Mike the Psych's Blog

What if psychologists ruled the world? In real life?


Aberfan……a lost generation of children

Kindadukish's Blog - I am not a number, I am a free man (The Prisoner)

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Half a century of grief poured out of the small town of Aberfan yesterday as it remembered a generation lost when a coal tip slid on to their school.

Among the 144 people killed on October 21, 1966, were 116 children. Yesterday the Prince of Wales led tributes and planted a tree in Aberfan’s memorial garden alongside one planted by the Queen. The prince said: “I can never forget the feeling of utter despair as I heard of the unspeakable tragedy.”

Survivors were among the 1,000 people attending a service in the cemetery where those who lost their lives were laid to rest. A minute’s silence was held at 9.15am, the moment Pantglas junior school was hit by 150,000 tonnes of black sludge. Among those at the service was Susan Maybank, now Robertson, whose rescue by Victor Jones, a policeman, was captured in a photograph.

Marilyn Morris, 64, said: “Six…

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The Dismal Failure of “Progressive Education”……………………?

Don’t agree with all of this e.g. free schools, academies, and faith schools for that matter, but some good points about teaching methods

Kindadukish's Blog - I am not a number, I am a free man (The Prisoner)

At the inner-city secondary school where I taught for two years, one object neatly summed up its failings: the skip. Hidden at the back of the school, this skip was kept full with furniture broken by out-of-control pupils, scraps of coloured paper scrawled across during endless ‘group work’ lessons, and bin bags containing cola bottles and wrappers from sweets consumed during class.
At the end of each academic year, teachers would queue up beside it to discard box after box of pupils’ exercise books — as scrappy and disorderly as the lessons in which they had been used. Looking at the school skip, I drew an inevitable, depressing conclusion: modern education was rubbish.

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Idealistic young teacher Robert Peal says his experience with children at a Birmingham comprehensive led to him losing faith in Britain’s schools system.

I had been lucky. I had received a traditional education at an independent boarding…

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Teachers’ Pay in England

woman_at_chalk_board_1600_wht_7852Teachers will be striking today in opposition to the introduction of, amongst other things, performance-related pay (PRP).

I’m not a particular fan of PRP as it’s hard to measure some aspects of work when it goes beyond just mechanical tasks.

But sometimes I think that the NUT and the NASUWT object to any changes on principle and a recent survey about teacher dissatisfaction  carried out by the NASUWT may not be totally unbiased.

So it’s interesting to see the pay research just published by the OECD which shows that teachers in England do quite well compared with the 34 OECD countries plus the BRICs.

Starting salaries of £19,668 are above the international average of £18,736. And they then increase more rapidly than other countries over the next decade to £28,746 compared to £23,053 elsewhere.

After that however they plateau and the other countries almost catch up after 15 years with an average of £24,763 in primary schools and £27,055 in secondary schools. The international average at the top is £29,611 and £32,544 for primary and secondary schools respectively.

So if schools want to compete internationally for the best teachers or pay their staff the best rates in the developed world then perhaps PRP is one way to do that (and at the same time weed out incompetent teachers)


You’re just wrong – in any colour

stick_figure_check_cancel_1600_wht_7072A teacher complained to an MP that his head teacher had forbidden him from marking pupils’ work in red inkbecause it discouraged them.

An Education Minister was forced to issue a statement saying; “The department does not issue guidelines which prohibit or discourage the use of red ink for marking schoolwork”

This is another example of political correctness akin to not allowing people to win races in case it discourages others.

Head teachers should cut out this petty nonsense given the very high salaries they earn as managers. Pupils need to be ready for the real world where they will be told very quickly if they get things wrong.

A recent US study found that the colour red was associated with warning, prohibition, caution, anger, embarrassment and, being wrong!” The last example being exactly the point a teacher is trying to make with red ink I would suggest .

The study by the University of Colorado and reported in the Journal of Social Science found that students thought they had been assessed more harshly when their work was covered in red ink compared to more neutral colours such as blue.

Back in the day in the public sector we weren’t allowed to use green ink as that was the colour used by auditors.


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Teachers – must do better!

pointing_at_chalkboard_text_10562Michael Gove, the Education Secretary, is proposing that trainee teachers will only be allowed to take their numeracy and literacy test three times.

At present there is no limit on the number of times the tests can be taken.

In my view the misguided philosophy of endless retakes undermines the whole point of exams and goes some way to explain why exam grades appear to improve year on year, plus team course assessments which are open to all kinds of fiddling.

Looking at the examples of test questions reported in the press, many of them multiple choice, anyone with a modicum of intelligence should pass with flying colours the first time. Rather than wait until the trainees start their courses wouldn’t it be better if they took the tests as a selection filter so if they failed they didn’t waste their time and our money on resits which they might fail? That would save everyone’s time and protect our children from bad teachers.

Gove also proposes that teachers should all have at least a 2:2 degree. Whilst this is more contentious most averagely intelligent graduates obtain this class of degree and if they can’t they don’t deserve to become a teacher. This is a vast improvement on former Ofsted chief  Zenna Atkins who (in)famously said “every school should have a useless teacher….”

Something needs to be done when 20-25% of children leave primary school unable to read or write properly and the last Chief Inspector of Schools admitted that only 4% of schools offered “outstanding teaching”.

And he wants to make it easier to sack bad teachers. There are an estimated 15,000 of these of which less than a dozen have been dismissed since 2008. He probably needs to toughen up some head teachers before that happens as in the past they have had a habit of giving references to poor teachers to move them on or otherwise rewarding poor performance (see “Don’t reward failure”).

One of Gove’s earlier ideas was to follow the US example and recruit and pay ex-soldiers to train as teachers to help improve discipline in schools. Ex-army graduates would receive 6 weeks training and non-graduates would be paid a £9,000 a year bursary to complete a two-year degree. Of course the unions don’t like it but it worked in American where research shows that ex-soldiers were better at dealing with classroom disruptions than regular teachers and also got better exam results.

And there was a great article in The Times magazine this week on Charlie Taylor who runs Willows School; which deals with London’s naughtiest children and which has been rated as “outstanding” by Ofsted. He is also the newly appointed “behaviour czar”. The article describes how he uses a range of positive psychology and behavioural techniques. He also believes that if discipline is carried out consistently the core group of trouble makers can be reduced to a manageable size. He wrote a book called “Divas and door slammers” in which he describes how he won one group over by being civil with them.

He also believes that the ratio of positive to negative feedback needs to be 6:1 (something I have long advocated in performance appraisal schemes). He also believes that teachers get better results from constructive praise. Things might be looking up for the future of our children’s education.