Wednesday, May 07, 2014

Children as young as four made to study BAREFOOT at British primary school which banned shoes because it 'improves the learning environment'

Primary school children have been told to wear only socks for lessons after shoes were banned in an attempt to improve children's results.

Holmbush Primary School in Shoreham, West Sussex, declared that children should study barefoot after the school's 'Learning Council', made up of Year Six pupils, found that 'shoeless classrooms' could help pupils learn.

After a trial, which was deemed successful by children and staff, the 240-pupil school's governors agreed to make the policy official, and Holmbush became a 'shoeless school' in January this year.

The unusual philosophy, which originated in Scandinavia, where shoes bring in slush, snow and ice, suggests that children both learn and behave better when their feet are unrestricted by shoes.

Pupils are said to be gentler with each other, concentrate better, and other benefits include cleaner and more hygienic carpets.

Pupils at Holmbush, which is deemed 'good' by Ofsted, are allowed to go barefoot or to wear socks and slippers whenever they are in the school building, and only put on school shoes when they head outdoors to play.

Headmistress Rebecca Jackson said: 'Shoeless classrooms were brought in to improve the learning environment.'

However children and staff discovered one downside of shoeless learning last week when a fire alarm sounded and the children had to file out onto the wet playground in their socks.

Some parents and carers were upset that the children got their feet wet as a result, with one grandmother of a five-year-old at the school saying: 'It’s absolutely ridiculous.

'Thee pupils were ushered out of the door without their shoes, and my grandson was stood there on a soaking wet playground in just his socks.

'When they came back into the school, they had to take their socks off, so when we went to collect the kids nearly all of them came out wearing shoes and no socks.'

She added: 'It is just disgusting. There are so many health hazards about kids walking about in socks on the wooden floors and chair legs slamming on their feet, but the reassurance we’ve been given is that posters are no longer stuck on walls with drawing pins.

'Even in hospitals you’re not allowed to walk about barefoot because of health and safety implications.'

Headteacher Rebecca Jackson said: 'The children’s safety is of the utmost importance, which is why we evacuated the building.

'During the afternoon, children with wet socks or tights were given spare dry ones and theirs were dried.'

She added: 'Shoeless classrooms have nothing to do with [protecting] the carpet tiles - we haven’t had any new carpets fitted since 2007.'


'Ditch Shakespeare in British schools and give children Adrian Mole instead'

Best-selling author claims the Bard turns youngsters off reading because they can't 'relate' to his work

A best-selling author has urged the Government to substitute plays by William Shakespeare for more modern works on the curriculum, arguing teenagers cannot relate to the Bard.

GP Taylor, whose work includes Shadowmancer, described Shakespeare as 'dry' and claims more up-to-date books would ensure younger generations become enchanted with reading.

Figures show that children growing up in his home county of Yorkshire are less likely to master the basics in reading and writing than those anywhere else in the country.

Mr Taylor claimed a key problem is the choice of books pupils are asked to study, adding: 'I do think Shakespeare is a real killer.

'Young people tell me that it is a real pain for them and I think it puts them off.

'Not just Shakespeare, but it puts them off books in general. The language and the context is just not relevant to them and often they study it without the performance, so it’s just dry.

'Nobody will want to criticise Shakespeare because he is the nation’s Bard but when I visit schools young people tell me that reading Shakespeare is a pain.

'The key is to get them to read about things which are relevant to their lives.'

He has called for the works of more modern authors such as Sue Townsend, who wrote the series of Adrian Mole books and died last month, to be taught in lessons.

The author, from Scarborough in North Yorkshire says the Government should fund schools to bring more writers into the classroom to inspire a love of storytelling among young people.

Mr Taylor said books like The Secret Diary Of Adrian Mole (left) and The Lost Diaries of Adrian Mole were more appropriate to youngsters studying at school today

He says that having authors and storytellers meeting children helps to get young people interested in reading.

'Authors are storytellers,' he added. 'They know how to get people interested in the story and I find that even when we are saying the same things as the teachers pupils will be more open to us as we are not their teacher.

'The problem is, of course, that authors cannot give up all of their time free of charge and so this costs money. I think it is something the Government should look at.

'Funding schools to ensure every pupil has the chance to meet authors and work with them. It makes a huge difference. I see it myself and in other authors I speak to do as well.'

He has also urged schools and the Government to look to bring more modern writing into the school curriculum.


Chinese teaching is not the best plan for Britain'

Plans to bring teachers from China to Britain in the hope of matching their world-beating results are flawed, according to expatriate parents

When education minister Elizabeth Truss suggested maths could be better taught to British children by the Chinese, it wasn’t just teachers in Britain who were sceptical.

Since 2002, local schools in Shanghai have gradually been opening up to foreign students, and now, each year, hundreds of expat parents send their children to bilingual schools that employ strict Chinese teaching methods.

Last month, Mrs Truss announced plans to invite up to 60 Shanghai teachers to England as part of an £11 million programme to raise maths standards in the state system.

But members of the expat community familiar with local teaching methods were not convinced it will work. Although unanimous in their praise for high levels of educational expectation, classroom discipline and work ethic in the Chinese system, expat parents expressed deep reservations about the rote-learning road to results.

"There’s definitely a danger in leaping to the conclusion that this country has got it absolutely right," said American mother Melanie Ham, who sends her nine-year-old daughter Annabel to Aiju Primary School, a local Chinese school with an international division.

Despite the fact that Annabel is able to complete maths homework that outshines her peers back home, Ham admitted that she will probably send her daughter to an international school after Year 6.

"I show the worksheets of my child to my teacher friend [at home], and she’s in shock. She says the first and the second-graders are doing the same as the third and the fourth in her school," she said.

"But my daughter’s creative, and I’m not sure her abilities will be nurtured."

It’s a common refrain among parents. Memorising Chinese characters, maths equations, and science formulas for tests leaves little time for projects that require independent, reflective thought, or group work.

From their first year onwards, children have at least 10 hours of school work per day. In addition many students have tutors during the week and at weekends, while striving to add extracurricular skills to their CVs from an early age.

All roads lead to the multiple-day university entrance exam (the gaokao) - a test of memory that determines the trajectory of a student’s higher education career.

Recently, Shanghai students were ranked the most successful in the world in a series of reading, maths and science tests, in a study by the Organisation for Economic Development (OECD). The UK came 26th.

Jennifer Jenson, who teaches students aged 15-18 at the Shanghai Weiyu High School for native Chinese children, was not surprised.

"My son is going to start a local primary school in the autumn. He’ll have about three hours of homework every night," she said.

"His friends have had tutoring to help them get into their primary schools. They’re out of nappies and start taking tests, so of course they’re good at it.

"If all you did in the UK was give kids maths lessons, five hours a day, everyone would be brilliant in exams. There’s no secret Chinese method."

The US-born teacher and her English husband, who teaches geography and business at the same school, both described the British government’s plan as "terrible".  "When it comes to applying any technical knowledge they have, they can’t do it. I don’t think that’s what the UK wants from their kids," said Mrs Jenson.

Yet local parents harbour strong admiration for certain elements of what Mrs Truss called the "Shanghai method".

British mother Harriet Gaywood moved her nine-year-old daughter Anoushka from an international school to the local YK Pao School two years ago, to improve her performance.

Since then, her daughter has flourished; a fact Mrs Gaywood put down to a shift away from unhelpful beliefs that have become entrenched in the West, such as "girls can’t do maths" and "homework is optional".

“Chinese teachers could teach English teachers about discipline. And that all subjects should be taken seriously. Maths shouldn’t be seen as an opt-out course because it’s not cool.”

Mrs Ham added that the Chinese cultural tradition of children respecting their teachers means discipline levels are high in classrooms.

"The teacher is a venerated role. Kids want to please their teachers, do the very best they can, and are rewarded for that."

However, this highly authoritarian approach to learning has its flip side. As Mrs Jenson pointed out: "If the teacher says something, they write it down, it goes in their book, and they memorise it.

"But it’s very difficult to get them to have discussion and conversation. You can tell them something ridiculous like ‘salt grows on the moon’ and they just write it down and memorise it."


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