Good grief, it’s Gove-levels in 2015-17

Great OECD report on what they feel countries need to do.  Read that here – http://goo.gl/1KlEB.  
What a shame Mr Gove doesn’t read the Guardian.

Literally having just commenced a new series of GCSE syllabi following governmental disquiet about the modular approach, we learn this week that there is be further wholescale reform to our secondary public examinations programme, with GCSEs to be replaced by the English Baccalaureate from 2015.  Of course there is much to conclude about what has worked and hasn’t worked since GCSEs came into play in 1986, but it does scare the living daylights out of me that it seems the politicians are making educational policy now with scant regard for educationalists or parliament.  Frankly, the plans suggested for the future are going to produce a sorry mess that are unlikely to see any firm conclusions for years to come.
It seems to me that Mr Gove is signalling a green light to the wholesale cancelling in the state sector of the kind of courses such as Physical Education, Drama, Music and Technology that have so obviously liberated our young learners for the past 25 years and that have inspired our future leaders in those arenas.  As a Scientist married to a Historian, I ought perhaps to hanker back to rigorous academic subjects of the past, but I don’t.  Those GCSE courses that Mr Gove has so disparaged have enriched and enhanced many young adults, and given them real insights into how to problem solve and work in a sustained manner over a longer period of time.  Narrowing the curriculum in vain pursuit of a better educational programme is not what the other leading economies are doing; yet again, we are being given a national remedy based on little more than wind and hot air.  Thanks goodness as an Independent school, we can plot our path very carefully for the benefit of all of our pupils, whatever their ability.

Enough of a knee jerk rant, there will be plenty of that to follow in the press and media for some time to come.  I am turning my attention to the concept of ‘Blended Learning’, as printed in the pages of TESpro last Friday.
Blended Learning
It might sound a bit reactionary, but I have decided there is no such thing after all as Blended Learning.  The phrase implies that this is something new, that has arisen with the advent of new technology in recent years, without which it is not possible to survive in 21st century education.  Yet in reality, whatever the technology that has developed across the generations, those that follow their forebears have simply learned in a variety of ways and from a variety of sources, stood on the shoulders of giants and made their mark.  TESPro actually suggests that we all be better off just talking about Learning, and exploring new ways of undertaking that activity and sharing those ways, for good or ill with those that follow.

Google chum Mark Allen and I had a brief exchange over the weekend about the benefits of the latest little vanity purchase we have both made, the Nexus 7, a smart little tablet that Google produce for £150 or so, and that now is rarely seen apart from my pocket.  Mark asked me whether I had seen anything useful in terms of classroom practice I could share.

10 Android 7s out there on trial
I have got 10 of the little beasties out there on trial and it does rather seem that the pot of gold beyond the rainbow is now right under our noses.  As a straightforward consumer device for research, reading books, camera, calculator, communicating with others using a range of texting and cloud based services, typing up work and such like, the Nexus 7 and its bigger brother and competitor, Apple’s iPad, actually do what pretty much most people need.  That is until some real work needs to get done, where either a better keyboard and functionality is needed, so step up the Chromebook, Laptop or PC.
But since it appears that sustained coursework etc. is now on its way out, as we return to the sharp edge of terminal tests and knowledge based assessments, I suspect the slates are going to come into their own at the higher levels of GCSE and A level.  Lower down, we are still going to need to provide learning variety for our young boys and girls, and books, solid little things with pages that turn and covered with words to explore, chew and tumble in our minds’ eye will stay important.  What price the sight this summer of tech savvy children leaving their gadgets at the door of our Art workshops held in a disused shop in Maidenhead Town centre, swapped for the joy of learning to use brush, paint, craft materials and a dose of inspiration from young artists who know a little about showing learners what colour on paper looks like.

So I’ll keep both my Nexus7 and pencil and pad in my pocket for the foreseeable future, both to keep just one step ahead or so of my students, as you never know which actually you will need next. After all, you can’t mark a piece of timber with a table when you want to cut it! 

About jameswilding

Academic Principal Claires Court Schools Long term member & advocate of the Independent Schools Association
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One Response to Good grief, it’s Gove-levels in 2015-17

  1. Tim Platt says:

    As a parent, and definitely not an educational expert, I am very worried about this new exam regime. It seems to me they are throwing the baby out with the bath water, and by the time the ‘powers that be’ realise this it will already be too late for my children (hence my concern).

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