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One primary teacher's open letter to the government: 'The standards expected are now untenable'

Discussion in 'Education news' started by TES_Rosaline, Feb 24, 2016.

  1. whitestag

    whitestag Senior commenter

    He's entitled to his opinion. I don't entirely agree with it but he makes an interesting point.
  2. nical73

    nical73 Occasional commenter

    Well said oldsomeman.
    Yes - everyone's entitled to their opinion but he is clearly deluded (my opinion).
    Maybe PaulDG should spend this weekend planning a week's worth of Spag, English, History, Geography, PSHE, RE, Science, DT, Art and Music as well as his only subject (Maths).
    Then , during one of his many free periods, he might like to comment again on Primary Education.
    Oh - and when he's planned, delivered, tripled marked and assessed all of these lessons he might then justify his recent assessments on the new writing exemplifications for all 30 children in his class.
    Just a thought!
    chelsea2 likes this.
  3. whitestag

    whitestag Senior commenter

    He wasnt commenting on the workload, he was commenting on the progressive methods employed by primary teachers. I'm sorry, but I've seen it with my own eyes. Primary teachers can get as indignant as they like and claim a badge for working themselves into the ground but some (just some) really do think they're supervising a playgroup and as long as the children have been entertained then that's job done. It isn't.

    I am a primary teacher and I can listen to another point of view without describing that person as 'deluded'. He doesn't need to go and spend months in a primary school to have his view, just as you don't need to go and spend months in a secondary before commenting on a secondary teacher's 'only subject' and his 'many free periods'.

    He's making a point based on what he sees coming through to him in secondary. If that's how he feels, he's entitled to say it.

    Just to reiterate, I do not entirely agree with his view. But I don't think we should be so defensive about it either.
    aspensquiver_2 and phlogiston like this.
  4. MTC68

    MTC68 New commenter

    As a parent of 2 year 6s the idea that anything other than political timings driving such a dramatic change over this time scale frustrates me, on behalf of my children and their classmates.

    As a Governor (aka Director) at Secondary it seems another overly rapid, ill-judged change.

    As an adult human being functioning pretty efficiently in society, as a Consultant Surgeon, with a University education, Masters, Doctorate and a number of publications I don't understand half the grammar terminology they're expected to know. Save the occasional episode of University Challenge, it's not something I ever feel I've needed. Although the intellectual challenge has some merit, that's not what an acceptable level of English should be about at end year 6.
  5. nical73

    nical73 Occasional commenter

    Just to reiterate "deluded" just my opinion as he is entitled to his!
    whitestag likes this.
  6. whitestag

    whitestag Senior commenter

    I agree, the grammar terminology that 11 year olds are expected to learn is not necessary. Most graduates don't know what 'the subjunctive mood' is.
    TEA2111 likes this.
  7. whitestag

    whitestag Senior commenter

    Fair enough :D

    I'm just interested in his view because I have seen slight flashes of truth in what he says. I know that the vast vast majority of us primary teachers do an excellent job, despite the nonsense forced on us from the government. Especially at the moment!
  8. oldsomeman

    oldsomeman Star commenter

    White stag.
    I have spent many years as a full time and supply teacher and in the course of that time have seen many teachers teaching, and I accept some are good and some bad....but in the last few years I have seen few 'progressive' classrooms any more and most moving to the old ways.
    i suppose he needs to define progressive........but what I see is not the way of the 1970's style of teaching in which there was laxer methodology and attainment. I object that one person can label all as doing what he deems wrong.....not the view..even idiots and brilliant folk are allowed to have views.
    Many do not like my views, but to condemn a profession is wrong.Even if some do not teach correctly, in his view point.
    whitestag likes this.
  9. nical73

    nical73 Occasional commenter

    Thank you. Similarly I know that the vast majority of secondary school teachers do an excellent job too. Was just offended by his sweeping statement telling us to teach properly!
    whitestag likes this.
  10. whitestag

    whitestag Senior commenter

    Absolutely. I agree with you and @oldsomeman, it's not correct to label an entire profession. I guess I reacted to it more with curiosity. If someone stood in my classroom and claimed I was teaching with failed progressive methods at the expense of the progress of my children, I would certainly put them right! :D
  11. Vince_Ulam

    Vince_Ulam Star commenter

    I don't think @PaulDG was making an unqualified point about Primary teachers, only towards those who feel this open letter is heroic. I agree with him. The spectacle of a Primary English coordinator complaining that she is required to teach spelling is appalling, made worse by the rush of people falling over one another to laud her.
    aspensquiver_2 likes this.
  12. whitestag

    whitestag Senior commenter

    It's not quite as simple as that Vince. You could enter me for a masters level physics exam, I would work my socks off to do well on it, but the truth is that I would probably not reach the required standard. I do agree with her that the new expected standard from the government is beyond a great deal of children, regardless of how hard they and their teachers work and that is unfair on the primary teaching profession.
    Jamietzu likes this.
  13. oldsomeman

    oldsomeman Star commenter

    I would argue that like most English content in Primary, a lot of the content is unnecessary. What place does understanding of the ability to parse sentences and explaining grammatical notions really play in a lot of peoples lives, how often do we analyse sentences and books,how often so we sit down and say goodness me they have that incorrect term or word.
    I would much sooner my year 6 children have an ability to write correctly,using correct tense and understanding first and third person for example, being able to correctly spell the 2000 plus words we use on a regular basis and have a wide vocabulary brought about by exposure to writings of different genre and with some understanding of styles and formats.
    I want children who can write with passion.who can explain what they think and say and not be worried about all the technicality because some ex grammer man decided they needed to, rather than seeing it is the best for our children.
    Landofla, guinnesspuss and TEA2111 like this.
  14. PaulDG

    PaulDG Occasional commenter

    We don't actually know this standard is beyond a great deal of children. I very much doubt it is.

    Obviously, it's beyond many year 6 children right now. In large part that's because those 10-11 year olds have been subjected to a great deal of time wasting due to Progressive teaching methods being used in primary instead of methods that actually work and the months, perhaps years, lost to pandering to poor behaviour of some in the classes.

    Burn the 'look say' books, get the kids off the mat and get them sat at desks facing the front. Stop wasting their time with 'independent learning'; they don't know anything so they can't teach it to each other. Put the iPads back in the boxes or sell them on ebay.

    You probably know what Shakespeare was reading when he was in year 6. The same things the other year 6s in his day were reading.

    He and they weren't just expected to know English Grammar, but Greek and Latin too.

    Yes, this is hard for year 6 teachers but they need to stop blaming government and look to their own SLT who have put them in this position by encouraging KS1 teachers to prevent the kids actually learning anything.
  15. Scintillant

    Scintillant Star commenter

    At least we have one very large experiment going on that will give us the answer

    As long as it's not teacher assessed of course.

    It's not, is it?
    aspensquiver_2 likes this.
  16. oldsomeman

    oldsomeman Star commenter

    His learning was also at the point of a good beating every time he got it wrong..are you advocating that as well maybe?
  17. whitestag

    whitestag Senior commenter

    Maybe the issue is the all-or-nothing pass-fail style of the new expected standard.

    At secondary, pupils of different abilities can aim for a realistic but challenging grade on their GCSEs. If they achieve it, they've done as well as they can for them. I don't think secondary schools would be so foolish as to insist that every pupil either attained an A grade, or failed.

    At primary, they either attain the expected standard or they are labelled a failure.
  18. oldsomeman

    oldsomeman Star commenter

    As a child I sat in the ways you are advocating..in rows, hands on display, teacher at front,blackboard chalk thrown or ruler used to rap my knuckles if I fidgeted.We learn by reading a book,spent hours writing out sentences and studying gloomy text books,We copied maps off the board and learnt lots of dates and facts about the Empire
    At the end of year 6 I was no wiser and learnt more by reading at home and studying an encyclopedia.It took secondary school to develop ,my education and continued self reading to give breadth to learning.
    will it work today .sitting in lines, rote learning .etc....not in my mind unless your going to change society and cut out all the life young folk today experience such as computers and games etc.
  19. Vince_Ulam

    Vince_Ulam Star commenter

    Really, it is. I highlighted the spelling complaint for convenience but the letter is consistent in tone. The author doesn't wish to teach children to a certain standard because a small proportion of children will be incapable. Why should we deny education to the majority because the minority cannot achieve? Do we cancel PE lessons because some children have asthma? At her school the author has a responsibility for Music & Performing Arts - why, when some children are tone deaf and clumsy?

    Extravagant analogy fails at several levels, notably that you are not immersed from birth in the science of Physics as children are immersed from birth in the English language.

    Paul anticipated my response to this. From Early Years on up children have been subjected to Constructivist methods so no, right now Year 6 students won't be capable of killing these tests. Many Primary teachers don't even know that there is a name encompassing their enquiry-based lessons, project work &c, that there are traditional ways of teaching which work far more effectively. For too long all they've had to think about was how to contrive situations in which children could demonstrate Level competencies before they passed them on to their colleagues who would do the same until the children arrive in Year 7 and have to deal with the horrible shock that actual work is expected of them. It's about time this changed.

    I don't blame Primary teachers for doing what they're doing, I blame successive governments for turning teaching into a graduate starter job and I blame the ITT industry for shovelling inadequately qualified & cultured people into schools as though they were churning out nothing more than call-centre staff.
    Last edited: Feb 25, 2016
    aspensquiver_2 likes this.
  20. whitestag

    whitestag Senior commenter

    I'll pick you up on one point there, Vince. Not all children in our primary schools are immersed in the English language from birth. Large numbers of children with English as an additional language, for example. Children who from birth to starting school have never been given stimulation in language through books and conversation.

    Whether you like it or not, society has changed. More and more children arrive in schools just not ready for it, and schools have to take on the role of parent, social worker, counsellor and all the rest. That's before they can get them into a correct frame of mind to learn.

    I agree with many of yours and Paul's points about constructivist teaching and the complicity of successive governments in this. I also agree about the standards of trainee teachers coming into the profession. Some of them are appalling. But you can't simply say 'teach kids this way' as if its a magic wand. It isn't.

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