Policy spin comes out on compact disc

9th February 2007 at 00:00
Brian: Minister, can I ask you what "personalised learning" means?

Minister: Certainly. It means... wait, where are my notes?I "focusing in a structured way on each child's learning, enhancing progress, achievement and participation."

B: Like Plowden's ideas in the Sixties?

M: Well, we can't just do what we did in the Sixties. People would see it as a backward step, so we've added a 21st-century gloss. The Sixties classroom had lots of curriculum activities going on at the same time. We called it the integrated day.

B: And it didn't really work, did it? Not enough funding for small classes with lots of adult support... M: It wasn't the money, Brian. It was the fault of the teachers. They couldn't handle 20 activities at once. Can't think why.

B: But "personalised learning" is different?

M: Absolutely. We've discovered that children learn in different ways... B: Haven't teachers realised that for years?

M: Talking to teachers is just asking for trouble. They're so reluctant to try our initiatives every hour on the hour. Much better to tap uncluttered minds that aren't trapped in the classroom.

B: And then issue a wad of documents in expensive glossy folders?

M: Oh come, come. We issue them on CDs now - with expensive glossy folders.

B: So personalised learning is the new way forward, then?

M: Sure. We knew it was a great phrase, but it's taken us three years to work out its meaning. Some children are kinaesthetic learners, some are listeners, some learn by shuffling objects around. So children might be learning about sound waves, but they'll do it using various methods catered for by the modern teacher, or learning facilitator as I like to call her - because I'm at the cutting edge and Iwear an expensive suit.

B: But won't the teacher still rush around trying to cater for all these methods?

M: Not if she spends all her waking hours and 99 per cent of her holidays getting her planning up to scratch.

B: Ah, and the other 1 per cent is the teacher's own time? That's the work-life balance you mentioned, isn't it?

M: Exactly, Brian. Now, watch this DVD. It shows you personalised learning in practice. We've sent five copies to every teacher in the land.

B: I watched it earlier. I noticed that your DVDs show exceptionally well-resourced classrooms with small, well-behaved classes of pupils in uniform, usually in rural areas. What about the inner-city school?

M: What's an inner-city school?

B: Ah, that was where Plowden fell apart. Children in deprived areas are often emotionally challenged. They need structure, stability, reassurance, the best possible teachers, lots of equipment... M: Schools just need their policies in place - and lots of documentation that teachers can read just before they collapse at night. It's all about embedding excellence and raising standards.

B: And children being agents of their own learning?

M: A Seventies phrase, Brian. I wouldn't want my department seen as old-fashioned. We call it giving children ownership and empowering them as learners. Making choices, becoming stakeholders... B: IHiring and sacking their teachers?

M: We might allow them to be locked in the stock cupboard if their planning runs to fewer than 100 pages.

B: And is all this likely to work?

M: Onwards and upwards Brian. If not, I've got another idea. You have a board, you see, and you paint it black and put it at the front of the class. Then you give the children what I call "learning tablets" made of slate, and a stick of this white stuffI

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