Education

Climbthetreecartoonhttp://weknowmemes.com/2011/10/the-educational-system-comic/

Not being a conspiracy theorist, I cannot say, categorically, that there is a plot afoot to keep the general populace in widespread ignorance by dumbing down the curriculum.

Neither can I say, with any real evidence, that current methodology and practice within establishments (from primary through to secondary and beyond) is designed to ensure minimum love of education and a destruction of motivation within students and teachers.

What I can say, with more than a measure of truth, is that all of the above appears to be happening.

And it worries the hell out of me.

Children either unable to read or spell or their capacity to do so measuring well below their intellectual abilities.

Children bored or turned off of education from the earliest years.

Students lacking the desire to embrace education for the sheer joy of it.

There is much more. And there are many more worrying traits that I have observed over a lifetime being involved in education as a student, teacher and parent.

I am embarking on something of an investigation into this on a practical level as well as in theory.

I would be grateful for any input you may have to offer from any perspective regardless of nationality. I am looking at this within the context of Scottish education but keeping an eye open to a wider perspective. I have reason to believe that this is not merely a Scottish issue.

It would be helpful to know where you are from. If possible, could you please state a country in the comments section, as additional information to the first poll, with ‘Yes’ or ‘No’ or other placed beside your nationality.

Thank you for taking part. I’m hoping to get to the bottom of a number of issues and any information will add value to the practical measures I am taking.

miracle-einstein-quoteI believe in miracles.

35 thoughts on “Education”

  1. Well, as you know, this is a pet peeve of mine. Education in the US is a mess. Even though I attended public (US-version) schools, I would not do so today. They have gone downhill dramatically, for all the reasons you state and list above. Thank you for this poll – very interesting to see what materialises.

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    1. Both you and Cole came through on this at the exact same time which I think is more than a coincidence, given our miles apart!
      Your post today forced me to finish this one. I’ve been mulling away for weeks now on how to address what is becoming more problematic here.
      I’ve been aware of the problem for quite some time (try years) but only felt I could do anything about it within my own immediate environment and classes.
      But that is changing. A few things afoot.
      The evidence I’m gathering is not such great news at my own end.
      Really interested to see what feedback I get from across different parts of the world.
      An ‘accident’ in one place might be understandable but I’m curious now to the extent of the problem.
      Thanks for your input Beth. We’ll watch and learn.x

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  2. I think, in this case, that appearances are anything but deceiving. It is systemic- and I’m sure that it’s engineered. And I’m not a crazed conspiracy theorist- just, in this case anyway, a realist.
    Important stuff, Anne-Marie. Great questions. Looking very forward to see where you are going with this!

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    1. I was just commenting to Beth the same thing. I’m curious as to the extent of the problem. I’m principally concerned at the moment with levels of literacy within primary and into secondary education here because literacy, let’s face it, is key to the rest.
      I’m still gathering evidence. But started working on a little something a few weeks ago that I’m hoping may prove something. It will take some months but it’s a start.
      I’ll try to email you soon on what I mentioned before.
      Thanks for commenting, Cole. It matters to know how systemic it is.x

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  3. I ticked almost all your questions I think tge standard of education is shit and its the problem of the government and not the fault of the teachers, control has beennremoved from the hands of the teachers placed it into the hands of idiots and money men. Discipline has been taken from the teacher and given to the children, were if you tell a child to be quiet they now have right to complain……Don’t get me started!!!!!

    Btw WordPress are failing my freedomm of speech and expression by removing posts that the do not agree with. Twice they have removed my community posts, one about the Grammar Nazis and my post about them removing my Grammar post!!

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    1. Straight to the point, Pete! Love it. I think there is a lot of government intervention that doesn’t necessarily address problems because they never really pinpint what the problems are. I could do a whole other post on that. 😉
      I don’t know that I’m too surprised at the cencorship of your posts. Trey had an issue a while ago with the CP apparently because people complained he was too ‘open’ in his language. It’s disappointing because I thought that one of the most valuable aspects of blogging here was the freedom to express ideas. If people don’t want to read they don’t have to. But bloggers should still be allowed to write. I think Trey decided to keep his more controversial ones for his own blog. Kind of defeats the purpose of being community if you can’t commune. 😉 x

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      1. This is not the first time my posts have been censored, I responded to an attack on me by Timetheif and within minutes of me posting it was removed, you know me open, honest and fair, Timetheif has attacked me a few time without me even mentioning them or their blog, telling me that I have no right to be in the community because I don’t have a blog on WP servers and all I was doing is hunting for hits on my blogs. They make out they are staff but they are not, just pisses me off. 😥

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      2. I don’t know why anyone would have an issue with cross referral reading/writing and commenting. Are we to presume that we are not welcome reading across other forums? I can’t imagine any bloggers on any community being unhappy with having readers from many sources. I would ignore them! x

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  4. Well, let’s call a spade a spade. I’m a conspiracy theorist…http://amaezed.wordpress.com/conspiracy-theorists/…and proud of it. I’m a dad. I’m..yes normal…the problem is far too great to nut out in one swoop. I agree it is systemic. It’s impossible to fix a broken system. Kids aren’t happy. We aren’t happy. Look at the world. It’s not happy. How on earth are we expecting our kids to be happy at school when we have the world burning. This reflects on everyone. Work is like the wild wild west. Both parents NEED to work. Kids are brought up by a day-care-worker and relates more to them than the actual parents. I have said this many times and it’s no PC, but if you have kids…mum’s…look after them. Don’t let the feminazi give you choices. Now…playing devils advocate here…I agree…Mums are forced to work…when we aren’t financially secure…we stress. We are all stressed. Business is open 24/7…all day everyday…buy/sell adnauseum/adinfinitum. Couples don’t last…marriages don’t last. Small business’ don’t last…good grief.
    Trying to keep our heads above water is difficult and there’s no easy answers…just small baby steps. Each one of us is a contributing factor in the overall scheme of things. I think we will sort this mess out. Cheers

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    1. I just popped in to read that page and some very good points raised.
      We need to look at the bigger picture of why things are the way they are. Even with the thoughts you voice here I can feel myself itching for another post based as you say on the economic pressures that families face and therefore the decisions they make to accommodate need.
      Choice seems to have been limited to almost none. Even by downscaling within families the need for both parents to work seems to become an imperative just to keep pace with basic essentials.

      My concern relating to education is that if there are not changes made that cause young minds to question what they read (if they can read) they will inherit a world that a few privileged ‘educated’ minds govern and they will be lied to and know no wonder in learning and no power in solving. I do believe there are answers and I do believe that we have the solutions at our fingertips if we choose to speak out and address the problems we see.
      And sometimes those things we see may very well be conspiracies. All eyes open. 😉 x

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  5. I think the educational system here in the states is sorely in need of a revamp. I am grateful my daughters are way past the age for school, but I hate the thought of my grandson having to go to school now. It is my hope that my daughter home schools him, as that will be the only way he will have a well rounded education with all aspects of learning, like I had. The basics, music, art, literature, not just being taught to tests. I have friends who are teachers and I feel so bad for them, as they have a calling to teach and yet, are unable because of the school systems where they work. They teach to tests and results… not for the sake of kids learning.

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    1. I am discovering all sorts about the general feeling with regard to education. It certainly seems at the moment that the consensus is not favourable. It is worrying that so few people have faith in how our systems are working. Or rather not working. I’m looking at this more as it is something close to my heart. There does appear to be a level of interference from on high that does not allow the teachers – who should be professionals – to educate the whole child for the purposes and love of learning. Too much emphasis does appear to be placed on testing without purpose. Or merely to show stats that may not be all that relevant or meaningful. I’m still gathering info from various sources but hope to write more on this. Thank you for sharing your thoughts and experiences on this. It is helpful to get an overall view. x

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  6. you could very well be describing America’s schools..
    Teachers teach a test…an assessment test I suspect for federal aid…
    the kids are so stressed over it, in my granddaughters 4th grade class to kids threw up on the teacher when she handed the test to them..there is something really wrong about a system that makes children so scared of a test that they get sick…
    most children do not know the “reading, writing , and arithmetic”
    and very few know what arithmetic even is…they know the word math only…
    we have eliminated cursive writing in Texas now..I could go on…
    but it gives me a headache to think of the mess our school system is in…

    I wish you great luck and success….

    Take Care…You Matter…
    )0(
    maryrose

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    1. In early education there should really be only two types of testing. One would be an assessment to gauge learning that allows the teacher to identify any ‘gaps’ in the child’s knowledge, say, for example, with regard to phonological awareness. By identifying areas where there are difficulties the teacher then may adjust her methods and/or planning to identify future learning. We call this ‘assessment for learning’. These are very straightforward and cause no duress. In fact, in applying these assessments, I always explain to the children that it is to help me find out whether I am doing my job properly.
      The other type would be a summative assessment that ascertains whether learning has taken place and teaching been effective. This may be done in many ways none of which should cause such awful reactions in a child. It may even be done by practical measures in a play situation that allows children to demonstrate learning. There are so many methods – none of which need cause any worry or pressure to a child.
      There are numerous methodologies that have been discarded in the name of progress and some which have never been learned by the teachers who are being newly trained. The whole scenario at the moment is quite worrying.
      We have had something of a revamp here in Scotland in recent years that is meant to address changes in educational process.
      It is meant to give some autonomy to the teachers in terms of how and what they teach. It remains to be seen whether they will be allowed to do so.
      Thank you,Maryrose for your thoughts and insights on this. I am grateful you took the time to make comment. All of this helps me build a picture I am trying to form to gauge the extent of the problem.x

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  7. I don’t know whether I should be relieved or appalled that the standards in education are problematic outside of the bubble I live in (Quebec, Canada). The minister of education keeps on refuting claims that the standards are lower than they were pre-reform (about 10 years ago) by manipulating numbers in the statistics they publish. But it is very apparent that there is indeed a problem. I mean, when university professors have trouble with discipline in their classrooms…(and that’s just one of the many issues). Very interested in seeing where this post leads you.

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    1. Like you, I am somewhat surprised that the feeling at the moment would appear to be that nowhere is making a very good job of educating future generations.
      Certainly discipline problems within higher/further education are worrying. Usually, or certainly in the past, it would have been the case that anyone pursuing advanced education would be doing so because they wanted to and would therefore do nothing to undermine their own learning.
      In the primary education system which is where I work there can be discipline issues. Sometimes these are identified as social problems which do exist and are ‘brought to school’. Intervention does occur to help alleviate this. But most discipline issues may be corrected by ensuring the children are actively engaged in what they are learning. By ensuring that there is a desire to learn. Much of this is by motivational teaching and applying expected standards of behaviour that the children are accountable for. When the lessons are ‘exciting’ and purposeful and the children enjoy them no one wants to be excluded from class. They want to be there taking part. The most fundamental way to do this is to ensure that what has to be learned is conveyed through a variety of methods that allow for different learning styles.
      There seems to be, all over, an attempt to justify all learning through stats. Which perhaps would be fine if the stats themselves were representative of all learning that takes place across all subject areas thereby looking at the whole child. As it is, at the moment, the only subject areas tested are in literacy and numeracy. Valid testing in these areas may be carried out by the teachers who, as professionals, should then use the results to modify/correct their teaching. In fact, if used correctly, children with genuine learning difficulties may then be identified. And children with greater aptitudes in given areas may also be identified and assisted in making advanced progress. This also helps to eradicate behaviour issues in that children are not tuned off by being either unable to tackle work or by being bored with it. Differentiated teaching and learning then occurs. To the benefit of everyone.
      If testing is done purely for measurement it has next to no validity. Except as a means of recording league tables that often prove little of worth.
      Thank you for your comments here. I hope my picture of education in the wider field is being coloured to prove useful in my findings.x

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  8. I am from South India – Chennai. My child goes to a private school that both she and I love. The school teaches the child well, without stressing her out with too much homework and tests.
    Most of the children in the school come from similar backgrounds (grad or post grad parent/parents, middle-class financial status and cosmopolitan), so the educational content seems consistent to all children.
    I cannot say that about other schools, I don’t have first hand information. I gather that government run schools are dismal and dumb down the content in keeping with the lowest common denominator. But in general, smart children don’t go to government run schools – so I don’t know what to say there.
    I have no qualms about the level of school education in India. It is beyond school (College etc.) that the whole educational system crumbles.
    I also worry about the lack of encouragement for creativity. My kid is hyper creative, and I feel that while the school does not discourage her creativity, it does nothing to encourage either.

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    1. I am glad you and your child are happy with her current school. It is more than a great pity that the government run schools have such a negative image.
      It is difficult to imagine that the government schools must be populated solely with children of lesser intelligence. Might it be the case that there are those who would/could achieve if given a better opportunity, perhaps having access to the funds that would allow this? State education should be as competitive as private with regard to quality of education. Diversity of intelligence of children need be no barrier to diversity of methodology that addresses and cultivates the learning styles and aptitudes of the children.
      Many times the private education system has to its advantage that class sizes are generally significantly smaller thereby having a more favourable pupil to teacher ratio.
      I wonder too whether the further education establishments operate with a mixed/broader clientele? I am curious as to why it would be the case that further education becomes problematic. Someone else commented on discipline issues at college level. It makes me wonder whether the students want to be there. What is their motivation for attending? If it is purely for having the ‘piece of paper’ at the end or whether it is because they do desire to advance their learning? Who principally attends these places if the only real educational opportunities are offered to those attending private facilities?
      As far as creativity goes it really should not be an issue particularly within a school where class sizes are presumably smaller. The opportunities to offer a wide range of learning experiences in this case should be so much more manageable.
      Thank you so much for your insights and comments. It helps me to understand the situation in a wider perspective. x

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  9. I am in the US. Having grown up in a military family, I had the unique opportunity to see schools in a variety of states and locations, so my issues and votes are pretty much all over the board as a result. Education in the United States is handled at the state level, so some states have better opportunities than others. (please note, I graduated high school in 2005, so it has been a little time since I was in public school.)

    When I went to school in California, I was taking several advanced placement classes and the discipline in the classroom was amazing. Since the school was considered a top-rated school and had excellent scores, I suppose I was pretty lucky. My senior year of high school, I moved to West Virginia and I discovered that even advanced placement classes were a joke. There was no discipline, the students were barely able to read and comprehension was awful. That last year of high school, I was so miserable due to the fact that I felt my classes were dumbed down to a level so far below my own abilities that it was hardly worth going to school.

    My other problem with the school: they did not have the same grading system as my original high school. As a result, they lowered my GPA pretty dramatically. I am still pretty upset about that one, since it prevented me from getting into the college that I wanted to attend (though, maybe that was a good thing because I met my husband at a different college. Perhaps, it was destined. )

    School is a meant to be a place where children can learn, grow and thrive. Nowadays, many students are passing into the next grade, even if they are not ready or they are struggling. That is pretty sad.

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    1. Thank you, Helen, for commenting here and helping me understand in greater detail what is happening with education.
      I am interested in the fact that education is managed at state level and that there would appear to be no standardisation of scoring if one school uses a different method of scoring than another.
      If the tests are to be used as a signifier of progress in given areas then some standardisation would be desirable. What does concern me is that there is such an emphasis on testing and less, it would appear, on content, purpose and methodology.
      There seems to be a significant shift around the world in what is the purpose and primary aim of education. If it is purely to gather ‘bits of paper’ to then advance to the next level and schools feel under pressure to raise the numbers able to do so, some flat-lining of the curriculum would appear to be inevitable.
      All schools seem to be attempting to justify their existence by stats and almost running on a fear factor. It is so far removed from my own interpretation on the purpose of education that I find it quite scary.
      You have given me more food for thought here and I am grateful for your input especially as you have experienced education across a wide field.
      I wonder on the different perspective of states in determining curriculum content and methods. I’ll need to look into this more.
      Thank you so much.x

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  10. Anne Marie, My hubby and I are in a “great” school district in US. But the concern is that all should be able to take the standardized test, no matter what special need might be an obstacle, they provide little to no challenge for the gifted and no creativity allowed. They say they do differentiated education, but that has become code for having the whole class be taught slowly for the benefit of the lowest graded kids. More money is spent on special needs, and their parents act as “advocates” and demand, demand, demand. It’s sad for my kids, but it’s free to us, we would have to pay taxes for it even if we chose a private school. We supplement at home, and try to challenge them here.

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    1. There is here a measure of what you describe with regard to how differentiated education is operating. How it should operate is that children are assessed by class teachers to establish areas of need and/or competence. Teaching should then reflect what has been learned from these assessments. And plan lessons and curriculum based on findings. It is not too difficult to manage. Methods of teaching, account taken of different learning styles as well as flexible curriculum planning allow for a wide variety of abilities even within the same class. The vehicles used to drive education forward may be so diverse that the children experience a wide range of opportunities to demonstrate abilities across many areas including, although not exclusively, creative aptitude.
      For example, a recent area of study for one of my classes was ‘Changing Materials’. It began as a science topic looking into the different states of matter. In carrying out experiments in class on everyday substances they were able to discover for themselves which materials could move from solid to liquid to gaseous form. One of the materials was sand. In exploring the attributes of sand and discussing how it may change form through heating the children then moved on to finding out about volcanoes. This led to research on Pompeii/volcanoes around the world by the children at home because we cannot access You Tube in school except for ‘images’. Children came in, voluntarily I might add, with information, pictures, drawings; they had asked questions at home and brought these questions to share with others. Children worked in ‘jigsaw’ groups researching and then shared their findings through informal presentations and acting as ‘hot seats’ for others to ask questions of. Art work followed, note taking in scientific format, language used in science including observation using all senses. The extent of the interest by the children I could not have manufactured had I tried. I planned a certain amount of it but the children themselves directed so much of the learning and subsequent teaching based on what they showed interest in. I introduced ‘tsunamis’ to the mix and away they went again. It moved to underwater. We got on to the Mariana Trench. The topic just went from strength to strength. The vocabulary that was generated had an impact on spelling.
      Science, Art, Drama, Music. They are wonderful vehicles for driving forward curricular areas. And children are full of enthusiasm for so many topics. They astound me!
      The diversity of talent I discovered in this was amazing too. One wee girl who could never be described as ‘academic’ proved to be wonderful at dance. We had used classical music for expressive dance to convey movement and feeling. The pieces were chosen to represent disaster and conflict. She was brilliant. She was graceful. She was full of confidence that here was something she excelled at.
      Now, no one will stop teaching her the basics. That is ongoing. This is a wee girl of 7. She was using language that expressed her feelings and demonstrated this through her movement and rhythm.
      I’ve gone on too much here, Brenda. What’s new, eh?
      The potential to embrace all aspects of a child’s personality and talents is there. The basic components necessary for progress in learning may be taught in an interesting and meaningful fashion. Assessments may be carried out to gauge learning and plan teaching. But it does not have to be boring. It does not have to exclude. And it certainly should never leave anyone, no matter what end of the academic spectrum they are on, in a state of distress or boredom.
      We do need to revisit how we are teaching and how children learn. Changes are occurring here. Time will tell whether the changes are being used to fullest advantage for the children. I hope so.

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      1. Discipline is also a problem, in our school district they don’t seem to use any form of discipline, and my son complains that the classes are loud, disrespectful and difficult for any sort of learning. That’s a problem that is past just discipline, and I wonder if they are engaging these kids at all if they prefer to chat with friends and ignore the teacher. Perhaps my son exaggerated, but I have found him to be pretty accurate actually.

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      2. It definitely happens, Brenda. I hear my own kids recount stories from secondary school and I’m shocked at how much kids dare. I would have been terrified. I just wouldn’t have done it. Whatever trouble I would have got into in school it would have been more at home. Expectations of behaviour were high. I have no problem with chat that engages with a task and you can tell when this is the case. As far as discipline goes here a number of schools have begun to use what they call assertive discipline whereby the parents are involved as are the kids in taking ownership for behaviour. It is to be understood by all that there are consequences that escalate if rules are broken. The rules are only a few regarding treatment of others and doing your best while paying attention. Their efficacy does depend on how prepared all involved are to sustain the agreement. Sometimes matters get to the head teacher and then little happens. Other places though have it really well organised and in place. If the children are engaged though, discipline never really becomes a problem unless there are underlying problems. It would be worthwhile raising it with the school though if you haven’t already. One thing that always seems to be evident is that parent power carries more weight than any comments or complaints from teachers. The head teacher would either have to give some sort of reassurances or attempt to put measures in place that resolve things. Again things may escalate here if nothing appears to be attempted to resolve matters. Good luck with it. It does matter that the children have the opportunity to learn and unruly behaviour doesn’t allow for that obviously. x

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  11. ‘Oh, England, my Lionheart’.
    This is a very complex issue, but I do feel that a lot of the problems in the education system come down to governmental insistence on accoutability. As social, psychological and emotional development are virtualy impossible to measure, academic testing becomes the benchmark. Failure for the majority of children to achieve the ‘norm’ results in pressure on schools and individual teachers, who then receive criticism. As a result there is pressure to teach only the areas of the curriculum which will be tested – which in a perverse way makes sense – to the detriment of the childs all round development. Whatever happened to trusting someone to do a good, professional job?

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    1. You have hit the nail on the head, Chris. I have been teaching for more years than I care to consider and it amazes me the amount of interference that occurs without due regard to the main issues. Teachers are not allowed to be professional at times. Mainly due to, as you describe, an emphasis on teaching only to test certain subjects. And what are these tests out to prove? Unless there is meaning to the testing that benefits the children, in other words, to assess learning and plan teaching it becomes a pointless exercise that pressures everyone and proves nothing. Scotland has adopted a new curriculum, ‘Curriculum for Excellence’ which seeks to address much of what are concerns in and around education and holistic learning. If ‘authority’ leaves the professionals to get on with the job it promises much.
      I would also like to look at the ‘training’ that teachers currently receive before beginning teaching as my recent findings (from student teachers and probationers) suggest there are gaps in methodology, child development and child psychology. When these were dropped I’m not sure of. But those I have spoken to say they would have been glad to have studied these subjects as part of their training. It looks as if it may have been about 10-15 years ago. I am now wondering how much of the ‘learning difficulties’ among children reflect a lack of knowledge on all of the above on the part of teachers. So many of my young colleagues are disappointed in having received either four years of ‘essays’ interspersed with teaching placements or one year post grad study that did not prepare them for the reality of teaching and the challenges that different stages and ages of children present. That is not to say that they don’t learn on the job. Every ‘trade’ needs theory and practice. But it certainly helps if the theory has been taught in the first place. To plunge young teachers into jobs with little or no understanding of methods and child development seems crazy. I’m looking into this further.
      Thank, Chris, for your input. It’s all grist to the mill. x

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      1. Big changes too south of the border where we are facing (amongst other things) a blanding down of attainment levels to broard ‘Descriptors’, yet within these we will still be expected to provide proof of specifics. Not so bad if you’ve been doing the job for as long as the likes of myself, but you do feel for colleagues just starting out. In this aspect I have to agree with your thoughts on training – I would have expected to meet better prepared NQTs, yet my experience os the opposite, and some seem poorly equiped to handle the demands of the job.
        Good luck with this..

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      2. I’m vexed for NQTs. Those I have spoken to recently feel quite let down that nothing really prepared them for all that was to be expected. It’s one thing to go on teaching placement and have an experienced class teacher by your side and quite another to be plunged in at the deep end. A lovely girl I’ve been working with told me the other day she cried most of the start of the first term. Just so overwhelmed with all it involved. That is just so unfair on them. Doesn’t do the kids much good either if the teacher feels so insecure about what she’s doing. Obviously experience is built on and she has grown so much in the last few months. But she doesn’t feel prepared for subsequent stages she will encounter. There’s something not quite right about the teacher programme I feel.
        I don’t quite know where to go with all this yet although I have a few thoughts. 😉 x

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