A Week in Education

6th April 2007 at 01:00
behaviour, behaviour, behaviour was the key message of the Association of Teachers and Lecturers conference this week, as teachers blamed TV catchphrases, from Catherine Tate's "am I bovvered?" to Little Britain's "computer says no" for an upsurge in cheeky behaviour.

Meanwhile, the Government introduced firmer guidelines on disciplining rowdy pupils. It is now acceptable to use appropriate force where staff safety is at risk and teachers may confiscate mobile phones to combat cyber-bullying.

The Historical Association was up in arms over the discovery that teachers were skipping controversial subject matter in history lessons, avoiding or skimming through topics such as the Holocaust and the slave trade for fear of causing offence. One school is alleged to have skipped the Crusades because "their balanced treatment of the topic would have directly challenged what was taught in some local mosques", according to the report.

In other news, ministers announced a crackdown on "coasting schools". A power has come into force enabling local authorities to link poorly performing schools with local businesses or sack the governing body if they do not pull their socks up.

On a stranger note, the ATL's plans to launch lessons in strolling and striding caused confusion among teachers. Deputy general secretary Martin Johnson suggested they should be taught as "life skills". "There's a lot to learn. If you were going out for a Sunday afternoon stroll, you might walk in one way. If you're trying to catch the train, you might walk in another," he told delegates.

They might be better off teaching marching if their claims that endless government testing is turning primary schools into "boot camps" are to be believed. Mary Bousted, ATL general secretary, told the conference: "This is not education, this is training - and the consequences are catastrophic.

They lead to a period of exhaustion, not only for the teacher, but also for the pupils."

Meanwhile, a curious tale about Lord Adonis. The Sunday Times this week suggested the ultra-Blairite education minister, architect of the Government's academies programme, is said to be considering a switch to the Conservatives if Gordon Brown wins the leadership.

they said...

At least 120,000 bright children are effectively going backwards in secondary schools. (Daily Telegraph) we say...

This is based on figures obtained by the Conservatives, which compare pupils' key stage 3 test results with their results for key stage 2, three years previously.

Some 65,100 pupils, or one in 10, obtained the same score or worse in English tests at KS3 compared with KS2. For maths, the figure was 18,000.

For science, it was 121,200.

But are these test statistics conclusive evidence of pupils failing to progress? Hardly. They may also reflect inaccurate marking, differing levels of test preparation, pupils under or over-performing on the day and different skills being tested.

Professor Dylan Wiliam, of London university's Institute of Education, has estimated that at least 30 per cent of pupils are given the wrong test level at KS2.

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