Following the publication of the education white paper, surely there can be no one who doesn’t believe that the reforms are political. In this blog, Beadle argues convincingly that it is also pedagogy that is political. One of the parts that resonated so strongly with me was this description: “The intention was to nurture the voice of the child, to give them a sense of its validity and potential power; and, rather too softly-softly for my liking, to politicise them. We teach not to be obeyed but to be questioned.” This reflected the education I received from my humanities and English teachers at school. At 15 I spoke in my first debate, a discussion on the NHS that was shoe-horned into the “medicine through time” history syllabus. As a teacher I always ran debate groups because I wanted children to question and to have the confidence to argue for what is right.
I agree with Phil, “We seem to have moved . . . back to a brave old world in which approved knowledge must be asserted by unimpeachable authority figures . . . political actions have political consequences and wondering what those might be remains justifiable. We fought this war before: I am not yet convinced that the good guys lost.”
The subjects that comprise Progress 8 are there because of a political decision. The arguments for including physical exercise are clear and uncontested, but Sporticus goes further and identifies four aspects of PE: the physical, the cognitive, the affective and the social. In an era of increasing mental health and obesity problems for children, these parts stood out for me, but maybe because my politics influence what I see as important.
“Many students come to my school unable to treat each other well, especially within PE. They also lack the basic interpersonal and social skills to create an environment of trust and risk-taking.Just putting students in teams does not necessarily improve these skills . . . making the development of basic social skills such as listening, shared decision-making, leading and encouraging others a priority is essential within PE if the learning in other domains is to occur.”
All the recent talk of a “school-led” system is gently and beautifully exposed in this account of leadership. “The narrative is all about implementing government ideas efficiently or simply ignoring them; if you don’t then you are not a good and brave leader. Implementing daft ideas efficiently or ignoring the consequences of decisions is not brave leadership it’s stupidity.” The anecdotal story of a head that allowed staff to “innovate” when they reached the same conclusions as her made me smile; we have all worked with leaders like that! “Stupid ideas are still stupid ideas even when implemented well – add forced academisation to 90 per cent of students made to do the EBacc to teachers’ assessment of writing; all are time wasters.”
This is a rather sobering, yet humorous, account of the time of year when “accountability” rears its ugly head. “Everyone stares into the abyss, their pious hopes slowly peeling away.
“The hoped-for last-minute burst of progress seems ever more unlikely.”
Teachers are asked/drilled on why they have not compensated for ever-increasing poverty and childhood stress to attain the benchmark pass; to evidence the all important “positive contribution to the wider life and ethos of the school” the word “intervention” is banded about, striking a chill in to many teachers’ hearts.
“You will be asked to find a way of overcoming every shortcoming in the pupil, the school, its SLT and your own performance in the few weeks that are left.
“It is unfair to expect me to carry on giving ever more of my time, energy and expertise in the vain hope that a final revelation will manifest in the underperforming.
“Why don’t we listen to the complaints about performance at the start of the key stage and panic then?”