Sunday, October 28, 2007

Man bites dog

Wow... an academic (I think) is claiming that there is too much exaggerating of the figures for bullying in our schools - as in over-exaggeration. It seems that we are guilty as a society of wrapping our children up in cotton wool, instead of getting them used to some of the hard knocks which life will throw their way. (Hey, it's my blog, so I can mix metaphors all I want.) See here for the article in the Guardian reporting this.

FWIW, I agree a far bit. I'm impressed by how much is done to combat "genuine" bullying in schools (compared to in my day), but I do think that some parents can have unrealistic expectations of how much the school can do about "lower level" stuff - name-calling and so on - and how quickly the bullying tag can be applied to stuff which is more your everyday sort of sometimes-kids-can-be-wee-beggars. (Which isn't to say that name-calling can't be devastating, either, in some cases.) Encouraging kids to stand up for themselves is surely a good thing (that, and perhaps karate lessons).

Tuesday, October 23, 2007

Read 'em or weep

What, can't a blogger go on holiday?

OK, so I'm back. And impressed by Channel 4's current week of programmes on literacy (I think you'll find it here). Can't quite decide yet if Ruth Miskin, the woman with the mad evangelical gleam in her eye for a particular style of teaching kids to read is mad or... well, no, she is bonkers, to some extent, I don't think that can be disputed but still... hmm... it's sobering and also inspirational stuff.

Of course this has nix to do with teaching maths - does it? Miskin's prescribing one method which should be used alone, to exclusion of all others, for teaching reading (called synthetic phonics, at which point I'm guessing she's asking for your credit card number) - one teaching method to rule them all, and in the darkness bind them, sort of thing.

And I do sort of see the point for the (non-PC language ahead alert!) less-able, even in maths. I mean, with my more able classes we can have a fairly interesting time discussing different methods or ways of setting out a solution to a problem, but I tend not to give that freedom to the less able, because they seem to thrive on the safety of knowing that this is how you're meant to do it. OK, so they thereby miss out on some of the vast richness of the subject but... if it means they can work out a percentage without a calculator, I reckon I'll take the trade.

I can't help but wonder if there's going to be a ground-swell of opinion in favour of teaching reading this way, on the back of such a high profile media campaign which (as far as I can see so far) backs it. It's a shame it has such a ring of "back to basics" about it though.

Tuesday, October 02, 2007

A Curriculum For Mince?

OK, maybe I'm being a bit harsh, but the much heralded "numeracy outcomes" for ACE (as those in the know call it) are now out, and boy, you might just as well try to nail jelly to the wall as get a grasp of these beauties. Those of you working in schools needn't dash off to find which member of the Senior Management Team has received the paperwork and is hiding it in a cupboard somewhere, as - of course - the outcomes are available online. (Is it just me, by the way, or is it not an appalling dereliction of duty and responsibility for major public organisations like LTS and SQA to unilaterally transfer the copying and printing costs on to already-cash-strapped schools?)

So, you can find them - and various other bits and bobs - here. Early response from maths teachers I know is basically "despair". We shall see. More to follow.