Wednesday, 11 January 2012

Achieving full potential within the entire education system - Part 2

A post from Tedious Tantrums.

Last week I identified the following aims which could be considered as potential starting points for improvements to the education system to take place.

Identified aims –

  1. EVERY pupil/student should achieve their full potential;
  2. EVERY student teacher should achieve their full potential;
  3. There is NO PLACE for politicisation within education;
  4. There is No PLACE for religion in any area of education;
  5. REDUCE the size and influence of local education department to the lowest possible level required to support schools.
There are a few loose ends to clarify from last week. First, the suggestion that every school should have Cadet training as an activity, primarily as a means of reaching higher levels of discipline from the pupils/students. Cadets would of course be dressed in a military style uniform and be taught to march and to receive instructions, which they should obey without recourse.

This is a bad idea. Militarisation of schools? Using schools as the ground to deal with social ills? Bad idea. Keep the social issues out of schools by dealing with them in society. We don’t want our children cloned, as in wearing any sort of uniform and certainly not military style. We need individuals and a system of teaching, which will engage those who find learning difficult or who do not have access to the types of subjects, which they will enjoy, want to do and get benefit from.

That said let’s add another aim to the list of “identified aims”-
  1. EVERY pupil should be treated as an individual and not be subject to a dress code.
Second is Steiner Schools. In truth I’m not a big fan of Steiner. I can see some benefits within the system and if you have a child who has difficulties it seems to help. However, there are elements within the Steiner system, which might benefit al pupils/students.

For example the age at which structured learning begins. As things stand, are our children included in formal education too early? They learn more when they are young is the common argument and that may well be the case but perhaps the type of exposure to education should be much less formal and be more tailored to each child’s maturity and ability?

Considering our aims it’s apparent that ideas and successes should be evaluated from all teaching methodologies, including Steiner, home education, independent, state, teachers and from all corners of the globe. This should provide potential improvements, which are already proven.

The list of “identified aims” now looks like this -
  1. EVERY pupil/student should achieve their full potential;
  2. EVERY student teacher should achieve their full potential;
  3. There is NO PLACE for politicisation within education;
  4. There is No PLACE for religion in any area of education;
  5. REDUCE the size and influence of local education department to the lowest possible level required to support schools.
  6. EVERY pupil should be treated as an individual and not be subject to a dress code.
  7. Successful methodologies and best practice should be adopted in order to provide the BEST learning experience possible for pupils/students.
The list of aims would deliver significant change in the way our children would be educated. I’m sure I read a comment from a teacher heavily involved in developing and introducing the “Curriculum for Excellence. He had come to the conclusion that evolution was not powerful enough; only revolution would provide a curriculum suitable for the 21st century,

Revolution is expensive and the changes would require a number of years to fully develop. Time for another quote “If you think education is expensive – try ignorance” as attributed to Derek Bok, a former Harvard President. All well and good you say what about all the cuts to public spending?

The savings gained through the reduction in size of the Education Department at council level would be used in part to increase the number of teachers per pupil. This would meet the first “identified aim” by providing a completely different environment for teachers to work within.

The question is how many pupils could a teacher genuinely teach to ensure each pupil received the individual attention necessary to satisfy aim number one?

What do you think?

This subject may well take more than three posts to cover.


forfar-loon said...

We could try learning from one of the best, which just so happens to be a northern European country, not entirely dissimilar to Scotland in many respects: What Americans keep ignoring about Finland's school success".

Weekend Yachtsman said...

1 and 2 are mere platitudes: whether someone achieves their potential is up to them, as well as to the environment they find themselves in. If you said "must have the opportunity to develop their potential", or "must not be prevented from achieving" or something of that sort, I'd be with you.

3 and 4 are certainly true for government schools, but the meaning of politicisation is open to debate, is it not? Does it mean we don't show the BBC in schools because of its known left-wing propensities? Most people here would disagree with that, I guess, but it shows how subjective such a statement is. As for religion, some parents might have different views do you not think?

For 5 I would say reduce to zero, otherwise the bureaucrats will find ways to push back in and before long we'll be back where we started. LEA's don't add anything of value; schools can organise themselves for things like procurement.

6 doesn't need to be a blanket policy; "treat as an individual" is another meaningless platitude; some schools and some parents are very happy with uniforms and dress codes, why should anyone dictate to them?

7 begs the question of who is to say what is "best"? If you plan to rely on the educational establishment, its track record over the last fifty years is not too impressive, is it? Why not let a thousand flowers bloom?

In short, you're in danger of creating a slightly different version of the statist, over-centralised, over-prescriptive mess that we have now.

Gedguy said...

I agree with some of what you are saying but, unsurprisingly, I disagree with more.
1) Whether we like it or not, not everyone is going to be an Einstein or a Hawkings. Some people will only be fit to sweep the streets [OK I'm being a bit extreme here to put over a point, but you get my meaning] and wasting precious resources on flogging a dead horse is allowing ourselves to be blinded by failed social engineering. The Labour comprehensive system of the 60s just didn't work. The idea was fantastic but, sadly, we are not all the same. Some kids are early learners while others don't come into their own until after they leave school, which is why I fully support further education. Some kids will be doctors and other will be joiners; that's just the way life is. Before you jump on your high horse I went to a comprehensive school, in Dundee, but should have gone to a Grammar school, but that's another story. The problem was that there were never enough spaces for the cleverer kids and many children missed out on what should have been their right to an education, but that's another story too.
2) Discipline: It is ultra important to forge into growing young minds the absolute need for discipline. Without discipline wavering students will drift away from what is their right to education. They need the discipline to learn that they need to stick to their allotted tasks. OK, I'm not too sure about military cadets, but it never did me any harm and probably helped me.
3) Uniforms: Sorry, but I'm all for uniforms. It is all nice and fine saying we should all be individuals, and in an ideal world I would back that concept 100%, but we are not in that utopia. I was brought up in a rough council estate [Kirkton, Dundee] in the 60s and poverty was all over the place. Many parents, for whatever reason, couldn't afford uniforms, never mind spending £80 on today's trainers. There used to be a social fund where children, in those types of cases, could get a chitty to buy uniforms. It was bad enough me having to wear my big brother's navy boots-two sizes too big-because my mother never had the money to buy me shoes, without having access to all the 'in' gear at that time.
Your aims and principles are sound and should be admired, but reality isn't like that. So, 10 out of 10 for effort but 3 out of 10 for reality.

subrosa said...

I disagree with your points about Cadet training TT. As far as I'm aware schools provide access to a cadet programme as part of after-hours activities. What on earth is wrong with being taught to march or receive (and respond to) instructions?

Some schools provide swimming as an after school activity. That activity also require a uniform of sorts - a swim suit.

You say a Cadet Force as part of education uses schools as the 'ground to deal with social ills'. Surely children need to know by whom and how they are protected. Would the inclusion of police, medics and other public services be banned from your perfect school?

As to the wearing of uniform, you're wrong. There have been many studies done over the years and it's been proven, beyond doubt, that school uniform achieves an equality that can't be bettered. Gedguy explains why.

Crinkly & Ragged Arsed Philosophers said...

You want 'education' to work?

Three principles - make it relevant, interesting and encouraging.

Bricks and mortar, uniforms, league tables and bureaucratic bull-shit et al are all secondary issues that place style ahead of substance.

Anonymous said...

Thanks Forfar-loon.

Aim 7 takes account of examples like Finland. Take what works best in our culture and society.

Anonymous said...

"Why not let a thousand flowers bloom?" This is exactly the aim Weekend Yachtsman.

I'm happy with the wording for each aim since they are high level strategic aims. If I had more time I would add a policy statement for each aim and then develop the detail further as required.

I'm also happy that you would prefer different wording. Neither one of us is wrong we just hold different opinions.

You are spot on in your last para - "In short, you're in danger of creating a slightly different version of the statist, over-centralised, over-prescriptive mess that we have now".

Have you tried discussing these sorts of ideas with anyone in education? They cannot conceive of anything which would be a major change. This is not their fault. They have been institutionalised and at the mercy of politicians for too long.


Demetrius said...

It would be a lot easier to hit the targets if the leaving age was reduced to 14 and pupils drilled in large classes. We could call them Elementary Schools.

Anonymous said...

Hi Gedguy, good points and a valued comments.

1. No our pupils/students are not all Einstiens or Hawkings thank goodness. Neither should we be wasting resources but that does not take into account the current education system relying on exam passes and increasingly worthless bits of paper with Degree written on them somewhere.

The system misses genius and intellect. Emotional intelligence if you will. We can't afford the waste that represents to our country.

Joiners. plumbers etc. make really good money nowadays, it's skill. Like you I went to a comprehensive school. The classes were streamed into classes A to G.ABC were potential uni and college people, DE were trades, retail etc. FG were stand well back and hope they don't kill anyone whilst they're at school.

As you say many "kids" missed out and that is the big loss and where the need for a more flexible education system should be targeted.

2. Nope. I'm not with you there at all. Why does the army need disciple? So men will do what they are told to do even when it could cost them their lives. We've moved on from the Somme thankfully.

Discipline stifles creativity and creativity is the basis for the amount of progress we can achieve as a country or a species. Guidance provided to help people structure and self motivate would be far more valuable lesson.

3. Sorry I'm just not a believer in uniforms. The independent schools have them which helps elevate them and the parents love this. They still want their kids educated properly though.

State schools try to mimic this. Then we get those of a left leaning variety who see uniform,s as a leveller. It's more difficult to spot the poorer kids if everyone wears the same thing. Nonsense.Kids see and they know. The haves show it and have nots make do.

There are schools all over the world who do not have a uniform. It is not necessary. You don't have to wear a uniform at Uni. Why? Maybe because the haves and the have nots have separated by then? A uniform has no educational value.

Finally, reality is what we make it. Enstein didn't go along the normal route he made it happen for himself. People make things happen. They have a vision/aim/target and they pursue it. They sell it to people. They enthuse about it. They achieve it.

Aiming higher helps you acheive more than you might do if you don't.

Failure or falling short? Dust yourself down and try again.


Anonymous said...


Goodness, looks like I'm biting the hand that feeds me!

If parents want to send their child to Cadet training outwith school that's fine by me. Not in schools though. The military based discipline is fine for the battlefield.

If a child is in a team they need a uniform which is fine. I played hockey and football for my secondary school and we never had school strips to wear. Embarrassing at times but it didn't affect the results any.

Police, medics, fire persons etc. Police are slowly dressing in a more military way. Medics need to be recognised as such and Fire Persons wear theirs in part for protection. It is part of their job to do so.

I can't honestly say I was planning a perfect school. If only there was a lot of problems would be resolved. That's out of my league however.

I'm not wrong SB, I just have different opinions to you on this topic. I'm more than happy to discuss and listen and like everyone I'll judge what's right for me and respect what's right for other people as I know you do too.

Equality in schools isn't possible. Dress kids up as you like kids always know the well off and much well less off. Schools need to reflect our society and the varying wealth, intellect or opportunity is just part of life, at least for now.


Anonymous said...

Quite, Demetrius.

If it's good enough for Sherlock Homes then elementary is the way to go.

Sorry. Flippancy.

I'll go stand in the corner or the modern day equivalent.

Anonymous said...

It should of course be Holmes. Long day Sherlock!

Gedguy said...


I think you are equating discipline solely with the military. That is not what I meant. For the child to learn the child must have a disciplined MIND. One of the ways to do that is to instil discipline in a military manner [I did say that I wasn't too sure about that] but there are many other ways in which this can be achieved, but the the important point is the discipline.
As too the uniforms, well, we will have to agree to disagree on that point. I am confident that you can bring up as many links as I on that subject. Strangely enough I was not only in the army but also in the fire service so I feel that I can talk about both with a fair degree of knowledge. The firebrigade was based on the naval system, hence the watches, but I can assure you that those uniform would burn just like any other clothing. As to the army uniforms that was to differentiate us from the enemy. I remember being told a story that it was possible to tell the difference between a German and us by the way they tied their shoelaces, if you had to creep up on them at night. Not that this would help me much as I was a medic in the army and had no intentions of 'creeping' anywhere, but there you go. I am also a joiner and I can tell you that the money is not bad but the periods of unemployment-like now-brings that wage down to being pitiful.

"stand well back and hope they don't kill anyone whilst they're at school"
You are more right than you think. I've seen fights at school where knives and axes(!) were in use.
I also played football and hockey for my school but we had strips and it felt good putting on a strip. Even though, when I played football for the primary school, the football boots I had were plastic. Oh, those were the days. Thank the Gods they have now gone. The reason that we played hockey was because our sports hall was broken into and they stole our balls. Therefore, at PE, we were told we had to play hockey. We all refused to play point blank until the PE teacher, in desperation, pointed out that we could 'wield' sticks. In our twisted little minds we thought this could be fun. Our school hadn't had a hockey in decades but we enjoyed the rough and tumble so much that he formed us into something of a team. That year we never lost a game. OK, most of it was down to threatening the other side, even before we got onto the pitch, and the constant 'accidental' hacking of their ankles while playing seemed to aid us in winning every game bar one; which we drew. However, we did have one excellent player who went on the play for the east of Scotland or some thing like that. Even that instilled a discipline in us, with the help of belonging to a uniform [strip].

Anonymous said...

Sounds like your school was as good as mine or vice versa. We called ourselves the Allsorts which got round the taunting from other schools a wee bit.

Hockey was a more "jolly"affair. Football was played 26 hours a day light, dark, rain, shine with balls or varying sizes.

Disciplne in schools? Everybody line up and I'll start belting you until the culprit owns up. Excellent. Good technique courtesy of our war opponents. Every school had at least one teacher like that.

I've never been in or near the army. I was a zip ride thing at an open day and my son fired a real gun down a tube thing at a target. That's covered my military carreer.

I worked with ex-RAF guys on a project in Lincolnshire. Helping them set up and run businesses. They had maybe been slightly misled in as much as they'd been told they could use their skills in civvy street. Not many of them actually could or they might have been able to if they'd called in a few airstrikes from their previous mates to reduce the competition.

Thanks for all your input!

pa_broon74 said...

I have a revolutionary idea, based somewhat on my own experience and on nothing at all except workplace boredom.

1) Basic education until aged 14. (You learn to read, write and count.)

2) From 14 onwards you are offered a range of different work experiences paid at a lower level, probably a flat rate but quite low. Everything from plumbing to medicine, so the full range, you basically get to choose.

3) At 18 you re-enter formalised education with a knowledge of the work place, what you might like to do with the rest of your life and that if you don't stick in at school (regardless of academic capability) you'll end up doing something you despise.

4) because of the renewed enthusiasm for education and informed choice in terms of future prospects, high school education can be compressed into say, 3 years?

5) those not interested in uni can either leave or stay on for another year to do highers. (They'll be 21 now) If they leave they can start in on apprenticeships or perhaps college, again, it can be compressed by 50% because they'll be better motivated and older, so more confident in decisions for the future.

6) Those going to uni will have done the extra year at 'high school' so will be 22ish. The go to uni, again compressed length of time. They enter the work force (hopefully with healthy employment oppportunities) ready to do the job they chose via an informed decision. Age now? probably 25 or 26.

How is it paid for?

We're all living much longer, retirement age will be pushed up to say, 70 although actual retirement will be optional. Because way back when, they didn't have to decide at age 13 what they wanted to do with the rest of their lifes, they'll hopefully be in a job they quite like so won't mind staying on a wee bit longer before retirement.

Money saved on pensions would easily cover the payments to 14-18year olds.

Education should be flexible and most importantly, interesting to those in receipt of it. No point in banging on about algebra to someone who wants to work in a gym.

Probably some glaring flaws in my master plan, I think it has merit though so if I was in charge, I'd implement it.

I also think people who eat noisily in public should be fined so probably best I'm not in charge.

Gedguy said...


I'm having a discussion with some Tories. Can anyone give me a link to when David Cameron advised businesses not to invest in Scotland?

subrosa said...

TT, jings I hate to think I feed you. :)

As I understand it joining the cadets is not mandatory in any British school - perhaps with the exception of those 'private' schools built on the principle of giving the children of the military a stable education.

Isn't a school playground a battlefield? It was in my day but we didn't use guns just verbal and physical actions. "He pushed me" "No I didn't" "Yes he did" "He pushed me first" Need I go on?

Most successful schools see that uniform is most important. Perhaps that's because they view the whole school as a team?

Goodness TT, when I played hockey for my school we had to wear team strips. If I remember most schools back then had navy or black uniforms and we needed something to ensure we knew the opposition. In my case that was imperative because I was shortsighted and if we hadn't had a uniform my efforts wouldn't have been recorded as one of the school's junior greats. :)

The military wear their uniforms for protection or perhaps that's escaped your notice. Combats are used in battle to blend in with the environment and in civvie street to show the public they are serving military.

Naw, you won't change my views about school uniform. It makes each child equal and to me that's as important as the standard of their education. If a child starts school thinking their attire is worth less than some of their peers, that will affect them for life.

I wonder how many of today's 'celebs' went to schools which didn't have mandatory uniforms? I'm not doing the research. :)

Anonymous said...

I like it Pa!

Young people have to make their mind up about a career on pretty flimsy information unless they happen to know someone actually doing what they want to do.

Having time out and allowing for maturity seems a very good idea.

I shouldn't be in charge though because I'd like to have people who are generally loud and pollute my personal space with their noise arrested.

Anonymous said...

I'm with you on those points as well Crinkly. Thanks

Anonymous said...

Hand that feeds me in the sense of allowing me to blog on your site.

I'm not against uniforms per se just not on children in schools.

I'm not against the military either. I think they get a pretty raw deal in the UK. Great pity.

subrosa said...

Gedguy, I haven't found one yet.

TT, I understood what you meant. :)

Back to uniforms. So you don't mind the problems created for those who come from less well-off families? Children can be cruel to each other and if a child has clothing which isn't 'acceptable' by their peers they are alienated. I've seen it happen in schools which have eliminated the need for uniforms.

Strangely enough, the schools which did do away with uniforms back in the 90s have all now made them mandatory, because without such a policy clothing was becoming a designer fight.

Children shouldn't be regulated by the clothing they wear and I'm surprised you think they should.

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