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Thursday, January 11, 2007

Reeding, Riting And Rithmatic

Numeracy - still some way to go to catch up with the third worldSo the school league tables are out and although I'm not personally in favour of over-emphasis on performance targets and metrics in education, the figures are interesting.

In London overall, only 45.8% of students managed to achieve 5 grade A*-C GCSE results including Maths and English.

Business leaders reacted angrily to the results, saying that in today's economy this target was the bare minimum requirement for anyone to be considered employable when there are fewer and fewer unskilled jobs available and literacy and numeracy are now essential in the workplace.

Of course you don't need me to remind you of Tony's famous mantra at the 1996 Labour Party conference. Although the results are up a tiny bit on last year, at this rate of improvement we will catch up with Singapore in the year 3126.

Here in Hackney there was some improvement on last year, but not nearly sufficient to close the gap on the educational demands of the economy, so kids continue to become relatively more unemployable. Some faith schools including Yesoday Hatorah and Our Lady's Convent did very well and my local community school Stoke Newington Media and Arts College improved significantly, but the community schools - Hackney Free & Parochial, Haggerston Girls' and Homerton College of Technology - remained at the bottom of the league. Things would have been even worse, of course, had not some of the poorest performing schools been closed down altogether in recent years.

Now I'm not perfect and I'm sure that anyone perusing my blog could find examples of incorrect spelling, grammar and mathematics. But (says he, starting a sentence with a conjunction), my excuse is the shocking example being set by those who should know better.

Take, for example, the "Hackney Groveller". Today's on-line version contains the following gem: "The school, English teacher Gareth Harris, and high achieving student Basin Jafar who achieved 10 GCSE's, five A*s, 5A'S and 1B, will be honoured today (Thursday) at an event at St Pancras station hosted by schools minister Andrew Adonis." Comma preceding "and", incorrect hyphenation, incorrect possessive apostrophe in plural, capital "S" in plural, confusingly complex grammatical structure and, last but not least, 5 + 5 + 1 = 10.

At least I attended a public school where I was educated to a reasonable standard. Loathe as I am to raise once more the spectre of my doppelganger, this unfortunate chap obviously attended one of Hackney's poorer attempts at an educational institution. A glance at the material published in the 10 days since New Year's Day reveals the following:

  • spelling: "ressonance", "targetted", "untargetted", "intelligensia", "straithforward", "vacumn", "pamplets", "Alastair Darling", "google seach"

  • vocabulary: "more narrow", "presidentialised"

  • conciseness: "I would guess that they've misquoted him (an occupational hazard if you address gatherings of this nature) and what he actually said was "he particularly deplored the way in which the First Past the Post election system meant that the Party’s traditional position and values have been subverted in favour of policies designed to attract swing voters in marginal seats" but that the people who write Save the Labour Party's newsletter are not fans of electoral reform so missed out this rather important qualification." and: "I was active in the Party from 1988 onwards and I don't just remember a series of changes at a national level - I remember years and years of slow, steady organisational work by the right of the party (and to be fair the soft left on some issues and in some places) to take control of affiliates, wards, CLPs, district parties, council Labour groups - some of it vaguely directed from on high but a lot of it spontaneous and locally organised by people who had just had enough of losing elections, had had enough of the fruitcakes and entryists ruining their local parties and knew it had to change." and, finally: "The report makes a completely absurd case that selective education produces better results across the board - but does this in 2 ways - 1) by comparing A-level results at grammar schools (where all pupils are selected for their ability to pass exams) with a lumped together figure for both comprehensives and the secondary modern schools that in residual selective areas get all the pupils not good at passing exams and 2) by comparing GCSE results in areas that are wholly selective with those that are wholly comprehensive - which is confusing pattern with causality - the reason why GCSE results are better in wholly selective areas than wholly comprehensive is that the hold-outs against comprehensive education were mainly Tory LEAs in more prosperous areas like Buckinghamshire or Kent whilst those that went furthest towards comprehensive schooling were mainly inner-city poorer areas."
Alan Woodentop of Tender Loving CareOn the arithmetic front one does not need to regurgitate previous comments about this sad character's inability to grapple with the Labour Party membership figures, the Tory election lead in England and the SNP election lead in Scotland. Heaven help us if we ever get round to calculus and differential equations.

Alan Wood, Chief Executive of Tender Loving Care, said the results were fantastic. In public I shall be applauding his statement and doing my best to claim another educational triumph for the peasantry of Hackney. But in truth it sounded a bit like me on a bad day, describing Tony's mastery of international diplomacy. It made me squirm, just a little.

1 comment:

philomena gerkins said...

How dare you attack the poor boy. He's only doing his best and it's not his fault he went to school in Hackney in the era of Alan Wood. I'm sure he has a perfectly respectable and useful job - probably working as a domestic servant for the people moving into your new yuppie flats.