Wednesday, 24 February 2010

Scottish Education

The Scottish government's Scottish Survey of Achievement, published yesterday, showed while 75% of primary three children are achieving expected standards in reading and all are reaching writing levels, just 40% of second years could read and 33.3% write at the expected level for their age.  A deplorable statistic no matter how you interpret it.

School inspectors have repeatedly highlighted concerns, blaming the earlier onset of adolescence, a lack of relevance in the curriculum and wasted time as primary pupils adjust to the different demands of secondary school.

Mike Russell, the education secretary, said "... One of the things that is beginning to show through in early primary is the success of the Curriculum for Excellence and we have to make sure that is delivered on time into secondary schools.

"We also need to get every secondary teacher to understand the responsibilities they have in their core role of developing literacy."

Mr Russell is missing a few points.  Children between primary 4 and primary 7 are not being taught effectively. Isn't it time we stopped teaching these children sex education, healthy eating initiatives, enterprise education and many other subjects which are the domain of parents rather than teachers?

When I was at school back in the 50s I distinctly remember the day I wrote my first sentence 'joined up writing' for the first time without even a blot on the paper (we used pens with nibs and dipped them in inkwells).  I was 7 years old.  Part of our homework was learning how to write and my father would spread newspapers over the dining table while we sat writing until he was happy with the result.  Everyone in my class could write and read well long before we had to move onto secondary school.

I realise I was fortunate having such dedicated teachers but a child who could not read and/or write well by the time they were 10 or so was a very small minority.  Nearly 60 years later we have results which are so appalling that our educationalists do have a serious charge to answer.  School inspectors have not been doing their job and that is to ensure each child learns the basics of education, nothing more and nothing less.

Mike Russell's comment regarding the need for teachers to understand their responsibilities would be laughable if it wasn't so serious.  Don't they learn their responsibilities in the first year of a teacher training course these days?  They used to do. It was drummed into every nervous first year that reading, writing and arithmetic were the core subjects of every primary school teacher. Young women used to spend hours practising on each other or, even better, practising on any young family member.

There is so much angst within the teaching profession about testing.  Every Friday, throughout my primary education, we were tested in some subject.  As a young child I wasn't aware it was testing, they were introduced as competitions to see who could write, count or read best.  No prizes, just a nod of approval from teacher was enough to see a child float on air all morning.

Ann Ballinger, general secretary of the Scottish Secondary Teachers' Association said that despite the decline in standards in S1 and S2, by third year pupils became highly motivated as they started qualifications that they recognised as being important to their future success.

"When pupils arrive in secondary they can be overwhelmed by the very different experience, but the focus is there when they start studying courses that lead to qualifications," she said.

There is part of the problem.  Do we need to introduce primary children to qualifications so that they understand that any qualification enhances their education?  Then perhaps they would not take 2 years to settle into secondary school.

My Friday tests were a form of qualification, although only one of us 'won' in each subject.  As we began to realise these were tests the competition became fiercer.  I can't remember anyone ever say they were a waste of time because we all knew we were at school to learn and not to waste time.  Parents took a great responsibility in ensuring homework was completed.  Unfortunately we've had years of governments which have removed parents' responsibilities, rendering them so reduced in confidence they feel unable to help their children with the basic subjects.

However, there may be some hope if Mike Russell does listen to those who were ignored years ago.  He says he will give a fair hearing to every suggestion made by councils on alternative ways to control schools.  A large part of any radical change should be to return confidence to parents who could then take their position back in society as being their children's carers.



Andrew Richardson said...

How depressing. I lived in London all my adult life was dedicated in Scotland and I remember the 1950s.I had come from the south of England as an eight-year-old boy and the culture shock of being at a school were standards were high and that we had to get it right, it's still me.
So all of that has been lost. Scotland has been infected with the virus that is destroying education in the state system in England as well.
Of course it's not about method or even the teachers. It is about culture and expectation and the system where the politicians and unions have grabbed control from the people who our actually paying.

Alan Wallace Jury Team said...

You may find this interesting -

In 1974, around 2 million adults (6% of the population) had
insufficient literacy skills to cope with everyday life.

• In 1999, 40% of 11 year olds do not reach the standard in
English expected for their age.

• Approximately 100,000 school leavers (16%) leave school
every year unable to read, write and spell adequately for the
demands of daily life.

More than 30% of young offenders and 50% of the prison
population have poor literacy skills

The last is the kicker. When education fails to provide the most basic tools for people to participate in society, they become State-induced outcasts.

Forget all the tosh talked about short term prison sentences not working. Rather than giving up we should be using these short sentences to at least attempt to pass on basic literacy skills to those who need it.

Uncle Marvo said...

My kids go to school to make friends. They come home to be educated.

Shame, but that's the way it is.

They seem to enjoy it.

Still, someone has to empty the bins, don't they?

Furor Teutonicus said...

Uncle Marvo said...

Still, someone has to empty the bins, don't they?

What? What do you think immigrants are for?

Uncle Marvo said...

[bites tongue]

BrianSJ said...

Anecdotally,10% of those taken in for National Service were illiterate on arrival.

subrosa said...

Yes that's all gone now Andrew. We're just the same as England here although, until a few years ago, we didn't quite have such a ridiculous curriculum.

subrosa said...

Alan, sorry I can't read your link. Thanks for the stats. There were sites which had varying figures but yours is about average.

subrosa said...

Ooops sorry Alan, didn't literacy and numeracy lessons used to be mandatory in prisons if it was discovered someone couldn't read or write?

subrosa said...

Hey Marvo, some of my binmen are very education. They do the job for the money because the hours fit in with their family life.

subrosa said...

Oh Furor, tut tut. That's not even factual (see above).

subrosa said...

That may well be Brian. I wonder what the figure would be today. At least 20% I should think. My point is there has been no progress for all the so called educationalists and money.

Furor Teutonicus said...

subrosa said...

Oh Furor, tut tut. That's not even factual (see above).

Hej! I am only repeating the reason the "Governments" tell us we need immigrants. Ie, "to do the jobs we do not want to do".

THEY can't be wrong now, can they?

subrosa said...

Ah I thought it was a bit of satire Furor. No they can't be wrong - in their eyes.

Clarinda said...

Subrosa - your point about parental responsibility and aspiration is valid and will work when the parent has the skill to enhance their child's education.

When those parents, however, are the same product of insufficienct/incompetent schooling as their child - how can 'two wrongs', if you like, make a right? It would appear that the educational effort should not just be aimed at the child but also at parents who missed out - if they are not already detained at Her Majesty's pleasure or still at school themselves?

I once volunteered to help out in Adult Education classes at a local 'community centre' where I was shocked to experience the determined focus of the adult students being constantly thwarted by the patronising and supercilious
demeanour of the 'teachers'. The students were given little bowls of cut up fruit a la chimps tea-party, "to encourage healthy eating" before being treated as generic simpletons thus confirming their status rather rather than transforming it. Despite my long and thoroughly enjoyable experience in teaching I was informed by one of the adult educationalista harpies that my school, college and university qualifications and experience would count for nothing until "youse get a' SVQ". I'm afraid that I left with the consolation that the contempt in the eyes of the students for the absence of any relevant teaching competence would motivate them to study at home without the insult of chopped fruit.

subrosa said...

Clarinda, of course you're correct. Parents' confidence has been removed in the past 20 years and we do have a generation of parents who have been educationally neglected.

Your example of adult education classes is not extraordinary. That happens across the country I'm sure as I too have experienced such 'teaching'. Many adults didn't return as they felt learned nothing and the cost of baby-sitting was not worth the offered learning experience. Fortunately in my situation, a few were encouraged to join the OU which offers basic courses these days for those entering further education.

Don't get me started on SVQs or NVQs Clarinda. I could rant all day.

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