Blame’s not the exams answer

By Charlotte Hofton

Published on Friday, October 26, 2012 - 11:14


THE VIEW FROM HERE ANOTHER dismal performance by Island students, whose GCSE results this year sees them slouching at the bottom of the national league table.

Not that it’s the kids’ fault, of course. As has been reported of this latest display of dimwittedness: "The IW was the second worst performing authority in the country."

This will be greeted with considerable schadenfreude by everyone who enjoys bashing the council, particularly those who prophesied doom when the Island adopted a two-tier system. Poor results are invariably seen as the fault of the local authority, especially when, as in this case, it has been fiddling about with the status quo.

How hugely satisfactory for the council’s detractors, then, to be vindicated in this way.

David Miller, a longstanding critic of educational policy on the Island, claimed at this month’s council meeting the transition to a two-tier system had failed many children.

This was, naturally, refuted by the council leader, Cllr David Pugh, who accused Mr Miller of quoting selectively from the results. The Island’s KS2 results were jolly good.

"It was the old system which left us floundering at the bottom of the pile," said Cllr Pugh.

Ding-dong, biff-boff and so the battle goes on.

Yes, it is easy to be selective, and Cllr Pugh may have a point in noting a certain bias in some of the criticism levelled at the council, but no matter which way you look at the results, they’re not great.

Still, things may improve. If the kids can maintain the momentum currently achieved at KS2, they might even manage to totter through enough GCSEs to haul the Island up from the ignominious gutter of under-achievement in which it is currently sprawling.

But if not, who is responsible?

There are several possibilities. One is that Island children are indeed stupid and incapable of passing exams.

This can probably be discounted, although there is, without question, far too much academic pressure put on young people who would be much happier and achieve a lot more if they forgot about worthless degrees from third-rate universities and just took up vocational courses after learning the basic educational essentials.

Another possibility is our teachers are useless.

This, again, is an unlikely generalisation, though there most certainly are some useless teachers around. They get very stroppy if you say so, but it’s true.

Still, there are also some excellent teachers, so let’s leave it at that.

The overwhelming blame-victim will be the council, which tinkered around with our schools.

But why shouldn’t it? We’d been hopeless on the educational front for years and it’s probably too early to assess properly the long-term impact on academic standards. Might be worth giving it a break on this one for a while.

One factor which isn’t always mentioned is the input of parents. Not so much the kind of input which sees pushy mums and dads commandeering their offspring’s homework and taking control of projects and assignments.

That sort of input is both unfair and unhelpful in the long run.

No, it’s the input from parents that sends the child to school armed with decent values and respect, not thinking they are above censure when they do something wrong and certainly not effing and blinding and bleating on about their rights if a teacher does something they don’t like.

It’s the input that shows interest in what the child has done, rather than swanky pride in a project that was actually done by somebody else.

If parents don’t send their children to school as civilised, teachable beings, we’ll never get good results. And I’m sure every teacher, even on our nice little Island, has seen the effects of bad parenting in their classroom.

Council, teachers, parents, kids. Each of them has contributed to the Island’s educational failings.

Perhaps if everybody stopped playing the blame game and concentrated on improving things in a spirit of co-operation, we might at last see some decent results.

At fault over asphalt – so let’s get the pronunciation right for a start

LIKE pretty well everybody else, I am all of a lather over this asphalt plant idea. Do we want it on the Island? Is it a wicked plot cooked up by the council and the PFI contractors?

It’s all anyone can talk about these days, it seems.

And that’s precisely why I’m in a tizz. It’s because everyone’s talking about it that we hear the word "asphalt" so often.

And hardly anyone, it seems, can pronounce it properly. They call it "ash-felt." It’s driving me mad.

It’s "as-falt", you nincompoops.

As for my views on the matter, I hardly care whether we have the wretched plant or not, just so long as you stop calling it ash-felt. Get the pronunciation right and I might be able to concentrate on whether it’s a good idea or not.

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