Category Archives: Education

Stereotyping black children is still evident survey shows

I dislike SATs for wasting valuable time in educating children and imposing pressures on them, their teachers and their parents. However yet another report shows that low expectation of black pupils still occurs. The most worrying finding is that black pupils are consistently marked down by teachers when their scores are compared with external assessments
The debate has become a regular one. It is now 40 years since published his Underachievement of Black pupils and 25 years since the Swann Report which famously fudged the issue. This was preceded by the Rampton Report which looked specifically at the underachievement of black pupils but when the ugly duckling transformed itself into the Swann there was indeed a huge transformation. We needed to look at all our pupils. Who was “underachieving” and who was “overachieving” perhaps? It’s pretty clear that the initial concern had to be blurred, the problem being for Lord Swann being that some were attributing the chief reason to “racism”. Even members of his committee held this view as would be evident in the full report. In order to make sure every one understood that this simply could not be Swann sent his own summary to every school in the land. After all it wasn’t very likely that that many people would bother to read the full article.

The Great Debate: the opening of the flood gates to oppression

I trained as a teacher in the 1960’s. I’m glad I’ve got that out – but I’ll be branded. I’m still involved in education as a school governor and a director of Vital Link Educational and see the results of what was called “The Great Debate” as Jim Callaghan launched an attack on “trendy education methods”. This was just the beginning. The oppressive political involvement on education has been turning the screw tighter and tighter until the whole system is shrieking with pain. Teachers – never mind the sixties brigade – have been ignored. No doubt they’ll blame us for their troubles. Time, one head teacher believes, for the “Second Great Debate”.
State schools are paid for by governments not without good reason. There are expectations that they will provide cohesion in society, That is they will contribute to the reproduction of the “culture”, “values”, “norms” (as Pierre Bourdieu expounds it) that establishment figures trot out. Part of “State Repressive Apparatus” according to Althusser.

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Help for Haiti

Haitians don’t want the politisation of help they receive but at the same time wish to acknowledge who has been involved. The political process has certainly been at work in the western media questioning the role of near neighbours, ignoring significant acts of support. This report from Granma serves to illustrate how Cuba, the Dominican Republic and Venezuela’ s presence has contributed to international effort.
That Haitians recognised their Cuban doctors is illustrated in the story of the birth of a little one, Fidel, among the chaos.
The record needs to be set straight as some of those helping in Haiti have their own struggles to improve education and health in their own populations. UNESCO have reported on the success of Venezuela’s efforts to improve education there for example. Chavez has announced that Venezuela is writing off Haiti’s debt saying that it was not Venezuela in debt to Haiti, but Venzuela owed a historic debt to Haiti when Toussaint L’Ouverture overthrew colonial rule. The question remains, will others follow to take a huge burden off Haiti?

Thomas Wiggins: The Battle of Manassas

Thomas Wiggins was born blind, but at an early age his ability as a pianist to reproduce sounds he heard meant that he was taken on tour and put on show. Thomas was from and African family taken into slavery in the USA.
One of his compositions was “The Battle of Manassas” with the pounding bass sounding like gun fire. He uses tunes to represent the opposing sides as Beethoven had done in “Wellington’s Victory” and Tchaikovsky was to do in his 1812 Overture.

Happy Holidays!

I was particularly pleased to hear from my old friend Carlton Duncan after quite a long period of silence. Now settled in Jamaica, Carlton was moved by the election of Barack Obama.
Carlton had a distinguished career as a teacher and Head in the UK, a career which to date remains largely unrecognised by the nation. He was the first black head teacher of a secondary school at Wyke Manor in Bradford, and subsequently at George Dixon Secondary School here in Birmingham. He served on many national bodies, including the Swann Committee which produced the noted report in 1985.
Carlton was a leading figure in the multicultural education movement which started in the 1960’s through the seventies. He wrote books and articles and was sought after as a speaker
I send my best wishes to Carlton, Dawn and their son Kyme, now 7.

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The dead hand of Ofsted moves on pre-school

The fetish with recording even young children’s academic achievements advances into pre-school years. Ofsted complain that fewer child minders are being rated as “good”.
One of this group says that last year she had a high rating, but this year it had dropped to satisfactory. Why? Evidently it was a matter of a failure to supply adequate paperwork now being added to the tasks of child minders as has already happened in schools. So it is not the child care which is being looked at, but the ability to tick boxes. The carer concerned said that it was unlikely she would be taking more children next year.
We can agree that the wellbeing and safety of children is paramount, and that the standard of that care is high. However the bureaucratic impositions that have done such damage in so many institutions can easily become counterproductive.

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More about the Qustul Incense Burner

In a teaching article about Nile Valley Civilisations the discovery by Chicago University’s School of Oriental Studies of an incense burner with its pharaonic image we discuss its significance. We believe it revives powerfully the view that Egypt civilisation was essentially of African origin at the start. Clearly its success brought in many others to make it a vibrant multicultural society, but to continue to put across the idea that Africa intervened only as late as the 25th Dynasty, as the National Geographic Magazine did in their February edition, is very far wide of the mark.
Further discussion on this artefact.
The reverse of the incense burner.

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“Thrashing around” on education

Estelle Morris has had something to say on the government’s attempts to reform education. “Thrashing around” is how she describes it. There is this new initiative and that new initiative imposed on the system without bothering to see if it effective or not.
The criticism comes hard on the heels of a report on primary education asking whether it would have been better if New Labour hadn’t made changes at all. Many were coming through their education without being literate. Changes have been made, and are continuing to be made against the advice and concerns of the teaching profession and outcomes are showing clearly that they have been right all along. Unfortunately Lord Adonis sits Buddha like dispensing his higher wisdom and understanding unperturbed by the mere mortals who say “no Andrew, come down from your pedestal into the real world”.

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