Archive for June, 2012

“It was all Labour’s fault….”

One thing that is really annoying me in Politics at the minute is the real overuse by the government  of “It was the last government’s fault…” or other variations of it. It’s become so much of a joke that my students are now running sweepstakes on Tory MPs and how long before they will say it (for the record it took Justine Greening about 20 seconds to say it on last nights episode of Question Time). David Cameron is chief among this. Apart from continually not answering the question (a Prime Minister tradition), PMQs is littered with these comments.  At the minute it seems like it will be the campaign slogan for the Tories/Lib Dems in 2015.

There is a real possibility that this will backfire on the Coalition. It’s been 2 and a bit years since they actually formed the government and they are still blaming the Labour government for issues in Britain today, most notably the economy. Now I’m not naive enough to suggest that Labour were not at fault for nothing in their 13 years in power or that change can simply happen overnight in British Politics but there has to be a point by which the blame game has to stop.

There was a big swing away from Labour, partially because of the lack of faith that people had in Gordon Brown, but also because they were seen as having wronged the country and that the Tories would fix it. If they carry on with this blame game for another year, that would be over half of their term up and they would be breaking the promise that they had made to the electorate in the election. Anybody who would be sensibly scrutinising the Coalition parties would say “Well you haven’t done what you said you were going to do?” or “If it was Labour’s fault, why did you not sort it?” There is also the fact that by highlighting that something was “Labour’s fault”, the government are highlighting problems for the public to see. This policy is being counter productive and will turn people who are swing voters away from the Tories and to alternatives.

Now in terms of Labour, and I fully admit that I don’t see Ed Miliband as a creditable Prime Minister, subtly they have acknowledged their mistakes in the past and demonstrated failings. This was evident with Red Ed’s recent speech regarding Labour’s immigration policies of the past. By doing this Labour make the Tory “Labour’s fault” idea redundant and again pushing the idea of “Well what are you doing about it?” What the Labour need to do is offer areal alternative to the Coalition government in order to win on merit rather than on Coalition failings, much like Jon Cruddas MP recently said similar to 1945, 1964 and 1997.

So if the Tories/Lib Dems want to stay in government, they should cease and desist from the idea of “Blame Labour”. There’s only so long it can be valid for….

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Michael Gove: Going Back In Time

I think by this point most teachers opinions on Michael Gove is clear enough – They can’t stand him. This is evident in what most teachers say about him and the fact that the Unions are now using anti-Gove advertising in order to attract teachers to join their unions (possibly not the best thing to do in my honest opinion). In two and a bit years, even after a history of poor secretaries of state for education, Gove has seemingly made himself public enemy number 1 amongst the profession that he oversees (although this seems to be a coalition trait e.g Lansley and Doctors, May and Police Officers, Clegg and Lib Dem Supporters).

There was an out pouring of anger towards Michael Gove when this week it was leaked and, after being called by an urgent question from Labour, confirmed an education policy that seemingly would scrap GCSEs and return us to a similar idea to O-Levels and CSEs. To be truly honest, I’m not surprised. Since becoming Education Secretary, Gove has seemingly been on a mission to return the education system to what it was like when he was at school. This was clearly evident with the English Baccalaureate, which seemed to push forward some subjects that are simply not relevant today.

My main issues with this new policy is firstly that it forces a judgment on pupils at an early age and some from disadvantaged background may face a glass ceiling in terms of achievement. More schools from disadvantaged backgrounds will be more willing to go for the CSEs as a way of boosting results because from what I understand, schools will still be judged on results in terms of league tables. This will cause problems for pupils who would be bright enough to achieve beyond their means and alienates them. This would in turn lead to a stigma on some pupils and a divisive culture. We’re clearly all in this together.

Secondly, there must be a reason why O-Levels were got rid of in the first place. I don’t pretend to know the exact reason for this ( I believe I was 3 at the time) but I have read that it was because CSEs were seen as not being worth the paper that they were written on. So why the hell are we reintroducing something that was seen, by a Conservative government, to have been wrong and problematic Mr. Gove may want to do some history (even British, which he seems hellbent on enforcing). We study the past so that we are not doomed to repeat it.

My main anger of this was the timing. The students are sitting their exams and I find it insulting that after the year or even two years of hard work that students, teachers and parents have put in, this has deemed worthless because the qualifications are too easy. As an A-Level teacher and marrying a secondary school teacher, we have both worked hard ensuring that our pupils are ready for these exams, as most teachers do as well. Our students match this. A lot of my students independently answer exam questions for myself to mark putting this hard work and effort to make sure that they are ready for these exams. This announcement would surely demoralise them and they won’t go into exams with the right frame of mind. We are judged on the results as are the pupils because of the pressures that previous governments have placed upon us and to have our efforts deemed not good enough us is demoralising.

It also suggests that my GCSEs, as well as those of others, were not worth it. I worked damn hard for my GCSEs, for my A-Levels and for my university degree. To have the opinion that they were so easy to get because of the whim of an education secretary is insulting. How the ‘Quad’ did not know about this I cannot fathom. Cameron must have known about this, nothing leaves Government without him knowing. How they couldn’t control this I don’t know. Opinion and meaningful discussion clealry doesn’t matter- only in May every 5 years.

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Response to Question Time 14/06/2012

Watching Question Time on the I Player in one of my valuable free periods, it was interesting to hear Tim Farron, President of the Liberal Democrats, say “Allow teachers to get on with what they do best”. It was a phrase that is often bandied about but one that is largely ignored.

I became a teacher because I loved my subject areas and I wanted to pass on my enthusiasm and knowledge to others that share an interest. However, this is not what we have to completely contend with. We have to constantly update and comment on pupils withing our results. We have to constantly analyse results to show that we are doing our job properly. Currently I am having to waste time redoing perfectly good schemes of work because my place of employment wants a uniform model. This adds to my role as an exam marker as well as revision sessions, and extra things that I organise to try and raise awareness for my subject. Oh and in that I teach. It annoys me when people comment about how much holiday teachers get because most of us work hard during that time as well.

Governments say that the system doesn’t work and therefore needs changing. It might help if education was not constantly being changed and we could actually embed a system which we could work in. Constantly changing A-Levels/GCSEs helps nobody, because we have very little time to get used to system. Changing it piles more work on us, creating added stress and therefore a damaged work/life balance, which will impact upon our teaching.

It also kind of does not help having an idiot in charge of the education systems. Gove and Wilshaw are seemingly clueless on what makes our education system good and dump it on teachers. They want to take education systems and establishments back to what they had and i’m sorry but they need to get with the times. They also need to realise that not all kids are the same, have the same background and that schools are very different with different aims. It would help if Michael Gove visited a school north of Watford and stopped harping on about Free Schools and Academies when firstly it allows unqualified people to teach and secondly makes the education system too generic. Academies don’t help every school so stop rolling it out for every school.

Oh and the decision to remove EMA. I can see the effect on pupils and I can see why they questioned is. What people didn’t ask was the effect on schools. Well here’s the example. Nnumbers went down this year partly due to this. There have been huge cuts in funding and redundancies. More unemployed.

So Tim Farron. We would love to do what we do best. Having a chance to do it would be nice too.Image

*21/6 – Now Gove’s taking us back to O-Levels – Time Warp*

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