This years crop of GCSE and A Level exams taken by children in Wales has shown an alarming decline in performance. This has stranded many students wanting to take degree courses at university. But the real concern is the change in the educational policy introduced in Wales that abandoned annual exams and tests which monitored learning progress which seems to have created the downfall.
The ideal seemed well founded. Scrap the tests which previously involved extensive periods of grooming and practice in how to pass the exams. Instead allocate this time – estimated at nine weeks per year, towards further learning. The concept seemed ideal, it made logical sense and in theory should have improved the range of education for Welsh children. But something has gone wrong in the equation. By not honing children in exam technique and assessing their performance annually seems to interrupted the ability to pass exams. Results are poorer than in England which maintained the status quo.
The experiment is an eye opener but maybe should not be abandoned wholeheartedly. This pedagogical conundrum need further investigation. The bench mark of exam performance in England is far from ideal. Exam results have been manipulated by children taking the easier subjects. The need for Maths and the sciences, which could help students in future careers in this changing world, have swapped for and abundance of courses in media studies etc.
Wales had a problem which needs significant soul searching to modify the measured outcome in final exams. The Educational authourities must accept that the educational benefit of allocating those precious nine weeks into learning rather than exam techniques. But for the sake of good order they also have to come up with a better measure of ability and academic progress. Now is not the time to throw the baby out with the bathwater. more..the implications for Wales’ school system
The success of the new Free Schools to be run by parents and teachers is off to a wobbly start. These new educational establishments were set to change the face of the our teaching resources in the UK. Freed from the normal controls instilled in the state sector they were heralded by educational secretary Micheal Gove as the way of the future. But there is a flaw. It required local parents to take a gamble with these schools with no pedigree and enlist their children. But they are not.
The Free schools are to draw funds from the government based on a fee per student. It is essential these schools have a full compliment to make ends meet. The operating and payroll costs would have set in the budgets assuming a 80 per cent occupancy but some are falling desperately short of their targets. This poses an awful conundrum. No erstwhile teacher will want to work for a reduced salary or even nothing. The chances of the free school taking off during the first critical years will be severely impaired if the better teachers abandon ship and leave. Schools Freed From Educational Authority Could Flounder
The scheme has a further vulnerability. Set up by interested parents they will inevitably have a finite interest. A concern is the whether these parent’s will maintain the operational energy after their children have moved away from the school, and the headteacher retires. Many a parents group or parent-teacher interface folds when the driving force moves away or their children leave the school. Although their are supposed safeguards the fallibility of the free school structure is yet to be proven.
The schooling journey of a child is 15 years. This critical time is made perilous enough with government initiatives, many of which fail or are heavily criticised by the teachers who are required to operate them. As the clock moves on interruptions to this valuable learning time lost can never really be recovered. Let us hope that the Free School experiment does not implode and leave countless children stranded by parents who were led to believe it to be a good idea or a solution to the failing local state school.
We like to think we’re developing as a nation but as our educational prowess has just taken its annual hammering with the GCSE and Advanced level exam results. Despite the supposed improvement in results much is linked to the popularity of easier subjects. The quality of our teaching resources and schooling system languishes in the “could do better” zone. Such criticism would not merit respect except it comes from the very Head teachers responsible for our children’s education.
Despite state and private education being around for 100’s of years it has fundamentally failed to track with economic, social and technical developments. Countless secretaries of state for education have come and gone. Many leaving behind turmoil and failed educational initiatives that have cost billions of pounds. Their policies have been short-lived, created by short-term government ministers who hold the post for a desperately brief tenure leaving behind confusion, frustration and a deep-seated concern for the future of our children. We are slipping down the international educational league tables at an alarming rate and as yet do not have a concerted policy that can address this trend. Exam Results Reveal failure in Educational System
Accepting the strategic importance of education it seems crass to hand this vital role to a government minister who inevitably is equipped with an Eton and Oxford background. Having therefore benefited from a pinnacle of education being expected to empathise with the overall failings of the education system that serves millions of our children seems remote. Countless schemes and national initiatives have been introduced that are openly criticised and condemned by the very head teachers responsible for their implementation. Failed or abandoned trials leave hundreds of thousands of children stranded or robbed of the education they deserve. The policies cause undue stress within our teaching resources and having a negative influence on new teachers 50 per cent of who abandon the role within five years. This staggering waste of expensive educational resource remains an unresolved indictment of the educational sector.
Key performance indices (KPI) introduced by the bureaucrats to measure performance have been duly manipulated by the more savvy head teachers and clouded the true results and trends. Yet government educational departments busy handling the introduction and measurable the next initiative seems bereft of prior consultation with the unions, colleges and teaching resources. The fate of well meaning radical reforms and learning schemes could be vastly improved and the doomed schemes aborted before they damage our schooling systems.
Above all politicians zest for glory could be muted. As the average tenure of an educational Secretary is around 18 short months they hardly have time to get to grips with the status quo let alone develop and in depth strategic plan.
Our children deserve to be among the best educated in the world. Educational traditions of quality extend back hundreds of years for very few institutions. And over the next 10 years the numbers attending primary school will swell by a further 300,000 children. We have a UK wide problem that should take precedence in government planning. We must invest in these children after all they will run the economic recovery of the UK and replace the government of today, hopefully, from a much wider platform.
So last year I was Directing a production for the Edinburgh Fringe Festival… which received great press… and this year I have been working for MTM:UK as an assessor for the Music Theatre Matters:UK Awards for Musical Theatre in the fringe. As the fringe comes to an end I have seen 44 shows!
This year has been incredible as I have seen some wonderful productions including Hamlet House of Horror , From the Fire, Thirsty, and I have been super excited about seeing Action To The Word theatre company and their productions of Constance and Sinestra and A Clockwork Orange . As a teacher of the Arts I always find the fringe exciting and stimulating… I’m just sad that it still on when we go back to school.
I managed to get one of my students, Neil, an audition for Tumult in the Clouds theatre production of Fleeto and Wee Andy at The Pleasance. He was cast as Wee Andy and has been working with some amazing Scottish Actors. I’m really proud of him. This is an amazing experience for someone his age and the production is striking and harrowing! (and he’s been getting brilliant reviews!)
So as the festival draws to an end… I ask myself… why aren’t more Scottish school students involved… and how can we change this?
So we are now into the second year of Curriculum for Excellence at secondary level and I am so excited to be working with a fabulous department and faculty.
Our first year and second years are rotated in the Expressive Arts; each pupil gaining 3 periods a week for ten weeks in Drama, Music and Art… This year we have introduced an exciting new area into our curriculum for S2 pupils. Pupils will still gain their core experience in Drama, Music and Art on the rota for but they choose two ‘Creative Industries’ electives throughout the year to attend. These electives will last for 15 weeks each and will give the pupil an alternative insight into the Expressive Arts through the Creative Industries. Students are able to choose from Physical Theatre and Stage Combat, Animation, Theatrical Design, Musical Theatre, Rock Band, Sound Engineering and Puppet Making .
We hope this gives our pupils a chance to see what the Expressive Arts has to offer and how skills cane be transferred from one curriculum area to the other.
Exciting times ahead at Knox!
So at the end of last term Knox Academy took part in an amazing day of theatre to celebrate the fifth birthday of the National Theatre of Scotland. We were so honoured to be taking part in what became an incredible day in the Drama Department. All the Standard Grade classes took part and received so much praise for the work that they created… we even got a mention in the Scotsman from acclaimed arts journalist Joyce McMillian…
For some shows, there is nothing more than a single camera pointing at a distant stage, across the heads of the audience; in others – like Knox Academy’s astonishing multiple one-on-one drama Secrets And Lies, broadcast live on Wednesday morning – the camera almost becomes one of the actors.
Full review can be seen here
So here we are… the finished pieces of work that was created by our talented students at Knox Academy… to say we are proud is an understatement!
Hold Onto Hope Love – S3
Flesh – S3
Cook – S4
Barry’s Ballad – S4
Secret’s and Lies – S4
So from everyone at Knox Academy… Happy Birthday National Theatre of Scotland!