Monday, 14 December 2009

Vetting and barring review - response to fora comments.

Could I strongly recommend people read ‘recommendation 7; host families’ page 17 onwards para 46 – 54.

Unfortunately the wording of the recommendation and its punctuation are ambiguous. In the recommendation itself there is a comma after days and family which could be interpreted as giving a different nuance to para 54. However if you read the totality of the paragraphs 46-54, it is clear that Sir Roger is recommending that exchanges of fewer than 28 day should be regarded as ‘private arrangements where overseas parents accept the responsibility for the selection of the host family’ and therefore would not require registration.

In view of the ambiguity of the phrasing and punctuation, it may be wise for schools to ask overseas families to sign a form confirming that they accept the responsibility. Do note also that para 54 says that his recommendation would not prevent an individual school from asking host parents to register if it wished to offer that additional measure of protection, but it would not be a statutory requirement.

In view of the carefully phrased caveat,it would probably be wise for schools to consult with governors and perhaps the wider community so that if something were to go wrong, and the schools had not undertaken such a check, then they would not be found guilty in ‘trial by the media’. There are clearly many nuances to this issue and it would be wise to reflect carefully and await further developments before rushing into action.

Hope this helps.

(I realise there are loads of 'it would be wise' phrases .. hopefully this covers me!)

Wednesday, 22 April 2009

Speaking tests - response to TES forum

My response to the TES thread on Speaking tests... hopefully better formatted than on the board!

Warning – this is long – have been off the forum for a while and have only just caught up and cannot resist joining in, so skip this if you want!!! Also, lost the first version when I clicked the wrong button.

Just taking a break from the stress of 'the last lesson before the oral' with my Year 11s .. this is a very interesting thread with lots of subthreads and although I haven’t anything really to add to my earlier post about the issues - , I find it reassuring to see that there are so many of us who agree from across the spectrum .. whether teaching male / female / able / not so able.

[ALL] Aligru …I’m not sure whether I’ve missed some reference here, but ALL is consulted on initiatives, and the nature of the GCSE is one of the most recent. As an ALL member you would probably know about his through ALLnet or the publications which are sent.

[Content] Re: what is taught, and its link with future study, I am with asisehace on this. The aims of the General Certificate for Secondary Education do include preparation for further study and working life, but they also include enjoyment and being prepared for things which a 16 year old might expect to need to do. If we were to provide a curriculum for all which was targeted for those who are going to be specialists at university, there is a risk that the majority would be left out, numbers would drop, courses would not run and the supply to university would be drastically reduced. I find it helpful through ALL/ISMLA contacts to be able to talk with people from other sectors so that we can all understand each others’ perspectives. In particular, I was interested by a talk from GCHQ at the ISMLA conference. I had the impression that they did not expect the schools and universities to be providing the ‘finished product’ and that they provided intensive courses to bring people up to the level needed for some jobs, in particular with respect to lesser taught languages. It was also encouraging to learn that they really valued the generic skills of linguists, and found them highly employable across the service.

[Validity and reliability] I think the point asisehace makes is right. Pupils and parents will expect the teacher to prepare the candidates as well as they can for the given test so that they can show their ‘true ability’. I don’t think that the current test fairly allows people to show their ability - the range of speaking skills they have. It will be interesting to see whether the new rĂ©gime will be better (I have yet to view the DVD which I have received).

[Analogies] There have been some excellent analogies drawn e.g. El Hombre’s music/ drama .. and I love the samenerve analogy with driving – great! I’m tempted to suggest another … I notice that many politicians (not sure whether this includes Nick Gibb) prepare and read aloud what they say in the house. I suspect that sometimes their researchers / assistants help them to write the scripts. I’m sure their researchers prepare them pretty thoroughly for what might come up, and an even better technique is perhaps to learn a formula for avoiding the question and saying what you have prepared anyway. And that’s just in English. [actually – just re-read El Hombre’s post – so my analogy isn’t original – but I’ll leave it anyway!!](I realise the analogy breaks down a bit, but analogies often do, and I couldn’t resist this one!)

[Solutions?]. Not sure what the solutions are, as we can see from this thread alone, let alone all the other threads about the changes to GCSE that there is no single view from the teachers. Certainly I think it is helpful to keep channels between govt/DCSF/ofqual/qca/exam boards / professional body of teachers/media open as much as possible and be really clear about what the role is of these bodies and honest about what we can realistically expect. I have to say that I was pretty impressed by Isabel Nisbett’s (ofqual acting i/c) openness about the complexity of putting together valid and reliable exams which meet the expectations of the users .. and I agree with her. A big problem for all of these bodies is dealing with what the public expects of exams, and in her speech to a Westminster forum I attended she gave a good overview of what she felt was reasonable / not reasonable to expect. (At least I think it was Isabel .. could have been Prof Timms .. will check and report back!) But the professional body which has the most direct impact of unrealistic expectations of what results can tell you is the teaching profession … our own and our schools’ reputations are publicly affected by the results, and the results are issued by the government and the media without all the theoretical ‘caveats’ which are discussed at a political forum.

One thing I’m sure about though is that a radio programme is not the best way to discuss and resolve issues in the first instance. I haven’t heard the programme, but if we feel Nick Gibb is ill-informed, we can easily contact him and give him the information.

Saturday, 28 March 2009

Some interesting links from Twitter this morning which follow on well from a discussion going on at the moment over on mflresources forum about deep learning /length of lessons / assessment. Am currently listening to video referenced by Terry Freedman: Lord David Puttnam of Queensgate - his keynote speech at a conference on using games for education. I'm pleased that he acknowledges that teachers are hampered by the 'mendacious press' - he says: (0833 - 0901)
In many senses, we the active influencers of change are underachieving as a result of (stifling?) our creativity, our ambition, our imagination for what the future of learning might come to look like. And in this sense, I must stress (and I hope this has come up in the last couple of days) we are desperately hampered by the scare stories in the Daily Mail and elsewhere. Never ever underestimate the degree to which educational progress in this country has been hampered an in some cases badly distorted by a mendacious media. I have no idea why they do it, I have no idea what their agenda is but I certainly do think it's been remarkably destructive.

It was in the question / answer time that I feel a key issue was partly explored: the critical role of government / DCSF / QCA in allowing teachers to follow 'good practice' (.. it tends to grate when you hear people saying 'the education world ought to .... ' 'teachers should ...' etc etc. Teachers and their managers are seriously constrained by the assessment system and above all by league tables.

Thanks so much to Lilian Soon (??) (3135) who explained the dilemma of awarding bodies / DCSF / Government passing the buck ... and asked David 'what can the politicians do about this?' .. she said that everyone is able to take forward the ideas of the conference BUT .. we can't get past that ... the problem is assessing the curriculum ..

David's said it was not a question of 'throwing away the curriculum' .. he likened the curriculum to a spine .. the body does not get very far without it .. instead he focussed on assessment:
The problem is not throwing away the curriculum, it's assessing the curriculum. (.referred to the earlier criticism of the role of the press .....) the other issue that bedevils education is that we are trying to evolve a 21st century education system but we're still stuck with what looks horribly like a nineteenth century assessment process - we've absolutely failed to develop assessment processes which can take advantage of what you can do - the things you can to - and translate them into something which parents at home can understand so how do we explain to parents that actually the work that your so or daughter has been doing on his or her Blackberry is translated into something that they tangibly see as points or certificates or something that they can go out into the outside world and boast about .... the emotional leap has befuddled us .. [ we need to ]make absolutely sure that as we do it the assessment processes for that curriculum remain contiguous with the development of the curriculum - if we don't do that we will always have a drag anchor wherever we are going - so I would say on balance that there is more work to be done on assessment than there is to be done on curriculum at present.

He does acknowledge that there are well-meaning people at QCA who want to address this.

So what is the answer? What is the purpose of assessment? Is there a middle way between the extremes of education being for a state purpose / allowing the teacher free rein? How can we veer assessment so that we strike some sort of balance? I don't know ....

But perhaps it would help to make more explicit the connection between the two 'thorns' David identifies of (1) the nature of assessment and (2) the press:.............. the league tables. [he may have mentioned this earlier .. this is a quick reaction to a first hearing ....]. Perhaps if we could abolish league tables our hands would be less 'tied'. But is there any chance of that happening? Which political party would be brave enough to put this in a manifesto and have a chance of being elected?

(And 'PS' .. I admit to having been rather overwhelmed by a visit to the House of Lords this week when Lord Puttnam passed right in fron tof me and I squealed.. a bit ..hope he didn't notice!! .. will blog about the visit later!)

Saturday, 7 March 2009

I'll plant this post here before I get around to adding info to websites ...

Even though I could only make it to half of today's ALL West of EnglandConference, I came away with loads of ideas and loads of inspiration thanks to the superb organisation by ALL members and the quality of the speakers.

Rachel Hawkes is just so incredibly talented in absolutely all aspects of leading and managing languages ... but somehow manages to put her ideas across in a way which makes mere mortals feel 'actually, we could perhaps do that' .. (though she wisely suggests that we should not try to do it all at once!). She suggested that we pick one of the ideas to concentrate on .. and I think the one I'll start on is the idea of creating 'character cards' (e.g. tu es bavarde / tu es timide at the most basic .. coudl build up to more ...) and dish them out to accompany the role plays you ask them to do (where, as Rachel observes, pupils are rarely in 'role' nor engaged in a particualrly 'playfu;' activity!!!!!) Perhaps this is something we coudl build up within mflresources ... a big bank of 'character cards' ... The link with her name take syou to her blog which contains all the presentations she gives .. this is a real plus I feel .. so often, resources are the key to actually following up what you learn at an event like this.

I was very impressed with Steve Mulgrew' s ideas and quality presentation and shall probably be buying all of the 7 ICT 'gadgets' he showed us: Echobot, Talking Tins, Talking Postcards, metal detector, easi-speak an dBee-bot all from the TTS group, + Talking photo album from Talking Products, and I shall tell them who directed me to their site .. the man deserves commission I feel!!!! I hope he'll be able to come along to do a session for ALL London some time.

Tomorrow I'll put together a draft plan for the nesxt ALL London event - June 13th - French Institute confirmed! ... following a stimulating ALL London committee meeting ..

Sunday, 1 March 2009

Satellite TV tips

Just planting this post here before I transfer it to mflresources... a contribution to a TES thread on how to access satellite channels ..

Done some more finding out to be a bit more accurate.
For those interested in following up how to receive FTA (free to air) channels
1) Which channels are on which satellites? See sites below: +
2) What equipment needed / how much? See magazine:
Suggest you buy one copy which you can order through the website - well worth it to get adverts for installers (£3.99 - Feb edition )
3) Summary for ML teachers
Lots of options but essentially you need a dish which is about £70, a bit of electronics on the dish called an LNB, cabling, a satellite receiver + fitting (magazine has adverts for companies who can organise all this for you)
The dish needs to be pointing at the correct satellite which for French is Atlantic Bird 3 at 5 degrees west (this picks up France 2,3,4 & Arte etc -see page 67 of Feb issue of What Satellite magazine)
Other languages and channels and langaugse are available on other satellites e.g. Hotbird, Astra 1 and Astra 2
4) BTW
Can I draw your attention to Freesat which is the delivery of Freeview by satellite - Astra 2 set at 28 degrees east .. this includes BBC HD. It is wonderful!

Monday, 9 February 2009

Listened to a very interesting conversation between eyebeams (Leon Cych) (Learn4Life) and Peter Twining about the Schome Park Project. Wrote this response: (recorded here in case it doesn't work!)

Many thanks for this... seems like it has the potential for a safe experience of 'Lord of the Flies'! (sure that's not an original comment!)
I am interested in what this world has to offer for 'a problem which technology allows you to address' .. i.e. English speakers getting to know and feeling as if they have 'met' non-English speakers. Distance, timetable, cost constraints,legal requirements .. quite apart from not necessarily having a common purpose ... can make this difficult and you have helpfully picked out many elements which could help to address these e.g.
- use of avatars (overcomes the fear of approaching / talking?),
- collaboration on a project (goes beyond the first initial enquiries for info on personal life)
- independence from the teacher

However, I feel there would have to be a teacher imposed 'structure' initially to ensure maximum incluson and minimum drop-out .. not sure you'd approve of this!!! And there would have to be some guidance on content to ensure that learners had the minimum langauge needed to collaborate on whatever project was done. (No such thing as content-free language learning - we need to understand and use words! Process skills often depend on language skills. (Discuss!!))
I'd be interested in pursuing this with you - will visit site again!
aka Karelia Kondor in Second Life!

Saturday, 7 February 2009

ALL London February Event

Loads and loads of ideas from three superb speakers at today's ALL London February Event: Rachel Hawkes, Wendy Adeniji and Juliet Park. I have already downloaded all of Rachel's Powerpoints from the day, and I look forward to exploring further. Also wish I had had longer to explore the Graduate Centre more ... a fascinating building designed by Daniel Libeskind.

I have further experimented in Second Life and produced a poster (with lots of help from Carol!) about the event which is now displayed at the entrance to our 'patch'. To find out more, follow this link:

Steve Smith has joined the bloggers and has posted a very classy looking page here: This man is clearly an A* student ....