiar. I thought it was just my school.



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