It’s hard to overstate that the profound changes happening in teaching at present. Blood is boiling over. There is a full national strike planned for this Thursday over pensions and from head teachers there is nothing short of fury at curriculum reforms that will introduce the so called ‘English bacc’.
The former kerfuffle is a result of an increase in the retirement age to 66 rising to 68 for new recruits who will also have to contribute 50% more for their pensions. The problem is not hard to work out since nobody remotely expects to last that long as a teacher.
The latter fuss is due to the ‘bacc’ which comprises: ‘English, maths, two sciences, an ancient or modern language and either history or geography’ as core subjects for secondary school education.
Unfortunately, due to the league tables to which head teachers are addicted, in the past, schools ended up churning out students with 5 GCSEs in Religious Studies, ICT, Music, Media Studies and PE ( my niece for one).
The latter subjects were easier than the former so your school did better by you taking them.
When he found out. Mr Gove got very cross about this and has called a halt to it.
What it means now is
- schools wont get so many points
- children will receive a radically different education and
- ICT will get the chop.
I feel a little like an observer from Mars. I am part of it all but not really; for the last ten years when I have been dabbling a bit. Not being daft I took my pension early a while ago when you could, and now work part time teaching to supplement it and also add to my pension without risking an early death ... I know, it’s a cool idea and I did all this in the private sector.
I have also taught my last ICT lesson, started work for the very first time in the public sector and switched back to science to avoid being made redundant when the cold wind of reform blows through the school curriculum ... cynical but true.
Now shorn of ICT entertainment, instead of learning ever more arcane commands to add to my already large list in order to make my Linux box download DRM protected e-books, I am learning the Greek I missed at school as they only offered Latin to the Science streams.
I shall not miss teaching ICT and my students won’t miss out by not being taught it and that’s the truth. Looking back it now seems incredible to me that being able to use what came to be known as the Office suite of applications should have acquired such status in the both workplace and education.
Being able to word process (type); ‘mail-merge’ (create snail-mail spam’); group-e-mail ( create electronic spam); put numbers in a table and add them up ( with or without calculator); baffling friends using nested IF and VLOOKUPs ( Level 3 ICT or two A levels to you); creating electronic slide shows (an early attempt at mass euthanasia) are just some of the essential skills of the office and management classes ... none of which are remotely either ‘skilful’ or ‘important’.
What I have discovered in my meandering through the teaching of ICT (I’ve delivered GSCE, AS, A2 plus ECDL plus Key Skills Level 2, 3) is a fascinating thing ...
Unlike learning Greek, ICT is not difficult, or rather it is a bit difficult. And there’s the clue. If it were difficult then only clever folk could master it (like KDE), if it were easy like Android (say) or an i-Phone then it would be too easy and no-one would be impressed.
The genius of Microsoft Office was that it was just difficult enough for the middling to feel that by mastering it they had achieved something. Thus its adoption went viral. ‘Oh yes our office has Windows 10 spreadsheets don’t you know?’. Thus not so much the Holy Grail but a ‘fairly-holy quite-easy-to-get -but-still-worth-having-grail’ was created and was well suited to the late 20th Century. No one understood how it worked but could (sort of) work it.
Schools had no choice but to follow suit, poor old teachers who had pioneered the BBC Acorn computers, poked and peeked (before child protection came in), learnt some code and created some edu-apps became mere MS Office trainers. Demoralised they died and were replaced by real ex-office workers who took pride in their embedded videos and spreadsheet models.
Alas no more ... the English Bacc has no ICT but ... it allows an ancient language to be taught. I’ll keep up the Greek it’ll be all the rage.
The question is ... without GCSE ICT will anyone mourn?