Wednesday, 31 January 2018

Government to appoint a Minister of Nice

The government is going to appoint

a Minister of Nice,

to show people that the Tory Party is nice

and full of nice people

who do nice things for Britain

and for all the British people

especially poor people.

Low wages are the way into poverty - not out of it

Work is the way out of poverty

apart from for those doing work

which pays poverty wages.

They’re poor.

The equation ‘work = affluence’

doesn’t work, Prime Minister.

The Arts are a waste of time...

The Arts are a waste of time:

all they tell us are things like:

how to understand yourself,

your place in the world,

how materials work,

how society works,

how to co-operate to get things done,

resilience, optimism, powers of reflection,

interpretation, holding your nerve....

How private education, inherited wealth and tax avoidance help the disadvantaged to catch up...

The government ‘helps’ the disadvantaged ‘catch up’

by hindering them from getting time doing activities

that those who are ahead do

(read for pleasure/open interpretation/oracy time/the Arts/cultural visits)

and they assist the ‘ahead’

thru private education/inherited wealth/tax avoidance .

Reception Class to recite: 'We are units of cultural capital..."

Hello Reception! 
Say after me: 
“we are units of cultural capital 
which can be unitised and monetised 
in terms of potential productive output 
even though we have no idea 
what kind of work will be available for us to do
 in 14 years time.”

Monday, 29 January 2018

We need to prepare 2 year olds for things that will prepare them for the kinds of thing that prepare them for...

I'm producing a series of books 
that prepare 2 year old children 
for books that prepare children 
for the work they need to do 
when they're preparing to use books 
that prepare them for 
the Phonics screening check.

Sunday, 28 January 2018

You Wait Till You're Older - the curriculum as progress towards the workplace

When you're at college 
they say
this is just a holiday; 
you wait till you get out and face life
and see what work is really like.

When you're in your last years at school 
they say
you wait till you get to college, or university
you'll see what it's like to really get your head down and study something that the rest of your life depends on - there'll be no hiding place then. 

When you're doing your GCSEs 
they say
you wait till you do your last two years at school
you'll see it's much harder, much more intensive,
much more to learn, much more to know, and if you fall behind, you won't get into college or university and that's a choice you want to be able to make and not miss out on the chance just because you weren't prepared to work hard now.

When you're doing your first years at secondary school, 
they say
you wait till you're doing your GCSEs you'll 
have to really get your head down and learn much more stuff than we're giving you now, this is just a taster, but you had better get used to it, so that it won't come as so much of a shock then. 

When you're in your last years at primary school
they say
you wait will you get to secondary school
it's going to be a big, big surprise when you see
how much homework you'll have to do
so you might as well do plenty now to get in the swing of it, and remember: 
the marks you get now, go with you to secondary school and will determine what GCSE's you do, and you know: what GCSEs  you do will determine whether you go to university or not. 

When you're in the first years at primary school
they say 
that you have to get used to doing this
kind of work because coming up soon there's going to be plenty more work like this and it's best to learn now how to do it, or you won't know where you are when it comes along later
and suddenly you'll find that you're left behind 

When you're in nursery school, 
they say
it's best to get used to sitting down for hours on end to get used to what you'll have to do when you go to university. 

When you're in playgroup, 
they say
it's best to not run around all the time and get in some time sitting still and listening so that you get a feel of school and college and life and work. 

When you're in that time before playgroup
they say 
that you've got to get used to the time when your parents aren't there, and you've got to do just as you're told because one day, you'll have exams which decide what you're going to work at for the rest of your life. 

Family history and photos for Holocaust Memorial Day #HMD2018

On the left, the photo was taken in Bielitz now Bielsko-Biala in Poland in 1938/9. From the right in the photo you can see: my father's aunts Bella and Stella, and Stella's son Michael. Michael was put on train to Russia and he never saw his mother and Bella again.

The photo on the right is of Stella and Bella's brother, my father's uncle, Oscar (Jeschie) born in Oswiecim, who fought in the Austro-Hungarian army in 1914-18 war (this is his infantry regiment uniform). He moved to France. When the German army invaded France in 1940, he fled to Niort, Deux-Sèvres, was put on a 'fichier juif' (list of Jews), given a yellow star, had his possessions 'aryanised' (seized by Vichy France).

He fled to Nice, where Jews were not being handed over to the Nazis and where a guy called Donati had requisitioned boats to ferry Jews to north Africa. Italy was defeated by the allies at that very moment, so the Nazis invaded Nice and the surrounding countryside and captured the Jews waiting to be ferried out, including Jeschie and his wife or partner Rachel who like hundreds of others were hiding in the Hotel Excelsior.

They were taken to Drancy transit camp, then deported from Paris Bobigny on convoy 62, November 23, 1943 to Auschwitz and neither were seen again by any of my relatives. Auschwitz was built next to the Polish town of Oswiecim, where Jeschie was born.

These photos (and others) lay hidden in a closet in a sealed up box until the end of 2016, when my cousin Teddy in America went into the house of Stella, Bella and Jeschie's nephew in Manchester, Connecticut and opened up the box. Jeschie and Rachel are commemorated on a monument in Sedan, in the Ardennes where they lived.

There don't seem to be any monuments anywhere for Jeschie's brother Martin (who lived in either Metz or Sedan), or for Stella, Bella, and their siblings, Willi, or Genia ; two more brothers, Morris (my father's father) and Max lived in the US.

Michael (in the photo on the left) survived by fighting in the Polish Free Army, ended the war in a Displaced Persons Camp, came to England on the way to the US but ended up staying. He lives in Stanmore.

PS I only discovered last week that Jeschie's uniform here was for a mostly Polish regiment in the Austro-Hungarian army (raised in Wadowice) and that he fought in nearly 40 battles in the First World War on the same side as the German Army.

My father and his sister Sylvia both of whom lived first in the US and then in London didn't ever know any of the events that happened to Jeschie and their aunts and uncles who lived in Poland and France. I 'tell' my father about them in my memoir.

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Saturday, 27 January 2018

A place to collect expressions, phrases, quotes, sayings in your room?

I see more and more articles and talk about language as if it's 'words' or 'vocabulary'. Language is made up of words in use, in the way we interact socially and as part of our behaviour. Words are not 'language' until they are linked together in 'syntax', with invisible links, that don't announce themselves as 'syntax'. 

Bearing this in mind, in addition to your 'wow words' wall, why not create a wall where people can contribute expressions, quotes from songs, overheard bits of conversation on buses, funny notices, misprints in newspapers, witty headlines and shop names, poignant lines from plays or novels, famous sayings or quotes that say something that people think are important. 

You could have a couple of 'editors' who 'moderate' the contributions. This could involve a discussion about what it means to moderate and why it's become necessary. 

Every so often have discussions about all these quotes and examples of clever or interesting or odd examples of 'language in use', or use any of them as starting points for writing. This is what writers have done for hundreds of years...collect other people's examples of writing and use them as starting points for new writing. 

Friday, 26 January 2018

The best help you can give for writing

The best help you can give for writing (schools or wherever): imitation, invention, investigation, interpretation and audience, ie saying ‘we can write like that, we can make stuff up, we can wonder why a bit of writing is like that, we can discuss that and we can share what we write, and we can do all these things over and over again in as many ways as we can possibly think up.'

Wednesday, 24 January 2018

When to do 'grammar'?

A rational way to do grammar at Primary level: noun, adjective, adverb, verb, clause. The rest can wait till Secondary when comparing and learning languages and/or talking abstractly in English lessons about ‘language’ - just as we don't do calculus, and chemical formulae till Secondary.

Tuesday, 23 January 2018

Recent squibs on education

The thing is people didn’t know how to use emojis until the govt produced the Emoji Curriculum.

In the name of ‘raising standards’ but in reality bullying education into being a weapon in international competitiveness wars, the govt has unitised and monetised education. We shld reply with humanistic values to this onslaught.

Hey 4 year old, you are not a ‘4 year old’, you are a ‘stage’ , a developmental unit, a score on the way to being another score, a place on a graph, a monitored level, a number less than or more than another number...

“With his dark blue furry just-fitting, interesting hat on, which he had bought, he walked in.” = Good writing according to ‘Expected level’ National Curriculum.


Children whose names are not phonically regular must not try to read or write their names in Nursery, Reception or Year 1 in case it hinders their learning of how the alphabetic code works. [irony alert]

If Nursery, Reception or Yr1 children ask to see the writing in a non-phonically regular book, or try to read a cereal packet or a road sign, firmly grip the top of their head and turn it away from the words in question. See Bold Beginnings for more advice on this.

Why do you write poems, Michael?
So that children can be graded according to how well they ‘retrieve ‘ and ‘infer’ on a right/wrong grid devised by people who don’t like poetry.

Sunday, 21 January 2018

Let's bully state education with 'social mobility'!

State education is used and bullied by people claiming to want 'social mobility' when 3 things are designed specifically to prevent any form of level playing field: a) tax evasion/tax havens b) private education c) inherited wealth. State education can't beat those three!

And let's not forget that the whole idea of 'social mobility' is based on a mythic idea that the people down below can and will 'move up' a ladder but why would people up above 'move down' the ladder to give them room? The point is a) tax evasion/tax havens b) private education c) inherited wealth are designed to prevent 'moving down'.

Meanwhile, some of us think there shouldn't be a ladder in the first place!

Let's make 4 year olds into GCSE apprentices

1. Create international tables which claim to be able to compare a country's level or standard of education.
2. Make it hard for people to find out how the samples who are tested are selected. Rely on the media to ignore it anyway.
3. Produce league tables which do not make instantly clear that the differences between placings on the table are sometimes tiny. Rely on the media to ignore this.
4. Ignore the fact that a tiny sample taking the test cannot and do not represent a whole country's educational 'standard. Rely on the media to do the ignoring.
5. Use the tables as a means by which to bully state education on the matter of 'competitiveness', which is a weasel way of drawing a whole country into the matter of how big business competes with other big business, and indeed that this global warfare is less and less about countries and more and more about global corporation. Even so, 'competitiveness' is useful for politicians peddling 'national' solutions. Rely on the media to peddle this.
6. Apply 'competitiveness' to education, which means sidelining educational ideas about learning through cooperation, invention, investigation, interpretation. Rely on the media to peddle this.
7. Do all you can to create a GCSE curriculum that is massively loaded with facts ('knowledge').
8. Do all you can to use this as the determinant for what the whole curriculum from Reception (4 year olds) upwards must 'work towards'. In other words Reception class should be full of GCSE apprentices.
9. Put all children from the time they enter the state system on to tables sorted by 'ability' or 'achievement' or 'attainment'.
10. Call the tables 'blue' and 'green' and 'yellow'. Or 'sparrows' and 'rabbits'. Or both.
11. Bring back behaviour modification charts to deal with the 4 year old kids who won't sit down.

Friday, 19 January 2018

Why didn't Nick Gibb and the Government do all they could to bring this about?

"Whether rich or poor, residents of the United States or China, illiterate or college graduates, parents who have books in the home increase the level of education their children will attain, according to a 20-year study led by Mariah Evans, University of Nevada, Reno associate professor of sociology and resource economics.

For years, educators have thought the strongest predictor of attaining high levels of education was having parents who were highly educated. But, strikingly, this massive study showed that the difference between being raised in a bookless home compared to being raised in a home with a 500-book library has as great an effect on the level of education a child will attain as having parents who are barely literate (3 years of education) compared to having parents who have a university education (15 or 16 years of education). Both factors, having a 500-book library or having university-educated parents, propel a child 3.2 years further in education, on average.

Being a sociologist, Evans was particularly interested to find that children of lesser-educated parents benefit the most from having books in the home. She has been looking for ways to help Nevada’s rural communities, in terms of economic development and education.

“What kinds of investments should we be making to help these kids get ahead?” she asked. “The results of this study indicate that getting some books into their homes is an inexpensive way that we can help these children succeed.”

Evans said, “Even a little bit goes a long way,” in terms of the number of books in a home. Having as few as 20 books in the home still has a significant impact on propelling a child to a higher level of education, and the more books you add, the greater the benefit.

“You get a lot of ‘bang for your book’,” she said. “It’s quite a good return-on-investment in a time of scarce resources.”

In some countries, such as China, having 500 or more books in the home propels children 6.6 years further in their education. In the United States, the effect is less, 2.4 years, than the 3.2-year average advantage experienced across all 27 countries in the study. But, Evans points out that 2.4 years is still a significant advantage in terms of educational attainment.

For example, according to the U.S. Census Bureau’s American Community Survey, Americans who have some college or an associate’s degree, but not a bachelor’s degree, earn an average of $7,213 more annually than those with just a high school education. Those who attain a bachelor’s degree earn $21,185 more each year, on average, than those with just high school diplomas.

The study by Evans and her colleagues at Nevada, UCLA and Australian National University is one of the largest and most comprehensive studies ever conducted on what influences the level of education a child will attain.

The researchers were struck by the strong effect having books in the home had on children’s educational attainment even above and beyond such factors as education level of the parents, the country’s GDP, the father’s occupation or the political system of the country.

Having books in the home is twice as important as the father’s education level, and more important than whether a child was reared in China or the United States. Surprisingly, the difference in educational attainment for children born in the United States and children born in China was just 2 years, less than two-thirds the effect that having 500 or more books in the home had on children (3.2 years).

The study, “Family scholarly culture and educational success: Books and schooling in 27 nations,” was published in the journal, Research in Social Stratification and Mobility
(Science Direct)."

My thoughts:

I gave the full text of this paper to Schools Minister, Nick Gibb, several years ago. If you were the Schools Minister, you might think - '" could change the face of education with this. I could bring about a sea-change in how children access education. I would try to see how with the use of school libraries and local libraries and local bookshops and second hand bookshops, I could make it happen so that children who don't have access to books at home could and would. It would be my social, educational and political priority."

When I said this to Nick Gibb he said, 'But we don't do "directives" any more. They do. This just happens to be a directive they don't do. In fact, I'm not in favour of directives either. The way round that would have been to make it a requirement for schools (ideally in clusters) to develop a reading-for-pleasure policy - and implement it - whilst cutting back on assessment and the curriculum.

Instead, reading-for-pleasure is on a kind of wish-list from the government and often seems to teachers like yet another thing they have to do on top of all the box-ticking and working for the ludicrous assessment timetable. Understood.

My 20-point set of suggestions for creating a Reading for Pleasure school

If you are trying to create a Reading for Pleasure school, then this might help you: my 20-point set of suggestions:

Just copy that link and paste it into your browser. 

Sunday, 14 January 2018

Interpretation - not limited to 'retrieval' and 'inference'

The SATs comprehension questions are limited to 'retrieval', 'inference', chronology and presentation. In fact, 'interpretation' is a more flexible, nuanced and more profound response than is allowed by SATs comprehension questions.

Retrieval: 'Billy had a blue hat. What colour was his hat?' 

'Blue' 'Correct'. 

'It was raining. Why was he wearing a hat?' 
'Because he supports Chelsea.' 
'Wrong, that's interpretation'. 
Inference says 'Because it was raining' is the one correct answer allowed.

If children choose books and read them for pleasure, they effortlessly absorb the patterns, conventions, forms , tactics and motifs of written language. They develop *interpretation* of these. This is high order thinking.

Interpretation involves the many processes of 'reader-response' that I've outlined in a 'matrix' 

(see May 22 2017 on this blog 

If you want to make 'interpretation' explicit then James Durran from NATE turned my matrix into a set of 'trigger' questions, here:

or in my booklet 'Poetry and Stories in Primary and Secondary Schools' available through my website

or from Bookmarks Bookshop, Roving Books or Newham Books.