FYI, your abbreviations are a little O.T.T

8th January 2010 at 00:00

Surely one of the most rewarding jobs in teaching is that of the PT (professional tutor), sometimes known as the SM (senior mentor). This person has responsibility for ITT and the NQTs, as well as CPD and EPD, and providing the opportunity to help others to improve as teachers and to develop their skills.

In my time in this role I was able to focus on a range of teaching issues - from ARR (FFT and ALIS would no longer be a mystery) and AfL, to pupils with ALN (discussing IEPs and ADHD with the Senco) and the importance of the SIP (and its link with the FIPs). All very rewarding, and illuminating. It all opened my eyes in many ways, but in one way in particular - the insistence on acronym overload - why use three whole words when we can use an abbreviation? - especially if it is an abbreviation that will cloud the meaning for many.

Our insistence on this trend was brought home to me when an earnest, and rather stressed, student teacher came to me one day to ask the meaning of ESD as it formed part of one of his QTS statements and he had been told that he had to provide evidence of it in one of his lessons.

Though I consider my knowledge of essential acronyms to be quite good, this one had obviously passed under my radar. I promised the vexed trainee that I would get back to him ASAP. Someone in the KS4 or KS3 office would surely know. But this turned out not to be the case. So I tried colleagues in PE, HE, RS, MFL and finally DT as well as the TAs, but to no avail.

OK then, I thought, the SLT - or, if you prefer, SMT - will surely have the answer. If they don't know then who will? "Sounds familiar" was the response - they'll get back to me.

Eventually I found out that ESD was a shortened version of ESDGC. It was the GC, apparently, that made all the difference. Of course, "Education for sustainable development and global citizenship", came the answer from the HM. Bingo.

Why do we insist on trying to cram in 1,001 abbreviations at every possible opportunity? Is it a desperate attempt to save on paper - surely not? Pure laziness? An inability to spell the full versions of the words?

Is it the biproduct of our texting and emailing culture that attempts to express everything through the most minimal jargon? Could it be that the use of a string of abbreviations makes the speaker or writer appear more clued up on their subject matter? Or maybe it is a smokescreen used to deliberately avoid clarity, in the same way that Humphrey's verbose but meaningless explanations in Yes, Minister used to baffle his boss?

I lean towards the theory that by using a lot of quasi-technical language and excessive abbreviation there is a sort of esoteric code that is set up that excludes anyone who is not "in the know". Or maybe just someone who has not been on that particular course.

Until the GTCW intervenes - perhaps with an Inset - this abbreviations acrimony is set to run and run. After a long day of GCSEs, ASs and Btecs, I - like many teachers - will continue to interpret G and T, not as gifted and talented, but as the drink of my choice.

Geraint Davies, Head of arts faculty, Llantarnam School, Cwmbran.

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