Whenever issues like grammar and spelling come up people are always very quick to criticise teachers, parents, governments etc but nobody ever mentions the huge changes in society that we've seen over the last generation. The fact is that our children have very different experiences than we did growing up and I was born only 29 years ago. We have to accept the effect that technology has had on standards of grammar and spelling. Children read less, write less and place a far lower importance on these things. They spend the majority of their free time using some form of technology be it computers, consoles, TV's etc. What did we do in comparison growing up? We played outside, we created games and we interacted. We also read a lot more. The importance of these things cannot be understated. Anybody that has ever taught children, especially those that struggle, will tell you that there is very little that can be learned if it is only practised for a few hours a week.
I'm not a huge fan of Gove, his Primary history curriculum is absolutely shocking but he isn't all bad. Rather than simply criticise teachers he has at least acknowledged that a large number of children are arriving unready for school. Far too many people overemphasise the effect that the education system can have. The sad reality is that the intelligence of a child has far more to do with their home life than with their school. I've said this before but in pretty much every class I've ever taught, the bright kids were from stable homes with working parents that were actively involved in their child's education. The kids that struggle almost always come from difficult homes where they have been brought up badly or the parents struggled as children themselves. There is not a teacher in the country that could create a Level 5 writer or mathematician out of some of the children that I have met. I've taught a girl that couldn't count to 15 by the time she was 8; I've taught a boy the same age that couldn't hold a conversation. Most children arrive at school aged 5 with this knowledge.
It's far too easy to blame the education system and sadly always comes from people with literally no understanding of the realities of school life. I've only taught for 4 years, so came to it later and I couldn't believe how different it was than I expected. Schools are often incredibly professional, teachers are heavily targetted and forced to justify on a regular basis why children haven't been moved on. Those children that have not moved on then take part in daily catch up sessions to make up the gap. There is constant scrutiny of what is working, what isn't and which children are not moving on.
I'm lucky because I taught in Northern Ireland for a year where things are far more traditional than they are over here. It is an education system that is far more like the one that most on here would be familiar. Much of their teaching is instruction and work from books with homework 4 times a week. Their kids were no brighter or less intelligent than ours but they did have a much less rounded education and would perform worse in critical thinking. In fact one of the brightest kids I ever met came from one of the worst schools I went in. I also went in a school (all boys) that was easily the worst I've ever seen. I taught year 6 for a month and was giving them year 3 work but they still really struggled. The school simply wouldn't exist in England, Ofsted would have seen it closed down long ago.
At the end of Year 1 there is a phonics test that was introduced in 2011. Recently we had a staff meeting where they looked at all the statistics and it broke down the results into racial origin. This is a good indicator because many of these groups have cultural differences but all use the same education system with the same teachers and methods. They analysed the percentage of children that pass. Perhaps unsurprisingly Indian children performed best with 61% passing and Chinese children were not far behind on 60%. Only 49% of White British children passed. Worst of all, only 17% of travellers passed. There is far more to it than the quality of teaching.
Edited by Maximus Decimus, 16 May 2013 - 05:36 PM.