Tuesday, January 16, 2018

Teaching in Britain is HARD

The writer below is right to condemn the blizzard of red tape that benights teachers but treads lightly on the biggest problem:  Pupil indiscipline.  That is extremely stressful and destructive of all that a teacher tries to do. That needs to be recognized and dealt with  -- but there's no sign of it.  It's "too hard" to do anything that might upset the little petals.

Britain’s teachers are overworked, underpaid and put under so much stress that a small army of them leave the profession every year for another job. Assuming, that is, they are well enough to secure alternative employment. Last year some 3,750 of them were signed off on long-term sick leave due to pressure, anxiety, and mental illness. That number came via a freedom of information request submitted by the Liberal Democrats.

The figures show that one in 83 members of the profession is now out of action for the long haul, which is up 5 per cent on last year. All told, 1.3 million sick days were taken for reasons relating to stress and mental health over the past four years, including 312,000 in 2016-17.

Numbers like that will come as a surprise only to people who have no experience of living with and/or around members of the teaching profession.

As someone who has that experience, I can testify that the average figure of a 55-hour working week for classroom teachers, 60 hours for school leaders, actually looks to be a little on the low side.

Contrary to popular belief, teachers do not knock off at 3.30, or shortly after whenever the gates at their particular schools shut. Nor do they start a few minutes before they open.

They spend many hours before and after their pupils have left engaged in meticulous and detailed lesson-planning, form-filling, data collection, marking, assessments and dealing with whatever crap Whitehall mandarins dream up to dangle under the nose of the latest Education Secretary so they can make it look like they’re doing their jobs before they knock off early.

Thanks to the desperate desire of a succession of Education Secretaries – from both major parties I’m sorry to say – to be seen as “reforming” and “dedicated to improving standards”, today’s children undergo a blizzard of assessments.

Schools frequently have one or another of their teachers spending half their time not teaching but collating and processing data. Every child is transformed into a mass of data points with a granularity that would surprise all but the most diligent of forensic accountants.

And those holidays that radio talk show hosts and callers find so bothersome? They’re mythical. No teacher I know gets anything like the 13 weeks per year during which schools don’t hold lessons. They’d never get everything done if they took all that time off.

All this comes on top of, you know, attempting to educate classes full of 30 kids or more, which is a challenge most Britons would find quite beyond them. I know I would. I know most cabinet ministers would, although I’d dearly love to see Boris Johnson trying to keep control of a class full of stroppy 15-year-olds at an inner city comp. It might inject a much needed dose of humility into the corpulent buffoon that masquerades as Britain’s Foreign Secretary.

Now imagine trying to teach a class of 30 kids when you’re knackered, having spent half the previous night filling in forms. It makes me shudder just thinking about it. More to the point, it’s not good for our children. It really isn’t.

I don’t know about you, but as a parent I want my kids’ teachers to be relaxed and rested when they hit the classroom because that’s when people typically do their best work.

I’m not against pushing people to give their best, and I’m not against high expectations, and I’m not even against a bit of stress, which can help guard against complacency and keep everyone’s eyes on the ball. But what we have now is people trying to do a demanding job under a pressure that has become so extreme it is driving them off a cliff.

This is not the first such set of data highlighting the issue. Stories like this periodically pop up and when they do, people go to the Department for Education for comment, which inevitably responds by ignoring the problem and saying something like “teaching is a great job and we’re hiring more teachers than ever”. The latter of course is because it is losing more teachers than ever.

The system is already creaking. Unfortunately, it might have to break before anything really changes and sadly a lot of people will get broken in the process. Our children will also pay a heavy price.


A citizen reply to a defender of the status quo in American schools

E. Scott Cracraft is a professor of history and social sciences at the New Hampshire Community College at Laconia.  He is a defender of American public schools and a critic of school reform.  His views are here

Scott Cracraft is no voice of reason in the debate that surrounds education. (That is) my first reaction after reading his commentary. His fiery rhetoric represents exactly what's wrong in society today. An opposing opinion isn't just a different view. It is a cause to suit up in full armor holding an axe.

It's no mystery why students act out defiantly and dangerously when others with a different view speak on campus. Last year, at Middlebury college a fist-throwing brawl erupted when an unwanted speaker took the podium. Several people required hospitalization including a professor. Intolerance and disrespect for opposing opinion is being taught on campus by teachers like Scott Cracraft. You can feel the pulse of this hate by simply reading Scott's commentary. It transcends intolerance immediately into bullying, outrage.

The person with the opposing view must be bad, mean, and a lower-class being. Scott's commentary was a full-throated, personal, axe wielding attack on those who disagree with him. This is the only method of engagement Scott Cracraft understands concerning opposing logic. That he is allowed to continually scream his public dividing, hate-spreading, divisiveness without being silenced by his superiors reveals the depth of the dysfunction in education top to bottom. It exposes the solidarity of the wall of obstruction in education to change. Change desperately needed to address what has been a thirty-year trail of failure by any macro measure as it concerns both the quality and price of education across America in all parts of it.

Education in America is under full, frontal attack with more than good reason. The in-your-face refusal by Scott and his peers to raise the quality of their product, and stop the cost spiral has brought "competition" to public education like it has never seen since its founding. The belligerent, bullying refusal to fix education by those running it has forced the public to embrace what I call the "work around." New Hampshire just passed education choice. Parents can now remove their kids from public schools. They can send them anywhere they believe their children can access a better education using public money. The less wealthy now access the same opportunities as the financially well heeled always have had. I cheer the equality! Charter schools, private schools, vouchers and alternatives to public schools are flourishing everywhere with good reason. Tens of millions of parents demand a far better product than public education often provides. Surely so in thousands of inner city schools in every big city in America.

Education's poor performance is not lack of money. Every study ever conducted reveals America spends more per student than any other country on earth while getting the most average results. We pay for a BMW education. We get a VW Beetle from Scott Cracraft and his peers, if we are lucky. Often we are not lucky. Education lacks a structure of compliance and accountability that assures both cost and quality will be achieved.

There is no commitment to academic excellence or cost control. In fact it's just the reverse. The first, and only concern of teacher unions is job security, increased wages and avoiding accountability. It has been that way since Eve bit the apple. Try telling a teachers' union we are only going to pay for success. They will laugh you silly. Their laughter has resulted in head-on competition for themselves. When teaching finally becomes about the kids' bests interests first, not teachers' best interests, it will be the best day for kids in America since the ink dried on the Constitution.

When education finally becomes a business, operated like one, with the same dedication to excellence in terms of best product for the best price will be the day competition with public education can stop. We will then — and only then — get the quality of product taxpayers want, pay for and kids must have to compete in the global economic world of today.


The hatred of selective government schools never stops

Instead of seeing such schools as a way to give bright kids from poor backgrounds the sort of education that private schools give, they are seen as offensive to the insane Leftist goal of "equality".  So reasons will always be found to downgrade them.  Report below from Australia

Education Minister Rob Stokes says opening up selective schools to local students would create a more equitable education system, as the NSW Department of Education reviews the decades-old system for teaching the state's brightest students.

Mr Stokes said the selective system should not "create a rigid, separated public education system".

"While recognising that selective schools have a history and are popular, is it correct that local kids must walk past a local public selective school that is closed to them?" he said.

"We need to have public schools that are inclusive of everyone rather than deliberately separate children on the basis that some are gifted and talented and others are not.

"There may be merit in opening up selective schools to local enrolments and providing more local opportunities to selective classes in comprehensive schools."

It is understood the idea involves introducing comprehensive streams to selective schools.

It comes as the department continues a wide-ranging review of its gifted and talented policy for NSW public schools, including an overhaul of the entry test for selective schools amid concerns that wealthy families are able to game the system by engaging expensive tutoring services.

NSW currently has 19 fully selective and 29 partially selective schools, the most of any state, and the Index of Community Socio-Educational Advantage (ICSEA) shows that the state's top-performing selective schools such as James Ruse, Baulkham Hills and North Sydney Boys are significantly more advantaged than exclusive private schools such as The King's School and Knox Grammar.

ICSEA scores are used by the Australian Curriculum, Assessment and Reporting Authority (ACARA) to assess the socio-educational background of a school's student cohort based on geographical location and parental education and occupation, with a higher score indicating a higher level of advantage.

The median ICSEA score in NSW is 1000.

James Ruse has an ICSEA score of 1240 and North Sydney Boys has a score of 1210, compared with King's score of 1160, and Knox's score of 1178.

Additionally, selective schools consistently outperform private and comprehensive schools in the Higher School Certificate, and comprised nine out of the top 10 schools by performance in last year's exams, including the privately selective Sydney Grammar.

Professor of education at the University of Sydney, Anthony Welch, said that a local intake to selective schools could ensure they better reflect the wider population.

"What we know about those schools is that they're increasingly selective not merely in academic terms but in social terms too," Professor Welch said. "Having a wider intake and more mixed classes would improve equity."

Professor Welch said selective schools also impact nearby comprehensive schools.  "They cream off all the high-achieving kids from the whole area, so the impact on neighbouring schools is quite the opposite," he said.

Mother-of-two Licia Heath, from Sydney's east, said having two selective schools, Sydney Boys and Sydney Girls, in the area has contributed to overcrowding at her local comprehensive school, Rose Bay Secondary College, which had 1132 students in 2017.

"We think the school's going to be in absolutely dire straits," said Ms Heath, who is a spokeswoman for the Community for Local Options for Secondary Education (CLOSE), which is calling for a new comprehensive co-educational high school for the area.

Ms Heath said she'd be happy to send her sons Jude and Leo Jungwirth, aged 9 and 6, respectively, to Sydney Boys if it was opened to local students. "I've had a look at the academic requirements and possibly one of our sons would get into it, but we want them to be at the same school," she said.

Labor's spokesman for education Jihad Dib said that he supports opening up selective schools but is also pushing for more selective streams in comprehensive schools. "Opening up selective schools to students who are otherwise excluded will ensure they've got the opportunity to go to a high-performing school," Mr Dib said.

"But what I'd really like to see are selective streams in every school so kids who want a selective school education can go to their local school."


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