“The majority of teachers are disillusioned by the way the Conservative Party has approached education in the United Kingdom,” declares Brittany Wright, a teacher of English in the Midlands who is also her school’s G&T coordinator (ie of students deemed to be ‘gifted’ and/or ‘talented’). Continue reading →
1551. That was the last year – give or take – when there was a grammar school in every town. I know that because Chris Skidmore told me, and he’s a historian.
It’s fairly straightforward. Edward VI was on the throne, and there had been a few tussles between Church and State for the control of young minds. The Church wanted Latin used for chanting; the State for logic and grammar. So free schools were established (Michael Gove was not the first) to liberate the curriculum in order to inculcate the Liberal Arts and raise standards of attainment. Continue reading →
I’ve noticed over many years in the classroom that when students enter the physics or chemistry lab, they expect to be taught facts, and the teachers duly oblige by providing copious evidence from textbooks. But when those same students come to me to consider matters of theology, politics and philosophy, they generally take the view that they can choose what they like best, because just about everything that Hilton goes on about is mere opinion or speculation, if not total fabrication. If it feels good and brings serenity, it must be good and serene. Whatever they choose to believe is true, and truth is consecrated in the mind, just above freedom. Continue reading →
In the wake of Ofsted’s alleged (and vehemently contested) ‘Trojan Horse’ plot by certain zealous Muslims to infiltrate and take over a number of schools in Birmingham, Michael Gove has insisted that all educational establishments must ‘actively promote British values’. In a rather ungracious response, Shadow Education Secretary Tristram Hunt told BBC2’s Newsnight: “I’m not sure Michael Gove would know if British values came and bit him on the bum.” Continue reading →
“Fascinating Twitter exchange between @MoAnsar and @Adrian_Hilton on education,” tweeted the BBC’s Nicky Campbell during a rather disheartening dialogue I was having with everyone’s favourite Muslim social commentator.
And fascinating entertainment it may very well have been for the steadily-swelling Twitter crowds who were gathering to RT, ‘favourite’ and butt in on the commotion. But educationally enlightening it was not. And I wouldn’t be writing about it now but for the peculiar fact that Mo Ansar hastily deleted a whole string of his tweets when he realised that he was being monitored not only by his adoring fans, but also by the eminent historian and author Tom Holland. Continue reading →
Teaching is a hard job – a very hard job. In the never-ending quest to increase GDP and propagate the nation’s culture, teachers swim in a very deep ocean every day; sometimes drowning. The commentators and critics who carp from the shore have absolutely no idea what it’s like to face a class of 27 agitated minds and fidgety bodies at 8.30 in a morning and still be marking at midnight (or having to get up at 5am the next day to finish the job). They can have absolutely no idea how tough and taxing it is to have to hold an adolescent crowd’s attention for hours on end, day after day, month after month, trying to devise new strategies for engaging and inspiring them through concentric circles of enlightenment. Continue reading →
“You haven’t even got a degree, you’ve got the shakes, and you think you’re God’s gift to teaching,” grunts Algy Herries, Headmaster of Bamfylde Boys’ School, in the TV adaptation of RF Delderfield’s First World War novel To Serve Them All My Days. “I take my hat off to you, I really do. You’ve got your work cut out, but there’s nothing like starting with ambition,” he reassures.
I watched this TV series while I was taking my O-levels, and read the book soon afterwards. It is, to my mind, one of greatest novels of the 20th century. The aspiring teacher is Second Lieutenant David Powlett-Jones, a nervy coalminer’s son from South Wales who has been invalided out of the army with shell-shock. His passion is history; his vocation – he eventually discovers – is pedagogy. Continue reading →
Matthew Arnold – poet, essayist and Her Majesty’s Inspector of Schools – famously wrote that culture is concerned with knowing “the best that has been said and thought in the world”. This has become the leitmotif of Michael Gove’s educational revolution: if children are not exposed to the classics of literature, music, theatre, dance, film, painting, sculpture – what we terms the “fine arts” – then society is impoverished, civilisation declines and future generations are inculcated with nothing but the banal, mediocre and vulgar.
Out go TS Eliot, Wordsworth, Elgar, Monet and Mozart; in come Carol Ann Duffy, Damien Hirst, Russell Brand and Madonna. Critical thought is abandoned for formulaic answers – who needs epistemology when you’ve got a WH Smith’s revision guide? And academic rigour is replaced with emotional intelligence – what’s the point of straight-A*s if the child has low self-esteem? Continue reading →
The name of Adonis will go down in the history of education in England as one of the most reforming and far-reaching ever – right up there with Forster, Balfour, Butler and Boyle; names which have become synonymous over the years with their respective legislative acts. This achievement is all the more astonishing since Andrew Adonis was only an advisor, then head of policy, and then a minister: he was never Secretary of State, and yet his name eclipses dozens of those who have carried that brief.
While Tony Blair and Gordon Brown steadily gnawed their way through six education secretaries who issued 14 separate acts of parliament, along with a seemingly endless stream of white papers, green papers and flowery reports, Adonis was quietly beavering away in the background to forge the academies programme – a new breed of quasi-independent state schools, designed to replace the failing, mediocre, inadequate ‘bog standard’ comprehensives, with the sole objective of raising student attainment in areas of high social deprivation. Continue reading →
According to the latest national statistics on School Workforce produced by the Department for Education, a third of teachers of Physics, Geography and German have no qualification higher than an A-level in those subjects. Over the past year, the number of teachers with a relevant post A-level qualification has declined across the board, reaching 55.3 per cent of teachers of Religious Education; 53.1 per cent of teachers of Spanish; and 27.1 per cent of Maths teachers. Around 25 percent of teachers of Chemistry, History and French have no degrees in those subjects, while for English and PE it is around 20 per cent.
Such statistics invariably elicit concerns that our children are not being properly taught, or, at least manifestly not being taught be subject specialists. This leads to the tediously predictable headlines that our teachers are, at best, under-qualified or, at worst, incompetent. And, at a time of recruitment impossibilities in some subjects, there have been calls to restrict schools’ use of non-specialist teachers, with allegations of parents being ‘hoodwinked’ into believing their children’s teachers are experts in their subjects, while all along they know no more than they read in the pages of The Guardian. Continue reading →