/ Parenting, Technology

Are children too dependent on technology?

Childrens tablets

Love it or hate it, but technology has become an essential feature of everyday life. But is it wise for this dependency extend to kids too?

We recently published a conversation on what future smartphone features you’d like to see, when an unexpected but interesting debate began to emerge. Ian started it off:

‘We’re inexorably moving towards a future in which we will become not simply dependent upon but almost certainly biologically linked to our mobile devices. It’s the logical next step, really. All that fiddling around to see the screen when it could be projected onto your retinas and overlaid with your real-time experience will become a thing of the past, regarded as quaint and in the same way we look back at early TVs with only four or five channels. We live in a time when we all need continuous social contact and when our tolerance for delay has become severely diminished.’

Computer kids

Arguably, technology has become effective in opening access to information and broadening our communications tools. So it’s no surprise really that technology has worked it’s way in to the classroom.

In school I had computer lessons on a big boxy desktop PC, but now my younger cousins are working off of tablets. To be honest, I’m a bit jealous of that – I wish I had a tablet in school.

But as Duncan explains, there are potential pitfalls to exposing children to advanced technology like this at such a young age:

‘The problem is young people are now being provided with tablets etc in schools under the pretext that “it will make them more computer literate”. But in actual fact their young brains will be programmed to accept that electronic control and electronic information is normal instead of human interaction by their teachers to teach them real life experience because most of their teachers are “internet ready” and have not experienced all of life’s problems but live in a semi-virtual word already.’

Advancement of technology

So are we just creating generations of technology dependent drones? Or is this just an example of the advancement of our education, as Wavechange points out:

‘Maybe we should not have given children books, pencils and paper, never mind let them loose on computers or phones. If they have something that demands a telephone call they could be allowed to use their parents’ landline. I find it interesting that watching films, TV and sport are widely regarded as respectable activities but more recent technology usually comes in for criticism.’

What do you think, are we being too critical or rightly sceptical? Should children be using new technology?

Comments
Profile photo of malcolm r
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Techology inexorably advances and chioldren in particular need to keep up – it will impact their working lives as well as their personal ones. So whether or not we like books, tv, computers, games consoles, mobile phones, iPads or whatever they are all here to stay and we all need to make the best of them, not bury our heads in the sand. You ignore “progress” at your peril. Even your new car needs a kind of technical literacy.

Profile photo of Patrick Taylor
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I have to disagree with malcolm r as there seems to be a complete failure to realise that we can, and do, create machines that we never master and at the same time fail to realise the shortcomings. Teaching children to engage solely or predominantly through machines and that this will solve their future is as laughable as telling loads of pupils that going to University would guarantee a good job.

What I believe is being lost is the time that people traditionally had to think and reflect – this has become occupied with multiple trivial distractions.

Quality of thought and analytical powers seems to be declining judging by a US surveys of students. As the US is generally further advanced in technology in teaching by introducing tablets and laptops etc this maybe a warning :

“” As Americans, we tend to be pretty full of ourselves, and this is especially true of our young people. But do we really have reason for such pride? According to a shocking new report from the Educational Testing Service, Americans between the ages of 20 and 34 are way behind young adults in other industrialized nations when it comes to literacy, mathematics and technological proficiency. Even though more Americans than ever are going to college, we continue to fall farther and farther behind intellectually. So what does this say about us?

Sadly, the truth is that Americans are stupid. Our education system is an abysmal failure, and our young people spend most of their free time staring at the television, their computers or their mobile devices. And until we are honest with ourselves about this, our intellectual decline is going to get even worse.

According to this new report from the Educational Testing Service, at this point American Millennials that have a four year college degree are essentially on the same intellectual level as young adults in Japan, Finland and the Netherlands that only have a high school degree…

Americans born after 1980 are lagging their peers in countries ranging from Australia to Estonia, according to a new report from researchers at the Educational Testing Service (ETS). The study looked at scores for literacy and numeracy from a test called the Program for the International Assessment of Adult Competencies, which tested the abilities of people in 22 countries.

The results are sobering, with dire implications for America. It hints that students may be falling behind not only in their early educational years but at the college level. Even though more Americans between the ages of 20 to 34 are achieving higher levels of education, they’re still falling behind their cohorts in other countries. In Japan, Finland and the Netherlands, young adults with only a high school degree scored on par with American Millennials holding four-year college degrees, the report said.

How in the world is that possible? I can tell you how that is possible – our colleges are a joke. But more on that in a moment.

Out of 22 countries, the report from the Educational Testing Service found that Americans were dead last in tech proficiency. We were also dead last in numeracy and only two countries performed worse than us when it came to literacy proficiency…

Half of American Millennials score below the minimum standard of literacy proficiency. Only two countries scored worse by that measure: Italy (60 percent) and Spain (59 percent). The results were even worse for numeracy, with almost two-thirds of American Millennials failing to meet the minimum standard for understanding and working with numbers. That placed U.S. Millennials dead last for numeracy among the study’s 22 developed countries.

It is in this type of environment that Coca-Cola can be marketed to Americans as “a healthy snack“.
As I mentioned above, our system of education is one of the biggest culprits. From the first grade all the way through post-graduate education, the quality of education that our young people are receiving is absolutely pathetic. In a previous article, I highlighted some statistics from USA Today about the declining state of college education in America…

-“After two years in college, 45% of students showed no significant gains in learning; after four years, 36% showed little change.”
-“Students also spent 50% less time studying compared with students a few decades ago”
-“35% of students report spending five or fewer hours per week studying alone.”
-“50% said they never took a class in a typical semester where they wrote more than 20 pages”
-“32% never took a course in a typical semester where they read more than 40 pages per week.”

I have sat in many of these kinds of college courses. It doesn’t take much brain power to pass the multiple choice tests that most college professors give these days. The truth is that if you fail out of college you really, really have to try hard.

In another previous article I shared some examples of real courses that have been taught at U.S. universities in recent years…
-“What If Harry Potter Is Real?”
-“Lady Gaga and the Sociology of Fame”
-“Philosophy And Star Trek”
-“Learning From YouTube”
-“How To Watch Television”
-“Oh, Look, a Chicken!”
This is a national crisis. Parents should be screaming bloody murder about the quality of the education that their children are receiving. But because very few of them actually know what is going on, they just continue to write out huge tuition checks all the time believing that their kids are being prepared for the real world.”
The original source of this article is The Economic Collapse
Copyright © Michael Snyder, The Economic Collapse, 2015

Profile photo of duncan lucas
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Diesel- you frequent the same US websites as me I too have read the shocking news of US high school achievers are on a level with European drop-outs due to the lack of discrimination ,the ability or even being allowed to voice an opinion that contradicts government propaganda , the downgrading of US society into a nations of consumers and yes pc gone riot . It is not made public but US defense dept are worried by the low level of US achievers and have to import from abroad especially India/Pakistan .Russia is now ahead in many areas due to their concentration on technical ability/science/maths etc . If you are honest you have to admit you cannot speak out in the US schools/Universities etc unless it is approved by BB . Every day University Professors lose their jobs because they tell the truth . But what worries me is successive UK governments have imported US methodology and philosophy (if you can call it one ) and we are now well into being dumbed down -well young people . Where is the technical/mechanical/electrical teaching -how to look at a circuit and build a system using physical parts or mechanical stripping down a car engine and rebuilding it ? No its boys should learn to cook etc why nowadays ?? when a good microwave can heat up a processed meal , never before in the US (and here ) have so many young men refuse to marry and go looking abroad for females -check out the figures supplied by the US government do they expect male/female to morph into one sex in body and mind ? if so the psychiatric hospitals are going to be very busy just look at the suicide rate in this country for young people hidden by HMG . This country is going down the tubes because of this new conformity.

Profile photo of John Ward
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Are you saying, Diesel and Duncan, that all this is because children are using tablets and smart phones?

The problem as I see it that they are getting further ahead of their teachers and parents but I don’t think holding children back is the way forward.

It is arguable that the internet, under competent teacher guidance, might project better values and aspirational images of better behaviours than those offered by their parents. Handling that is the tricky bit.

Profile photo of duncan lucas
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The problem is John you are presenting a stylised and government/media inspired idealised version of —The Future Of Our Young in this “Great and Wonderful” country -part 1 and 2 now showing ,not at a movie house near you but at any school near you. Its all aimed towards consumerism and BB not improving the intelligence of our young to think unique thought ,to be trail blazers ,innovators not in banks /service industry but in science-engineering etc . Many cases its BB supplies the tablets etc to the schools (for a tax deduction of coarse ) and to condition young people into the virtual world of make believe and accepting sales lies as the truth . While BB-aka the Government achieves its aim –get, em into debt when young and we have, em for life –not in debt ?? –outcast – weird- non-conformist etc . This country isnt interested in heavy industry as it give the 99 % power ,no Service industry UK suites the government well . Look how hard it is in the UK websites to find any real info your blocked or must invoke the Freedom of Information Act to get the Truth, and even then its doctored ,in the “interests of “National Security ” of course (not ! ) -in the interests of BB of coarse . While visions of LIght and “Good Cheer ” is presented the government now has a bill in the reading to officially scoop up all our Internet browsing ,not just the so called “terrorists ” but every man/woman /child in this country . I say officially as they are already doing it unofficially –all in the interests of “”protecting us “” . I wouldnt mind it so much if they admitted it but to look you in the eye and lie their heads off is the moral standard of this new society. Even Win 10 ,is a total spy network ,MS were forced ,kicking and struggling to officially admit it . My aim is to open the eyes of young people to reality not some US cartoon inspired vision of reality . Conditioned -brainwashed-controlled etc but as Kenny Everett used to say –all done in the best possible taste .

Profile photo of wavechange
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Here is the report referred to in Dieseltaylor’s post: https://www.ets.org/s/research/30079/asc-millennials-and-the-future.pdf I suggest that you form your own opinion rather than that of Michael Snyder.

Though I believe that new technology used appropriately is of benefit, there is a danger that we learn little about a lot and do not appreciate our limitations. Which? Conversation provides plenty of examples of people posting about subjects that know little about. Just because they have read something on Wikipedia or in some online publication, they assume that they are in a position to make informed comment – which must be very frustrating for those that do.

I share Duncan’s concern about increasing consumerism and I am increasingly concerned about the increasing involvement of business in education at all levels.

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“Americans for Educational Testing Reform (AETR) claims that ETS is violating its non-profit status through excessive profits, executive compensation, and governing board member pay (which the IRS specifically advises against[48]). AETR further claims that ETS is acting unethically by selling test preparation materials, directly lobbying legislators and government officials, and refusing to acknowledge test-taker rights. It also criticises ETS for forcing GRE test-takers to participate in research experiments during the actual exam.[49] It has also come under criticism for paying its part-time employees, most of whom are drawn from the less than 10% of the U.S. population with graduate degrees, a modest $15 an hour (with no benefits), to grade the essay component of their standardized exams.

In 2014 the BBC reported that the Home Office has suspended English language tests run by ETS after a BBC investigation uncovered systematic fraud in the student visa system. Secret filming of government-approved English exams needed for a visa showed entire rooms of candidates having the tests faked for them [50] ” Wikipedia

A charity/non-profit gone very wrong. Still if our Govt. employs them they cannot be all bad can they ..?

Profile photo of DerekP
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My experience is that many young children now have easy access to tablets and/or fones. Their preferred uses of them seem to playing silly games and watching you tube videos of Taylor Swift.

Older children (and young adults) then seem to move on to an obsession with social networking and internet news feeds.

If they waste all their school days on these activities they will quite likely end up as thick as two short planks. With good fortune, they will still be able to get jobs stacking the shelves at Tesco or working on building sites.

But it is not all doom and gloom. As judged by some of the placement students and graduates that I’ve worked with recently, those who receive appropriate educational oversight, from well educated, caring and conscientious parents and teachers are still ending up all right.

Actually, I think most of the games played on tablets are not much more sophisticated than the kind of games that could be played on older PCs and consoles. So I doubt that the availability of current technology is really a game-changer (oh dear!) in terms of how kids can spend their time.

If we are looking to either avoid or remedy shortfalls in educational achievements, then I think we need to be looking elsewhere.

Profile photo of John Ward
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I agree with you Derek. When I was at junior school we played silly games and and later on went round bus garages writing down bus numbers, and then train numbers while catching colds standing on the end of railway platforms. Perhaps the main difference is that today’s activities are more inwardly orientated rather than collective and sociable. People we know who have young children take their responsibility seriously to bring them up in a rounded way with plenty of real social interaction, sensible learning, and active pursuits. It would be good if more could do that but life was ever thus. Children still have hobbies, and do things in and out of the home, and luckily there are still plenty of good career opportunities available for young people to aspire to, especially in big business, commerce, construction, manufacturing, engineering, architecture and design, the law, finance, medicine, education, the countryside and heritage, the media, and entertainment.

Profile photo of Ian
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Perhaps we should ask ‘What is technology?’. In its domestic form, technology is simply access to information. Knowledge empowers, so access to that knowledge is surely desirable. There’s another aspect: many children (and adults) enjoy magic, and what many ‘phones and tablets do now is almost indistinguishable from magic. So is this bad?

Well, no it isn’t. It’s no worse than a felling axe, or bow saw: both are perfectly safe until wielded by an aspiring psychopath. And it’s arrant nonsense to point to research done by the largely discredited Educational Testing Service as somehow showing a marked decline in the intellect of young Americans. Problems administering England’s national tests in 2008 by ETS Europe were the subject of thousands of complaints recorded by the Times Educational Supplement. Their operations were also described as a “shambles” in the UK Parliament, where a financial penalty was called for. Complaints included papers not being marked properly, or not being marked at all[43] and papers being sent to the wrong schools or lost completely. I suspect it’s unwise to place any reliance on ‘research’ done by them.

The US intellect levels remain remarkably consistent according to various objective studies and assessments and almost all Psychologists. I doubt they’d have 353 Nobels to show if they were all thick.

But in terms of British Education (which is where this seems to have wandered) there’s a massive range in quality. Instead, however, of blaming the Government, mythical cabals and plots, let’s look at what the reality is. Good teachers (there are many) can change lives. They can develop originality, the desire to discover and the thirst for knowledge. Poor teachers (and there are quite a few) can crush aspiration, deter children from studying and demoralise. But the most potent force behind a child’s development is the parent. All the available research indicates that they – and they alone – lay the foundations for the child’s future. It’s only later they become acquainted with technology and, if they’ve been properly nurtured during the first four formative years, they adapt to technology like any other aspect of life. Today’s 10 years olds will never know a world in which information wasn’t available at the touch of a button, where games were so lifelike they still take your breath away and where – in the very, very near future – they can’t experience an entire world of their own.

I believe this topic is based on the wrong premise and, since by Lauren’s admission I started it, I’m reminding folk of the gist of what I was saying.

We are, as a society, evolving. Technology (led, in part, by consumerism, admittedly) is changing the ways in which we interact. The question we should be asking is whether that interactive process is good or bad for children. Malcolm, in fact, was absolutely right with his first post: the tech is here to stay and itself is evolving rapidly. What we ought to be doing is not blaming it for all the ills of society but instead teaching children to embrace it intelligently, to use it to further comprehend what is a complex world. And that has to be good.

Profile photo of Patrick Taylor
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” We are, as a society, evolving. Technology (led, in part, by consumerism, admittedly) is changing the ways in which we interact. The question we should be asking is whether that interactive process is good or bad for children. Malcolm, in fact, was absolutely right with his first post: the tech is here to stay and itself is evolving rapidly. What we ought to be doing is not blaming it for all the ills of society but instead teaching children to embrace it intelligently, to use it to further comprehend what is a complex world. And that has to be good.”

I find Ian’s message inspirational – apart from I think it is a pipedream. I also do not think anyone has blamed “all the ills of society” on technology in this thread. Dr Pangloss would approve that it is the possible future.

By his attack on ETS Ian has demonstrated how easy it is to apparently find bad information on the Web. How one is going to ensure that only acceptable information is found I know not.

Ian also mentions the number of Nobel prizes and equates this to the US education system. This is in itself misleading as many of the Nobel prizes are awarded to people taking US citizenship who were educated elsewhere. Roughly 96 of the 357 being non-natives. The UK’s 118 Nobel prizes as a function of population is a higher rate – and I daresay there are other countries better still. And of course the US has a rather larger population than most countries.

We also have to take into account the salaries available in rich countries and the research budgets which might logically think that this will be rewarded by superior results. Brain-drain anyone?

Ian asks what is bad about technology. My belief that humans are slightly well developed mammals over-lying a fairly primitive sub-conscious that is driven by conservation of energy , taking food when available, sex, emotion, and not thinking too deeply.

The more one panders to these aspects of basic human nature – so easily done by video and audio – and leave comparatively little time left to consider more thoughtful pursuits. I am not saying that we will not have a minority of thoughtful people and inventors. Simply we will have a lot less of them than we might have had.

And of course we will have a non-stop stream of bogus and sensationalist surveys ……..

P.S. From a Radio 4 programme a US academic said 92% of her survey of US university students preferred paper text-books to electronic. I have a theory that our primitive ape brain likes a 3D book as the hands are a very tactile and very well-connected to the brain.

Profile photo of Ian
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I already knew about ETS’s lamentable record, DT. And yes – it’s there in spades on the Web, but this is an organisation who wasn’t even able to send the right papers to the right schools. And I should also add it’s only easy to find bad information when the organisation has behaved badly. On the Nobel front, I’m sure if we analysed the figures of all the countries we could each use them to prove our respective points. My main points, however, were twofold: don’t believe what organisations like ETS say without at least two sets of corroboratory data and don’t assume that because one group with highly paid executives says something that it’s necessarily accurate without first investigating dysgenic fertility and the Flynn effect, to name but two important areas of intellectual research.

I suppose what concerns me most is the sheer lack of any substance in the report quoted. For example “Sadly, the truth is that Americans are stupid. Our education system is an abysmal failure, and our young people spend most of their free time staring at the television, their computers or their mobile devices. And until we are honest with ourselves about this, our intellectual decline is going to get even worse.. There’s no clear definition of ‘Stupid’, a number of assertions with a complete lack of evidence but worse: their language precision is abysmal. If “Intellectual decline” has started anywhere, then it’s firmly with the report’s authors.

There’s a vast amount of (real) research regarding intelligence, the precise nature of which no one can agree upon, but there may have been an overall global decline over the past 50 years, albeit less than 1%.

Technology, however, is here to stay, not withstanding the odd nuclear holocaust, and I believe our job – and the job of every parent and grandparent – is to ensure children use it appropriately. We are moving closer and closer to bio-electronic symbiosis, and I believe the challenge is to help the young generations cope with the changes and developments that will bring.

Analysis, comparisons, empirical research – all these are tools with which we need to ensure children are equipped. Only through discrimination will they fully comprehend what on the Web is worthless and what is relevant or worthwhile.

Profile photo of wavechange
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The text you have quoted was not in the ETS report but was made by someone who may not be an expert in educational matters.

Hopefully the kids and grandkids will help keep the older generation up to speed.

Profile photo of Patrick Taylor
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I was not trying to prove any point via the Nobel prizes other than suggesting your mentioning it as a proof of an education system was possibly flawed.

On the narrow front of geography the National Geographic do surveys
nationalgeographic.com/roper2006/pdf/FINALReport2006GeogLitsurvey.pdf

The above report does tend to suggest that even a decade ago when PC’s were common that the average youngster was challenged. Particularly worrying was that despite TV and the Web most of the tested group could not identify Afghanistan on a map.

Is it just possible that with innumerable distractions people are not that bothered about learning , and this disinterest will become more pervasive.?

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When I was young my old engineering boss said to me–Duncan ,what would you do if stuck in the country miles from anywhere ,on a farm and you didn’t have tools with you to repair a piece of farm equipment ,no phone to call for help ? Can you see what he was getting at ? , ingenuity- self motivation- an inbuilt sense of how 2 parts of a component work together and the ability to improvise -a basic engineering knowledge. Do you know there is a right way and a wrong way to use the most basic of engineering tools -a flat file. ? . What would the Internet dependent youth do nowadays who has been taught — bakery– instead of anything technical , and if they didnt have their smartphone with them, does anybody in 2016 see where I am coming from or can they only say –outmoded – old tech– digital is KIng etc without even realising they are proving my point. Germany is not so stupid neither is Russia you need a deep grounding in PRACTICAL skills if you want any hope of this nation becoming an INDUSTRIAL nation it once was or do you all accept a service industry mentality ? You like to think—keep the nukes =pay billions of £££££££££ for updating them so that Britain can appear to be a nation to be reckoned with but wont pay the same to re-industrialise this country. Foolish beyond belief !

Profile photo of malcolm r
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I totally agree about the need for practical skills and reaL-world experiences – their is no substitute. But technology can help you learn – my children have learned a lot from youtube for example, and on-line forums, to both fix cars and master diy projects. They also save a lot of money using price scanning. Just examples of where new technology helps. We need to become adept at using it, but we also need to learn, and teach people, to use it sensibly. Just like books- plenty of rubbish around there.

Profile photo of Patrick Taylor
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I think we all agree that technology can be very useful. We also probably all agree that technology will become more embedded in life.

The problem is , to my mind, is that overall there is no innate predilection that means the Web/technology will be used for good or that the UK population as a whole will be empowered/improved by it.

I may be being unduly pessimistic but perhaps not. Surely the discussion ought to be aiming at what is good about technology and how we try to get the dross removed or avoided.

For instance if , as a matter of course, all surveys have to be registered and the populations and questions made available, we could heavily critique the dross that permeates the Web. Which? itself can easily be accused of poor surveys and hiding the questions.

If a charity like Which? is unable to be honest and up-front on relatively innocuous surveys there is little hope that our media will curtail the rubbish so regularly used to fill column inches provided to them by vested interests.

Essentially I am saying we should , for the sake of future generations and the current one, have the equivalent of a Golden Wiki solely devoted to picking and commenting on good sites or indifferent sites. And actually saying why.

Does such a thing exist currently? Is it widely known?

Profile photo of Ian
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I’m not sure how you would define ‘being used for good’ or even set systems in place to deal with that. And it will be used – as almost all knowledge is – for good or bad, according to the user.

What I’m saying is that in our current society (and the UK, more than most, interestingly) we are becoming used to obtaining information extremely quickly and using that information effectively. Now the question of ‘dross’ or what I would call inadequate research (or crank sites…) is impossible to address in a free internet. So what you have to do is to equip youngsters with the ability to discriminate between them. In other words, make them question everything they read.

There’s masses of poor research out there: the Royal Institution estimates that in Psychology, for example, as much as half the research published – much of it as PhD thesis material – has never been rigorously examined. Children need to be taught to be curious, inquisitive and discerning. That’s not easy but it’s doable – given good teachers, excellent parenting and the right technology.

In effect, there’s an urgent need – not to deter kids from using technology – but to teach them how to use it.

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That being the cases Ian then what children are being taught is digital and that becomes their interest,okay if they are going to become a computer programmer or software developer but if not then what practical skills are they learning ? This country is no longer known for its industrial development that applies to China where everybody and their dog opens up a small factory and produces components which the UK/US buys . Cameron doesnt seem interested in small UK businesses ,well I should say England ,as Scotland takes a different approach and has just invested more into them. Cameron is only interested in BB and Banksters and ,of course ,his beloved City (all bow down at the sound of its word ) where the money (no you cant find it ) is held via off-shore islands the UK holding the biggest rip-off one in the world-ie- the Cayman Islands a British overseas Territory .One Cayman building Ugland House is the registered address of nearly 20,000 global firms. Do you not see ? where do young people go, this country isnt for technical learning ,its for the banks how is that attitude going to help the young ? Have you checked out the amount of land in the UK where you CANT find out who owns it ? No the chips are stacked against the young nowadays and are only looked on as how much profit can be got out of them asc consumers -work “”experience “” working for nothing -Slaves – having to live with parents as welfare for them is removed -homeless until in their 20,s and I could go on . Not a pretty picture -excuse – “”recession “” aka-Depression and Ozzie has more cuts lined up by the billion . All to pay -Banksters -aka IMF/World Bank.

Profile photo of wavechange
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My priority would be to help people of all ages improve their critical evaluation skills so that they can look at websites and other sources of information and decide for themselves about whether information is useful. It can be useful to have reviews of topics where different views are discussed but any attempt to categorise information as good or indifferent is doomed to failure. Who would make the decision and is it wise to feed information to people rather than encouraging them to think and learn?

I agree with Ian’s comment about poor work in PhD theses, having done my share of examining. Often the problem is that the candidate has included both good and inferior work. A good PhD supervisor will tell his student to focus on the best parts of the work, but that does not always happen. As long as the candidate demonstrates that they have a good grasp of the how they tackled their topic and that it is clear that they did the work and wrote the thesis, they are likely to receive their PhD.

Families and teachers can do a lot to help kids use technology in an effective way, particularly if there is mutual respect. I respected my father’s amazing ability to do practical things and my uncle’s insatiable quest for knowledge and understanding. Unfortunately there are parents that look down on their kids for spending time using a laptop or smartphone.

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I agree completely. In reply to Duncan, who asked “That being the cases Ian then what children are being taught is digital and that becomes their interest,okay if they are going to become a computer programmer or software developer but if not then what practical skills are they learning ?” I would say that it largely depends on how the child is taught to use the technology. Programming is a completely separate discipline to simply using a tablet or mobile ‘phone, as is software development, and there’s no evidence that using tablets from an early age makes any real difference to what a child will eventually turn their hands.

DT makes a point that he prefers a ‘real’ book to read (as, in fact, do I) but that may well be because none of us was brought up using the internet, mobile ‘phones or tablets. Humans don’t really enjoy change all that much (although our presence on here means we’ve embraced a large portion of the digital age) but children today are being brought up with that tech, It will become second nature to them but only providing their curiosity is stimulated, their discrimination trained and their appetite for learning encouraged.

The mistake many make, I feel, is to assume that using tablets or computers somehow changes both the ways in which we learn and our behaviour. But the same criticisms have, in the past, been levelled at everything from the advent of the Radio, Independent Television, TV itself and suffrage. At one point it was thought dangerous to teach women to read (still is, in many parts of the world) but we’ve moved on and accepted that the acquisition of knowledge for all is the goal, and not the problem. Providing that the plethora of digital devices are seen for what they really are – tools for information gathering – then I believe we have a responsibility to educate our youngsters to use the tools, in the same way as they would use any tool. And it’s not that much of a stretch to envisage a future in which the builders of your house might well be equipped with wearable digital technology which will allow them to build more effectively, more quickly and more cheaply.

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Purely an interesting article on stretching children
bostonglobe.com/lifestyle/2016/03/15/there-fear-math-and-then-there-fear-russian-math/Gn1XU68cOEw5G0UM8gIOhM/story.html

Profile photo of Patrick Taylor
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Well several strands here

A

Embracing technology. Well by most people’s standards I have embraced technology using the Web for hours per day every day for decades. You do not reach nearly 200,000 e-mails without some activity. I also have had four e-readers of which one the A4 size Onyx is still in use.

You have to appreciate that for three years I have been pointing out the existence of A4 readers to Which?, who in a spirit of educating it’s subscribers, and acknowledging that for the optically challenged A4 would be extremely helpful, have ignored them totally.

E-readers versus reading on tablets. Essentially e-ink screens are less wearing and glarey on the eyes and people are more likely to read longer.

B

Is it impossible to generate a list of “good”sites. Of course it is not impossible. On an average Saturday at the bookshop I routinely advise people of websites that suit their interests. Last Saturday curiously it was the local independent e-rag address that I gave to three citizens of the Borough.

Phys.org, TED, and gutenberg.org are more mainstream ones I recommend virtually weekly. Given an interest I normally have a good site to recommend. Pavingexpert.com is a labour of love and … I believe there is one on whitegoods …

C

The problem surely is that if you give completely free use of technology to young minds that you cannot control whether they enjoy extremist sites, porn, violent, sites or anything else unsuitable. Not to mention the joys of sexting and cyberbullying.

People seem to believe even YouTube is “safe” which I suppose it is if you ignore all the videos of catfights and other violent acts are ignored. And the crank videos. And the extremely stupid pranks. How to make lethal weapons etc has been banned so perhaps is that a precedent?

Let us reiterate again that the human brain is not fully grown to around 21 years of age. Seems almost amusing that the “ancients” seemed to understand that. I would I suppose be arguing that except for white-listed sites that people under 16 should be restricted in what they can view and do .

D

I have no argument with teaching people to use technology and a wired up world. I do have concerns that nobody appears to be interested in the backing-up of the technology as anyone who knows how GPS signal is now vital to the running of the economy. We create a civilisation highly dependent on a set of technologies we may create severe problems if this is broken, hacked, or some catastrophe takes out.

The problem for children is should we be making sure they do not learn too much of the wrong stuff too young when intellectually they may not be able to handle it. Parents are not always aware of what is on the Web, and perhaps all of us adults were fully-formed before this tidal wave of information was unleashed and are better able to handle it or unaware how dark it can be.

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Section D = diesel– we create a civilization HIGHLY dependent on a set of technologies ,we may create severe problems if this is broken-EXACTLY diesel ! and thats what I said in the banking convo when I said cameron in conjunction with the banksters is getting the whole of the UK onto online banking so that we would have illusionary “funny money ” while the banksters would have YOUR REAL worked for money and when the system breaks down ??? where then your income to support your family and home ?? – phone an off-shore call-centre ?? who tell you -dont talk to me like that ,you hurt my feelings and they hang up —meanwhile your family starves and you get kicked out your home for non-mortgage payment . Dont think I dreamed this up this is cameron,s ACTUAL policy in the next 20 years or so. This is why a fully digital UK is really frightening ,you are controlled by using your own income against you ,do as we say –or ELSE !

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My son now 25 wishes he had lifted a welder or some tools in his early teens instead of being glued to Games

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It’s never too late to learn and with luck he might have a father who is practical. 🙂

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Thanks Wave, , , I think though that the things one does early in life as in childhood and early teens really are the things that one has a better chance to become brilliant at..
My son would be the first to say that and his mother also which came as surprise a couple of years ago
Even the best in Motorsport mostly start early
I drove a Triumph Herald before I left Primary school and a Fergy when the steering wheel was nearly above my head and my ass on the gear box. . .
I’d compare these things perfected when young to riding a bike when young
I would have no trouble throwing a rally car around nor would I have to relearn to drive a 125 kart . . .Never forget
Late last year I lit the oxy/acet which had again been sitting and went into rusty tin trying to teach the son. . .Never forget
My Dad is at the rambling stage with Dementia, , barely knows where he’s at yet was trying to tell his grandson how to weld

I think that there is a kind of magic comes with computers that lulls people into thinking they are achieving something and if they could just do a little more a little better they’d get where ever they want to go but I never found this place

Yes technology and computers have a lot to give but they take something away also. . Time

I can clearly see my son is very good with CAD and he has a job using CAD but whether he’d ever have made a mechanic or not I dont know. . .maybe he wasnt cut out for that
I do believe there are horses for courses. . .I was always going to be in engineering of one type or another

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Dee-I was always going to be in engineering – absolutely ! .You like me were born engineers, built into you ,part of you ,came naturally to you ,wasnt a strain learning it ,and when I say “born ” as a believer in re-incarnation we both were engineers in a previous life . The village I live in had a garage where I took my car for MOT the owners son was learning the trade to take over the garage but he told me his heart was not in it . Much to the disappointment of his father he left , eventually his father closed the garage down (no incentive ) , I spoke to his father last week he told me his son was divorced and living with a woman with 3 kids 20 miles away ,he now works as a taxi driver and his father said his taxi broke down and he has problems fixing it , can you see the moral here ? New generations are brought up in a “no fear ” society ,everything has to be fun-fun-fun -just like the Beach Boys 60,s number till my daddy took the T-Bird away .Its a mollycoddled society ,every child “perfect ” and protected from the “evil” out there the male approach is outlawed . A corrupt society has no boundaries -no suffering -no pain – and NO learning as contrary to MIddle-Class ethics NOBODY achieved anything great without hard graft of the mind or body –unless of coarse you dedicate your life to being a bankster and use other people hard work to make yourself a millionaire. And dont think my comment on Middle-Class ethics was my doing but a 17th century Italian philosopher so they knew the score even away back then. But in those days more “force ” was used to to teach pupils-learn or expelled -large amounts of home work -dont talk back to your teachers etc.

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Not sure why there’s an inherent US-bias to quotes in here, but the story is repeating what the OECD’s been saying for some years: “According to Andreas Schleicher of the Organisation of Economic Co-operation and Development, children in the UK are falling behind in maths, due to a ‘superficial’ teaching style based on memorising facts, rather than understanding mathematical concepts.

Mathematician and co-author of Maths for Mums and Dads, Rob Eastaway thinks that “good ways of teaching are problem solving and real world context.”

When teaching 9 and 10 year olds he uses maths and magic, playing number games with the children which makes them “excited…they want to know how, explore and investigate””

Maths is rarely taught well. There are a host of reasons for this and it’s far too simplistic to lay the blame solely on teachers. But one big issue is that children are rarely challenged enough. And there are a host of reasons for that, too. One huge advantage of tablets, BTW, is that challenges and learning can be individually tailored. Ability in Primary classes tends to follow the traditional Bell curve distribution, so the few that are really sharp find themselves held back by the bulk of the class. In an inner city class of 35 that presents serious issues.

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I believe it is impossible to construct a list of good sites, for several reasons, the main one being that no two people will agree on what constitutes ‘good’. And the second reason is the sheer number of sites. There are rather a lot…

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Actually I have looked at some of the on-line courses, and I use Duolingo for French and potentially Portugese. The problem is getting children to use them rather than be concerned on the far more interesting things like the opposite sex, popularity, football, and video.

It is obvious that the Chinese and Indians at least place a high value on learning and no doubt guide there children accordingly. I do feel that UK parents have been sidelined or abdicated from much of a role other than chaffeur/chauffeuse. [I do wonder how France manages with sexual identity in words]

As for people not agreeing on good websites I find that argument extremely weak as I good is far distant from perfect. Is pavingexpert.com dangerous to parents and children or educational? Simples.

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Inspired by DT’s mention about Duolingo, I wonder how effective it is to mix fun with learning.

Are there any computer games that can help improve mental arithmetic. It always amazes me that everyone who plays darts can subtract numbers from 301 with no difficulty. Learning to do mental arithmetic is probably not much fun but if part of a game there could be the incentive to learn.

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Mixing fun with learning is basic good teaching. Learning, in, fact, should be fun, since it’s a while before children can become sufficiently focussed to allow curiosity on its own full rein. But DT, when you say “The problem is getting children to use them rather than be concerned on the far more interesting things like the opposite sex, popularity, football, and video that’s not a problem, providing the teacher is sufficiently engaged with the kids and the material. Kids enjoy learning naturally (the average child asks a lot of questions) so it’s simply a matter of harnessing that natural interest.

The problems usually arise on the cusp of puberty, when boys tend to ‘drift more than girls. And, regrettably, the current school success criteria are largely based on things at which girls tend to excel.

BTW, can you explain this sentence: “I find that argument extremely weak as I good is far distant from perfect. Is pavingexpert.com dangerous to parents and children or educational?? And the point was simply that someone has to make decisions about what is good and bad, and since even dedicated organisations with vast resources, such as Which?, get that wrong, what hope for anyone else?

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Yep that phrase came out wrong.

I am not suggesting we have “perfect” sites but ones that are “good”. Which to my mind is exemplified by pavingexpert.com. It is highly practical, it deals with dimensions, and the very fundamentals of our surroundings.

I think we could also add the sites like the NGS, RHS and Garden Organic, etc etc.

I would also like the facility for people to discuss any reasons why they would not think a site worthy. As to the workload – I believe Wikipedia essentially has proved even what might seem impossible is not.

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I am still asking a lot of questions even now at my great age! With the right motivation and guidance children have almost all the knowledge available to them within easy reach, thanks to modern technology. It has been acknowledged by educational psychologists that each succeeding generation of children will become more knowledgeable than their predecessors, it is how they use that knowledge that is the responsibility of parents and teachers to determine and not a device.

Knowledge is not the most important criteria however. Real intelligence is measured by the ability to work out the everyday decisions and problems from the knowledge acquired that children will inevitably be faced with at some stage in their lives, which can only be solved by the developing computer inside their head, largely dependent upon their environment, the quality and the amount of human social interaction experienced and which takes place within their own homes and the schools they attend.

To answer the question, I do think that it is possible children can become too dependent upon technology, some to the point of addiction, but again it’s up to parents to watch for the signs that indicate this may be developing such as the amount of time spent on technological devices and the reaction of a child when told to leave them.

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“Our attention spans are getting shorter and shorter. Much of this can be laid at the door of our ubiquitous use of modern technology. The effect of this is being felt most profoundly in classrooms and lecture halls. But Craig Blewett and Ebrahim Adam argue there is no reason to despair. Students can be hooked into learning if they are presented with the technology – and specifically the games they play – that is the cause of their distraction. Gamification can improve attendance, enhance understanding of content, encourage engagement and ultimately improve academic performance.” 23/3/2016

Lead into this article
theconversation.com/how-games-can-hook-students-with-short-attention-spans-56157

” Modern human beings have a shorter attention span than goldfish: ours is, on average, below eight seconds while the little fish can focus for nine seconds.
These decreasing attention levels are driven by people’s constant use of technology. One study found that people’s dependence on digital stimulation has become so high that 67% of men and 25% of women would prefer to experience an electric shock rather than doing nothing for 15 minutes. ………………… “

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The sooner we get rid of watches and re-learn how to tell the time by the sun, the better.
When oil runs out, those with skills with horses will come into their own again, as will navies to dig ditches to supply water turbines for electricity generation for the houses of the rich.
Shortage of paper will mean that oral history and rote learning of facts and data will come back into vogue, and Fahrenheit 451 will be realized, but by different means.
Let us prepare now for the world envisaged by the dystopian writers, and by the Yankee Survivalists, for to echo that favourite supermarket jingle – When our Civilization is gone – it’s gone.

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Far sighted Josef -well not that far, could be this year or next and this counties population is being kept completely in the dark. And people kept on meeting and talking and buying and selling and marrying and having children until that fateful day arrived and they said –why did we not prepare for this time ? But it was too late.

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DT: I suspect you’re mixing causality and consequence. Attention span tends to be about nine minutes – not seconds and is shorter in men than women but that seems to be a genetic predisposition. Men seek instant gratification whereas women are prepared to delay…

However, it’s not simply digital stimulation that we seek: numerous sensory deprivation experiments conducted in the mid-’50s and ’60s revealed that we need to be stimulated regularly in order for our minds to work properly. Of course, more experiments in the ’70s revealed that the process could have a positive effect. Without environmental stimuli to process, the central nervous system’s level of activity drops dramatically, sending the subject into a state of deep relaxation. The body undergoes positive physiological changes that work toward achieving homeostasis – the state of physical equilibrium. Muscular tension is released and proper blood flow is enhanced. Additionally, the body begins to balance any neurochemical imbalances caused by tension and stress. There is increased production of endorphins and T-cells, which provide pain relief and increased immunity, respectively. In essence, relieved of outward stimuli, the subject’s central nervous system can concentrate most of its energies inward for the restoration of physical and mental health. It’s a fascinating subject but one in which no firm conclusions have been reached. Overall, it’s unlikely that modern technology will do any lasting damage to children, who are fairly quick to adapt to change, anyway, and most of the ‘damage’ will be caused more by the nature of the communications on digital devices, rather than the simple act of using them.

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Ian you have a point in your mention of chemical effects on the brain . Having worked in hospitals and observed people in various stages of illness I have found that human beings have an unique ability, which depends entirely on the personality of the person, when they think they cant take any more to “give up ” on life and stop fighting and quickly go into physical decline and die ,its a type of self-inflicted but hidden suicide . Not only have I noticed this but nurses as well . I on the other hand am a “fighter ” otherwise I would be long gone but it took me many years to realise everybody is not the same as me. I watched people deteriorate just by thinking –I cant take it anymore whereas an animal caught in a trap would bite its leg off to get free . You MUST keep your mind active , the human brain is still not totally understood there are people born with only half a brain and lead normal lives because the brains nervous system has the ability to make new connections neurally . I saw a brain X-ray of one person and was aghast that they could act normally but as you say if you go into a state of neutral you go into a state of trance like the Tibetan monks ,that happened to me 35 years ago when in an Indian restaurant with my wife and two friends everything went black but it wasnt a faint or anything like it , I was still sitting there , my wife woke me shouting at me, I dont think it lasted long , I told my doctor but he understood it and told me not to worry. To me the brain is the conscious organic part of a human being but not the total of human awareness you might not agree but we are more than the sum of our parts.

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To continue a discussion regarding education, in which Malcolm posted this:

” I was brought up in the era of grammar schools. These gave an academic approach, whereas the other schools gave a more vocational approach. My feeling is that those anti this approach wanted everyone in the same pile, which did not then focus on specialist teaching where it could help diverse interests and talents. We do this later with university and colleges that are selective. My criticism of the grammar/secondary modern era was it seemed not easy for later developers, nor poorer performers, to transfer to a school that might be more appropriate. “

From reading that I take it that you’re highlighting the flaws in both systems, is that fair?

There’s a strong argument that Grammar School abolitionists were primarily teachers, interestingly. Like you, I was a Grammar School inmate and went on from there to pursue a similar path to Wavechange, I suspect.

It’s a fascinating topic, full of ‘what ifs’ and ‘maybes’, but with no clear answers. If we look at the countries in the world leading the education rankings they do adopt a very different approach to it, the most significant perhaps being the immense respect in which teachers are held. Hard though it might be to believe, schools in places like Japan and Korea not only enjoy almost 100% attendance rates and far longer school days but have virtually no discipline problems.

I suspect Grammar schools once had a vital role to play. Whether they in any way compensated for the biggest issue – that of poor parenting – I couldn’t begin to hazard a guess. But they did delivr a very different curriculum to the Secondary Moderns.

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I also went to a Grammar school and back up malcolm all the way . “poor parenting ” ? you can add in Political Correctness that comes before the three “R,s ” . Question like are you sure you are a male/female and so on come before the 2X table , thats once they can talk English that makes sense , thank God getting the belt and strict teaching actually TAUGHT me not propagandized me.

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Duncan: that’s not true – in any way. If you can prove it, then post the definitive links, otherwise it’s wiser not to repeat it.

On the second point ‘getting the belt’ is unlikely to have taught you much other than to avoid school. You are somewhat obsessed with what you imagine is happening in Primary Education. You are sadly misinformed, however, and the real problems in Primary education are eluding you completely.

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Ian, you have opened up a discussion that could lead to accusations of elitism, denial of equality, and so on, but I firmly believe appropriate education should be targeted. We are not equal – some are more academic, some more practical, some more intelligent some more willing to learn and put in the hard work and sacrifices, some less so. Grammar schools provided initially for those seemingly more receptive to an academic education; they also attracted staff appropriate to dispense that kind of curriculum. I would hope that a similar situation could pertain at what were then secondary modern schools – tailored to the aspirations of their intake. To succeed in a hard world, as a country we need to be properly educated.

In my layman’s eyes, looking back, both systems were flawed. There seemed little opportunity to transfer pupils between grammar and secondary when late development occurred, or when grammar school pupils struggled out of their depth. There should also be the means to give particular lessons, when appropriate, to either type of pupil in either type of school when the pupil showed a particular aptitude for one or more subjects. One solution might be to have both schools on the same site or in the same building, nominally but with easy interchangeability of resources. That may be what comprehensives (and academies) try to do.

“Selective” education, which I think is, or should be, selective in the ability of students not their background, happens in further education. Our universities are graded, as are the colleges, to ability and interest. Vocational training, apprenticeships, job training, etc. should help those who are not suited to the academic or college offering.

Duncan touched on hard work, long hours and discipline. I am inclined to be a little lazy but my school’s aspiration for good ‘O’ and ‘A’ level results, followed by a high success at university entrance, meant that we were pushed to do our work diligently. As we find out later in life, for most of us there is no substitute for hard work.

Here endeth…….

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I don’t think a single thing you’ve said could invite “accusations of elitism, denial of equality” or anything else; I think you’ve posted an eloquent and very even-handed account of the British education system over the past 60 years. There’s also a lot of Psychology research which supports your conviction that “appropriate education should be targeted.”.

Historically, I believe the system was flawed in its emphasis on cultural education as opposed to STEM, which was partly because the Grammar system was based on the public school model, which itself was designed specifically to enhance class differences. Sadly, the Grammar schools then started to build on the very class divide that created social issues throughout the 1930s and the Grammar school teaching staff saw themselves as inherently superior. They were, in fact, academically better qualified than Secondary Moderns (except for PE staff) but that difference was keenly felt and contributed, I suspect, in no small way to the creation of the Comprehensive school.

But this is all history. I think your concerns are more with the present and things have changed. There is a feeling that school days are still too short, school terms too erratic (and too short) and many schools failing to prepare their students for HE. I wrote a short article on this some time ago:

“Statistically, throughout England and Wales, more than one fifth of lessons aren’t delivered by someone qualified in the subject. That means, in reality, that the teacher who does deliver the lesson material is often either simply ‘minding’ the class or ‘muddling through’. Either way, they’re being paid simply for standing in front of the class.

Now, that statistic doesn’t take into account the 55% absence rate among staff that’s been rising slightly, year-on-year, and in most schools they employ substitute staff to cope with these absences. The social and interpersonal dynamics in teaching mean it’s all but impossible for a substitute teacher to do anything with the class in terms of actual teaching, so they end up ‘minding’ the class. In other words, they’re paid for simply standing in front of a class.

This becomes more of an issue when you take into account in-service training. Almost all staff are given time off for in-service training – and much of it is compulsory, such as GCSE standardisation meetings, and so on. In that event, all their classes are covered by substitute staff, who are paid for simply standing in front of a class.

The percentage of FTE (Full Time Equivalent) teachers with QTS (Qualified Teacher Status) has been steadily falling for some years. From the Government’s own statistics “Secondary schools employ the majority of the 20,300 FTE teachers without QTS; 11.5 thousand (57 per cent). Primary schools employ 5.9 thousand teachers without QTS (29 per cent) and the remainder work in special schools or are employed directly by local authorities.”

Now, the situation is that when those who are attempting to elevate the quality of teaching visit or assess these people they can’t effectively do anything, since they’re employed in the full awareness that they’re not holding QTS. So in that instance “There’s little to no check on the quality of what they deliver”.

If we then examine the average, fully subject-qualified teacher standing in front of their class one might imagine that they deliver a lesson that excites, enthuses, stimulates and educates every time they do. Sadly, the reality is anything but. Part of that has to do with the ways in which schools are organised; Secondary schools, for instance, often work under a structure which actively denies children and staff the opportunities to receive and deliver high quality education. There are many reasons for this, but the outcome is the same: a poorer quality education than the children deserve.

In England children in Secondary schools pupils on average spend between six and six and a half hours per day in school. But let’s look at that. If we take the timetable of a school rated as ‘Good’. then we see it has 6 x 50 minutes periods (lessons) per day. Which sounds reasonably encouraging, because we can assume the kids are getting at least 5 hours education per day. You might notice that’s down significantly from the 6.5 hours they spend actually in school.

So then we look at the actual lessons. In a typical day at least one lesson will be delivered by a sub. Yes – work might be set by the teacher who’s missing, while the sub is paid for simply standing in front of the class, but it’s not the same as being taught.

So now we’re down to 4 hours 10 mins. But in Secondary schools children move from room to room and, in the larger schools, that takes time. Allowing for a minimum transition time between each of the 6 scheduled lessons, it can eat up around 40 minutes per day, simply moving along corridors, lining up outside classrooms, waiting for lessons starts and so on.

So now we’re down to 3 hours 30 mins in actual lessons being taught.

Bu that’s not the end of it. Far from it, as the teacher in each classroom has to ensure an orderly start to the lesson, deal with the minutiae of taking a register, missing books, absences, sorting out homework and stopping the children who enjoy challenging staff from disrupting the class for everyone else. All that easily adds another 30 – 45 mins per day onto the non-teaching bit.

So now we’re down to under 3 hours of actual taught lessons and I haven’t even started on fire drills, games lessons, PE lessons, potential disruption and so on.

Once we finally get into the classroom where we can actually learn something the teacher has to arrange the lesson to allow for the 30 or so individuals of varying ability they have to teach. So how is the quality monitored?

Well, there’s actually no universal agreement as to what makes a high quality lesson. There are a lot of terms thrown around. of course, buyt they’re often fairly meaningless when examined in the real-world context. Since there’s no agreement, OFSTED and others have drawn up ‘recommendations’, but all too often those are simply book-keeping measures which don’t even start to deal with quality of teaching.
The sad thing is that excellent teachers do exist, but all too often they’re driven out of the job by the increasing pressures to maintain the books.

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Thank you Alfa I can quote other schools as well I am not lying ,I will shorten this as when I added to it it was blocked but if anybody says I am lying why block the TRUTH -WHICH ?

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Thanks, Alfa. Yes – I’m aware of this, which seems to be a growing trend on the part of some parents who seem anxious that their children might suffer gender confusion. But this is squarely aimed at parents whose children have already expressed interest in gender identity, which some do. A growing number of adults have also written extensively about their own issues, and have pushed for early intervention by local authorities whom, I suspect, are simply trying to avoid upsetting parents. But it’s a long way from what Duncan was suggesting.

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Which by blocking my reply can you see why Ian still thinks I am lying ? what I couldn’t post was in the newspapers , it was talked about , discussed very vigorously and a enormous Majority were against it , you know what I am, talking about . I will not accept somebody saying I am lying when I cannot reply because of politics and I dont mean Tory or Labour.

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Hello @duncan-lucas, I can’t spot your comment anywhere in our system. Do you want to try again? 🙂

Can I ask you and others to step back and try and debate in a friendly manner. I know this is easier said than done, but it makes everything easier in the end. I’m signing off for the evening, so hope things have cooled down by the time I wake up.

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Its controversial Patrick and some wont like it or accept it involving Scotland , but its real. its true. and it was publicized in the Scottish newspapers but not seemingly in the English ones hence the disbelief. I am still hesitating as I am sure some are going to take offense.

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There’ll be no offence taken by me, I can assure you on that front, Duncan. But I am involved with the UK education system at a national level and I can assure you that when you say pre-primary school children are asked “are you sure you are a male/female and so on (edit) before the 2X table , thats once they can talk English that makes sense ” I believe you’re simply wrong. In the case to which Alpha linked it was parents being asked to comment and they were free to refuse t comment if they so wished. But you have to understand that Local authorities are merely reacting to the growing pressure and emerging evidence from those who have changed genders and attempting to ensure they ‘get it right’. I have never accused you of lying, either; that’s not something you would do, but people often misunderstand how the Education processes work and newspapers like the DFM are only too quick to post their caricatures of the process.

Sadly, I’ve long believed that Education is actually too important to be left in the hands of local authorities and certainly not the DFM…

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Ian it was 3 year olds , I ask you -THREE year olds upwards -toddlers who would be questioned on their sex even though it was physically obvious what sex they were and they were going to set up non-certificated “advisors ” (female ) to question them , all because of minority pressure and I mean ,at most, 6 % of the population . It caused a “storm ” in Scotland , and if NS wants to keep the SNP in power they should drop it like a hot brick . In other places it has caused intense trouble for those children of a weak mind later in life needing psychiatric help. I will ask a question , which parents of very young children , if this was proposed in England would agree with it that it is a “good idea ” and should be introduced ? I don’t care what other people or minorities do but once that impinges on the majority thats a different story. I may remind you the other PC idea of taking children’s welfare out of Scottish parents hands by appointing a government “Guardian ” so that parents ability to bring up their children or even look after them would be hit by draconian measures of permanently removing the child even for slight non-compliance , I see this was dropped due to protests from parents , who for the record were mostly female .

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I still haven’t seen a link which establishes the veracity of what you;re saying, Duncan. But, again, you;’re making several points in one sentence, so can we look at each of them?

You argue this is because of minority pressure, but using your same yardstick we’d presumably seek to abolish all disabled facilities, since they only form a minority of the population. But you also make unsupported allegations. You say “In other places it has caused intense trouble for those children of a weak mind later in life needing psychiatric help” so please post a link to the evidence for that.

When you say “ I don’t care what other people or minorities do but once that impinges on the majority that’s a different story.” we’re back to disabled facilities again. They’re a minority, so surely there should be no disabled seating on trains, etc?

A further point was when you said taking children’s welfare out of Scottish parents hands by appointing a government “Guardian ” so that parents ability to bring up their children or even look after them would be hit by draconian measures of permanently removing the child even for slight non-compliance can you provide any evidence for that? I don’t think you can, because early intervention is a doctrine that’s been proposed many,. many times, and has some merit, in fact.

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To continue, you forget that no child can be permanently removed from its parents other than through the independent judiciary. Even temporary removal is subject to very strict regulation, and the rights of parents are thoroughly safeguarded at every tune. However, some parents do a lot of damage to their children through crass stupidity and a host of other reasons. Are you arguing, then, that parents who routinely abuse their children in countless ways should not be subject to scrutiny? Who will protect the child, if not the parent?

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Has some merit Ian ?, on that note I have no more to say on the subject as we are light years apart on our views , brainwashing babies due to pressure from a small minority is not my idea of an ideal society.

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You see, Duncan, you’re not prepared to discuss the detail or read the research that supports some ideas but you are prepared to post things which bear no relation to reality and for which you have no supporting evidence. So again – when you say “brainwashing babies due to pressure from a small minority either provide links to reliable sources to support your accusations (‘Brain washing’ is illegal, BTW) and inform the police or I would invite you to withdraw your comments.

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Duncan: this is a balanced article which you might find interesting:

https://www.newscientist.com/article/mg19426002-100-teenagers-trapped-in-the-wrong-body/

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I thought you got me wrong Ian , my problem,as I have pointed out on many occasions isn’t genuine cases , although you do know gender reconstruction is a serious legal issue and requires two doctors and months of visits to a psychiatrist/psychologist as , if they get it wrong they are in big trouble. My problem is that what was/maybe going to happen in Scotland was that the type of persons going round Primary schools would be Lesbians with a fixed political correct agenda who being part of the L+G communities act in a forceful measure to “pronounce ” young children as-the wrong body for that child,s mind . This causes uncertainty in young minds lasting into adulthood and may I remind you we are talking about approx 6 % of the population , why should the rest of young children be interrogated like this? you want real life – Fife Scotland – two lesbians tortured and killed a boy child , in the newspapers , over a long period he died slowly , broken bones, starvation, made to eat his own excreta and worse , like treated like a dog , put in a cage . The witches were jailed but they had the brass neck to say they were innocent , even the social workers and the social work department were criticized by the judge in the High Court . Genuine cases – no problem.

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That was a terrible case, Duncan, and is a rare example of genuine evil. But I hope you’re not trying to compare the inhuman, sadistic actions of mentally damaged abusers with the actions of those who genuinely seek to try to make life better for all children? Sadly, child torture and murder are not as rare as we might hope, but I really don’t see a link between these malign individuals and what happens to children in schools.

I’d also suggest that your image of ”would be Lesbians with a fixed political correct agenda who being part of the L+G communities act in a forceful measure to “pronounce ” young children as-the wrong body” visiting infant schools is a flawed one. Under very strong UK law those who even visit schools are taken very seriously and those allowed to talk to classes and have contact with them are vetted carefully.

Furthermore, Head teachers are responsible, along with Governors, for what happens in these instances and they would want to be reassured that what they were approving wouldn’t land them in trouble.

So while I agree that it’s not appropriate to have potential murderers and abusers interrogating infants, this is not what was proposed in Scotland, nor is it what’s happening in other areas.

But you make an interesting point about the effects on young minds of almost anything. There’s a great deal of carefully researched evidence that indicates very young children assimilate a great deal more than most people think. In one sense it’s exactly why parents need to be so careful, and the question that most good parents ask is not ‘Have I damaged my children’ but ‘how badly?’. Children survive despite their parents, and some children have parents that really work hard to ensure their offspring are nurtured in a loving environment. But I believe bad parenting is the number one cause of social problems today, and the concept of the traditional nuclear family has changed drastically over the past few years.

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Just stepping back into history for a moment, I agree with Malcolm about the inherent weakness in the Grammar and Secondary Modern school system that prevailed in most areas for at least twenty years and still exists in some places today. In my view the biggest weaknesses were the lack of transferability and the unintended hierarchical structure of secondary education which did create an elitist class. The products of the Grammar schools [and ex-public school boys] have been in charge of this country at various levels since the 1960’s and influenced almost everything that has happened, although there were a growing number of enlightened and influential people who saw the future in comprehensive education with no streaming, mixed-ability classes, and the oft-quoted paradigm of ‘parity of esteem’.

The 1944 Education Act – a remarkable measure developed in the thick of wartime – identified three types of secondary school – Secondary Grammar, Secondary Modern, and Secondary Technical, all of equal status but each tailored to a particular educational objective and with no implicit restriction on interchange across the types. It was expected that Grammar schools would prepare pupils for higher education through a longer exam-based curriculum, that Modern schools would lead to vocational qualifications and practical skills for commercial and public service occupations, and that Technical schools would develop trade skills and crafts for work in industry and manufacturing normally via apprenticeships. Unfortunately, very few Technical schools were created but the few that were successfully met their objectives. The Modern schools were also successful but there is no doubt that some pupils should have had an opportunity to transfer to a Grammar school just as some pupils in Grammar schools would have performed better at a Modern school. The elitism and hierarchical structure was reinforced by the nature of Grammar schools housed in ancient or mock-ancient buildings, with ‘masters’ wearing gowns, and an emphasis on tradition. For no reason that I have been able to fathom the word ‘Secondary’ was rarely used in mentioning a Grammar or a Technical school but was always used [and painted on the signboard] in respect of the Modern schools. This perpetuated a concept of a ‘second class’ education and it affected the nature of the establishment, the quality of the teaching, the aspirations of the school, and the outcomes for the pupils. I believe a much more fluid system would have been much better [although tutorially challenging] and that the eventually successful development of Comprehensive and co-educational schools has benefited the country enormously.

I can see advantages in developing specialist schools to focus on science, technology, engineering and mathematics, or indeed on the classic subjects, but I do not see why they need to be called Grammar schools with all the baggage that goes with such a name [nor do I like the pretentious name Academy]. I think the last grades of schooling, from whatever age is chosen by each education authority, should be conducted in a High School. Sharing of facilities across sites for activities like music, sport, art, drama, and other forms of cultural development, and a cross-fertilisation of teaching staff, would also help to develop a more collegiate and equality-driven approach and an avoidance of artificial classification.

I was at a Grammar school from 1958-65, and loved every minute of it, but I was aware of the system’s limitations from an early stage when my sister was allocated to a Modern school largely because of the single-sex organisation of schooling in our area and the lack of capacity for girls to pursue a more academic path. Nevertheless she enjoyed her time there, learnt to type, cook, make an apron, and do pottery which all enabled her to start work, after some time at technical college, as a dental surgery assistant in a major teaching hospital. Arguably she acquired the more useful skills for life.

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I would say that we all agree about the history of the system from that lucid and detailed account, John. The real problem is why are we currently not achieving as we ought?

The national picture is a little worrying: essentially the system favours girls (detailed work, a lot of writing, etc.) but more worryingly over the past 30 years boys have become more and more disenchanted with education in general. And in many places teachers are not regarded well by the pupils. There’s no ‘natural’ acknowledgement of the teacher’s status, and that bring a whole raft of problems.

Malcolm touched on one consequence of this, briefly. I’d be interested in hearing more.

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Ian why was it when I brought up this subject a while back I was heavily condemned ? I said due to teaching methods in this politically correct age boys are being ignored or made to become cooks or waiters to fit in with “service industry ” Britain . While in my day male occupations like engineering /science/maths/etc were at the fore . Its like a servile class is being manipulatingly raised like in Victorian times except for jobs that don’t interest boys now, no wonder boys are rebelling , what next -daily “medicine ” of valium to “calm them down ” forcefully administered by strong arm “medical monitors ” in jack-boots 1984 style . Get subjects that interest boys like mechanics etc .

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There are really two points there, Duncan. The first being what you deem ‘Politically correct’ and the second being how you perceive the Education strategy and its potential outcomes.

Political correctness is a term largely coined by the US media and is almost exclusively used pejoratively. There’s no general agreement, either, of what constitutes Political correctness, so it’s used as a tool with which to belittle ideas people don’t like. From my own perspective I always feel when people resort to its use they’ve already lost the argument.

The second aspect is that you have a worrying perspective on gender: you talk about “male occupations like engineering /science/maths” which, to be frank, I find denigrating to the huge numbers of girls doing sterling work in those very disciplines. Should Madame Curie have stuck to cooking and toilet cleaning? There are incredibly few occupations which can be categorised as Male or Female, as our female fighter pilots would tell you.

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And should males be forced into female occupations ? I am all for evenhandedness but what we have now is Positive Discrimination against males , Ian the Feminists even admit to it, demand it, and have got , even if a female doesn’t come up to the ability to perform a job she is chosen over a male just to “make up the numbers ” it isn’t only men who are complaining against that many females see the injustice in it. -“incredibly few jobs women cant do that men can”- you cant be serious Ian ? or is it because we are living in a service industry society ? Ask women if the majority of them want to do heavy manual laboring jobs rather than sit in an office .

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News to me, duncan. My children of both sexes were never forced into jobs. A daughter is happy doing a combined supervisory / manual job and wanted to be a car mechanic. A female friend is a panel beater. There is, I would agree, a wish to see apparent discrimination removed from what women earn in equivalent jobs, and what they can aspire to and this leads to an over-reaction. So insisting we have 50% of women on boards – company or public – and to aim for equal numbers of MPs, regardless of ability, is where it all goes wrong. And as many younger women will leave work when they raise a family it is understandable that companies are more wary of investing heavily in expensive training when they are more likely to lose them than they are men.

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Duncan: if you’re going to quote what I say, please ensure you do actually quote it and not simply make it up. I did not say there were “incredibly few jobs women cant do that men can”. I said “There are incredibly few occupations which can be categorised as Male or Female” which is quite different.

But let’s deal with the first point. “Should males be forced into female occupations?”. Are you alleging that’s what’s happening? Please provide a link to the evidence. You then say “what we have now is Positive Discrimination against males“. Again, please provide evidence.

But there’s another point, here: if an occupation is male-dominated, why should females not be given the opportunities to compete? Let’s look, for instance, at two occupations: Surgery and Comedy.

In Surgery females comprise only 11% of the total number of consultant surgeons. Why d’you imagine that is, Duncan? In probability terms alone they should make up at least 40%. This might explain some of it:

http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/health-34406443

Given surgical appointments panels are often male-dominated, perhaps there’s a need for females to enjoy a degree of positive discrimination. Interestingly, comedy has the same issue. It’s extremely hard for female comics to get bookings, yet some female comics are outstanding. The BBC addressed this by forcing shows to include at least one woman on each panel show. Why should that be necessary, Duncan?

Profile photo of Lauren Deitz
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Hmmm this escalated quickly 😲

Differing opinions are of course welcomed, but please try to keep comments friendly. Thank you!

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As someone who has spent his working life teaching males and females and working with male and female staff, I am strongly in favour of equal opportunities. Yes women have children and may want a career break but that’s something we need to live with. Maybe the fundamental problem is when we put people before money.

For me, achievement is more about realising ambitions than accumulating wealth. Using this criterion, my most successful PhD student went on to run a new academy that cost about £50m to build and seems to be doing well according to recent reports. I am very proud of her. A year or so after the building opened I had the opportunity to see the facilities and chat with some of the staff. I do wonder how the academy will maintain some of the facilities because technology soon becomes dated and is costly to replace.

As an interesting aside, I did a vacation job for a small company that had a machine shop. The owner told me that he would not appoint anyone who was left-handed, explaining that their lathes and other equipment was designed with right-handed people in mind. That’s a good enough reason for discrimination but I don’t accept that anyone should be denied opportunity simply because of their sex.

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One challenge that school teachers don’t have is children changing sex. One of our male graduates came back as a woman to do a PhD and one of my colleagues had a sex change. I’m happy with my gender but would suggest that anyone making the change might be well advised to move to a different institution. 🙂

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I’m left handed and it has never stopped me working with machinery. One drawback, though, was in cheque books. When I used a fountain pen the side of my (left) hand tended to wipe across the damp ink, smudging it and also leaving a blue smear on the heel of my hand. Discriminatory? No – most banks will supply cheque books with the stubs on the right – although I only discovered this when the internet arrived and answered everything. .

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Gender changing is certainly becoming a very hot topic:

http://www.newstatesman.com/politics/feminism/2016/10/would-you-let-your-child-change-their-gender

and I do know of two cases at least, in Primary schools where this has happened. And there’s a curious thing too: the children at both schools were reported as having found no problems whatsoever, but their parents were a different matter. Interestingly, most of the issues seemed to stem from the men and the most severe from the least educated.

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I did not know that, Ian, but I learn a lot from Which? Convo. Maybe we should leave it there because there are more common challenges in school education. 🙂

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As Ian says, we can agree about what happened in the past. Well in broad terms if not in detail. Discussing our time in grammar schools is of limited relevance to the current educational system. Log tables and slide-rules have been consigned to museums and books and wall-charts are no longer the main learning resources available to help children learn from teachers parents and their peers.

In order to be an effective teacher, at any level, it’s useful to both engage with those you are teaching, which helps command respect. I well remember our first physics teacher who ran a very tight ship and he was there to teach us whether we liked it or not. Not surprisingly, his nickname was that of a notorious politician associated with WW2. Most of us learned more from our chemistry and biology teachers who were friendly and approachable, and fortunately we had an enthusiastic young man teaching physics in the sixth form. I have long been convinced that in general (and there are plenty of exceptions) schoolchildren learn more from younger teachers. In the fast moving world of technology, there is plenty of opportunity for the teachers to become the learners, which helps promote engagement.

In teaching we often create artificial boundaries between subjects. That’s convenient for assessment but perhaps by having more overlap between subjects it helps people understand how to use existing knowledge and understanding in other ways. Consider the ways in which our Conversations have helped us explore subjects, making us better informed and being able to help others, both online and in the real world. Computers etc can greatly help with learning and peer support, provided there is plenty of opportunity for face to face contact.

One of the reasons I enjoyed biology, chemistry and physics at school and then at university was the opportunity to work with others through practical work. It helped to be able to see how these subjects inter-related. It would have been easy to integrate other subjects but I saw no evidence of that in my day. Even if it proves too difficult or resource intensive to organise field courses providing kids to work together, there are still opportunities in the classroom and as homework, helped by modern technology.

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I agree with your comments, Wavechange. Motivation seems to be the key both for the educators and the pupils. The modernisation of the classroom experience has been a quiet revolution but perhaps it has not always achieved its potential in improving useful engagement and interaction. I know so many people who left teaching in the 1980’s and -90’s for more lucrative careers in other fields, although that was not always the motive that precipitated the move as the occupation itself was becoming increasingly unrewarding, and I feel that education has lost a great deal of talent.

Ian raised the question of the esteem in which teachers are held. I remember John Major at some point in his premiership grasping that point and saying how the teachers should once again be serious figureheads in their communities, be proud to live in the areas where their schools were based, and be respected by their community. I can’t remember how he said that would be achieved but I am sure it hasn’t come to pass.

Finally, there is a little cartoon in the current Private Eye which neatly parodies the gender assignment furore. It shows two toddlers in a sandpit and one says to the other “What do you want to be when you grow up? Boy or girl?”. As Wordsworth wrote over two hundred years ago, “The child is father of the man”.

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I agree with most of what has been said, here. I was particularly interested in your thought, Wave, that children might learn more from younger staff. In general, that does seem to be the case, but I’ve never been quite sure exactly why. The comments about subject partitioning are also extremely relevant today, possibly more so than at any time in the past.

We live in a rapidly changing world and a world in which knowledge transcends traditional subject boundaries and compartmentalisation can be seen as an almost primitive attempt to segregate learning experiences. There have been some attempts to introduce thematic cross fertilisation within schools (it already happens – by force of circumstance – in Primary education) but problems have been encountered.

One issue, perhaps surprisingly, is the varying levels of literacy amongst secondary staff. I well remember dealing with a Physics teacher at a Comprehensive whose ability to form a coherent English sentence was severely limited. But there’s also significant resistance at the staff level from teachers of different subjects, despite a great deal of research pointing to the very obvious fact that relating mathematical concepts to historical events, for example, such as sieges, not only enhances interest n the concept but also aids retention of the ideas.

In many ways there’s a crisis looming in Education, and it has to be addressed in some radical ways. But that’s not going to be easy and will take a lot of political courage. In one quite good comprehensive school only one person – the Head of Music – knew what E=Mc2 was, outside of the Science faculty.

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Thanks for keeping this fascinating Conversation going. Although I worked in HE, I have been fascinated by what happens in schools and particularly the challenges of moving into HE, either as school leavers or becoming mature students.

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I appreciate your comments on my third form history lesson, Ian. I am one of those people that likes to see where we have come from before deciding in which direction we should go forward in case there are any lessons to be learned. The present generation of secondary school children are the grandchildren of the pupils at Grammar and Modern schools in the 1960’s and -70’s. That might – or might not – have a bearing on the current discussion.

One of the curiosities of modern secondary education is that every few years the school leaving age is raised but the quality of the output [and its usefulness for the country’s needs] does not appear to benefit to the same degree. Many schools no longer run a sixth form [mostly for good reasons as they cannot efficiently cover the breadth of curriculum now required by some students] so their pupils go off to sixth form centres or colleges and deprive the school of a leadership cohort and aspirational models. I expect this eventually has an impact on the teaching commitment and quality.

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Seriously, you’re spot on with needing to learn from history. And equally adroit with that perceptive observation about the loss of VIth forms at schools. But in fact, I suspect the entire system needs a radical overhaul.

I suspect we need much larger schools: about 3000 seems to be an optimum size for various reasons, and we are moving towards the larger model. I also suspect we need to look at the abandoned idea of the ‘Middle school’ – the 10 – 14 year age group. When I use the term ‘school’, by the way, I’m only talking about a collection of pupils. not a building. I see no real reason, for instance, why we can’t educate children from 3 – 18 in the same local group of buildings, although I can anticipate many of the objections.

But the major problem, the biggest issue of all, is the children who have no interest in learning. In developmental terms that’s almost an oxymoron. Yet classes in all schools are held back and seriously disadvantaged by a tiny minority of disruptive children. There are myriad issues, both psychological and environmental why these children become as they do, but they exert a disproportionate strain on any school they attend, diverting resources, damaging the education of other children and bringing schools themselves into disrepute. Mostly, they can be contained by sound teaching, but that varies from teacher to teacher, and some cannot cope.

Successive Governments have shied away from tackling the issue at the earliest opportunity but it remains a major problem and one for which radical action is sorely needed.

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The test of the effectiveness of our education system is surely how we compare with others?
“The UK is still lagging behind leading countries at education and has made little progress in international rankings since results three years ago.

The influential Pisa rankings, run by the OECD, are based on tests taken by 15-year-olds in over 70 countries.

The UK is behind top performers such as Singapore and Finland, but also trails Vietnam, Poland and Estonia.

The OECD’s education director, Andreas Schleicher, describes the UK’s results as “flat in a changing world”.

In maths, the UK is ranked 27th, slipping down a place from three years ago, the lowest since it began participating in the Pisa tests in 2000
In reading, the UK is ranked 22nd, up from 23rd, having fallen out of the top 20 in 2006
The UK’s most successful subject is science, up from 21st to 15th place – the highest placing since 2006, although the test score has declined”

Not very good, is it? So is it the quality of our teachers, messing with the curriculum, discipline, …………..?
http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/education-38157811

And if I understand these figures correctly we seem to have been spending more GDP per capita than most others. Perhaps we could study a little harder other countries’ approach to education and learn how to do a better job?
http://data.worldbank.org/indicator/SE.XPD.PRIM.PC.ZS

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If you examine the other countries’ systems you will find three things: longer school days, shorter holidays and a much higher status for teaching. In Japan, for instance, the sensei is widely respected and generally they themselves respond, becoming almost obsessive in their desire to do things well for their students.

But if we want to improve the system here we have to change the length of school days and holidays at the very least. And the Government needs to remove itself from the entire Education arena. Teaching should be the province of teachers – not politicians .