It is the start of the holidays, yet I cannot quite escape the chalkface. First, Britain’s state propaganda news organ the BBC reports on a forthcoming speech by Sir Michael Wilshaw, head of the schools inspectorate Ofsted, to be delivered later today (3rd April 2014).

(I will quickly gloss over the annoyance of news media pre-reporting speeches as having been ‘said’ by someone, an annoyance prompted by five years spent transcribing and editing speeches, scripted and unscripted.)

The meat of the nub of the crux of Sir Michael’s gist is that nurseries, playschools, need “greater emphasis on structured learning”. However, in a related report, the Beeb notes that despite expert advice to the contrary, “play” at playschool is not deemed worth mentioning in Early Years Teacher training.

“While the Early Years Teacher (qualification, EYT) requires the teacher to have a clear understanding of synthetic phonics in the teaching of reading and appropriate strategies in the teaching of early mathematics, there is no mention of theories underpinning structured play.”

There are several hats I could put on to be annoyed by this news – as a qualified teacher, as a parent and as someone who likes playing about, for three.

Any fule in teeching kno about the benefits to be gained from play, if only looking as far as the vaunted Finnish approach to education, which features no formal learning until the age of seven.

This pre-school annoyance sits, second, beside further dismay at the non-news that an “ultra-high grade” will help a General Certificate of Secondary Education (GCSE) “shake-up” in England and Wales. Again, I will gloss over my irritation at the term “shake-up”, which rather than actual change suggests snow-globe inversion, cascading flakes for a short time then as you were.

When the idea was first floated last year, I was saying – informed comment in my capacity as a teaching professional, just to waft my certificates at you once more – that the problem of “A*” becoming devalued is not one to be solved by introducing another scheme entirely. As if letters have suddenly stopped being able to do what we tell them. Maybe numbers work better on spreadsheets? Or should we just go for Alphas, Deltas, Gammas? Aldous Huxley gently rotates. The concept of the A* has in any case always seemed risible:

“…these go to 11…”

I will now be thoroughly annoying myself and quote my own commentary on the grades from Twitter, last Jun:

Education is too easily seen and used as a political football… with successive governments and inspectorates also moving goalposts, widening them, or replacing them with giant sausages. I dunno. I do not have ready answers. There’s a lot to think about, and I’m supposed to be on Easter hols as well. All I can say is, people know what Sam Cooke means when he sings of “being an A student, baby”. Do we want A student babies though?

Sometimes I love the career I embarked on. Sometimes it just makes me feel like I’m playing for the wrong side.

Hey! Teacher!

Hey! Teacher!

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