Friday, 15 July 2011

Modern schools

I don’t know whether anybody else watched the recent BBC programme which installed cameras in a primary school classroom and filmed what went on for a week or so. It may be seen here:

Obviously, some of the children were more badly behaved than others, but it was the overall, chaotic nature of the lessons which was the really shocking revelation; at least for those unfamiliar with modern classrooms. One can well understand why children on the autistic spectrum might have difficulties in such places, but even for those with no problems, the experience hardly looks educative. I particularly liked the school’s strategy for helping the children who did not want to learn. They put next to these children, a child who did want to learn and wished to work quietly. Needless to say, the result was then two children not learning, as the disruptive child prevented the one who wanted to learn from getting on with his work!

I cannot imagine who in their senses could possibly imagine that this noisy bedlam would be a better environment for a child to learn than a quiet home. And mark you, this school is rated ’good’ by Ofsted! This programmes was the best recommendation for home education which I have seen in years.


  1. Don't faint, Simon, but I totally agree with you!

    We live a mile away from the school my children attended and you can still hear the noise at playtime regardless of what direction the wind is in. And yet the staff claimed there was no noise problem when my autistic daughter couldn't handle it.

  2. Yes, one child falling behind, one child trying to fly - lets try and drag them both towards average! In that kind of environment how does any child learn to read or enjoy reading - read quietly next to a child reading aloud? It must be the reading that goes on at home that is the most important factor.

  3. I completely agree with you too. I watched it and was appalled by the behaviour of the kids. Not just the disruptive ones but even then 'good' ones were easily distracted, dawdling and generally not looking all that enthralled. HEers could accomplish more in an hour than those kids seemed to do all day.
    The theory of sticking a 'good' kid next to a behaviourally challenged one is used in a lot of schools (it was used with fair success to support my son in his school) but for the parent of a 'good' kid that must really frustrate and anger them.

  4. Lynn - I have a horrible suspicion that home is the most important factor in schooling. The child who is used to sitting down and listening, whose parents read to and with them, and who is used to having to accept that the evil word 'no' applies to them is going to do better in school (and, dare I say in life) than the ones who aren't.

    Similarly, 'good' schools tend to have involved parents who aren't scared to challenge teachers and practices and teachers who welcome this rather than closing ranks automatically. In this context I don't mean 'good' by OFSTED standards but good as in a good place to be and learn.

    As for dragging them towards average, couldn't agree more, but that's the fault of the system. There's no value in letting a child fly, and everything to be gained by concentrating on the ones who might just make the grade if pushed hard enough. Add that to the ideology that has the strange conclusion that it's fine to encourage a child to be good at sport but somehow wrong to encourage on who's naturally academic, and bright, well-behaved children get well and truly sold down the river in the school system.

  5. I had to watch this programme in two stages because it was so awful.

    The 'problem' children were presented in terms of them not getting on with their 'work' as distinct from their learning, being disruptive when they were clearly bored out of their heads, and the blame laid squarely with their parents.

    The class teacher not being able to see all the children, not keeping an eye on what was happening in her classroom, and teachers standing over children, talking down to them, telling them 'you are going to...' or making random suggestions to try to engineer re-engagement was conveniently overlooked. And this was supposed to be a 'nurturing' and 'cosy' environment, according to the HT.

    If this sort of behaviour had occurred in any of the schools I taught in, the teacher would have assumed there was something wrong with their approach.

    I vividly remember Steve Jones the geneticist on Teacher's TV taking a year 6 class for a very successful lesson on - believe it or not, genetics - and being criticised by the class teacher for letting the children move around too much.

    As you say, Simon, an excellent recommendation for home education.

  6. Well, not surprisingly, I looked at it a little differently. My main reaction was also that the whole thing involved masses of wasted time. I felt that the problem was mainly that there were far too many children stuffed into a room doing something that a great many of them didn't want to do. The poor little lad who just *couldn't* do it was in some sort of hideous role play game where he had to try to come up with as many reasons not to sit down as possible. But, overall, there was not enough choice, or self-determination going on. I'd have added half a dozen more adults, an open door to an outside activity and a quiet corner for those who wanted it. Oh yeah, and that teacher seemed to reserve smiles solely for parents! She had a face like a shuttered window. I don't think she'd be great at motivating anyone with a manner like that.

  7. I have just watched it too; and yes, it was truly awful. I am not sure though that I would quite agree with Suzy's interpretation though, but the most obvious thing is that it was a very inefficient way of actually teaching any of the material shown to the children; almost any parent could cover the same content 1 to 1 in a fraction of the time!