Tuesday, 3 January 2012

Cue the imposition of another fad in education

Many people who will have read the announcement from the Prince's Trust I found on the BBC this morning will have dismissed it with the thought Oh anyone could have told you that. That's just common sense. The headline reads, "Princes trust: school grades hit by lack of routine." In the article, the vital statistic is that 30% of students with poor grades had no set routine as a child, contrasted with 14% of students with 'better grades'.

Certainly it would seem to make sense. Children who go to bed whenever they want don't do so well at school. I've experienced that myself - eight year-olds staying up watching TV into the early hours then demonstrating zombie-like engagement with lessons the next day. In the famed Birmingham Quake of 2008 (what - you didn't hear of that one?) some students were woken at 1:06 in the morning by the terrifying shaking. Myself, I slept through it. However I was particularly concerned the next day when a Year 6 child (aged 10) told me: "Yeah it was so bad I dropped my Playstation controller."

So what is my response to that as a teacher? A conversation with the child perhaps. Maybe I mention it to parents at the next parent's evening. If I'm really concerned that the late nights are affecting school performance I would make a phone call home.

However, I worry that someone in government is looking at that story right now and thinking they really have to do something about it. Something big. Something governmental. I fear the conversation may go something like this:

Concerned minister: Have you seen this article? We need to bring back routines into family life.
Junior minister: How can we do that? We don't control every family.
Concerned minister: Hmm. What do we control?
Junior Minister [Thinks]
Civil servant: There's always schools. And Ofsted.
Junior Minister: Yes. We could make schools teach their children to have better routines at home.
Concerned Minister: Yes. It could be a new criteria in the Ofsted framework.
Civil servant: So... you'd like a glossy pack going out to every school, perhaps? An instructional DVD? A website?
Concerned Minister: Yes, that sounds good. I could really... Oh I mean, this will help the whole country.
Junior Minister: I'll prepare a press release...
Civil servant: Might you also like a pilot study? Some academic research to back up what we want to do?
Concerned Minister [eyes glowing a baleful red]: Yes! Yes!
Civil servant: Right away minister.
(Apologies to the script writers of Yes  Minister)

Of course, the coalition government have said they want less paper work in schools. Less government and local authority control. More self governance. But when something like this comes along will they really be able to resist the urge to send that glossy fad-pack into school? Will they really have the confidence in the country's teachers?

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