Will changes to GCSEs really “light up learning”?

Yesterday, Gove announced the revamp of the GCSE. We can now see the detail, although many of us anticipated the “content” (what an apt word!).

Guardian Article: the changes subject by subject

It will be really interesting to see how teachers and learners, and schools, respond to this new challenge.

There is no doubt, with an emphasis on terminal written examination, the skills neessary to pass these exams lie in the academic domain: detailed recall, articulation of knowledge in written format, abstract cognitive manipulations… If these exams are “done” well (really well, and by “done” I mean in terms of detailed specification, marking criteria, content, aims and objectives), I can see how preparation for A-Level, and then Further/Higher Study, is fully and nobly supported by these changes.

However, I am also concerned that a curriculum aimed fairly and squarely at an academic elite will fail to “light up” the learning journey for many in the system.

We grow and change: the journey from concrete thinking to abstract manipulation is well described by the likes of developmental psychologists like Piaget. One thing they will all agree on is this: higher order cognitive function is not switched on like a tap at 15 years old. Some have it by 12- some by 18; others will never develop it.

For some pupils, the learning journey up to the age of 16 needs to be centred fairly and squarely in the concrete world, building functional, real-world thinking, enabling and supporting, for example, the english and maths of everyday life and work. With this broad, solid platform, progress to more abstract thinking does indeed become more probable.

A really significant study from America has made me think: Large swathes of the post-16 learning community will never ever use, for example, the “higher algebra” taught in High Schools. The will need maths for sure, but will need to apply fundamental mathematical operations, rigorously, regularly, and in combination, in unfamiliar settings and to solve unprepared problems. The study illustrated that, in the dash to cover “higher order” maths because the syllabus demanded it, some learners did not get the appropriate exposure and immersion to these building blocks, and so failed to build their maths abilities on firm foundations.

We learn in different ways, at different rates. I would far rather re-invent an examination process around these “facts”, and steward the learning journey, than put a stake in the ground, defining the finish line, then rank everybody on a 1-8 scale based on how close they get to it.

Visit newqualthinking.net for a different take on the examination process.

A Brilliant Prezi from Andreas Schleicher

Sometimes you have to be patient, even on the internet.

This is a massive presentation, with graphics and embedded video…. lots of them.

So, click on the link, then go and make yourself a cup of tea… because it will take ages to load.

But when it does, you will truly be “scip”-ing 5 years into the future of education! The best bit of CPD I have had for ages!


Why Co-operation Over Competition?

Setting up a new business can be daunting, especially during the bleakness of a recession, a squeeze on public funding, and when entering a pretty crowded market place. For me, the key to the whole process was to be able to articulate clearly the values and principles I stand for, so that potential clients, customers and partners know what they were getting from me, and why.

The “C” in SCiP5 stands for Co-operation and Collaboration. At its most superficial and obvious level, any community needs to work together to achieve agreed goals and targets. For me, however, co-operation goes far deeper than that.

I have been appalled at the damage done by free market “triumphalism” throughout the course of human history. Unrestrained capitalism and “free enterprise” has given us the slave trade, the East India Company (exploiting the wealth of an entire continent for hundreds of years), HSBC (I believe set up originally to launder the money gained from selling opium to the Chinese), an unacceptable societal gap between the richest and the poorest (which continues to grow!), and yet another banking collapse and world recession that appears to be eclipsing the Great Depression of the thirties. The dead hand of communism has done little to rock my boat either!

And yet, a world movement has quietly grown, from humble beginnings in the nineteenth century, that is based on a set of values and principles that work at the micro and macro levels without modification or re-interpretation: at the micro-level, you can live your day-to-day existence comfortably within the parameters; at the macro level, you can turn over a trillion dollar business using exactly the same values set. Welcome to the world of co-operation.

Use the word “co-op”, and you will probably think immediately of supermarkets, chemists and getting buried! But what if I said that there are 1 billion cooperative members world-wide; that, in 2008, the world’s top 300 co-operatives had total revenues of $1.6 trillion; and that co-operative academies and co-operative trust schools have grown in number to over 400, making them the fastest-growing academy “chain” in England?!

I embrace willingly and passionately the values that underpin co-operative working:

  • Self-help
    Encouraging all within an organisation or community to help each other, by working together to gain mutual benefits. Helping people to help themselves.
  • Self-responsibility
    To take responsibility for, and answer to, our actions
  • Democracy
    To give our stakeholders a say in the way we run our school, our community or our business
  • Equality
    Equal rights and benefits according to their contribution
  • Equity
    Being fair and unbiased
  • Solidarity
    Supporting each other and those in other co-operatives.

Consistent with the values of the founders of the Co-operative Movement, I believe in the ethical values of:

  • Openness
  • Honesty
  • Social responsibility
  • Caring for others

I like to be enterprising: but I like moral limits in the market place. I see nothing wrong with making profit, so long as it is ethically sound, it supports fair trading, and that excessive profit doesn’t cause excessive loss to someone (down the production chain) or something (like the planet). And I feel strongly that our global future depends on young people emerging from an education process that prepares them for more enlightened times.

You have to start somewhere… even at 55!