Thursday, September 22, 2005

Golden Time

“Golden Time,” or a “learning community”.

Congratulations are due to the new Acting Head at C….y school. She has, I believe, taken the steps that were necessary and also sufficient to turn around the school. This has all been achieved and implemented for the beginning of the new school year.

I am not sure whether I deserve any credit for all this. Though I was offered remedy by the chair of governors for eight specific formal complaints I made about the management of the school last year I think the organizational changes made by the new head relate to core structures I only mentioned in letters.

I would describe the changes as movements towards a “learning community”. The changing rooms which continued to create chaos for the year two’s all last year have been arranged in ways I recommended. Indeed, it has been done better than I recommended. Not only do the children have clearly marked and sufficient spaces for their things, they even have pegs to hold their shoes together in their marked shoe spaces. Brilliant! J sits down and carefully organises his shoes when he arrives.

Inside the class room there are significant changes too. Places are defined with a written name in place at a desk for each child. There is peaceful music playing as they enter the year three room. The teacher is trying to remember to do the same for the afternoon start. Children now sit down and quietly work at something before the role is called at 8.55 a.m. I have decided to take J in earlier to accommodate to the changes, in line with the suggestion at the curriculum meeting I attended last night.

Another fundamental change is that all children now have lunch at the same time. Children sit in groups together in different areas of the school. I am assured this makes the break easier for all. I suspect this is already impacting on the violence in the playground. I have not heard of any fights so far this term. Walking on the left down corridors is another simple change that is paying off.

Last night I raised the issue of “Golden Time”. “Was this policy still in place?” I asked. “Er, yes,” was the reply from the class teacher. But the head chipped in to say that this was going to be reviewed, and many staff wanted the matter reconsidered. I am very much against Golden Time. I asked J about it.

“Golden rules lead to Golden Time” he parroted enthusiastically.

“What are the golden rules,” I asked. There was a long pause before he suggested he should help someone if they were hurt and report it to a teacher. Golden time, he knows more about. It is time off to play during the school day. This is not what teachers are paid for. The educational philosophy is profoundly mistaken. I think school should be a “learning community” where the norm is learning. I believe Golden Time is about school as incarceration, where you get remission for good behaviour. It mirrors Blairy England, where you work harder and harder and longer and longer and are then encouraged to let your hair down and binge your way through the night to compensate. School should offer new hope, not a shabby echo of a sick culture.

I don’t know if anything has changed for year two children other than the general changes. The chair of governors has proposed a more gradual move from play to hard curriculum work. Several of the boys as well as J took a long time to adjust to the sudden shift last year. The Government has decided to target resources on learning achievement early in a child’s school life. No doubt there will be research to support this approach. But there is also research that shows children do as well or better in countries where formal schooling does not start till seven. I think the kind of pressure put on J last year was inappropriate. R was well behind where J is at the same age and is now doing very well indeed and is assessed as gifted and talented.

J just read a whole book to me for the first time this afternoon. He is now settled and secure at school and at home and is ready to take off. Yet we were literally at the point of taking him away from this school at the time the old head resigned. I am glad we were successful in tackling the problems in the school so that our youngest can carry on there and thrive as well as his talented siblings.


Blogger Marco Polo said...

I'm reading "All Must Have Prizes" by Melanie Phillips. Eye-opening, as I have not lived in the UK since 1980. I wonder what you and other readers think of it? I thought she made a few very good points, a lot of doubtful points, and most of her arguments were badly made and poorly argued.

4:15 am  
Blogger Marco Polo said...

I know this isn't the right place to say this, but none of your external links work, at least the ones in the header of each blog posting. They all (try to) link to within and of course can't find the page!

4:20 am  

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