Retention – the enemy of high standards

Sunday, April 30, 2017 at 8:20 pm

Colleges are obsessed with retention statistics – it’s another OFSTED benchmark that makes very little sense in the real world other than to promote the spurious claim that we are producing more and more successful students and therefore creating a better qualified workforce.

The truth, of course, is vastly different.

When a student is palpably failing we are still expected to strain every sinew and demonstrate that we have implemented every strategy available – not only to keep the student from leaving, but to manage the student so that s/he still achieves a successful outcome.

This can mean many hours adding notes to the student database, calling parents, working through the disciplinary procedures – although managers and senior managers are notoriously reluctant to move expeditiously on this – and spending time with the student supporting her/him n completing work that s/he is very often unable to complete if left to her/his own devices.


Categories: Politics, UKEducation

Our mania for retention and progression

Thursday, April 20, 2017 at 9:23 pm

The horror of losing students and the joy of keeping our retention figures high.

I wonder how often senior managers stop to ponder on the decreasing standards that are the consequence of our retention fetish.

Categories: Uncategorized

The value of failure

Tuesday, June 14, 2016 at 9:14 am

We need to be brave.
There is a price of failure in the real world, but failure has a value as well.
Many successful business people can attest to the value that bankruptcy had on their current business success.

What we so often forget nowadays is the value that failure can have for students.

We forget that the experience of failure should not be avoided at all costs, but should be embraced as a necessary part of life.  It is not, after all, the way we deal with success that demonstrates our ability to survive and grow as individuals.  Rather it is the way we cope with failure.

The person who picks herself up, dusts herself down and starts all over again is the person with whom we want to work.

Our students need to learn the lesson that is it good to fail and learn from failure – “fail better” as the saying goes.

In addition, we need to consider the effect on other students in the group when one student fails.
In the first place there is the notion of “pour encourager les autres”. OK – originally this referred to hanging, which might be a bit drastic, but there is a distinct deterrent effect that kicks in when a classmate gets kicked out.

Seeing one of your colleagues failing a unit and having to retake is often a salutary lesson for the others in the group.
Even more so when a student is asked to leave a course because s/he is clearly not making the grade. But in many educational establishments it is almost anathema to allow any students to leave, i.e. “to fail” a course.

“Retention” is everything. There are many of us, however, who would say it is one of the reasons why so many courses have so little credibility or currency any more. (more…)

Categories: Politics, UKEducation

Standards again – students finding information

Monday, December 21, 2015 at 9:08 pm

Why can they not just grab a book off the shelves and read a few pages?

We now have the ludicrous situation whereby L3 students are citing the blogs of previous year’s L3 students at other colleges as the authorities for their statements about various IT topics in their assignments.

Not only are they too lazy to read a few pages from a book, but they now don’t even recognise when they are quoting from someone who is probably only a year or two older than themselves and who, moreover, is herself/himself quoting almost verbatim from the course text book – or just spouting nonsense in a few cases.

Categories: Uncategorized

How can we persuade the electorate that we need socialist policies again?

Sunday, May 31, 2015 at 5:50 pm

It’s a constant complaint from colleagues – we don’t, for example, take the trades unions seriously, because they don’t really have any clout nowadays – but why don’t they have any clout? – Because colleagues won’t take part in trades union activities.  The same old circular argument is heard time and time again.

Categories: Politics

Raising standards – why it promotes student failure.

Thursday, March 19, 2015 at 5:34 pm

Isn’t it obvious?

Everyone is so worried about OFSTED – the Office for Standards in Education – that we forget that our aim should be to get students to learn – not just achieve qualifications.

Having worked for many years in the Secondary, Further and Higher Education Sectors, I am disappointed that we seem still not to recognise how we are failing our students.

I’m currently teaching on a Level 3 BTEC course and am told that the Minimum Expected Grades for my students are all MMM and above. Many of them have targets that include Distinction and D* grades.

Assignments have just been submitted – some students have not bothered to submit – missed the deadline and therefore failed to meet any criteria.

When told about it, one says “I’ll email it to you” and he then submits a blank Brief – no actual assignment from him. “Oh, sorry,” he says and then asks, “Can I send it to you tonight? It’s on my system at home.”

He doesn’t submit.

Categories: UKEducation

too many platforms

Sunday, March 17, 2013 at 11:56 am

Is there anyone else who worries – as I do – about the large number of different platforms and web 2.0 applications to which our students are being introduced?

Categories: Technology and the Death of Learning, UKEducation

the real learning group

Saturday, May 5, 2012 at 7:50 pm

Perhaps we can create a special group – a school within a school – for invited students only. This group can look at ways in which we learn best and how we can develop these children who are learning well in spite of the current system in which they work.

We have to do something to demonstrate that real learning is not only something to be found in the relentless pursuit of new technology – the iPad syndrome.

Equally useful would be the formation of trios or quads, i.e. continuous peer observation and development (POD) groups.  The members of these POD gps should be encouraged to visit one another’s rooms and lessons on a frequent basis in order to be able to feedback positively and constructively to one another.  We should encourage the use of video and other AV recording technologies as ways of allowing self and peer analysis and promoting experiment and innovation in the classroom.

Categories: UKEducation

None but the brave …

Thursday, July 14, 2011 at 7:57 pm

Which school – or perhaps which headteacher – is going to be the brave one that decides to take a stand against the data and league-table madness that still prevails in mainstream schools in the UK?

Every year we are expected to “raise the bar” and meet a new load of FFT predictions. The way we do this is to massage, manipulate and effectively fabricate our students’ results so that the figures look good, but ask any students about the subject after they have finished the course and all you get is blank looks from most of them.

Of course, we also tell large numbers of students that they are producing work that is worthy of high grades and off they go from school, thinking that they know lots, when – if the truth were known – many of them know almost nothing. We are producing a generation without skills, without knowledge, without craft and without the insight to see what might lie before them.

Is it time to return to a “deschooling society” model?

What appears to happen is that FFT (Fischer Family Trust) bases their predictions on previous results including last year’s.

In practice, this means we are creating a rod for our own backs by pushing students and coaching students who then submit work that is wildly beyond their real ability and the school gets a wildly inflated set of results for the cohort. Almost all other schools are doing the same thing and the FFT then uses this data to inform its “predictions” of what grades “similar” students would have been expected to get.

So it is not difficult to see how the figures are likely to keep drifting upwards each year in a never-ending and quite nonsensical set of targets that we are meant to take seriously as targets for next year’s students.

No wonder our students can’t compete in the real world with students whose judgements about their own abilities are based on real results and real success.

We need to stop selling our kids down the river like this. It’s immoral, illusory and – because it allows Headteachers and others to bask in the so-called success of their students and then promote their schools as successful – I would say it is corrupt.

Categories: UKEducation

Adapting to a new generation of 21st Century students

Tuesday, January 11, 2011 at 9:23 pm

I’ve just sat in a 60 minute session while a colleague was effectively telling the rest of us that we have to adapt and find new ways of reaching our C21 young people – because we are competing with so many other more interesting experiences.

What I really object to is our pandering to these spoilt young products of our really decadent society and the suggestion that the reason they are unable to learn is because we don’t teach them the correct things or in the correct manner.

Is there no recognition that perhaps the reason why these young people are swiftly being overtaken by young people from other parts of the world is that these other young people are desperate to be educated and to get good jobs, while many of our young people just could not care less?  They don’t seem to be able to see further than their next mobile top-up or their next music download.

Is this symptom of alienation and disaffection – or are they just spoilt – and did we spoil them?

It was interesting to hear another very young and new colleague commenting afterwards, that it was all very well for our super colleague to be giving us all these wonderful starter techniques and trying to inspire us to be original and take risks – but she certainly wouldn’t be trying it with any of our current crop of Yr 8s.

The more I listen to this puerile optimism, the more I think I should never have stayed in teaching – but I really like it when I teach someone something – or if I learn something.  It’s just that I don’t do it – don’t get a chance to do it – very often nowadays in school.

Categories: UKEducation