Thursday, September 29, 2005

Suffolk wilder than Glasgow?

The schools are, according to this - from JEM (via Natalie Solent):
"My wife used to teach in one of the worst comprehensive schools in one of the worst sink estates (Drumchapel) in Glasgow.

Nowadays she teaches in a so-called specialist technical secondary school in rural Suffolk, not far from Cambridge.

Admittedly, she ceased teaching in Glasgow some twenty years ago when we moved here, but nevertheless she keeps in touch with her old teaching colleagues and so still has a pretty firm finger on the pulse of the educational situation up there as well as in East Anglia.

She is quite certain that discipline, quality of teaching, and educational outcome is far worse here than in Glasgow."
I know Drumchapel well. Bandit country for sure, although it has improved a fair bit in recent years. JEM would I think be impressed with how much educational lunacy has progressed in twenty years but in general, I don't doubt what she says is accurate - which is part of the point I was trying to make here: attributing the sub-Lord of the Flies situation in many of our schools to relative deprivation and/or the local culture is part of the rationalisation of failure which is endemic in our educational institutions.

I'm sure it's true that English schools - like the meals served in them apparently - are worse than in Scotland and it's a thought so depressing, I don't want to think about it too much. JEM goes on:
"Teachers in Scotland are on average more professional than in England. This is because in Scottish secondary schools only honours graduates can teach, and then only the subject they graduated in."
I'd like to agree with this rather ego-soothing description, but it's only partly true. It isn't the case that one has to have an Honours degree to teach here* and in general the academic qualification of teaching staff isn't taken nearly as seriously as it should be - but we don't have the absurd situation that exists in England where, for example, there are more than a few Chemistry teachers without even an A-level in the subject, never mind a degree.

It's probably unfair and possibly prejudiced of me to say so but if some of the characters I've seen in TV documentaries are even vaguely representative of English teachers, one of the problems that can't be helping the situation much is some of them seem a little - how to put it delicately? - lacking in firmness. Generally, I try and avoid the futile habit of shouting at TV programmes as if they can hear you - but I was unable to contain myself during this one about a school which unbelievably had been praised in an Ofsted inspection. One guy had a science class in which two girls were rampaging around the classroom chasing each other with one of them picking up equipment and throwing it around. In a science room...
"Now come along Cheryl, don't be silly - put that down", he says in this really limp voice, over and over again to no effect. (He had probably been taught how 'de-fuse' situations by being 'non-confrontational' in teacher-training college.)

"How about saying something like 'put that box down and get your delinquent ass out of my classroom'?", I'm screaming at the telly, "You have to tell them what to do - they have to be told what to do!"
Thing is, may well have not been entirely his fault; he was trained and works in a system that finds this simple truth about adolescents really rather unpleasant and they'd prefer not to talk about it, thank you very much.

*I should point out that having an Ordinary in Scotland means you did a three-year degree rather than four and doesn't necessarily mean you're a thicko, which I'm led to believe it does in England. Is that right?

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