Curmudgeon

26th May 1995 at 01:00
Like the School Curriculum and Assessment Authority, I love quizzes, so this week I've devised one of my own. Don't worry if you don't know the answers. Unlike SCAA, I don't believe that a test score tells you anything that you can't more reliably discover in other ways.

Is everybody ready? You may start now. Where, in the past few weeks, might you have read this observation about learning? "One learns only if one is allowed to muddle and muddle and muddle." If you want a clue, it was linked to this comment on teaching "One teaches only if one allows learners to muddle and resists the temptation to intervene when they need help (which is usually when they need to muddle most)".

Could it have been the launch of the consultation on the new Framework for Inspection? Could it have been a contribution to the debate about the new national curriculum? Neither. You don't go to education any more for insights into learning and teaching.

It appeared in the business pages of the Independent on Sunday. It was advice to managers about what their priorities ought to be in creating learning organisation. The contrast with the messages from SCAA and OFSTED could hardly be more marked. In education, it's teaching that matters now, not learning.

My second question is this. Who wrote the following, and when? "When the inspectorate reports on pupil numbers, successes in examinations or the organisation of teaching in individual schools, its evidence is rightly regarded as authoritative. But recently - and especially with regard to English - HMI has made reports of quite another sort.

"Both in its general discussions and in its reports on individual schools, it has recommended how English and other subjects should be taught". No idea? The Centre for Policy Studies in 1987. It was part of the final blitzkrieg on HMI who had first to be denounced as the enemy within.

In that chilling phrase "but recently" you can hardly fail to detect the authentic voice of the political commissar. For the ideological crime of suggesting how teachers ought to teach, you could once have been abolished. Should OFSTED be fearing for its future?

All of which, in a rather indirect fashion, leads to my third question. Who wrote this?

"Bid her awake; for Hymen is awake, and long since ready forth his maske to move, with his bright tead that flames with many a flake, and many a bachelor to waite on him, in theyr fresh garments trim."

And the answer isIEdmund Spenser, in one of his more accessible moments. Where does he come into the equation? This is what SCAA considers to be appropriate reading material for 11 to 14-year-olds. Spenser is one of the prescribed authors in the new national curriculum for key stage 3 English. That's what happens when you ignore how people learn.

So, my final question is this. What have SCAA and OFSTED got to say to all those schools that, in response to current thinking about good management, identified their "core activity" as a focus on learning? What should a school do if it adopted the criteria for learning included in the original version of The Framework for Inspection which are now being air-brushed out?

What has the Government got to say to schools which swallowed the reassurances they were given about the new system and believed that inspectors would not be allowed to indulge their prejudices because inspection started by looking at what was being learned not at what was being taught? Well?

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