Licence to trash lessons

23rd March 2007 at 00:00
Toolkit for pupils to feed back opinions is just rubbish, say unions and teachers

Teachers and unions have hit back at moves to give young pupils the opportunity to rubbish lessons.

It follows the launch of a toolkit where children are allowed to give their verdicts on what they are taught - and suggest what they would like to learn.

The Assembly government plans to send the Listening to Learners advice packs to all primary and secondary schools after a trial period. The pack suggests that every teacher should form focus group sessions to gain their pupils' honest thoughts, along with questionnaires asking them to report on lesson content.

But early feedback in sample questionnaires indicates that some children may see it as a chance to have a go at subject areas - and teachers - they simply dislike.

Maths lessons have already become a target area for disgruntled pupils. One said she felt she already knew all the maths she would ever need. Another pupil, when asked about algebra lessons, said: "You just think, when am I ever going to use this again?"

Dr Heledd Hayes, education officer for the National Union of Teachers Cymru, said: "You have to take what children say with a pinch of salt.

Often they don't see the use of what they are learning until later in life."

Some heads also objected on the grounds that they were already paying for similar questionnaires to be analysed by commercial companies.J Phil Whitcombe, head of Bryn Hafren comprehensive school,JVale of Glamorgan, said: "Handing this type of thing over to professionals may cost, but it means resultsJare compared nationally and it frees up staff time to get on with their jobs.JWe alreadyJhave a good idea whatJour children think because of this."

Neil Foden, head of Ysgol Friars in Bangor, said his pupils already had the opportunity to voice their opinions through the school council and other forums.

"Giving pupils even more of a formal voice will increase resentment from staff and add yet more bureaucracy," he added.

Chris Howard, head of Lewis school in Pengam, Caerphilly, claimed the toolkits were nothing more than market research.

"I spent 30 years teaching and I always listened to learners by asking them what they thought - in class," he said.

The toolkits have been devised in line with advice from the United Nations convention on children's rights. Questions range from how useful pupils think lessons are to how much they enjoyed them.

Sample feedback from primary schools taking part revealed that most wanted to be able to sit in on parents' evenings.

"If you can't hear what the teacher is saying to your parents, you don't know what you can do," said one pupil.

Jane Davidson, minister for education, lifelong learning and skills, said at the toolkit launch in Cardiff last week: "This will help teachers to involve young people with decisions on learning and teaching."

SAMPLE QUESTIONS

For primary pupils

* Which of your lessons have you found to be most helpful?

* Is there anything you had to learn which you felt was of no use to you?

* Is there anything you would have liked to be able to learn about while you have been at this school?

For secondary pupils

* Some of your subjects are compulsory. Why do you think this is so? Are they useful?

* Do you think what you are doing and learning about in class is helping you become a better learner?

* What is the best way of finding out how you are getting on?

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