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Thursday, 18 September 2014

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Who teaches the teachers?

Another school term starts with yet another shift of goalposts, which must jar on teachers’ nerves like fingernails on a blackboard.

But on this occasion at least part of the shift has to be welcomed... erm, in part. In spite of it having been set in motion by the less than loveable Mr Gove.

Kids who don’t get to grips with maths and English by the time they reach the age of 16 will have to continue studying until they do.

Leaving school at 16, unable to add up or work out a percentage; incapable of stringing together a coherent sentence or knowing where to place an apostrophe will no longer be acceptable.

Well, thank heavens for all that.

It’s about time some school heads realised that teaching was more about youngsters learning something useful than teachers going through the motions to earn their holidays and pension.

Around half the 16-year-olds leaving school after GCSEs do so with little or no grasp of mathematics and barely able to write their own names.

That’s not just a scandalously abysmal surrender to basement standards, it’s a betrayal of young people, whose job prospects grow weaker and thinner with every school leavers’ prom party.

Now, don’t get me wrong. There’s no gloating from a smug old fogey here. Had I been made to study maths until I knew what I was doing, I’d still have been there now.

I blame my maths teacher. Miss Secker, her name was. It has to be said, she explained herself so poorly she may as well have been speaking in ancient Greek.

We, her bewildered students, spent more hours counting the number of times she heaved up her bra straps from beneath her jumper than we did marvelling at her mathematical genius... which we assumed must have been in there somewhere.

None of us did terribly well in the numeracy department.

Most of us would regret that now.

And there I guess is the point that tends to put a stumbling block in front of Michael Gove’s plan to fix what is so obviously broken in education today and has been for many years.

Students who fail to achieve a GCSE grade C or higher in maths and English, will be made to stay on at school until they do.

Not so much a punishment as a determination to give them a better chance of stepping into the workforce equipped to give of their best.

But, as already has been pointed out by the Association of School and College Leaders, there’s another problem – and it’s a big one.

This fall in teaching standards has been going on for so many years now, it has become increasingly difficult to recruit teachers who have themselves mastered English and maths to any degree of adequacy.

It must be 15-20 years ago that, when helping my now 30-something niece with her homework, I’d find myself unable to resist sending her teacher’s assessments and marking back to school with corrections to spelling and grammar.

This problem is not new and successive school-leavers have paid the price for nothing having been done to address it.

Never mind chicken and egg arguments – who now teaches the teachers to teach?

Will we be faced with having to drag centenarian grammarians and white-whiskered mathematicians from their care homes to impose the old standards at which curriculum-meddlers and league-table chasers have scoffed for generations?

Don’t laugh too easily... can you think of a better option?

Have your say

Our son (7)has any 'draft' of his homework 'corrected' by my wife and I before we allow him to submit it. We often have to correct spelling, grammar and confusing wording in the actual homework instruction handed out by his teachers!!
When we are trying to explain the importance of spelling and correct use of grammar, his usual response is "The teacher says it isn't important until you are into year 4".
If a child is allowed, nae ENCOURAGED not to use disciplines such as these, then we are setting that child off on the wrong path. bad habits are easy to develop but difficult to break.

Posted by Craig on 4 October 2013 at 06:35

"Around half the 16-year-olds leaving school after GCSEs do so with little or no grasp of mathematics and barely able to write their own names."

This is a laughable comment.

Posted by sources please on 3 October 2013 at 12:18

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