Children Education Parents

Offsted – Wrong, Wrong, Wrong!

I read in my Saturday paper that at long last pupils will be taught to spell and learn grammar. About time too and the younger the better. When I was a child I enjoyed doing spelling tests every week. I believe that the teaching of English grammar should be started at the same time as children are learning to read and write. This is the practice in some European countries. Another subject that could be taught in primary school is another language.

It is well known that up to a very early age, say 6 to 8, children can easily learn two or even three languages at the same time and we are talking about all normal children, not the brightest ones. The older we get the harder it is for children to learn another language.

I have heard from parents that when their children start school they are often very disappointed because they don’t want to play they really want to learn proper subjects. We have always underrated just how much small children can take in. Of course the methods for this early teaching need to be carefully designed. Let me give you an example. My nephew’s son has a Danish mother. They came to visit us when he was three years old and he was already speaking Danish and English. His wise mother spoke her own language to him from the start in tandem with lots of English from his family and friends.

As we were having lunch his mother was talking with him. “Did you answer in Danish?” I asked him. He looked puzzled and turned to his mother for help. She said “This is how Mummy talks”. His mother cleverly used this phrase instead of the word ‘Danish’. I realised that he could easily move from one language to another, but he hadn’t yet grasped the concept that there were many other languages. He just took all this for granted.

It occurred to me how useful it would be to to learn the grammar at the same time as we are learning the language. I had to wait until I was at grammar school to learn two languages, French and Latin and English grammar. I know I would have learned all this much earlier and easier with skilful teaching leaving me free to go further and faster later on.

If children learn real grown-up stuff, in their eyes, it would be a wonderful boost to their confidence and they would improve, not lose, their ability to concentrate.

One of many mistakes in education changes since I was a child, is giving homework to children under eleven. With good teachers, there is no need. Children need time to themselves to play and read in their own homes and put school behind them until the next day. Even worse, it is another great mistake for parents to try to ‘help’ with homework. That is not a role of parenting. Home is somewhere to relax and rest. There should be no interference between teachers and parents unless there is a serious problem that needs to be examined. However, most teachers who choose their job have the gift of finding their own way of passing on information. Busybodies, i.e. Ofsted, should stay away unless there is a real reason for help.

Children Education Power and Control

Motivate by Enthusiasm

If we want to lead a satisfactory life, we do work we enjoy in the most productive way to yield good results. To achieve this it is vital that we learn how to manage motivation and control. They go hand in hand. The best preparation is to have kind parents and kind teachers who don’t force their ideas on us but notice what we like doing most and and provide the tools for us to develop our own potential.

No-one can teach us motivation but we can create an environment for children to discover what arouses enthusiasm for them. It wasn’t until I went to grammar school and heard a pupil playing on the piano that my whole being was uplifted with the beauty of an impromptu by Schubert. It opened a whole new world for me and I have loved what we call classical music ever since.

If we could only do what we enjoy doing that lifts our spirits and makes life worth living, there would be no such things as bad behaviour, cruelty and lack of attention. Surely there must be a way where we can rule out compulsory subjects for those who dislike them. I can remember how I hated outdoor group games and found all kinds of ways to avoid doing them.

Motivation and control only work when they are the positive not the negative variety. It depends on the environment. Teachers can rarely motivate children unless they happen to be teaching a subject that a child is drawn to. Motivation comes from inside potentials that are awakened by something from outside. No-one can make you be motivated by something that you don’t like. Winston Churchill loathed Latin and loved English Literature and Language and what a genius he turned out to be regardless of the opinions of his classic teachers!

The increasing regimentation of teaching in comprehensive schools, where everyone is “taught” the same things in the same way is doomed to failure.

Control is profoundly necessary in everything that matters. In schools they call it “discipline” which “they” think is subduing bad behaviour:

a) it is impossible

b) it causes unnecessary exhaustion and misery to the teachers.

The only real control is self-control: something we learn to do for ourselves. Dominating parents and teachers that use forceful tactics arouse nothing but irritation and bad behaviour. Discipline in the armed forces is a different matter because it is in a different context. Children are obliged to go to school whilst young men (and a much smaller number of women) choose to join up. As I have mentioned before when a war breaks out there has never been a lack of volunteers. They accept all kinds of uniforms, orders, rules and hard physical work gladly. They know that they must learn to obey orders at once and willingly because those tactics are there to save as many people as possible in dangerous situations.

We pay a price for everything we want to do because we want to do it as well as we possibly can. That price is self-discipline, our own inner sergeant-major that makes us do whatever we have to do to achieve what we want to achieve.

Blog Education

Keep Your Hands Off Education

I’ve just read an interview of Nigel Fanshawe, an ex-headmaster of a grammar school who is nearly 100 years old. Like me, he came from a background that was very short of money, passed his 11 plus and worked his way through to university and then to teach in a grammar school. He took over an ill-disciplined school ravaged by wartime neglect and transformed it into one of the most successful schools in the country. Would he have been able to do this if he had government poking its nose into everything he did then? Of course not!

Like all heads in those days he took full responsibility for ensuring good discipline with punishment for bad behaviour. It is time that every adult needs to know just how much damage has been made by the government trying to get every child into a comprehensive school. You don’t have to be a genius to recognise that when children of all kinds are taught together, it is every child’s loss. It is nothing to do with money. When I was young everyone who passed the 11 plus from whatever kind of background had a good education and were not allowed to act badly. There were sanctions. No child should be permitted to destroy the sense of peace and order of those who want to learn. I know from personal experience that most children want to leave school at 16 and go out to work to earn money.

Trying to get everyone into a university, as the government wishes, can only result in a drastic lowering of standards, graduates who cannot find jobs and a dearth of good teachers because those who can teach well would not dream of teaching in a comprehensive school.

“Fanshawe regards the education system with a mixture of despair and anger. He believes the lack of good-quality graduates going into teaching is wrecking the system.”

“Governments have, for twenty years, been attacking the teaching profession, with the result that it is no longer attractive” he says. “Teachers do not want to spend their lives fighting 13-year-olds who couldn’t care less about education. It’s not fun to me. None of the brightest graduates want to go into teaching and that means comprehensives can never have the best staff at the top”.

I do strongly wish that the media would drop such words as “the rich and the poor”and “middle classes and working classes.” Society has immeasurably improved in our own country and many others since the end of World-War-2. “Working Class” ought to mean all those people, however much or how little they earn, who have done their best to find work that suits them. People, on the whole speak to each other in a friendly way and it is much more difficult for us to categorize people. Modern technology has, happily, ridden many of us of the exhaustions of the past.

We must all be quicker to complain when we see unnecessary injustices carried out by people who are supposed to serve us, i.e. bureaucrats of all types. Everyone should work harder at accepting responsibility and making good use of our freedom of speech.