Friday, October 08, 2010

Thank you Ms Birbalsingh.

I could be skirting with trouble with this post but, in my opinion, the most important speech at the Conservative Party Conference was made by Katharine Birbalsingh, a deputy headteacher from Camberwell. She connected with something that has been bothering me big-time for weeks - since I fell into conversation with a seemingly very competent young teacher who had moved from working in Wales to working in England (for family reasons). The response by her school to Ms Birbalsingh's speech is what prevents me from naming names here. But the story is quite terrifying.

In the Welsh school there was discipline, and my 'mole teacher' (this is what we've come to - terrified of Stasi-style management) loved her work, felt valued and positive about her contribution to developing the young people in her care. In her new school she has found total chaos. She is a child minder, rather than a teacher. She cares, but no-one else cares. People who started on their careers as dedicated teachers have been reduced to despair by the school's teaching environment. Several hundred uneducated, illiterate youngsters are released into society every year, devoid of structure, discipline and hope in their lives - feral in their attitude to life. Its a recipe for social disintegration. And nobody cares.

During the early months of the Coalition Government, there has been a lot of debate about changes in how we educate our children. The educational establishment has fought any prospect of change as a tigress defends her cubs. Because none of it has applied to Wales, I have not become hugely engaged with this debate. I only became stirred after speaking to someone at the sharp end of what politically correct claptrap has done to parts of England's education system. The young teacher I spoke to will look elsewhere for a more satisfying job. But the seeds of despair will continue to be sown until school's which perpetrate bad, vary bad education are reformed or closed down.

1 comment:

ex-Welsh council house laddie said...

"But the seeds of despair will continue to be sown until school's which perpetrate bad, very bad education are reformed or closed down."

I have vivid memories as a kid of attending Greenway Junior School in Llanrumney and living in 29 Cemaes Crescent (Trowbridge Council Estate), Cardiff one day and traveling through the night under blankets along with my other two brothers and sister to a huge council estate (as if Trowbridge wasn't big enough) in deepest, darkest south east London. My father had been laid off from 'the steel works' and moved the family through a council house exchange from Cardiff to another council estate on the outskirts of SE London.

I was sent to the school on the estate. It had 'progressive teaching'. Kids learnt through 'individual play exercises'. I couldn't relate to it because my teacher at Greenway taught the class as a whole - we learnt the "3Rs", backwards, sideways, and anyways up and down. I could do "Long Division" and "Long Multiplication" - I could read and write in joined up letters. The kids in my new class could not read or write properly, had never heard of long division or long multiplication.

Parents off the same estate with kids in the same school spoke to my Welsh mother demanding to know who her kids (especially my sister who was probably 7 or 8 at the time) could read and write. Teachers were actually embarrassed and explained to the same parents that my kid sister was very advanced for her age - no she wasn't, she had the benefit of 'whole class teaching' with concentration on 3Rs, none of the progressive crap.

The council house kids on that estate were essentially from poor homes and needed a thorough grounding in the 3Rs; you knew even as a kid if a family was hard-up, they had no carpet in the hallway (we had scraggly bits of carpet). To give these kids poor reading, math and writing skills was (now that I look back) a CRIME AGAINST HUMANITY, especially as the school was rich with teachers and the school had excellent facilities with novel features such as no corridors in some parts of the school where you actually walked through classrooms to get to your classroom – the ‘progressive theory’ was that by having to walk through classrooms instead of along corridors pupils formed a better community within the school.

Never mind, we got to form some theoretical community while the progressive teaching delivered violent damage on those kids education (I guess on mine too, but Thank the Lord, I could read and write and do math before attending that waste of space and time school).

“Like what she wrote’, the damage delivered on these innocent kids was a Crime Against Humanity.