A libertarian inclined blog for teachers and learners of all ages. Comments, emails and links to other educational stuff welcome.

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Next entry: Butterfly Book in short supply
Previous entry: In praise of danger
Thursday January 10 2008

I saw this coming, but not so soon:

Every parent of a secondary school pupil will have online access to real-time data on their child’s behaviour by 2010 under new targets set today by schools minister Jim Knight.

What strikes me about announcements like these is that all these initiatives might make sense, if they were being done by individual schools in response to their individual problems, and then copied by other schools, in their own time, if the first scheme was successful.  But, when the government decides that every school in its grip must do whatever it is, and starts setting national targets and announcing deadlines, that’s a different pile of sludge entirely.

For instance, imagine if the scheme I commented on yesterday, about teaching etiquette, had been an announcement by the government rather than by one single college.  Imagine a national plan to teach allteenagers better table manners.  It hardly bears thinking about.

A national plan to impose total classroom surveillance is similarly misguided.  You can imagine this maybe working if a single school tried it, and worked out whether it truly is as scary as it might sound to some parents and seem to some children, and hence as much resented as it might be.  The school could work out the dos and don’ts of it all, by trial and error, and quietly drop the whole idea if they couldn’t make it work well.  But politicians, eager to trumpet success, success that is badly measured and before it has really happened, impatient to roll it out nationally before the next General Election, even if lots of teachers think it stinks and has zero to contribute to their particular school and is in fact only asking for trouble ... it’s a horror story waiting to happen.  This is pretty much my prejudice about any national “initiative”.

Teachers’ groups have insisted that the plan must not add to their members’ workload, while the education procurement agency BECTA recently released research pointing out that many struggle to use existing IT. The National Union of Teachers today called for an independent assessment of the impact of real-time reporting technology in schools.

In other words: bleah!!  I sympathise.