Sunday, 15 June 2014

CPD, Twilights and Improving Standards...

I've spent a lot of time in 'twilight' sessions over the last few weeks which raise some very important issues about our school. I'm not hiding from the fact that our data makes the school look worse than it is to work in, but it seems that each of these sessions is aimed at teachers, and what we can do better to improve our results.

More long term, I've read a lot about improving standards across the country, and how the 'Shanghai Maths' model of working is the answer to our issues.

I'm going to spell it out, just in case there are important people reading...

Our issues in the mathematics classroom are not educational, they are social issues.

On Monday and Friday we had our Year 11s sit their GCSE exams. The first paper will have scared them, the second will have been much easier for them to get through. I've sat with a few kids and gone through the paper and (in my opinion) nobody in my class should be achieving fewer than 34 and 75 marks respectively. I really hope that they've done incredibly well, but some of them will achieve lower than this.

Because they don't read questions before they start to answer.
Because they think they know better than their teachers.
Because everything else is more important than their GCSE mathematics grade.

I've taught year 7 children who can't add, year 10s who can't remember the names of shapes and Year 11s who sit through a revision session on surds without saying a word and the next day say 'Sir, can we do surds again?'. The reason for the year 7 child is generally 'They have poor recall skills', but they know all the words to every One Direction song. The year 10? "Poor recall", but he knows all 23 members of the England World Cup squad. The year 11? I think that's just our big issue - why would they ask questions when they can sit there and look like they're doing something?

I favourited a few tweets after the second exam, with the intention of putting them in here.
  • Of 270 to sit an exam at a 'very good school', the exams officers ran out of their 40 calculators that they lend out.
  • They also loaned out 60 rulers.
  • Another school put on revision on Thursday with only 20 kids out of 175 attending.
  • That same school had to give 50+ pens out in an exam!
It was mentioned in a conversation I had with a long term supply teacher at our place. The kids don't bring a pen, a pencil, a ruler, a calculator, but they have a large supply of biscuits and energy drinks, not to mention their smart phones.

Unfortunately, education isn't a priority for everyone. Until it is, standards will not improve. And there isn't a thing that I can do about it until we have a big social shift.

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