Saturday, 23 February 2013

Back from a break... to cause a fuss!

Or at least that is what I am going to say it was. A long winter break off. Maybe. Actually the last 5 weeks (5 weeks?!) have been pretty intense and full on. Long few weeks of getting settled into a new school, getting up to speed with a new role and then to top it off OFSTED came a calling.

Having now faced all that down and relaxed over half term, no work done as yet (oops) I have decided to get back to the blog. I know all the people who semi-regularly read the blog are dying for me to continue.

*tumble weed roles by*

Ahem, moving on.

There was a temptation for a long time to leave the blog in the past, make it a thing I did for 2012 and not worry about doing it anymore. Not really sure what changed, I started tweeting a lot more than I have been and have started to find that what I want to say or talk about is not fitting into 140 characters very often. Maybe that is just me becoming more mouthy though?

Who knows?

Anyway the main point of this blog was thoughts following this quote;

“The whole problem with the world is that fools and fanatics are always so certain of themselves, but wiser men so full of doubts.”

― Bertrand Russell

The reactionary in me instantly thought of Michael Gove (especially this article). However it made me wonder about whether this could be true of students as well? Then I came across the Dunning-Kruger effect.

The D-K effect basically states that unskilled individuals are unaware of their own inadequacies due to the fact that they do not possess the skills to recognize their failings.

Sound familiar?

I think one of the major failings in secondary education is that we expect too much of our learners. Not in terms of ability or even the fabled 'high expectations' of students but that we forget that most of the young people we teach are not yet mature enough to recognize their mistakes properly. So what is the solution? Is there a solution? Personally I think it comes down to use of KS3. Often (and in the schools I have worked in so far) KS3 is almost a lost key stage. It fails to bridge the gap between the safe and secure environment of primary school and the expectations and change in environment that underpins secondary education.

Before I continue what I am about to write is purely my opinion. It is based solely on what I think and not on any research or 'party line', I fully expect people to disagree but please remember this is an opinion piece only.

Here is what I think (yes think) and it is based on science education only.

KS3 should be based around skills.

There I said it thank you I will now take five minutes to let that sink in.

What I hear you cry not content? What about the content, they need content especially in science education.

Yes and mostly no.

The content covered in KS3 in my experience well it sucks, it is not much different to KS2 science nor is it taught effectively. Most peoples idea of differentiating at this level is to make it easier which means that the content delivered is not stretching enough. Students go from doing science once a week or a term to it being delivered 3/4 times a week. The awe and wonder students might feel about experimentation and asking questions is drummed out of them by a relentless quest for levels and progress and stuff that I can only describe as bullshit (new year not taking any prisoners anymore).

The question that plays in my mind all the time is what is the point. Seriously what is the bloody point in delivering lessons that are serving nothing more than to put students off a subject that the are unable to drop.


Instead the KS3 curriculum should be used as a tying together course. Yes there needs to be new knowledge delivered, but I feel that the crux of the 2 years (because almost all schools start GCSE's in yr9 - which is too early) should be about developing the skills to succeed.

TEACH students to link skills from history and English with science (writing and evidence analysis). TRAIN students to THINK about a problem and design an investigation. ALLOW students to experience science and link it to the real world and importantly SHOW students the awe and wonder that science can create.

Most students come to secondary school enjoying science because it is taught infrequently so it has a sense of wonder to it. All we seem to do is drum that out of them by making science just another subject, when it is so much more (yes I am now on a soap box) but it's true. As a cross curricular subject science has the capacity to branch into all other subjects. As something current and in the news or on TV  again we are ahead of the curve. So why is it that we seem to have class after class of disaffected and disillusioned students?

Because it is hard, because it is compulsory, because everything comes down to levels.

Coming back to the D-K and Russell quote. How do we expect students to move forwards if they do not possess the skills to do so? All the data and natural ability in the world means nothing if you can't apply it.

I know I got a little bit ragey in the middle but one of the jobs my current role has me doing is to re-write the KS3 curriculum. I am not best pleased with the one that is in place at the moment (bee in my bonnet type situation). Added to that the constant stream of 'why do we HAVE to do science' that I seem to encounter at KS4 and I am a bit fed up with the state of affairs.

Right having said that I am off to mark some yr9 GCSE mocks (still to early for them someone said that eyes help a mouse balance in the dark).

As ever comments are welcome but remember that this was more a personal opinion post.

 'Its very difficult convincing the young of anything. They're born knowing so much' - Leto II (God Emperor of Dune)