As a result my school, a charity which puts £3 million into the local community every year, is finished. Sixty people unemployed and a massive knock-on effect for the small local community. I expect the butchers, bakery, and, knowing our pupils, the local chocolate shop to suffer the most! It is truly a sad time for the small town the school is located in.
Primary (aka kindergarten) education is a strange construct. Every pupil has one teacher to educate them in every school subject for an entire year. Now, I’m an educated and intelligent person – I attended a private school myself – but to ask me to teach History is counter-intuitive, as I disliked the subject at school and have spent very little time reading books about it as an adult. It simply is something that doesn’t interest me; I’m interested in the future, and this part of my character makes me an excellent ICT teacher. I’m always looking for the next big tech development and guiding my pupils into learning that will be relevant for their future careers.
That’s the first problem with education; teachers are teaching courses they have no interest in or knowledge of. My school did something very clever with the curriculum in that it assigned the subject teaching to the senior teachers. As a class teacher, I taught English, Mathematics, and ICT, the subjects I excel at. Until this strategy is widely adopted, trained and committed teachers will be teaching subjects badly.
The second problem with education is that teachers and pupils are forced into illogical approaches to many subjects. A good example of this is in mathematics, where the Local Education Authority sets one method of multiplication and insists that all schools use it. Multiplication is a tricky aspect of the mathematical curriculum, and there are numerous ways in which to teach it. Many adults struggle with multiplication – I recently had to show a shop worker how to calculate a 20% discount. Bearing in mind that the shop was advertising a ’20% off everything instore’ promotion, the fact that she thought 20% of £10 was 40 pence shows that the approach taken in schools must be quite flawed.
Having a standardised approach to teaching makes sense on many levels, but insisting that there is no scope for teachers to use additional methods that their pupils find easier, or more logical, makes no sense. My next article for www.loveahappyending.com will cover teaching the basics in mathematics, and I’m sure that your children will find my non-prescribed methods a lot easier to grasp and understand than those taught in their classes. A private school offers their teachers the freedom to teach how they like; I am proud to be able to say that my method of teaching multiplication has allowed hundreds of children to learn how to multiply in just one lesson (as compared to the eighteen weeks generally allotted to it in the National Curriculum between ages 7 and 11!)
My final complaint about modern education is that the subjects covered are frequently archaic. In the United Kingdom the curriculum for ICT has been suspended as the slow and committee based method of forming each subject curriculum cannot keep up with the pace of modern technology. Even with the financial problems connected to falling pupil numbers, my school invested heavily each year in the newest and most relevant tech. Instead of ‘teaching’ pupils how to use Word and PowerPoint – two programs that many of us will have taught ourselves how to use quite easily – I had most recently been showing pupils how to make and distribute viral videos to promote a company, building Raspberry Pi computers in class. That involved making games using the free software package Scratch , which has been developed in-house at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology.
These three problems give us, as parents, an easy in-road to providing our children with support. What are your interests, what are you good at? In the last year my eldest son has built a computer with me, and made numerous items from wood as we improve our house. I’ve given him skills and introduced him to topics that his class teacher would be unable to broach. You can do the same. Identify the key areas that are progressing faster than the government make policy for, and spend time researching them with your children. Think about the massive future College and University fees that your child may spend decades repaying, and contemplate things you could work on together that could lead them into self-employment rather than a degree with no job at the end of it.
The main problem with education is that no two children are the same. We all learn differently, and no scheme of work or new government idea will successfully cater for each pupil in a thirty pupil class. When parents ask me why I think a private education is worth investing in, I always use a simple set of statistics. In a state school, with thirty children in a class, an hour lesson gives me two minutes to support each child. In fact, when you take out the lesson introduction, any misbehaviour a teacher has to deal with, any time lost in lining up or leaving the class, setting homework, giving books out – it is easy to consider that many children will be unsupported through an average large class lesson. Perhaps private tuition is the way forwards – it’s certainly something I will be doing in the near future.
Mark Hulkus is a primary school teacher and an experienced Head of IT. He has three children, is obsessed with the 1980s, and runs a fun design website at www.retroboombox.co.uk. He will be helping us to help our children when it comes to school work and IT skills.
If you have a question for Mark email us at firstname.lastname@example.org