Saturday, December 13, 2008

Nasty British teacher tells little kids that Father Christmas isn't real

A primary school teacher left a class of 25 pupils in tears when she told them Father Christmas does not exist.

The supply teacher blurted out: "it's your parents who leave out presents on Chrsitmas Day" when excited youngsters got rowdy as they talked about Christmas. The class of seven-year-olds at Blackshaw Lane Primary School, Royton, near Oldham, Greater Manchester burst into tears and told their parents when they got home. The parents then complained about the incident and were sent a letter by the school saying the teacher has been disciplined over the gaffe.

One father said: "My son came home and said that his substitute teacher had told the class that Santa doesn't exist and it's your mum and dad that put out presents for them. "Apparently, they were all talking about Christmas and being a bit rowdy. She just came straight out with it. "My lad was nearly in tears and so was everyone else in the class - especially as it was so close to Christmas. I thought it was wrong. "He was distraught about it. He's only seven-years-old and it's part of the magic of Christmas to him. "We told him that she did not believe in Father Christmas because of her religion and he's fine now. "I found it shocking. She has done it maliciously. "A lot of parents were disgusted and complained to the school. If she was a regular teacher then I think a lot more would have been done."

Angela McCormick, the headteacher, refused to comment on the incident. Oldham Council's service director for children, young people and families, Janet Doherty, said: "This is a matter for the individual school to resolve. "We have every confidence that the head will deal with it sensitively and appropriately."


Australia: Poor teachers to blame for kids' bad marks says Education Minister

He's partly right. But how come teaching is no longer an attractive profession? Would largely non-existent discipline be something to do with it? And what does it say about the 4-year courses aspiring teachers have to do before getting a teaching job? Does the word "useless" spring to mind?

Education minister Rod Welford says Queensland's ailing school system is linked to the incapacity of our universities to attract quality teachers. Mr Welford has signalled trainee teacher standards need urgent attention. Mr Welford yesterday compared Queensland teaching qualifications with those of the world leader Finland, which demands teachers have a Masters of Education. "In Finland it's very high competition to get into teaching and here we don't attract, for some reason, our best and brightest," Mr Welford said.

His comments come a day after Premier Anna Bligh announced an independent review of the school system, triggered by Queensland's latest poor showing in international exams. The Courier-Mail can confirm the Minister this week wrote to Melbourne education consultant Professor Brian Caldwell, inviting him to present his 10-point plan to turn around the dimming prospects of the state's languishing students.

Professor Caldwell and Brisbane's Dr Jessica Harris, who co-wrote Why Not The Best Schools, after five years' research into what makes the world's top schools tick, will present their conclusions to the heads of the department. The book and its 10-year plan draws heavily from Finland.

Professor Caldwell and Dr Harris yesterday said the Finnish move to raise standards and prestige of teaching through a compulsory Masters of Education, was critical to their success. Dr Harris said only the top 10 per cent of applicants were accepted to teaching; the most sought-after course. Such a cut-off in Queensland would equate to an Overall Position (OP) score of 3 or 4, and is in sharp contrast to the generous standards of Queensland universities. Scores needed to enter a Bachelor of Education in this state over the past two years ranged from Overall Position 12 to 19.

Queensland Teachers Union president Steve Ryan said such standards were far too low. He said OPs were generally nothing more than a measure of supply and demand in a particular year, and a method to fund university courses. "It doesn't solve the problem by changing them (entrance marks)," he said. "We've got to create a scenario that teachers with top OP scores compete for positions."

The union chief said he interpreted Mr Welford's comments about Queensland not attracting high-calibre teaching candidates as a discussion about raising the status of the profession.

The academic performances of Finland's schools are never published, with the state trusting school leaders to implement the curriculum effectively and provide equity of access to every child. Opposition Leader Lawrence Springborg said Mr Welford's move to blame teachers for the poor school results was typical of the Labor Government, which never accepted any responsibility for its actions or lack of action.


This idolization of Finland has some merit but comparability between Finland and Australia is low. As just one example, the foreign-born population in Finland is just 2.5 percent, and most of those are people who fit into Finnish society with relative ease: Russians, Estonians and Swedes. Australia, by contrast, is one of the most multi-cultural and multi-racial countries on earth. So picking out the fact that Finnish teachers have Master's degrees as the crucial difference shows that we are listening to propaganda, not any serious attempt at analysis

University experience is all the better if you leave home

I generally agree with James Allan but I fail to see that he makes his case below. In my observation kids in residential colleges seem mainly characterized by very juvenile behaviour and heavy drinking. Developing a feeling of fellowship with others of a similar age is however an advantage -- though more of an emotional one than anything else

A little under four years ago, I arrived to take up a professorship at the University of Queensland. Before that, I worked in or visited universities in New Zealand, Canada, Hong Kong, the United States and Britain. The first thing that hit me - and it still staggers me - is the pervasive managerialism of Australian universities. I have never encountered anything like it, anywhere (though a few people with experience of the ex-Soviet bloc may have).

A close second was the wasteful and ridiculous obsession with applying for grants in the humanities and law. No one would judge a car company by how many government grants it got, but by the quality and sales of the cars it produced. (Maybe that's not the best example at the moment with this government.) In the university sector here though, success at getting grants (an input) is treated as a sign of excellence (an output) in its own right. That's moronic.

But from the point of view of students, perhaps the most striking difference I've noticed between Australian universities and those in the other countries in which I've worked, is the relative dearth of residence or college places in the older, and best, universities. My personal experience and professional observations make me think students are better off leaving home and going into residence when they start university. This is a highly chosen option, if not the norm, in my native Canada, as well as in the US and Britain. New Zealand's oldest university, and one of its two best, is situated in a small university town, and relies on the bulk of its students coming from all over the country, including almost a third who come down from Auckland.

Australian universities, and especially the older, elite ones, are overwhelmingly big-city commuter universities. They take a small percentage of students into residence, mainly from the country. On top of that, there is next to no tradition of large numbers of students travelling out of state to another university. If you are from Sydney you go to a Sydney university; if from Melbourne to one in Melbourne. University students stay at home. They commute to, and home from, the campus. The overall learning experience - in both a narrow academic sense and in a wider life-changing (including having fun) sense - is far inferior to going to a residence university. Given any two universities even remotely comparable in their academic excellence, if one is residence and the other commuter, students should do whatever they possibly can to attend the residence one.

What about the cost? Well, the differential costs argument really isn't all that powerful once you factor in the cost of running a car to go back and forth at the commuter university and then recall that adding, say, $20,000-odd to your final loan is not much at all in the greater scheme of getting a first-class all-round university experience you will always remember, and a big leg up in likely lifetime earnings. What's the difference, really, between a $300,000 mortgage on your first home and a $320,000 one?

I have two children, one 15 and one 13. The sad truth is should either ask my opinion, I would not advise attending an Australian university. I think both would be better off attending a Canadian or (one in particular) NZ university. You just cannot beat the life-changing experience of living away from home at a residence university. Whether anything can now be done about the lack of top residence universities in Australia is dubious. No doubt it is a failing that in large part is a function of historical contingency. But it's still a shame.


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