Shrub drama at St Judes

17th September 2004 at 01:00
Unravelling the jargon of education speak

Disapplication. This word does not exist. Therefore, the Department for Education and Skills (DfES) has had to invent it. The word is needed to inform teachers that they don't have to do something that they have to do.

Clear?

OK, let's drop the prefix for a moment and regroup. Application is generally considered a good thing, particularly in education. It is something we would like to see in our pupils. It is something we send to other schools when we realise it's never going to happen here.

Application is also a feature of the national curriculum: the law says we have to apply it. Except that we don't always. In some circumstances, while not exactly getting rid of the curriculum, we can diverge from it. Now you see the need for a new word: the DfES had to come up with something for which the entire vocabulary of the English language was inadequate. Hence, disapplication.

The department acknowledges that, in exceptional cases, "the full national curriculum may not be the most appropriate route to maximising pupils'

learning". All teachers know this and have the exceptional cases to prove it. Only in certain circumstances can they disapply the national curriculum. The department, on its website, providesa helpful flowchart.

This suggests that you may, for example, wish to disapply in order to develop the curriculum for a particular cohort, something which might involve experimentation.

Here at St Jude's (exceptional cases a speciality), we find the idea of disapplication exciting. Our botany teacher, who understands a cohort to be a division of plants between a class and an order, thought it referred to all his pupils and got carried away by the prospect of experimentation. We managed to stop him before he grafted John on to a hydrangea.

We took the DfES at its word. We examined the criteria for disapplication: pupils who had been away for a long stretch; pupils who were weak in certain areas. We took into account the ethos of the school and the needs of our community. We became the first school in the country to request mass disapplication. We applied to the DfES for a disapplication form, which we sent off last week. Digits at St Jude's are now firmly crossed: apparently former disapplication applicants can't reapply.

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