Wednesday, February 22, 2006

HMIE report: Scotland's schools must do better

From the Herald:
"WEAK leadership in a significant minority of nurseries, schools and colleges is blighting the life chances of thousands of pupils, according to the most comprehensive analysis ever carried out into Scotland's education.

Schools inspectors have highlighted management as the one crucial area for improvement which could drive up standards."
Translation: Even Her Majesty's Inspectorate, an other-worldly outfit if ever there was one, can't avoid the bleeding obvious for ever and they too have now managed to grasp what has been repeated endlessly to the point where you think you're going to scream at the heart-breaking futility of it all : the people running the show are, to put it delicately, a 'significant weakness' - largely on account of the fact that they've lost their damn minds. Sort of people who are capable of saying, when you recount the day's latest mayhem to them, "Have you tried a seating plan?"

How do management get so spaced-out, you may ask? Because they become people who have classes described to them; they generally avoid wherever possible the vulgar activity of actually teaching them. Ronnie Smith of the EiS thought the report reasonably well-balanced and added:
"Some headteachers focus more on the bureaucracy, administration and management and not enough on the teaching and learning and that's something which many teachers would acknowledge is the case.

"Rather than act as some sort of arm's-length sergeant-major, headteachers need to get back to what they used to be - their job title designates them first and foremost as teachers."
The problem is going back to what 'their job title designates them' would be too traumatic for the band of PR junkies that 'run' our schools. For the days when management thought the activity of being a teacher was anything less than a menial task have faded to a folk memory of times past when schools were thought to be places of learning.

Amongst the problems highlighted by the report where while most pupils actually fared reasonably well by international comparisons, a significant minority (practically one in five) received sub-standard education as a result of losing the 'postcode lottery'.

Allow me to explain how this works in our country: if you happen to be born, through no fault of your own, into a postcode area beginning with 'G', the chances are you're fucked. If you understand that losers of this postcode lottery run the risk of having this blogger teaching their children, you begin to understand the scale of the problem:
"However, inspectors revealed a postcode lottery in the quality of teaching with a "considerable variation" in the performance of education authorities and individual schools.

The Herald has highlighted the fact that only nine of Scotland's 52,000 teachers had been sacked for incompetence in the last five years."
Indeed - yet there's a Catch-22 situation here: insanity tends to impair your professional competence, I think most people would agree - but the spread of knowledge in this information age has resulted in a greater public understanding that a career in teaching and good mental health are mutually exclusive. Such is the unbridled lunacy that was the McCrone deal, even advertisements for the top jobs are bereft of candidates, in want of people who are willing to be associated with this educational calamity.

Consider the facts: as a Head Teacher you could expect to earn in excess of 60k depending on the size of the school; you never have to be confronted with thirty members of the tracksuited-fraternity at five-to-nine on a Monday morning, if you don't want to; and most days you go home at 3.30 if not earlier - always assuming you're not at an important meeting discussing what you're going to do at the other meetings you're scheduled to have to talk about the new 'learning community' that doesn't exist anywhere except in your fevered imagination and in the inflation of your bank balance. Yet applications for headteacher posts have fallen by 50%.

The solution is three-fold:
1) More money for positions where presently the loss of sanity inherent in job outweighs financial incentives. And/or...

2) Given that application of point 1 could bankrupt the nation, make system less insane, thereby attracting more rational and by extension we hope, more competent individuals.

3) Introduce the death-penalty for people who use expressions like 'proactive', who talk about teachers being 'facilitators' or tells you a pupil has a 'specific learning difficulty' but don't tell you what it is - either because they think this is has the status of an Official Secret or more plausibly, because they haven't even the vaguest idea what they're talking about. (People who talk about things being 'horizontal' and 'vertical' - but they're not joiners or architects - should be treated with suspicion too. Maybe execution's a bit much here - a simple flogging would do here, I think.)
Point 3 a bit harsh? Ah, but how can you have a revolution without executions?

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