Bamboozled by i-World

I am sick of devices. iPads, iPods, iPhones, xboxes, wiius, playstations, etc., etc.. After getting my three children to school this morning I realised that the carnage had been slightly less painful than usual. I had nearly cleaned up the mess before leaving and we were actually on time!

The reason?

An in-house ban on all electricals before school, including television. Don’t get me wrong, my kids are not obsessive about it, they do plenty of sport and other stuff but as an exhausted parent it is easy to let this stuff creep up on you.

It feels like the whole world is becoming virtual with everybody spending most of their time staring at screens. I am just another parent bemoaning the present. ‘It wasn’t like this in my day’ etc.. Just like every generation before this. Much about the internet et al is positive, but it is all too easy to let it overtake you.

My children’s behaviour this morning was subtly different and we had a good laugh despite the stress.

That is not a coincidence.

Choosing a Private Tutor

During my thirteen years in the tutoring industry I have seen an enormous change in the way private tuition is perceived. In the last five to ten years having your child tutored has moved from a dark art to a badge of honour. Granted, my experience is very London-centric, but from what I read this seems to be the case right across the UK – and indeed the rest of the world. Back in the early years of the new century when I founded K & C Tutors there was an element of secrecy and possibly a little embarrassment connected to engaging a tutor. Is your child stupid? Nowadays having a tutor is seen as a strong support mechanism rather than a lifeboat. Because tutoring has become so mainstream many new agencies have been established and inevitably, with the light speed growth of the internet, so have a myriad of websites offering lists of tutors and providing a shop window for individual ‘tutors’ to place themselves in. Be careful when choosing a tutor. Now I’m bound to say this, but using an agency is by far the best way to choose the right tutor as long as correct procedures are in place. Does the agency interview EVERY tutor they offer? Does the agency carry out Enhanced Disclosure background checks through the Disclosure & Barring Service (DBS)? Does the agency check tutors’ academic backgrounds and experience? Does the agency understand the ever changing education system in which they exist? At K & C the answer to all these questions is a categorical YES and it has been since day one. However, this misses one crucial point, our years of experience mean that we have insight and empathy – a CV only tells one superficial side of the story. Much depends on personality and match. Only experience gives you this and we have lots of it. Cost is also a critical factor. An industry that is talked of as ‘booming’ will inevitably attract individuals and organisations keen to get their pound of flesh. One very important thing to remember is that within certain geographical areas (for us it is London) the best tutors will be signed on with several agencies but those agencies will charge them out at different rates. At K & C we charge NO REGISTRATION FEE which makes us very unusual and our prices remain lower than all our immediate competitors. And these are competitors with far less experience.

Schools ‘must do more’ to help disadvantaged pupils – Are they presently not trying??

http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/education-29478935

Schools and teachers are not to blame for social immobility, disadvantage and poverty. This is a grass roots social problem, so blame can really only be apportioned in one direction – towards the Government; past, present and future.

There is an implication here that schools and teachers carry a bias. Teachers want to teach and they want ALL their pupils to succeed regardless of their social status. The suggestion that they can and should ‘do more’ for those with less is insulting to the profession.

The government needs to cut the red tape, unify the system and support teachers better instead of always making them the scapegoats for problems which are totally unconnected to the classroom.

GCSEs should be overhauled – AT LAST SOME SENSE!

http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/uk-19454838

Has somebody with the power to change our uselsess Secondary Examination system finally come to their senses?

Sir Michael Wilshaw is talking sense. But let’s not just overhaul useless GCSEs, let’s scrap them completely and install a challenging, relevant examination regime with a single qualification for each subject. Let’s do away with the nonsense of multiple exam boards at the same time – PLEASE.

We need to do this NOW so that we have a stable system moving forwards. Perpetual change is also very damaging to students and teachers alike.

Delimiting University Numbers is Madness

http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/education-29240960

Why does the government want to fill the nation with undergraduates? Nonsense politicising AGAIN. “removing the cap on aspiration”. What utter nonsense from the Department of Education and Skills in the run up to an election.

Who’s going to pay? We’ll be creating a graduate population with crippling debt and questionable qualifications. Let’s not forget that students don’t feature on unemployment figures. The government knows that private providers can already smell the money. Very convenient that it makes them look good and costs them little.

Short-termist nonsense from government as ever.

Does nobody in these departments ever start a meeting by considering what would be best for these human beings who they are pushing to becoming undergraduates? Vocational training perhaps? Employment?

Finding a Tradesman that knows their Trade

Following some minor building works at our offices in London it became clear to me just how difficult it is to find decent tradespeople. We were repeatedly let down and we also encountered some extremely poor quality workmanship. Apologies for the stereotyping but the best tradesman / builders (by far) were Polish.

I have had a very similar experience domestically over the past few years, as have friends and family.

Why are we not producing good tradespeople and how do we know if somebody knows what they’re doing? After all, you need no formal qualification to describe yourself as a ‘builder’.

What we need is proper training in schools leading to an actual qualification that demonstrates competence. Students could leave school at 18 with a provable skill which could be checked. This should begin in compulsory education and would help people into work where they could gain further experience on the tools.

Let’s stop pretending everybody is an academic and start properly training people in the trades. We are getting left behind.

Academy regulation ‘too weak’

http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/education-29219757

Unfortunately this is what can happen when you give these schools free reign with their budgets and accounting. The system for non academies where local authorities award funds after consultation creates checks and balances. That system is not perfect, but at least it is fair. In a local authority containing a mixture of academies and local authority run schools funding is not balanced, with academies getting greater sums of money. This system leads to the elitism that the original ethos of academies – to help struggling schools – was designed to prevent.

What do you do with millions of extra graduates?

http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/business-28062071

This is where demographics and governmental aspirations clash. It’s a bit like the rain following the plough. Creating more graduates doesn’t necessarily boost an economy. We need to learn lessons from this with our ever increasing further education sector. We need to help the young develop skills that are beyond the academic. China’s economy rests almost entirely on global consumerism which makes it a long-dormant volcano; who knows when – but it will erupt.

At least here in Britain (maybe tomorrow a smaller one!) we have the opportunity to balance the population and restructure the education system before it’s too late.

As the article says…

“China’s education ministry has already indicated that it wants to turn 600 universities into polytechnics, providing more technical and employment-related courses, rather than academic and theoretical subjects.”

Will this be too little too late?

Ofsted warning over provision for school leavers

http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/education-29145874

We need PROPER vocational skills taught in schools alongside core subjects. Help the less academic gain vocational skills whilst still having the opportunity to study mainstream academic subjects.

Improve Compulsory Education for Future Generations

We are being left behind by the rest of the world because our compulsory secondary education system is confused, complicated and not testing enough.

Standards have been dropping year upon year for decades, reflected in higher and higher ‘pass’ rates and a greater quantity of ‘top’ marks. Look at the attached Graph. O Level & GCSE Achievement 1953 -2009

(Source: House of Commons Library – Standard Note SN/SG/4252 – Social & General Statistics)

This lowering of standards has fed right through to Higher Education. Top Universities are finding that freshers do not possess the knowledge which their high marks should reflect. Mathematically heavy subjects are particularly badly effected. Engineering Undergraduates at top Universities often have to have extra lessons in Mathematics because their assumed and necessary knowledge of Mathematics is just not there.

This is because we have dumbed down our examinations.

There needs to be a revolution in the examination system and it needs to happen NOW.

Through Kensington & Chelsea Tutors I come across students from all over the world. I have been consistently shocked by how we are being left behind by other nations, particularly in the 11 – 16 age range. The difference is particularly noticable in Mathematics and Science where students abroad are tackling far more testing material than students of the same age in the UK.

Unless this changes the future looks bleak; we need reform to keep the UK competitive.