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The Scottish Education System - what's wrong with it ???

Discussion in 'Scotland - education news' started by gnulinux, May 17, 2015.

  1. Potatoes005

    Potatoes005 Occasional commenter

    Great to read all this. But it's a shame it has gone this way. All right I hark back to they great days of the 70s and 80s which ok, weren't that great, but the job of teaching children was just the same - it is still, or should be a job led with the same principles.
  2. amysdad

    amysdad Established commenter

    OK. I'm going to chuck in my bit. For a bit of background, I had a career before coming into teaching, had a difficult student year, but more than found my feet in probation year (100% pass rate at Higher, class of 22 pupils) and am changing again (can't say what yet though as it will give me away and I'm not quite ready to burn bridges.)

    Firstly, someone said earlier that teachers have to shout a bit more about the problems. I totally agree. From what I can see, teachers are too ready just to accept the BS that falls from the tree rather than standing their ground. The various SNCT agreements are actually really clear to understand and straightforward - but I bet most teachers have never read them, let alone headteachers (and some scheming HTs will be relying on that fact.) An example - I know one school where the HT insists on having a full staff meeting every Tuesday, despite the fact that the local negotiating committee document says it only has to happen 8 times per year.

    So what's wrong? Assessment, firstly. At Senior phase, the problem isn't actually the number of individual assessments - over the course of a Higher year, for example, there's the same number of assessments as previously. What causes the problem is the fact that these assessments are (a) nothing like the exam itself, even going down to the fact that they are marked differently and pupils have to learn two or even three ways of answering a question instead of concentrating on one, and (b) because there is unlimited time and the use of books, can take over a week to complete instead of 35 - 40 minutes.

    In S1 - S3, the problem is what are you assessing against. All S1s come up to secondary as having completed Level 2 (Level 2 secure or, at least, consolidating, in oldnewspeak) - but in some cases, this is because primary teachers (P7 in particular) are having increasing pressure put on them to make sure that this is the case, before having the scrutiny of "why didn't wee Jimmy meet his level 2 outcomes, Miss Smith" with the insinuation that "he cannae read or write" is not an acceptable answer, and neither is "he's never bloody there in class" or, more simply, "he's just thick." This means that too many S1s are floundering with level 3 work, and secondary teachers are not allowed to drop a pupil back a level officially. Even then, the Es & Os are so vague that they're useless, and don't even get me started on the "significant aspects of learning."

    Secondly, the kids are just getting confused now by all the **** they get put in front of them. Most can understand the point of learning intentions, and almost all of them, when they get what it's for, understand success criteria. But try to explain to a 10 year old the skill that relates to the task he's doing, and he'll stare blankly at you. And by the time they're in S5, the majority doing exams just want to get through the course and know what they have to learn.

    Thirdly, there is still a gap between management and teachers. Teaching is unlike some other professions in that the management are normally former grafters, so should have an idea of what's happening at the chalkface. However, too much time away from the classroom can inevitably leave you with a bit of a mythical recall about what it's actually like, and a feeling that you've done that so you don't have to bother about it. Some senior managers in schools are starting to take classes again in their subjects, and I think that's a great idea - it keeps them in touch with both the kids and the job. Some senior managers don't need that to keep in touch. But I would argue that most do, and the job of teaching has changed so much already in the short time I've been involved that someone who has been out of the classroom for 5 or 10 years will certainly lack understanding of what's expected in terms of paperwork, etc.

    A final point is that there's no real independent scrutiny of the education system in Scotland. HMIe, as part of Education Scotland, is too closely linked to the government to properly scrutinise the system. They need to be given fully independent status - arms length from both Government and Education Scotland - and full oversight over everything relating to education, from Government departments through SQA down to the smallest nursery school. That means more funding, too. Also, because CfE has been a cross-party project, there's no political scrutiny either.

    CfE offered (and still offers) so much more opportunity for education in Scotland, if it was done properly. But because of "bandwagoning", cuts in finance (yes, that's you Ms Sturgeon, you may have kept the number of teachers up but if we don't have the money to buy jotters or pens then that's a somewhat moot point) and insufficient scrutiny then it's going to fall apart again. Oh no wait - it won't fall apart, there'll just be another curriculum coming along on the approaching bandwagon, one appropriate for the 2020s (which means, by the time it's adopted, it's 2035)....
    ozlass likes this.
  3. bigjimmy2

    bigjimmy2 Established commenter

    One, Yes, we are a bunch of sheep. We are our own worst enemy. We do accept the BS thrown at us. I'm as guilty of this as anyone else. For me, a large part is knowing that complaints are just futile.

    Yes again, what we are assessing is variable, even unknown?! We are not allowed to fail anyone anymore - the thickos (sorry) "pass" at a lower level. Teachers are confused. Pupils are confused. Parents are confused. Just think of the number/percentage of 16-yos that leave school barely literate or numerate. CfE was gonna fix that, wasn't it? "We never made those claims" said El Presidente. Aye, right.

    Two. Spot on again, AD. Weans will just want to know what they've to do (task) in a lesson. They don't need to know the label (skill) name, it's confusing for them.

    Three. SLT members should be on a, say, 0.2 timetable minimum. The "ach, I did that" or "didnae dae me any harm" attitude should be a thing of the past. This is called "teaching" and sitting in front of a computer terminal all day is not "being a leader" (are you reading this, my HT?).

    Four. Not sure what political independence would make. The govts just rubber-stamped what our education "experts" contrived and look at the mess we're in now (think about it, could it really be any worse than it is?).

    Good luck in your new career, AD, and it sounds like you will be a loss to our profession and our children.
  4. Lynseymac

    Lynseymac New commenter

    We've also had to attend several moderation courses about the SALs. Nobody had a clue what they were or what they were for but apparently they've "always been there". We were also told that HMIE would be "looking for these" when they come for inspections.

    I'm tired of being asked to more and more when resources are constantly being taken away from us. In my LA we have virtually no learning support teachers.

    Soon primary schools will have to teach two modern languages. This is really frustrating when you have P6 and P7 pupils who can barely read and write in English.

    I'm sick of wasting valuable teaching time on things like tooth brushing (our whole school is required to do it) because yet more parental responsibility is being passed on to us.

    I get annoyed with money being wasted on things like free fruit for P1 and P2 (which they don't eat) when we don't have enough books.

    I could go on, but it's been a long day ; )
    ozlass likes this.
  5. bigjimmy2

    bigjimmy2 Established commenter

    Teachers are being given so much responsibility for childrens' education - sorry, lives - that there will come a time when we have to take kids home with us. Whilst writing that sentence I thought that that would save money wrt foster carers so maybe not such an absurd suggestion after all.

    We'll have had two complete cycles of kids going though a totally CfE education soon. Am I wrong to expect attainment in the SQA exams to go through the roof. If attainment doesn't at least "improve" then what was the point in introducing this super-duper wear-your-knickers-on-the-outside curriculum?
    ozlass likes this.
  6. cochrane1964

    cochrane1964 New commenter

    bigjimmy2 - you have just saved me time!
    bigjimmy2 likes this.
  7. gnulinux

    gnulinux Occasional commenter

    The Higher exam diet should have been something like the icing on the CfE cake and a rewarding experience for candidates. Instead, if the Higher Maths Exam was anything to go by, it appears to be turning into the nightmare that the teaching profession has been warning of for years.

    We know for sure that the SQA will cover up the mess - they have a track record. Remember, don't mention the 'F' word - FIASCO. And of course there is no MacOfQual to hold them to account.

    Many pupils are going to feel now that they have wasted their time in school - through no fault of their own. What an indictment on the performance of our Education system!!!
  8. gnulinux

    gnulinux Occasional commenter

  9. 0mcam1

    0mcam1 New commenter

    I fully agree with your comment which I quote: "The people in promoted positions often do not understand what they are being asked to do. Yet they demand compliance with their own distorted view of things, regardless of objections from staff."

    The endless tail chasing exercises of SMT's is the FOMO Syndrome. It's called a Fear of Missing Out'. Each school is responsible for its own SIP but if it sees or hears of another initiative or whatever being applauded in another school, it is highly likely that the idea will be instantly copied for fear that not doing so will downgrade local validation!
  10. 0mcam1

    0mcam1 New commenter

    A number of Private schools are quietly ditching Nationals as a waste of time, effort and incredulous bureaucracy. They are happy to stand by their choices and what's more their parents, who obviously can afford to make the same choices, are happy to follow, too: but it's not simply their money which makes the exit from Nationals easier to stomach but Parents on the whole are just as street-wise, conscientious, intelligent and coherent in their thinking as anyone else and they have seen through the sham of what's going on.

    What's most galling is to hear our Scottish minsters patronisingly going on about the support which the parent body in our state system has given to Nationals. Which is obviously tosh: as most parents don't have the financial freedom to exercise any choice to exit Nationals quietly. So they remained trapped by our system; and this is scurrilously called 'support' by those at the top!
  11. bigjimmy2

    bigjimmy2 Established commenter

    What are private schools doing instead of the Nationals, 0mcam1? I completely understand dropping, but what's in their place?
  12. MilkyBar Kid

    MilkyBar Kid Occasional commenter

    One of the criticisms of the multiple examination boards in England was the dumbing down of exams to inflate pass rates so there are obvious dangers. However where you have a monopoly like the SQA they can get away with anything they want and schools have no option but to suck it up.
  13. jonowen

    jonowen Occasional commenter

    Ditto bigjim, Lynseymac and Amysdad - well said all of you! So pleased I will be retiring soon.
  14. inthered

    inthered Occasional commenter

    Jimmy, I know of one that's doing GCSEs and A levels. I guess the international Bac would be possible too.
  15. gnulinux

    gnulinux Occasional commenter

    So, what is there to stop State schools in Scotland doing the same and presumably looking at/offering 'English' Qualifications such as GCSEs??? How about nothing!!! And there is the added benefit of Regulation.
  16. davieee

    davieee Occasional commenter

    Technically there is nothing to stop schools offering any course / subject and many are doing so as part of Building the Curriculum 4. It matters not if the courses are verified by the SQA, City & Guilds, the local FE College or whoever.

    For a school to make a strategic decision and entirely ditch CfE and replace it with an alternative, it would have to have the approval and support of the local authority. Parents would, understandably, want to be assured that any qualifications would be acceptable to UCAS / Universities in order to meet entrance criteria. Also there would be huge political pressure from the Scottish Government to the local authority to ensure that any curriculum adhered to government priorities and standards

    In short, its not going to happen
  17. gnulinux

    gnulinux Occasional commenter

    Yes it is not going to happen - for political reasons. The needs and education of children don't come into it then - any sense of putting the needs of children first is exposed as a cynical pretence. The fact that the SQA have a virtual monopoly in course certification, which necessarily dictates what is taught, means that the quality of education available to Scottish pupils is being limited/constrained. I wonder how many Scottish teachers have actually bothered to look at alternatives to the 'Nationals' or Nats (ho ho)??? If they did, rather than following the party line - sheep-like, they might begin to realise the extent to which Scottish pupils are being short-changed. In fact it is revealing to see that some Higher's are little more than watered down GCSE's. In terms of FE 'currency' I am sure that GCSE's and A levels have a far wider appeal than 'tartan' Nats that no-one has heard of.

  18. cochrane1964

    cochrane1964 New commenter

    I was at ResearchEd on Saturday. Prof Conroy gave a speech on 'We Must Stop Telling Ourselves Lies!'

    "Professor James Conroy ? Stop Lying to Ourselves.

    ?Now it?s high watermark

    and floodtide in the heart

    and time to go.

    The sea-nymphs in the spray

    will be the chorus now.

    What?s left to say?

    Suspect too much sweet-talk

    but never close your mind.

    It was a fortunate wind

    that blew me here. I leave

    half-ready to believe

    that a crippled trust might walk

    and the half-true rhyme is love.?

    ? Seamus Heaney, The Cure at Troy: A Version of Sophocles' Philoctetes

    This was used as an introduction to the most stimulating and personal set of views of the day. Today, we are involved in the education business and not in education. He was excoriating about the view that education is not possible without measurable outcomes. ?Without data, you are only a bloke with an opinion.? Professor Conroy said, ?Well I have an opinion but it is based on decades of learning, experience and expertise in my field and this cannot be ignored.?

    He gave two examples of how we delude ourselves.

    1. Far east/Singapore results and attainment are ?***? as they come from an entirely different starting point. Yet we allow ourselves to be beaten up by this lie?

    2. We now ?train? teachers and do not ?educate? them. A disgraceful development.

    Much of our pedagogy that is adopted, is only adopted because of the convenience associated to it. Example ? synthetic phonics has no advantage over analytical phonics but a whole industry has sprung up!

    The *** We Experienced

    VAK, Brain Gym and Mindsets ? utter garbage yet still found in schools.

    He attacked co-constructivism (Vytgotsky) as vacuous. Researc into two observed groups:

    Co-constructed Curriculum Teacher observers rated this highly

    Didactic Curriculum Pupil observers rated this highly

    The more didactic approach was more successful

    Never underestimate the power of teacher knowledge and experience to actually lead pupils to knowledge!

    Conroy determined that:

    ? A professional must be a master of their knowledge field and have the ability to use this to make judgements about their students. We have been de-professionalised by the outcome approach and exam industry.

    ? The use of learning intentions and outcome sis bad for long term memory. Students should be led on a narrative journey so that the KU makes sense. It is crucial that the student does extended periods of writing relating to their knowledge so that they can make sense of their learning.

    ? Donaldson was a great report ignored by all of the layers of self-interest despite the Government accepting all the recommendations. Only one has been implemented ? SCEL.

    ? Teaching is an intellectual task that educates people for the world."
  19. bigjimmy2

    bigjimmy2 Established commenter

    Very interesting, is this downloadable?
  20. jonowen

    jonowen Occasional commenter

    Cochrane - can we find this on-line? The 4 last points make such sense and are comforting to read.

    To all of you who say "Why put up with doing what you are told?" (or similar) have you ever tried going against them? I know of one PT who spoke firmly with his feet, (you know what I mean) did his allocated hours (and more as he ran the school orchestra on Saturday mornings) and rest of the staff thought he was awful. No mention about his excellent results year after year, or the successful concerts which brought in many £s to the school fund. I'm not brave enough to fight the system, as I'm too old and near retirement - I don't want to rock the boat and leave with a nasty taste in my mouth, so to speak.

    Our WTA was discussed and signed on one of my days off (I'm part-time) I know that is wrong and one complaint would stop all further meetings until the WHOLE school agreed. I'm worn out and will get my part-time meetings over and done with asap, and will continue to work only the hours I'm paid for.

    Pay? That's another whole issue which I'm not going to get started on.

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