Tag Archives: schools

The Love of Learning

What are we doing to our young people? Testing them until the joy is out of learning and school is just one tick box after another. The head of Ofsted, Amanda Spielman, said

The regular taking of test papers does little to increase a child’s ability to comprehend.

We have completely the wrong approach to learning. We need holistic education for our young people, encompassing the widest range of subjects, building character and instilling the love of learning.

This includes the arts. When I was 11, we moved to Missouri. I started at a new junior high school (years 6-7 in the English system) which had a school band. Up to that stage I had played a bit of piano and sung in the church choir. The music teacher asked if I’d like to learn the clarinet as he needed more players in his band. Within three months I was sitting 2nd chair in the clarinet section. I would never have learned an instrument if it hadn’t been for the opportunity at this state school. I remember my parents, who were on a tight budget, scraping money together for some private lessons later that year, costing $4 a lesson.

Years later, I’m a professional musician, wondering where the next generation of musicians is coming from. We need music, and all the arts, as an integral part of our schools. The economic argument is obvious – the creative industries contribute £87.4 billion per year to the economy. We would be denuded as a society without the undergirding of the arts which permeate and enrich our lives.

But I wish to make the moral argument, bringing me back to the opening point of school being too much about testing. Having an arts-inclusive curriculum builds a well-rounded intellect. The brain, when it has to marry the left and right halves in analysing and performing a piece of music, develops physiologically. Attention spans are lengthened when one learns to concentrate on playing your part in a band. Aesthetic awareness is broadened, that life is not about ticking boxes but about beauty, relationships and creativity. Learning to sing together builds community and teaches young people to work together. We learn that coming together produces something more wonderful than striving alone.

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Solving the school places crisis without building a single classroom

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In the London Borough of Bromley, as in many places across the country, we are facing a massive projected shortfall in school places over the next few years. Councillors and activists from all parties are busy scrutinising planning applications for new schools of all shapes and sizes. But is it really necessary?

Imagine a school, let’s call it the Tweddle Academy (though pupils and staff just call it Tweds). Tweds was once a medium sized comprehensive with 1200 children on roll. Now it is an establishment providing all-through education for 2400 kids aged 6 to 18.

The school day at Tweds begins at 7.30am when children aged 6 to 12 arrive. They attend lessons until 10.20am, have a 20 minute break, then it’s back to the classroom. At 1.30pm they head to the school canteen for lunch before being dismissed for the day an hour later.

At 1.15pm while the younger pupils come to the end of lessons, teachers wait by the school gate to register the senior cohort. At 1.30pm, after the younger children have moved to the canteen, the 13 to 18 year olds begin their lessons. Their school day runs from 1.30pm to 7.30pm, with a 20 minute break.

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John Pugh MP writes: Campaigning for your local school

Its Spring and much is stirring as people look cheerfully ahead at prospects new. Every well informed individual in the schools sector though looks ahead with scarcely disguised pessimism.

There is one very obvious reason for this. School funding is scheduled to nose dive. Heads know it,teachers know it and gradually parents are getting to hear about it. Today we have seen a new report published by the Education Policy Institute underlining the same grim statistics that troubled everyone from the National Union of Teachersto the National Audit Office. https://www.nao.org.uk/report/financial-sustainability-in-schools

The message is stark. Rejigging pupil funding on a national formula within a budget falling in real terms by £3 billion spells gloom for all. Nearly every school they suggest will lose and on average that will cost two teachers to primary schools and six to secondary schools. In many places the impacts will be worse.

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Grammar and comprehensive…or Hive?

While the debate over the potential development of new grammar schools rages, I dream of a school that nurtures every person who passes through it by giving them the freedom to grow into their own talents; a school that gives all of our children the skills to make their own opportunities.

Welcome to The Hive.

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What did the EU ever do for us?

 

And so the Brexit campaign tells us how much better things would be if we went it alone.  Well, let me share my own experience as a former Headteacher and bring some perspective and reality into the argument.

Apparently we constantly lose out financially by being in the EU. Not my experience.

My school was a relatively successful rural comprehensive in County Durham. As with many rural schools, we struggled each year to balance our budgets and were certainly not favoured by either central or local government. No Building Schools for the Future, Excellence in Cities or Action Zones funding for us! We were certainly losing out compared to other schools in the area.

With no capital funding available, I turned to Europe and twice successfully bid for funding, to build a Construction Workshop and a Virtual Learning Environment. These were not large sums – €120,000 and €150,000 – but it was money I could not access elsewhere. We ran four Comenius projects and a Youth in Action project with our European partners, averaging €25,000 per project, so bringing in a further €125,000 to the school. And then we also successfully bid for two European Social Fund projects to share our best practice with teachers elsewhere in the EU and this brought in a further €80,000.

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David Laws highlights continuing threat of forced academisation

David Laws is quoted in today’s Independent. The former Schools Minister is discussing a Centre Forum analysis of the Government’s education white paper.

Centre Forum says that the Government’s alleged u-turn will just mean that the process will happen anyway as local authorities are taken out of the picture if it’s not viable to run schools if, for example, a critical mass has converted to academy status.

New analysis of the revised strategy, however, suggests this will have accumulative effect on schools – as more schools are converted, more local authorities will be taken over as a result.

In effect, 100 per cent of schools will still be converted into academies by the year 2020 as planned.

David Laws, Executive Chairman of CentreForum, who published the report, said: “Our initial analysis shows that their proposals for new ‘triggers’ that lead to forced academisation in a local authority will in all likelihood lead to thousands of schools becoming academies as a result.”

The think tank said the analysis was dependent on the Government’s definition of what constitutes as an “underperforming local authority”, however – a concept which has not yet been defined by the department.

“The definitions are vague,” the report noted, “and our own analysis has shown that relatively small changes could have implications for hundreds of schools.”

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Farron backs right to term-time holidays

I would normally apologise for linking to the Daily Mail, but on this occasion, as the piece in question has a video showing some of Tim Farron’s first speech as leader, I’m not going to.

The paper quotes Tim Farron expressing support for a motion that’s coming to Conference later this month which would give parents the right to take their children out of school for ten school days for holidays.

He told them:

Many employees have no choice when to take their holidays.

‘People in areas, such as my Westmorland constituency, have to work all through the summer at the height of the tourism season.

So, it’s vitally important to offer more flexibility to schools and headteachers to help families who need to take a break together.

Thornbury and Yate member Karen Wilkinson has written several times for this site about the law change, describing it as “illiberal.” writing in 2013:

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