The OECD has produced another shock horror report about England’s state schools – which are, at the worst end of the scale*, detention camps where the children of poor people are sent to keep them out of the way until they are old enough to be turfed out onto the dole or sent to prison.
Coming as teachers are still folding up their NUT banners after the recent strike, it tabulates 24 developed nations and places English youths 22nd for literacy and 21st for numeracy.
Some time ago, we published It’s Your Time You’re Wasting by the teacher Frank Chalk. It became a No1 bestseller on Amazon’s Kindle platform, as well as selling very healthily in paperback, too.
Back then, Chalk wrote of his frustration that
(i)n Mathematics, many of our pupils cannot do even the simplest sum without the aid of a calculator. Some cannot do the simplest sum even with the aid of a calculator. For example, you will ask the question ‘What is 9 x 7?’ They will type it in wrongly as ‘9 x 77’ and claim that the answer is 693. They have no idea of the relative size of numbers and do not sense instinctively that this cannot be right. Instead, they accept whatever the display says. It is useless to argue with them; they simply wave the calculator at you as if it is some sort of talisman to ward off evil answers. It is trusted far more than the teacher.
After six years of Primary schooling, much of their written and verbal output is gibberish, and in many cases it does not improve significantly during their stay at St Jude’s. Half are unable to read, write or spell properly when they leave. They cannot punctuate or structure a sentence – they just ramble on, misusing words they don’t understand and mis-spelling most of those with more than two or three syllables. Maybe it’s no surprise, given that you can say this of a few of the teachers, too.
For his pains, Chalk was accused of ‘hating kids’ and being some sort of capitalist running dog – his critics missing (or ignoring) the fact that it is the children of the poor who suffer in our worst schools.
(The 200+ reviews on Amazon are well-worth reading; you can very easily spot the people with a healthy vested interest in the status quo.)
As it happens, we’re about to embark on another book by another teacher – having had a number pitched to us over the years. I met this other teacher a couple of days ago, and his stories and concerns were much the same as Chalk’s. They boil down to, whatever we’re doing with our kids, we are not educating them.
Watch this space.
* To avoid wilful misinterpretation, I should add that there are many very good State schools, many excellent teachers (even, doubtless, in the bad schools) and lots of good children (whose lives, in those bad schools, are being slowly destroyed by the system).