Education, education, education

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Back in June 2015 I wrote a blog post titled Dumbing Down Education? where I showed some of the questions asked of 16 year olds sitting their GCSE Maths papers.

Well, I decided to take another look at exam questions following the furore over SATS (or National Curriculum tests) for 11 year olds.

http://www.dailymail.co.uk/news/article-3675842/Half-11-year-olds-fail-new-chaotic-Sats.html

http://www.express.co.uk/news/uk/686824/SATS-test-results-primary-school-year-6-Nicky-Morgan-education

This was the first year that the curriculum has been in operation and therefore the tests have been changed to reflect new, higher expectations of both the teachers and the pupils.

Following the results of the tests, official data shows 47 per cent of pupils did not make the grade in reading, writing and mathematics. Some headteachers had called for the test results not to be published as the results were lower than expected.

So, what were the tests? Were they really that difficult that nearly half of the 11 year olds didn’t pass?

As a matter of course, having two children, one 9 year old and the other 6 years, we download past SATS papers and give these to our kids to try out. Obviously the 6 year old is a long way off being able to do much of what is expected of a child 5 years his senior but his older brother, age 9, is a more relevant example of what might be expected (even though he is still 2 years short of sitting the SATS tests).

To give you an example of what is expected of an 11 year old, here’s the first five questions from the maths tests for 2016.

ncmaths1

ncmaths2

ncmaths3

ncmaths4

ncmaths5

Now, adding 100 to 987 or dividing 326 by 1 doesn’t seem very taxing. And I can confirm it’s not very taxing for a 9 year old either, never mind a child two years older.

Yes, obviously the questions do get slightly harder as you go through the paper but there’s only 35 questions in this maths paper and just answering those first five correctly is a reasonable chunk of the test.

So, what to make of the fuss kicked up by some teachers and headteachers? Changing the curriculum is always going to throw up a few problems, the least of which is when people compare the latest results with the previous year. Last year around 80% of the children passed the test, this year only 53% did.

But is the change a good thing? On balance I would say yes, it is. One of the more noticeable changes to the curriculum in maths in the past year was that teachers are now allowed to teach the children the times-table. By this I mean teach them by repeating the tables over and over until they become second nature to the child – the way most of us learnt them in the past. Almost unbelievably, teaching tables by rote (by repetition) was not allowed in schools in recent years and, if schools did teach that way, they would get marked down by OFSTED.

So, it seems some common sense has prevailed.

Now all the teachers need to do is ensure that the kids they teach can add 100 to 987 or divide 326 by 1. But perhaps that’s easier said than done when reading, writing and arithmetic have to be squeezed in at Primary School alongside guitar lessons, golf lessons, dance, drum lessons, tennis, trips to supermarkets (I kid you not!) and everything else.

Perhaps, and it’s just a thought, schools should concentrate on the important things (to most people this would be reading, writing and arithmetic) and leave the golf, tennis etc to after-school clubs. But, hey, what do I know? I’m just a parent!

 

Thanks for reading.

Jack Diamond

(The views expressed in our Guest Blogs are personal opinions only and do not reflect the views of PCGraphics.)

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Don’t get me started…

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Some vaguely articulate ramblings, submitted on an occasional basis by our Guest Blogger:  Jack Diamond

 

Back to school

Yes, it’s that time again. Now that the long summer holidays are drawing to a close, all our little angels are marching proudly back to school this week.

New uniforms have been bought. New shoes purchased or old ones polished to make them look respectable for the start of the new school year. But one piece of uniform you can’t have at our local Primary School is a scarf.

No, not even when it’s the middle of winter and there’s three inches of snow on the ground are the children allowed to wear scarves inside the school grounds. Why? Yes, you’ve guessed it, it’s Health and Safety. Children can get strangled by scarves. I’m not sure how many children lose their lives each year because of scarves, but the school isn’t taking any chances.

And there’s other crazy rules too.

Come Christmas time, little Wayne or Chardonnay (or whatever the latest chavvy names are) will possibly come home one day from school and be delighted to tell you that they are appearing in the school play at the end of December. They might be one of the shepherds, or an angel or, if they’ve been really good all year at school and not been excluded from too many classes, Mary or Joseph.

And how brilliant, with modern technology and communications, that you could catch the little darlings on video and send copies to your friends and relatives to watch them too. And, of course, in years to come, you’ll be able to look back at them and see how little Harry or Britney started their careers on the stage.

Except you can’t, at least not in our local Primary School. Why? No photography or video is allowed on the school premises – and this includes school plays, sports days etc. No, seriously, it’s not. Or, to be accurate, no photos or videos are allowed to be taken by parents.

School staff take some photos and will sell those pictures to the parents should you wish to buy them, but you can’t take photos or videos of your own children yourself.

And why is that? The reason is that if any parents, at the start of the school year, state that they don’t want photos of their children taken, then a blanket ban is imposed on every child in the school. Yes, the wishes of the minority outweighs those of the majority – hardly democracy in action.

But, perhaps best of all, was one Christmas time the class teacher was asked by a parent if she could write down the first names of the boys and girls in the class so that their child could send everyone a Christmas card. You would have thought that would be straightforward, but no, you would have been wrong. The Head Teacher had to be consulted in case it broke the Data Protection Act or, God forbid, infringed someone’s Human Rights (Ok, the Human Rights bit was an exaggeration, but you get the drift). In the end, common sense did prevail and the child was able to send cards to all her friends and get the names spelt right, but what madness that the teacher actually had to ask if it was alright to give out the children’s names to another parent.

When exactly did all this nonsense start? I know we have to protect children, but sometimes it just seems to go a bit crazy.

 

There’s something wrong…

Isn’t there something wrong when a footballer, and one unknown to many of us in the UK, can be paid £280,000 per week – yes, that’s £280,000 every week –  (http://www.dailymail.co.uk/news/article-2740187/280-000-week-Britain-s-best-paid-footballer-Colombian-star-Falcao-signs-Manchester-United-loan.html) when we as a country can’t, it seems, even afford to offer a little five year old boy cancer treatment costing around £65,000 (http://www.theguardian.com/society/2014/sep/01/ashya-kings-parents-remanded-custody-judge-considers-extradition).

Words, for once, fail me.

 

(The views expressed in our Guest Blogs are personal opinions only and do not necessarily reflect the views of PCGraphics

 

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