Belangrijkste onderwijsproblemen volgens Sir Michael Wilshaw, hoofdinspecteur van onderwijsinspectie Engeland:
kritiek op de zgn. progressieve aanpak van het nieuwe leren e.d. - ook haaks op wat Vlaams onderwijsestablishment en Vlaamse inspectie de voorbije decennia propageerde
(1) Challenging tired teaching orthodoxies, that children learn best by self-discovery, informal or individualised
.academic rigour is undervalued; basic literacy and numeracy are neglected; subject specialism is relegated in favour of cross-curricula muddle. Its echoes are particularly apparent in the continued resistance to exams and any form of meaningful qualification.
First, they have to challenge tired teaching orthodoxies.There are many schools, some with incredibly challenging intakes, which provide a demanding intellectual education for their students. Unfortunately, there are others that do the opposite. They still indulge in attitudes and practices that are far from exceptional and are a throwback to the 60s and 70s. Informal or individualised learning is a case in point. This once-fashionable concept was based on the belief that children learn best by self-discovery, that criticism and adult supervision stifle youthful creativity. Its legacy still lingers in some schools today: academic rigour is undervalued; basic literacy and numeracy are neglected; subject specialism is relegated in favour of cross-curricula muddle. Its echoes are particularly apparent in the continued resistance to exams and any form of meaningful qualification.
(2)Challenging the view that competition is an ugly word
Third, good leaders challenge the view that competition is an ugly word. One of the most enduring legacies of the educational upheaval of 40 years ago is the effect it had on competitive sports. Sporting competitions, leagues, house games and all the other activities that underpinned a successful school ethos were jettisoned. In the eyes of many they were fore
ver tainted with the elitism associated with grammar and independent schools.
Competition itself was regarded with distrust because it divided children into winners and losers. And that contradicted the warped version of equality many at the time held. The pride sporting teams contribute to a schools ethos was dismissed. The fact that children thrive and like competition was ignored. Yes, some children inevitably fail. But learning to deal with and move on from failure is one of the biggest lessons sport can teach.
We have to get rid of this curious leftover from the 70s that competition has no place in schools. Of course it does. The best headteachers are highly competitive people. The best schools aim to win. Competition isnt incompatible with collaboration; its a necessary component of it. If youre not good, you have little of value to share. We need to celebrate schools competitive instincts. Competition shouldnt be an ugly word. Competition is good.
(3) Insisting on the school being an orderly place: discipline e.d.
Finally, good leaders insist that the school is an orderly place. In the popular mind one of the biggest problems of the early comprehensives was poor student behaviour. It was obvious to me as a teacher in London that in many schools good behaviour was notable by its absence. Discipline evaporated as tradition was trashed and instruction was supplanted by indulgence.
In many schools the child was a partner and the teacher a friend. The idea that a teacher could insist that a student follow his or her instructions was therefore moot. This environment allowed weak teaching to flourish. Weakness was dressed up as respect for a childs innate difference. It was in truth a refusal to be professional, a refusal to take responsibility. And In the worst cases, it bred not respect for the child but disdain. What can we do with kids like these? became an all too familiar excuse as behaviour deteriorated and exam results fell off a cliff.
But it wasnt the kids who were at fault. We, the supposed professionals, were. We had abrogated our duty to be experts and authority figures. They hadnt stopped being children; we had ceased to be teachers.
Although the excesses of the past are thankfully rare now, the notion that firm discipline is somehow unjust persists. I still see articles today with headlines such as Do strict behaviour policies make for happy schools? and comments like children must be able to discover what rules are appropriate for themselves. What nonsense. Children, especially those who lack structure at home, want and expect teachers to give them rules. In their absence, they do not sit around politely debating the most appropriate ones to follow. And they certainly dont think much of teachers who give them the option.
Yet some teachers remain reluctant to say: Im in charge, these are my rules and you will follow them. Phrases such as behaviour management are still bandied around as if a childs conduct is something to be negotiated. It smacks of compromise and containment. It undermines authority and it implies that discipline cannot be imposed.
Schools must accept that discipline is not a dirty word. A good school is a well-disciplined school where important rules are non-negotiable. They are as much about protecting the child as any safeguarding policy. Children are happiest in a school that is calm and well ordered and where they feel safe. Its the only environment in which learning can flourish. Without it, teaching becomes impossible, learning dissolves; staff become disillusioned and too often leave.
(4)Leadership is key: headteachers must attend to the small details as well as the big picture. They must not become absentee managers, addicted to networking but averse to spending time in their school ...
As I said earlier, the main reason I believe comprehensives schools have improved so much is that they now enjoy a quality of leadership that they lacked before. In the past, senior leaders were often complicit in their own enfeeblement. They thought they lacked the legitimacy to lead. Most headteachers today do not lack self-belief. But if we are to entrench the gains we have made, all school leaders must learn to lead from the front. They must radiate authority. They must attend to the small details as well as the big picture. They must not become absentee managers, addicted to networking but averse to spending time in their school. They, and we, must learn the lessons of where school reform went wrong.
I have a suspicion that even now, for all the progress we have made, effective management is still seen in some quarters as marginal to the real purpose of schools that good learning and teaching can happen miraculously without it. Well it cant. And unless all comprehensives become synonymous with excellent leadership they will never be able to provide the education their students deserve.
(5) Confronting parents who refuse to take responsibility
We need leaders who are prepared to confront parents who refuse to take responsibility. One of the less talked about consequences of the move to comprehensives was that the relationship between schools and parents was often severed. Parents expected little of their local comprehensives and schools expected little of them.As any successful headteacher knows, the engagement and support of parents and carers is crucial to the success of a school. They have to be told how important they are to the education of their children. Education is a compact; both parties have a role to play.
Too many comprehensives ignored this partnership. And this neglect had a corrosive consequence: parents were infantilised because they were rarely reminded of their responsibilities or engaged in an effective way.Too few comprehensive headteachers thought it was their job to tell parents that they expected homework to be completed, or books to be brought in, or that it was unacceptable for children to be absent during term time.
Im glad to say the situation has improved markedly since those days. Home-school agreements are common, parental engagement is a priority for most school leaders and public trust in the profession is high. But some schools still fail to tell parents how vital they are to the process of education and some parents fail to understand what exactly is expected of them.This is most commonly seen in the opposition of some parents to strict uniform policies. How dare they send my Oliver home because he has the wrong colour socks! they complain to the local paper. Its not vital to his education! Oh yes it is.
And if you want your children to attend, you will abide by them. In my view, heads should not balk at telling parents when they fail in their duties to the school or their children. Poverty, or for that matter wealth, does not excuse parents from the responsibility to support their child or their school. And if they are not doing it, they should be told.