Sunday, June 19, 2011

Gay Girl in Scottish Education Blog Shock

My name is... Eilidh. That'll do. I'm a kind of average every-teacher in the oil rich statelet of Scotland. I write about my experiences of Scots education in this time of cholera. My point of view is not exactly one of the kids on the streets, more the kids in the class. And their teachers. And what they learn. And how they learn.

We are besieged. Everyday brings a new hail of bullets. Some of them come from opinionated snipers such as John McTernan of the British Labour faction or Joan McAlpine of the Self-Loathing wing of the SNP who want to defend the privileged citadels of private-school education - and thus maintain the class system of elitism and arrogance which has condemned those 'aggressive and underachieving proles' to wallow in state schools. Government inaction allied to the lobbying of right-wing think tanks and violent extremism of the shadowy COSLA Brotherhood is threatening our sick pay, holidays, curricular freedom, rural schools and job security. The once mighty EIS union who used to defend our way of life has been bought and sold for very little gold. Some schools still have their feet mired in PFI and are forever indebted to private firms. They even have 'business managers' who can even refuse local authority staff access to their own school should it not coincide with their interests.

A few years ago things looked bright. Teachers were given a level of pay that went a long way to reflecting the importance of their position in society. A new curriculum was brought in that aimed to empower kids with the tools to research, philosophise, design, experiment and to actively seek their knowledge of the world rather than just being passive receptacles of lists of facts and dates.

Promises were made to bring down class sizes to a reasonable 18 - which would mean more time for valuable teacher-pupil dialogue as well as creating jobs for the many unemployed teachers around. This has so far failed to materialise.

The likes of COSLA, McTernan, MacAlpine and a whole raft of conservative naysayers - few of whom have real experience of teaching day in, day out or current education practice at all - want teachers to work longer hours for less pay, less or no sick pay and diminished pensions. They want kids to be tested, assessed and their schools slotted into league tables so that pushy middle class parents can cherry pick the best schools should they want to skimp on posh school bills. They want the attitudes of industry and the free market applied to education, as well as heatlh. As if schools and hospitals are just call-centres or factory production lines. Likewise, they want teachers assessed and remunerated according to performance. Just who will be the judge and paymaster, we do not know - is it the headteacher who hasn't taught consistently for years? Or is it the coonsull penpusher with one eye on her own performance targets geared towards satisfying the sinister Tax Payers' Alliance assessment of local authority spending? 

Even worse, some want the spread of 'faith schools' and the interference of business in the day to day running of the school. Or, they want 'free schools' which are run by parents (who tests their ability as parents or aptitude for pedagogy?) and 'charities' (this could mean religious zealots of any variety).

COSLA's recent communique threatened jihad against Scottish teachers. It even went so far as to claim that the central role of the teacher was not to teach children. McTernan and MacAlpine spread their conservative gospel in establishment mouthpieces such as the Telegraph, the Times and Scotland's own 'hurrah for the Clearances' voice of the laird, the Scotsman - known to Highlanders with long memories as 'the Daily Liar'.

What do we teachers want? Recognition of the importance of our job to society. Stability without a tidal wave of new initiatives every year. Less poisonous sniping by those with little or no knowledge of our profession but who shoulder a basket load of political agendas. Less testing for young kids.

It is with envious eyes that we look to teachers in Finland - a small country with many similarities to Scotland. Finland invests heavily in teacher training and in schools. There are very few private schools. Children are not tested in their early years and teachers trusted to assess their pupils in their own way. Classrooms are relaxed and children encouraged to learn through play and by exploring.

In the current climate, we teachers will be joining our fellow public workers at the barricades.

I read recently about the Gay Girl in Damascus blog that turned out to be a fake. Well, my name isn't really Eilidh and I'm heterosexual. The rest is all true.

Some homework...
John McTernan on Educational Reforms
And lastly, it is worrying to think that McAlpine is now a member of the Education and Culture Committee in the Scots Parliament. This article is riddled with factual errors (no tests in primary school?) and even astonishment that childrens' learning should be put into context. Oh, and the need to root out 'lazy teachers'....

Now, a look at the leaders in the field:
Teaching is not to fill empty brains of young students with some fact they should be able to memorize for the next test or something like that - Philosophy of Education in Norway
Legatum Prosperity Index - education
Finland - trusting the teachers, free education for all and few tests
BBC World News: Finland - less is more
Holyrood Magazine - Finnish Lessons: less testing, more learning

Some background:
Curriculum for Excellence
Philosophy 4 Children


Jimmy Boy said...

I wonder if there is a correlation between PFI schools and high achievement? Must have a look.

Funny thing - if I were running a successful business, I would be investing in increasing the size of my retail outlet/work place/etc to attract more custom. But local education authorities seem unable to do this. Umm.

Anonymous said...