Posts Tagged ‘studying’

GCSE’s – bring on the ungrateful

May 3, 2014

In some parts of the world children are dying because they want to be educated. In some parts of this country children would rather die than be educated. Think that’s a bit harsh for a Saturday?

Well think about this. This week 230 Nigerian girls were kidnapped from school while studying for their final exams – who knows what has happened to them and lord knows their government hasn’t been doing a great deal to find out. They reside in a part of their country where going to school can be fatal. This week my year 11s came back from their latest gee them up and boost their confidence assembly with this: ‘Why should we care about our education, why should we have to do anything about it?’ Coupled with a general: ‘Oh my god, are you going to make me work this morning when I’m so tired from the weekend?’

Needless to say I was not terribly compassionate to those who have complained this week about how much they have to do to get their C, or make progress in English. No, I’ve been singularly angry with those who don’t care, with those who think it’s all a joke, all somebody else’s problem. (Please note there is a disclaimer at the end regarding sweeping generalisations and students.)

I am appalled and disgusted by the attitude of too many children I have met over the last six years who simply don’t give a shit. Fair enough, my non-teaching friends are thinking, let them fail. And in a fair world we would. But Education in England is not about the consequences of your actions, or even learning; no, it’s about teaching. Specifically it’s about league tables, year on year improvements, and meeting and exceeding targets, that actually are not realistic or based in any sensible or rationale logic, just some massaged numbers.

Education is not about learning at all! It’s not about the students (and their families) taking responsibility, no it’s about teachers and schools busting their guts to get the numbers, to not fail, to not have Ofsted breathing down your neck, to avoid being bullied out of your job or sacked, or ending up in Special Measures.

At the moment, across the country teachers are offering extra lessons, spending weekends at school, creating booster packages for home study, running residential weekends; are doing everything they can other than write the exams themselves to get their students over the line. Teachers sit in meetings where management asks – what else could you do for them? Why isn’t management asking the students – what else could you be doing for yourself?

Why are schools chasing students to attend classes, offering inducements to attend extra lessons, ringing them up to remind them to attend extra lessons, allowing extra time for everything, even driving to their homes to pick them up for the exams? Why don’t students and their families care enough to do these things for themselves?

The poor woman who was stabbed this week was doing such a thing – in school on her day off to teach an extra lesson for her GCSE Spanish class.

Indeed, why do teachers care more about students’ results than they do, why are we working harder than they are for their GCSE’s????

In other parts of the world students are desperate to be educated, some walk miles and miles to get to school, some get shot on the way, especially if they happen to be a girl (remember Malala) and their schools do not have remotely adequate facilities. In other parts of the world students compete fiercely to get into the government schools (Shanghai) because they know if they don’t they’ll never have a decent job and there is no welfare to prop them up the rest of their lives. In other parts of the world students take responsibility for their learning; they read, they complete their homework, they focus in class and do their best.

pal studying

Here, in failing schools across the country students don’t care. They want to be entertained, because education must be fun! They don’t want to be in class every day or work effectively when they’re there. They don’t read and wonder why they can’t pass an exam. They get to year 11 having done bugger all for too many years and wonder why they aren’t going to get a C. And they blame their teachers because finally it starts to sink in, school is nearly over and what the hell am I going to do – it must be someone else’s fault…

And you know what, it isn’t actually all their fault. It’s the system that is failing them. Not their teachers, who are as much the victim of the pernicious focus on league tables and Ofsted as they are, but a system that has taken away the students democratic right to failure and to their own true success.

They exist in a system that is not about learning, not about becoming a worthwhile person, a person who doesn’t understand the worth of an education because they have not had to work for it. No, they are failed and continue to fail because schools are not allowed to fail and so we spew out endless young people whose C is not theirs, who haven’t read an entire book in years, who don’t know how to think, who have been drilled and coached and had words and phrases shoved down their throats so they know how to pass. But they don’t know anything worth knowing about English.


In Shanghai and other places there are consequences for not learning, for not trying. Schools work because students and families respect education, know that learning is the only way to a good life, self respect and security. Teachers are respected, not blamed. Education is valued.

Gove’s reforms are doomed. Not just because he’s an egotistical idiot, but because he is dealing with the symptoms, not the underlying cause, not the disease at the heart of education. Ofsted and league tables breed lies, cheating and all sorts of scurrilous behaviour. Exams are a blunt instrument, but given everything else in the system is singularly lacking in refinement and finesse what do you expect?

It won’t be until this country looks at itself, at its issues, its massive gap between the rich and poor, and creates a bespoke education system, one for all the people who live here, not just patched in from bits from the rest of the world, that all children will have the chance of a good education and a better future. Someone really should be asking how you can have such world class universities as Oxford and Cambridge and such a third rate government sector… someone still needs to be joining the dots much much better.

Singapore and Shanghai looked inward, looked at themselves and what they needed and then they changed their systems. The best performing Scandinavian countries do the same. They didn’t cherry pick from the rest of the world and now look at them!

Disclaimer: I have taught some amazing and hard working students here, those who have really cared about their education and were impressively decent people. I still do! I have also worked with some amazingly dedicated and hard working teachers. Teachers and students are not the problem, not at all… (Images from Private Collection)

Go On – Treat Yourself

October 10, 2013

Restraint is a wonderful thing, as is Delayed Gratification – I’m exceptionally good at that – and Control. You need these qualities to get on in life, to succeed, to cope, to make changes to your life, to get the things you want. Think about your job, studying for (further) qualifications, saving for a deposit on a house, dieting, giving up all sorts of things. It’s all about the bigger picture isn’t it – today’s sacrifice for tomorrow’s reward.

Sadly so much of life seems to be about restraint and denying yourself the good things. Or if you do indulge then you feel so guilty (oh, what a Tim Tam can do to you) the pleasure was utterly lost. Even that uncontrolled rant about the latest nonsense at work didn’t make you feel any better because you unloaded at the wrong time to the wrong person and instead of feeling better you feel worse.

tim tams

But today I am talking about giving yourself permission to let go of the Good You, the Hard Working You, the Saving Up You, the Dieting You, the I-Am-No-Longer-Swearing You, or which ever You has been in control lately. We all need a treat, we all need something to look forward to, something little or something big. But something that keeps us going and gets us through the hard times, the times that make us want to scream and throw that towel down a deep dark pit from whence it cannot be retrieved.

What do you deserve? What will make you feel good? Have a think about this because what you’re going to do is give yourself permission to treat yourself, to stop the denial-restraint-control-suffering even if only for a little while. As a perennial dieter I know the only way I cope (when I am successful and that has happened once or twice in my life!) is by allowing myself treats from time to time. Not everyday, I hasten to say – otherwise you get nowhere. Saving money for a deposit means every day for a long time. Losing weight means self control and exercise every day for a long time.


So, step away from the denial, the hard work, the control – allow yourself time off.

me yesterday



Giving yourself permission is most important as it means you remain in control of your indulgence and can easily and happily step back into that zone – you want to be thin, you want to own your own house, you want to complete your study – don’t you?? Giving yourself permission also means you don’t get bogged down in guilt or give up on your grand plan.

A little of what you fancy doesn’t hurt – but a truck load does!




Diet Treats – chocolate – of course!! A day of eating what you want – just toast and tomatoes can be it! A meal out – have something you’ve denied yourself that you really love, even if it’s as simple and as naughty as Maccas or Hungry Jacks (Burger King, the rest of the world)

hungry jacks

Savings Treats – as simple as a bunch of flowers, or £100 to spend on anything or nothing. Perhaps a weekend away – one of those deals from Groupon, where everything is as cheap as chips, or a massage, or a theatre trip… the choices for something cheap and cheerful are endless

flowers & sun

Working Hard Treats – this is where you can let yourself go. Something as simple as a day in bed, a weekend in front of the telly; your favourite boxset, but you could be more imaginative. Back to Groupon or all those travel deals that trip into your in-box. A week in Egypt sounds good to me, not to mention hopping onto the Eurostar and a weekend in Paris or, better still Brussels with one of your best mates. Go to the theatre, spend a day doing the things you love that make you feel good, with the people that make you feel good. Hard work is good and necessary but you must take time out to re-charge your batteries.



Take time out from the grind of your life, from the extra bits of control you’re exerting. Choose carefully, making sure that your treat is worthwhile, that you do enjoy it, so that you won’t be beset with guilt or regret. Instead you’ll enjoy the buzz of indulgence during and the memory of it afterwards. Then return to what has to be done for your own greater good. Always knowing you can do it again in a while!! (Images courtesy Google Images and Private Collection)