Education round-up 21/1/12

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Private universities are 'odious'. When redefining words won't do... just be bastards. And your chance to be an Ofsted inspector.

Grayling and the new private university

University of Buckingham is, so far, the only private UK university, charging £9,000 per year fees before everyone else jumped on the fee bandwagon. However, later this year, the New College of the Humanities will open in London. A private, £18,000 per year university, it will offer a broad 'liberal arts' education, in two-year degrees, accredited by the University of London. It has 'star' lecturers like Richard Dawkins and Niall Ferguson. Supporters want such private universities to become the 'ivy league' comparable to Harvard, Yale et al in the US. Apparently all this shite about the 'Russell Group', '1994 group' and the 'pre-1992' wasn't elitist enough already.

Philosopher AC Grayling, you-know, the one who's the rent-a-philosopher for every TV and radio show looking for a philosopher for a soundbite, will be the 'master' of the college. He was on TV defending the private model and the charging of obscene fees.

So how would something like this be regulated? Well, obviously, in the first instance, by Twitter and Facebook! Isn't that how all universities are accessed? Grayling is so down with the kids that he recognises that by counting LIKES and RETWEETS of students, him and his cronies will have a good handle on whether his very rich customers, because that's what they are, are getting their £18,000 pounds a year worth of education. Watch the interview, I can't tell whether it's a witty aside before discussing market success and external validation as checks, or whether it is Grayling's genuine attempt at having his 'finger on the pulse'.

Terry Eagleton was spot-on last year in his criticism of Grayling's programme as 'odious' and points out that while UK students and HE workers are being shafted by cuts, closures, and astronomical fees, opportunists like Grayling, Dawkins and Ferguson will be abandoning ship to educate the EVEN RICHER:

"British universities, plundered of resources by the bankers and financiers they educated, are not best served by a bunch of prima donnas jumping ship and creaming off the bright and loaded. It is as though a group of medics in a hard-pressed public hospital were to down scalpels and slink off to start a lucrative private clinic. Grayling and his friends are taking advantage of a crumbling university system to rake off money from the rich. As such, they are betraying all those academics who have been fighting the cuts for the sake of their students."

If Grayling was really worried about student's value for money in light of up to £9,000 per-year fees elsewhere, why isn't he, as a 'public intellectual' denouncing the cuts, standing on pickets lines on November 30, and actually fighting for education? Answer of course is he doesn't give a shit. For someone who deems himself enough of an expert on Marx to be a panellist on In Our Time's celebration of Marx as the 'greatest philosopher of all time', and who describes himself as 'almost pinko' he's certainly doing a good job of convincing us that he's as much a money-grabbing parasite as anything else.

Grayling's private project would be disgusting at any time, but at a time of the destruction of the very idea of an open, free public education system, it is particularly offensive, being parasitic on another publicly-funded university. Many others will jump on this bandwagon. As Eagleton says, this is the 'thin end of a very ugly wedge'.

If you can't redefine a word, just get rid of it - Scrapping 'satisfactory'
'Satisfactory'. It's a word. It has a meaning, according to an online dictionary:

"fulfilling all demands or requirements"

No room for argument there, 'fulfilling all demands or requirements'. Straightforward.

It's been the case for a while that Ofsted, and schools by default, had been attempting to redefine this word. Apparently it simply wasn't satisfactory enough to be 'satisfactory', despite the word having a clear meaning. 'Satisfactory' is in fact... 'RUBBISH'. Contrary to its accepted meaning, there are special, secret, hidden demands and requirements. So everyone who was satisfactory... was not.

Apparently it has now become clear that this attempt at redefinition was fucking stupid. So, will Michael Wilshaw and his crew wise-up and be more realistic? Maybe less judgemental? Naaaaaahhhhh. Where a school would have been 'satisfactory', Wilshaw says they will now 'require improvement'. So, getting on with one of the shittest jobs there is, with high stress levels and a suicide rate 30-40% above the population average, is not enough.

What will this 'improvement' look like? Well, these gradings are like chasing shadows. I know friends who've visited 'outstanding' schools and said the teaching was horrendous. I trained in a school that I loved, that kids liked, that went straight into 'special measures' (this is like being Ofstedded, but forever), while other schools have gone from 'outstanding' to 'failing' in as little as four years.

What will 'require improvement' mean for school workers? Well, since it means Oftsed won't fuck off and leave you alone, you can expect a visit the next year. That will mean everyone getting shit. Heads getting shit from governors and sponsors (in academies), managers getting shit from heads, and everyone else getting shit from the managers for not being 'good enough'. Expect target-setting to become the focus of EVERYTHING. Forget interesting lessons, results are what matters, 'progression' is what matters, box ticking is what matters. You can expect every single department meeting, staff training, year meeting to mention Ofsted and their nauseating criteria.

Wilshaw apparently doesn't even know the standards of the body he's now head of. Leaving aside the fact that judgements, league-tables, and ratings are disgusting, meritiocratic competitive nonsense, an 'outstanding' school, I'm to believe is marked by 'high staff morale' according to old Ofsted ratings, which probably still apply unless they've been changed in the three weeks Wilshaw's been in office. Remember Wilshaw's revolting comment that 'if staff morale is low you are doing something right'? Doesn't quite give you the picture of a 'good' or 'outstanding' school, does it? Jesus, 'good', 'outstanding'... I can't escape those words even at home! Schools are graded like that. Students are graded like that. Teachers are graded like that. They roll off the tongue of arse-licking sycophantic careerists like the worthless subjective throwaway terms they are.

Your chance to be one of Her Majesty's Inspectors.
Ever dreamed of being an Ofsted inspector? Well, play the OFSTED INSPECTOR GAME!
Now's YOUR chance to be Michael Wilshaw - please give this blog post a grade. It's good practice for me.
OUSTANDING
GOOD
SATISFACTORY REQUIRES IMPROVEMENT
UNSATISFACTORY

Remember to give me the 'SHIT SANDWICH' in your feedback - two 'positive' comments with a big fat negative criticism for my 'performance management' review in the middle! Remember to include vacuous, inane comments like 'we're about learning' and 'at the end of the day, this is about the kids' too.

Posted By

Choccy
Jan 21 2012 20:30

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Comments

gypsy
Jan 21 2012 21:15

GOOD *with outstanding features

Choccy
Jan 21 2012 21:25

shudder

Internet Hat Machine
Jan 21 2012 23:29

All schools MUST be above average.

RedEd
Jan 21 2012 23:36

If we can create one bad enough school all the others will be above average.

Steven.
Jan 21 2012 23:48

Another great blog. Seeing this as well (http://libcom.org/forums/news/government-surprised-people-try-meet-targets-21012012) does anyone else think the plan here is for the government to rate all schools badly, so they can bully teachers and forcibly create loads of academies quickly, then as soon as they have a majority of schools being crappy academies run by their business mates, they will all of a sudden change their criteria for judging so that they can then rate them all as massively improved?

Or am I just being cynical?

Choccy
Jan 22 2012 00:31

I'd say you are spot-on Steven. They will HAVE to show 'progress' to justify these conversions, especially the 'forced' ones. I have to 'show student progression' in the classroom, it's easy to fudge, so will the criteria by which schools are judged.

Your cynicism is very much well-placed, unfortunately. That said, I'm applying for jobs down London again this year so I will bring the anarchy back down with me!

Choccy
Jan 22 2012 00:35

I once pissed in a urinal beside AC Grayling at Conway Hall.
TRUE LIFE FACT

Croy
Jan 22 2012 10:33

I should send this to everyone in the internal school email every week. I wonder what the teachers will do smile QUICK, THE STUDENT IS EXPOSING SHIT. Seriously though, I might do it, what could they do ?

Chilli Sauce
Jan 22 2012 11:40
Choccy wrote:
I'm applying for jobs down London again this year so I will bring the anarchy back down with me!

Ehh!!!

Another good post btw Choccy, they've just been absolutely spot-on* since you started this blog.

*which means, of course, mediocre and in need of monitoring and weekly walk-throughs wink Nah, they've been fucking sick.

Choccy
Jan 22 2012 11:45

There's actually a good discussion about this on Radio 5 just finished.
Al Murray, Rebecca Front and a few others have been taking the piss out of the new 'satisfactory', with Murray saying that the attempt to redefine the word 'renders language useless as a means of communication'.

If you're listening back later, it's BBC Radio 5 '7 Day Sunday', 40-45 min in roughly.

Chilli Sauce
Jan 22 2012 11:46

I think you're on to something there Croydonian. I actually think you'd put them in a really awkward position. One one hand, you're shit-stirring and debunking all the shit they stand for. On the other, they have to pay lip service to the fact that you're engaging in "current events" and "critical thinking"--ya know, those skills schools are supposed to encourage.

What are the teachers like at your school? Are you close to any lefty or union teachers who'd back you? Do any staff know of your blog? (Which I also think you should send around, btw.)

Choccy
Jan 22 2012 11:48

Yous are the shittest Ofsted inspectors ever, only two people have bothered to grade me!

Things I will grade this week:
- by bowl of coco-pops
- my bowel movements
- the weather

Chilli Sauce
Jan 22 2012 12:13

I reckon there are enough education workers on libcom to create "mindless OFSTED platitudes" database. Could be entertaining....

Choccy
Jan 22 2012 13:14

Out of curiosity Chilli, do TAs at your school get observed, with Ofsted gradings? They did at my last place, not sure about current place yet.

Croy
Jan 22 2012 16:12

My politics teacher is fairly alright, I dont know if hes a lefty though, he seems to be good at being inpartial (as much as he can be whilst, you know, being a teacher in capitalist education blah blah). And what exactly would backing me involve ? Getting me out of trouble if I get shit for it ? I don't think I would send my blog around though, mentions the school itself too specifically.

Choccy
Jan 22 2012 16:18

Yeah I'd avoid being too specific and definitely not using your school email to do it.

Chilli Sauce
Jan 22 2012 16:27

No, thank fuck! Teachers do get judged on how they "use" their TAs so we are part of the observation process, but not directly graded.

Chilli Sauce
Jan 22 2012 16:30

Croy, Yeah, fair enough. I was just thinking that if you get called back for some sort of disciplinary measures you could have a teacher who'd sort of speak on your behalf, willing to make the "liberal" argument about "free speech" and intellectual pursuits, etc...

Choccy
Jan 22 2012 16:46
Chilli Sauce wrote:
No, thank fuck! Teachers do get judged on how they "use" their TAs so we are part of the observation process, but not directly graded.

TAs got observed in my old place as part of their performance management, and got graded according to Ofsted ratings (though I assume the criteria were made up), absolutely mental.

jef costello
Jan 23 2012 06:44

Unsatisfactory - Many students are not on task and you should use nomination to select student responses.

Hat Machine made me laugh, that's exactly what I thought when I saw the newspaper.

A depressing but useful round-up, it's nice to see that the entire concept of universal education is under attack (with free education taking a beating too)

I think the shit sandwich is a good way of offering feedback, I use two stars and a wish, which could be considered to be ending on a downer.

jef costello
Jan 23 2012 06:47

If you want to circulate this around your school then you need to do several things.
Work out if you can send mass emails from an external address (the group lists often won't work from external addresses).
You are also likely to get caught in the spam filter.
Might be an idea to delete the posts on this thread as well, depending upon whether you want your account to be associated with sending the emails. As a lot of schools make you sign a code of conduct there's possibly a risk that you could get in trouble for this, although I doubt it.

Croy
Jan 23 2012 10:11

Hmmm well I can test sending from my personal external one to my school one and then see if it gets through. If it works, I have just got to find a way to do the group list. If I cant, its going to be too long for me to be asked to do it.

As for disciplinary measures etc, Im not sure enough that any teacher would back me up to be honest. As for code of conducts, I think I did sign one thing at the beggining of lower sixth. I don't think that included anything about emails. What it did include was something saying no clothes with offensive slogans. I wonder if my red A t shirt counts tongue Also, when we go on the internet at school, it comes up with a sort of conditions of use/terms and conditions thing, that does not list the the terms, and asks you to agree. I never click it smile Everyone else does with no qualms, I feel so aware tongue

Steven.
Jan 28 2012 13:02

BTW, just to let you know that on the libcom Facebook one of the comments on this article was "This is wonderful ! For fans of brilliant/furious/articulate/very funny writing ."

Choccy
Jan 29 2012 01:03

smile

Croy
Jan 29 2012 12:15

Very funny writing ? Maybe I need to dumb my content down a bit eh Choccy tongue

Choccy
Jan 29 2012 12:29

Dumbed down? sad
No way!

Croy
Jan 29 2012 18:42

lol just kidding