Thursday, December 12, 2013

'I like to see a student bossom': British headmaster reveals 'semi-literate' applications received for job at top boarding school

A headmaster has revealed the 'semi-literate' job applications he received from state school teachers vying for a post at his top boarding school.

Among the spelling mistake-ridden CVs received by Richard Cairns were boasts that one history teacher liked 'to see a student bossom' (sic), while a chemistry teacher gave his date of birth as 1053.

Mr Cairns, the headmaster at leading private school Brighton College, was so appalled at the poor standards displayed by candidates for the post of assistant headteacher that he has made details of their applications public.

Among the 50 CVs and covering letters Mr Cairns received, 30 were from state school teachers.

Just one state school teacher was among the final eight candidates, and he did not get the job.

Mr Cairns told The Sunday Times: 'Of the 30 from state schools, 12 were semi-literate. These are serving teachers and this is really worrying.'

The headmaster said the spelling errors, coupled with the low standard of academic qualifications achieved by many of the applicants, showed the failings of many teachers working in state schools.

He questioned how such candidates with low A-level grades and third-class university degrees could impart basic education to children and called for the introduction of minimum standards which potential staff must meet before they are allowed to teach.

Mr Cairns also said that many teachers between 25 and 40 who had themselves been taught in state schools had never been taught basic grammar, spelling, and sentence structure.

Among the CVs received was one from a chemistry teacher, who used the word 'form' instead of 'from' when describing how long he had been a teacher, wrote that he had been born in 1053 and included two pages documenting his experience of flying a single-engine aircraft.

He also wrote about being a keen sailor three times in his application.

Others had poor qualifications, including C,D, and E grades at A-level, with one hoping to land the post despite having achieved just five O-levels and a typing certificate.

One candidate wrote his application in block capitals, while a woman teacher said her skills involved 'diversity and cultural competence'.

A history teacher wrote that he 'liked to see a student bossom', while other letters addressed Mr Cairns as 'Mr Richard', or simply 'Cairns'.

Mr Cairns said that he would like to see a minimum standard introduced in which teachers had achieved at least three B grades at A-level, and a 2:1 degree in their chosen teaching subject.

Last week a new international study revealed that British pupils lag behind leading nations including Singapore, Hong Kong, South Korea, Japan and the Chinese city of Shanghai.

The study was carried out as part of the Programme for International Student Assessment (PISA), and focused on applied skills rather than theoretical knowledge.

The findings show that the UK's average score for maths was 494 and in reading it was 499, roughly average for all countries and on a par with the Czech Republic, France and Norway.

Britain did better in science with an above-average 514 points, similar to Australia, Ireland and Slovenia.

Official figures have shown that one-in-five of state secondary school maths teachers in England do not have a maths degree, with the same being true of 34 per cent of physics teachers.

A spokesman for the Department for Education said that a record number of high-achieving graduates are now applying to become teachers.

'We are reforming teacher training to attract the best graduates and professionals, investing £4m in professionals, investing £4m in professional development for existing teachers and reforming pay so schools can attract the best teacher who have the greatest impact on their pupil's achievements,' he said.


How PGCE courses are turning out semi-literate teachers

The British Postgraduate certificate in education (PGCE) is a Mickey Mouse teacher training course taken after a degree.  It usually takes one year

I'm sitting only a third of a mile from the gates of Brighton College, so my eye latched onto this news story in the Sunday Times this morning. Richard Cairns, head master at the school, has released (anonymised) versions of applications to the post of assistant head at the College, to highlight the poor punctuation and other grammatical errors made within too many.

Read the whole article for the full jaw-dropping horror – the most amusing is the applicant who liked "to see a student bossom", but the most frightening, I think, isn't a display of poor grammar or bad spelling, but the naked solipsism on show. The candidate wrote "I am also a keen sailor" three times within his or her application.

Three times! Once might be forgiven – the marina is only a half mile or so away – but to remind your reader that "I am also a keen sailor" three times in one letter (of application to be a schoolteacher) points to a young person fully trained in the age's number one dogma: nothing else matters than that you follow your dream! Simon Cowell/Brighton College will make it happen! Teaching children – how mundane – "that's just what I did till I like achieved my life ambition? I've always been a keen sailor, me?"

Brighton College is one of the best schools in the country, and a fee-paying independent one (which did not offer the keen sailor a job, parents of its students will be reassured to learn.) What motivated Mr Cairns to release the dreadful letters is that of the 30 he received from state school teachers, "12 were semi-literate".

We shouldn't extrapolate from one set of applications to one position, but this chimes with too many anecdotes. I have a friend who's a state school teacher – with a PhD in chemistry and no interest in sailing, perhaps he should have applied for that College position – who despairs at the standards of arithmetic and spelling among his peers.

What should be done? Mr Cairns offers this advice: "Ministers need to decree that teachers need a minimum of three Bs at A-level and an upper second-class degree in their subject before they are allowed to teach."

I'm not sure that any criteria, no matter how well-founded, should be used as a threshold to determine one's fitness to teach. The Labour Party disagrees with me: they insist that teachers have a qualification, but none of that elitist "upper second-class degree" nonsense. They favour the PGCE, the state licence to teach.

Labour demand all teachers carry the PGCE because (their trades union owners demand that they do so, and because) it will help cripple Free Schools, the schools most likely to bring Brighton College-style schooling to children whose parents could otherwise ill afford it. Labour realise these schools are too popular to attack head-on, so instead they will attempt to make them as much like any other state school as possible. They'll keep the label: they're fond of labels.

Labels like "PGCE". Those 12 semi-literate state-school applicants … I wonder how many of them possessed a PGCE? All of them, I expect. All of them out there, somewhere, teaching children how to think.


10-Year-Old Boy Threatened with School Expulsion for Shooting Imaginary Bow

“I shot an arrow into the air/It fell to earth, I knew not where/For, so swiftly it flew, the sight/Could not follow it in its flight.”

I’m sorry but that Longfellow poem now falls under educational zero tolerance guidelines for describing a weapon being used. All children have already been put into kneeling position and told that they might be killed at any moment.

Johnny Jones, a fifth grader at South Eastern Middle School, was suspended for a day and threatened with expulsion under the school’s weapons policy after playfully using his hands to draw the bowstrings on a pretend “bow” and “shoot” an arrow at a classmate who had held his folder like an imaginary gun and “shot” at Johnny.

The incident took place the week of October 14th, when fifth grader Johnny Jones asked his teacher for a pencil during class. Jones walked to the front of the classroom to retrieve the pencil, and during his walk back to his seat, a classmate and friend of Johnny’s held his folder like an imaginary gun and “shot” at Johnny.

Johnny playfully used his hands to draw the bowstrings on a completely imaginary “bow” and “shot” an arrow back. Seeing this, another girl in the class reported to the teacher that the boys were shooting at each other. The teacher took both Johnny and the other boy into the hall and lectured them about disruption.

The teacher then contacted Johnny’s mother, Beverly Jones, alerting her to the “seriousness” of the violation because the children were using “firearms” in their horseplay, and informing her that the matter had been referred to the Principal.

Principal John Horton contacted Ms. Jones soon thereafter in order to inform her that Johnny’s behavior was a serious offense that could result in expulsion under the school’s weapons policy. Horton characterized Johnny’s transgression as “making a threat” to another student using a “replica or representation of a firearm” through the use of an imaginary bow and arrow.

Horton doesn’t actually know what a firearm is. But sadly there’s no zero tolerance policy for grievous ignorance or incompetence by educational personnel.

According to the South Eastern School District’s Zero Tolerance policy for “Weapons, Ammunition and other Hazardous Items,” the district prohibits the possession of “weapons,” defined as including any “knife, cutting instrument, cutting tool, nunchaku, firearm, shotgun, rifle and any other tool, instrument or implement capable of inflicting serious bodily injury.” The Student Code further prohibits any “replica” or “look-alike” weapon, and requires that the school Principal immediately contact the appropriate police department, complete an incident report to file with the school Superintendent, and begin the process of mandatory expulsion immediately

In the year 2013, for the first time in human history, imaginary weapons were outlawed. It’s quite a milestone.

Southeastern looks like a cheerful place. Its motto is “Providing progressive education to strengthen the global community.”

Providing Progressive Education to Strengthen the Global Community. We demonstrate mutual trust and collaborate to champion respect and responsibility on a local, national and global level. We recognize and nurture the value and unique abilities of all individuals as we demonstrate respect for the beliefs and ideas of one another.

So basically just the kind of place you would expect to ban imaginary bows and arrows.

“Long, long afterward, in an oak/I found the arrow, still unbroke/And the song, from beginning to end/I found again in the heart of a friend.”


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