Monday, 7 December 2009

Not much to wryte home about

Below are some extracts from a very interesting article in the Times today:

"Sir, does spelling matter?"

Picture the scene: It is last period on a Friday, the final showdown of another long, exhausting week at the chalk-face. I am running on fumes and all I can think about is that first coffee after a lie-in on a Saturday morning. The clock seems to be going backwards. My nemesis class is in front of me, the one more than any other on the time-table that looms over me like a dark cloud and wakes me up in the middle of the night in a cold sweat. The register reads like a who's-who of school horror stories. And then it happens, the conversation that will surely haunt me all weekend:

Student: "Sir, how do you spell "education" ?

Mr Teacher: "You are twelve years old. I realise that I should help you but giving a constructive answer will force me to acknowledge the question, and my patience can't cope with that today."

Student: "Oh, ok. I know it anyway. It must be e-d-u-k-a-c-j-u-n.
I am reminded of the recent well-publicised comments made by Tesco boss Sir Terry Leahy, the man at the helm of the country's largest private employer. He is rightfully concerned by the "woefully low standards in too many schools" and is frustrated that employers such as himself often need to retrain their employees in spelling and arithmetic. His views were immediately echoed by many top business leaders, including Asda's chief operating officer, Andy Clarke, who said: "“No one can deny that Britain has spawned a generation of young people who struggle to read, write or do simple maths. That’s why we’re finding packs of nappies discarded in the booze aisle, as the last few pounds are spent on alcohol rather than childcare.” Their comments were met with denials, howls of derision and claims of elitism from some quarters. When I heard what they had said, I simply nodded my head in knowing approval. This is because they are absolutely spot-on. The permitted standard of general education is at an appallingly low level. A massive percentage of the students I teach struggle on a daily basis with basic literacy and numeracy. Some are unable to communicate properly by any means.
A system that is churning out kids who cannot spell the very thing they ought to be striving for is the true face of schooling in this country. The numbers don't add up and, even if they did, too many of us would struggle to write the answer.

To follow what this teacher says regularly you can visit his blog Mr Teacher.
This resonates with our experience here in Tipton, through the work with young people we do at church and through edgehill. Reading a passage from the Bible can be a huge challenge for a number of our group, as can framing even simple prayers, and (though I am hardly one to talk) their handwriting is not much to write home about either. And it scares me.
The frustrating thing is that almost none of our young people lack the ability to do these things - they can memorise verses and in our recent weekend away grasped what the incarnation is, with reference to Arius and Athanasius. So what is going wrong?

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