Education, education, education – 1

Something a little different this week as I’ve been going around secondary schools finding out about their offerings for my youngest son who moves up next year.

To suggest I’ve been disappointed is an understatement.

Firstly, the schools seem to want to use this as an opportunity to show off what they do.  Classroom after classroom had exercise and textbooks on display.  Aside from the fact the textbooks were in relatively poor condition, there seemed little use of technology in the classroom. This concerned me a little; my son will be coming from a junior school that has embraced technology throughout its curriculum and he is used to conducting research with ICT.

I asked a maths teacher how they were using fronter, a learning management system, to encourage collaborative learning.  He looked a little confused and admitted that he used it to set homework.  So a tool that students can use to create learning paths, that teachers can use to share resources, that managers can use to check the quality of planning is being used as a repository for marking .

I asked the head of maths how they felt they could extend its use.  Their response was:
“I don’t use it, I don’t like technology”.

Excuse me?  You’re the head of a department that is being monitored and measured in a dozen ways as it has such a high profile, and you won’t get away from chalk and talk with tatty textbooks because it doesn’t suit you?   What about your students?  How many of them would love the opportunity to practice on technology that will be in the vast majority of their workplaces when they are in work?  Denying them the right to use it is criminal.

I asked a psychology teacher whether they were on twitter.  They seemed surprised by the question but confirmed they were.  I asked if they’d considered looking at #educhat, #psychology, #lrnchat, #fronter, #elearning for ideas, links and context they could use in their lessons.  Less surprisingly they hadn’t.

I spent a good 10 minutes talking to a media studies teacher who was looking frustrated; I was the only parent who’d gone into the media studies suite that evening.  His concern was the effect of the English Baccalaureate (EBac) on his potential student base.  He’s already recognised parents pushing their children down the EBac study route and media studies doesn’t exist as a measure within the EBac.  This teacher, who was entirely enthused about their subject, was talking about having to teach a class of 6 students in lunchtimes and after school because there was unlikely to be space in the options for it.

A conversation with a headteacher yielded little more than confirmation of:

  • fear of technology
  • fear of  losing command & control
  • risk aversion

Observing parents at these schools was equally frustrating.  The significant majority were happy to be led round like sightseers on a day trip, pointing at the shiny shiny, eating biscuits in the cooking displays.  So very few engaged with the teachers that it’s not a surprise the teachers treated the parents with contempt.

A further 10 minute conversation with a governor highlighted the fact that parents don’t want to be school governors.  The headteacher at the school had made a point of stressing the parent/pupil/school relationship.  How can that relationship be developed if the parents don’t wish to be involved in te management of the school?

I’m coming from an informed place with this blog piece; I’ve been a governor of schools for over 10 years and am lucky to be more informed than your average parent.  However, that doesn’t excuse teachers from their responsibilities to engage with parents who aren’t as up to speed on issues such as the EBacc, curriculum design, and pupil engagement.

I’ve more schools to look at in the next few days; part 2 0f this blog next week.

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