None of the main political parties in Cymru (and especially not the ruling Labour Party) offer the correct, lasting solutions to problems in education.
   In the past I've blogged and given a whole variety of proposals which may have seemed revolutionary, but many of which work in what is regarded as one of the most successful countries in terms of their system, Finland.
   The problem with the Labour Party's very limited efforts in Wales is their smugness in relation to a Tory-dominated England, where the ludicrous Gove is attempting to force their education back to the 19th century. With 12 times tables,learning by rote and the ascendency of Greek and Roman in Primaries, what next, compulsory 'fagging' in Secondaries?
   Under Leighton Andrews in particular, Labour have merely gone forward by virtually standing still, with any reforms tentative and lacking any real direction.
   I'd like to suggest some reforms which could be carried out more easily than my previous calls for schools to be democracies and for the abolition of exams and inspections.
   We need a system intrinsic to Cymru and these would be just a beginning.
   I would firstly alter the Foundation Phase(one of Jane Davidson's pet policies), which is rapidly creating a crisis in literacy and numeracy.
   Learning through play in early years is laudable, but reading, writing and basic maths (not through formality, but enjoyable means) must be a priority and this focus should continue until all pupils can access the rest of the curriculum.
   Assistants should be deployed - as far as possible - in these areas alone, rather than supervision of so-called 'controlled play'. The latter is vital, but must be part of a balanced approach.
   Class sizes need to be rapidly reduced, with a norm of 20, by the appointment of more staff. In times of cuts this would seem an impossibility, but I'd advocate the evening out of salaries, so that rewards are given to those who remain in the classroom not those who seek to leave it.
   At present, one of the most absurd aspects of the system is that the way to get on is to get out.
   I recall one Deputy Head who was filled with horror and dread at the thought of the one lesson a week he had to teach.
   What matters in schools is having excellent teachers who are committed to pupils' improvement. This seems self-evident, except the whole structure is geared towards attaining posts in management and all the energy of younger, ambitious staff channeled into learning administrative skills rather than classroom ones.
   Not only must they be rewarded for staying in the classroom, but they must be empowered with regard to the curriculum.
   Training Days should be largely devoted to producing new resource materials with the assistance of hands-on advisers and the sharing of 'good practice' with other schools.
   With the re-introduction of the importance of coursework (all to be done in school time, however) then teachers could once again play vital roles in the development of both local and Welsh national curricula, as they know what is best suited to their pupils, not distant academics and examiners.
   One sure way to combat alienation and truancy would  be to involve pupils also in the framing of their courses. They need not merely to be consulted, but to have genuine power over both approach and content. This happened under GCSE 100 and 50 % coursework options and it could happen again, in a revised form.
   If both teachers and pupils are freed from the ridiculous obsession with testing and league tables ( including Leighton Andrews' anomalous 'banding'), they could achieve so much more.
   All it takes is a wider and more long-term view of what education entails and I am very disappointed with so-called progressive parties like Plaid Cymru for the complete lack of imagination in their policies.
   Finally, I have spent the last month ( one session per week) at Coed-y-dderwen Primary, on the Gellideg estate in Merthyr.
   Merthyr's education system has been decreed as 'failing' by the inspectors of Estyn, who have highlighted the local authority as culpable.
   However, I experienced the exact opposite. Working with Years 3 and 4 I was constantly inspired by their enthusiasm and enormous willingness to learn.
   Their work will be showcased at the Global Village in Cyfarthfa Park in May, when I am looking forward to seeing them perform the poems they created.


                                      THE  INSPECTOR'S  ADVICE

Take down the poetry from your walls,
replace it with comprehensions.

Show me your attainment targets,
I want to see red marks strong.

Always keep your distance
and fill in every form.

You talk as if they're friends ;
they'll bring you down.

Your lessons need more focus,
those anecdotes are straying.

Show me your plans :
'You haven't written anything?'

Imagination's all very well
but it doesn't pass exams. 
 


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Mimi
11/26/2013 09:43

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