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Waving my magic wand #28daysofwriting

Trekking the grass lands by David J on Flickr
Image credit: Trekking the grass lands by David J. CC Licensed on Flickr.

With Tom now living in Australia it was probably to be expected that many of the first #28daysofwriting blog posts I read were from Australian and New Zealand teachers who were starting their new academic year alongside their new calendar year.

I got to wondering if that would be something we should do over in the UK, and reached the conclusion that actually, of all the things we could change, that one is one I can live with. After all it makes sense for us to have our long holiday in the summer too.

It’s an off stated ‘fact’ that we have a long summer holiday as a hangover from agricultural times when families needed their children to work in the fields to help bring in the harvest. I always thought it was a bit odd, given the harvest festival took place at the end of the first half term. More recently I thought it was a bit odd given that most drives for compulsory education came from industrial areas of Britain, and many of them based on the Prussian model. However, Wikipedia still states that the need for young people to be involved in haymaking was a factor in the long summer holiday in UK schools, and while I can find several articles claiming the idea is a later fiction in the US, I can’t find anything else specifically for the UK. Whatever the origins, personally I’d have no problem with making the summer holiday shorter, and instead create even length terms with a two week break between each one.

So, what else would I change if I was given the magic wand of the education system?

Hour long subject based block in secondary school would be up for review, as would the idea that we only teach in year groups. I’m sure we can come up with something more effective.

At the same time I think we could do something better for parents evenings. I remember reading about a (US?) school where students were responsible for presenting to parents and their form tutor their progress in school over the previous year. That sounds like something worth investigating.

I’ve got a lot of sympathy with people who would change the timing of the exam system, both to avoid peak hay fever season, and to ensure that students can apply to University with actual rather than predicted grades. I believe this is the system they have in Scotland, so we’ll import that.

In a post-levels world I suspect there’s much that can be done with badges as a way of indicating achievement. I’m also interested in the idea of students developing an online CV that shows off their achievements – privately to start with, but publicly as they progress through the system. Updated annually to reflect both their academic and wider achievements and aptitudes.

Finally, schools are increasingly being called upon to fix the world’s ills, but the reality is trying to cover everything before someone is 16 is futile and sometimes counter productive. Instead let’s make it compulsory for everyone else to come back to school for one week a year. We can do some literacy and numeracy, some basic stats and scientific literacy (compulsory) as well as offering practical classes on parenting, cookery, gardening, car maintenance and finance (optional modules). That seems to be a much more sensible and workable solution!

What would be on your list?!

Dave Stacey

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