When I was at school, I only ever went to the front of the class to get the belt. Things have changed a lot since then, as I discovered when I (and 23 other parents) attended the “Bring your Parent to School Day” at Boroughmuir High in Edinburgh.
At registration, I was told that our “class” of adults would follow a timetable as if we were S1s, and we would be treated the same as the real pupils. Over the day, I was made to line up outside classrooms, chastised for my lack of uniform and told to raise my hand to ask questions – no change there from the 1970s.
So what has changed? Firstly, they have smartboards instead of blackboards: these allowed the maths teacher to display algebraic questions quickly and easily. More equations for pupils obviously means more maths learned – but also more external preparation required by the teacher.
There was collaborative working: in English and science I was encouraged to move around, discuss my ideas and thoughts, and share my experience and knowledge with classmates. This is a big change from my schooldays, and much more like the modern practices that pupils will progress to in the workplace.
Multiple-choice tests used to involve circling the answer on a piece of paper while trying not to be copied by your partner, then handing it in and getting the result several days later when you’d forgotten what it was about. At Boroughmuir, as part of a modern foreign languages class, new technology allowed me to hold an individual card aloft, which could then be scanned by the teacher’s iPad, with the results instantaneously displayed on the smartboard.
I was made to line up outside classrooms and chastised for my lack of uniform
PSHE is not a subject that I was taught at school, but I feel it’s very important in today’s society. This lesson really made me aware of how much education has changed. It’s not just about achieving good grades, but also about producing young adults who are confident and can contribute to the world.
But surely health and food technology hadn’t changed much? You still shouldn’t twist the pastry cutter when you’re cutting out scones, or they’ll turn out like the Leaning Tower of Pisa. But this department now does more than just teach pupils to cook – it has to teach them about healthy life choices, too.
At the end of the day, I’d gained an invaluable insight into how and what my daughter is being taught, enabling me to support her throughout the remainder of her school career. I also felt that it helped me to forge a closer bond with the school.
As we sat reviewing our individual experiences, Mr Dempster, the headmaster, excused himself from the discussion, as he likes to stand in the stairwell and be visible to each pupil as they go home.
That was the final difference – the only time I saw my headmaster was when I was in trouble.
Andrea Constable is a parent in Edinburgh