Magazine article Times Educational Supplement

Guaranteed Chaos

Magazine article Times Educational Supplement

Guaranteed Chaos

Article excerpt

On the bus, I overheard two young teachers talking. "Mr Johnson did a learning walk today and evaluated my working wall," said one. "But at least my targets were on track and my green zone mark-ups were done." After checking with a teacher friend, I discovered that a working wall is an interactive form of wall display and a learning walk is when the headteacher visits the classroom to do a bit of observation and monitoring.

The fads in primary education have never ceased to amaze me. Throughout my headship, I steered a careful course, accepting new ideas only if I thought they would truly benefit the children. Many schemes were dreamed up by academics and civil servants who hadn't a clue about classrooms; some were actually damaging. The initial teaching alphabet, for example, was a reading system in the 1960s that had more than 40 characters to represent sounds and vowel combinations. Children were expected to start on this before moving to conventional English. It wrecked the reading and spelling chances of hundreds of students.

In the 1970s, we had the integrated day and vertical grouping, where classes would often consist of children of mixed ages. The Plowden report of 1967 had encouraged individual learning arising from a child's interests, and the theory was that the skills of older children would be beneficial to younger ones. The teacher was expected to accommodate a host of different activities simultaneously - a recipe for classroom chaos.

In the 1980s there was a drive for learning to read using "real books", which at least grew from a genuinely clever idea. …

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