Education, Education, Education

Yithian

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#1
I see, today, that all secondary school students in the UK will have to study 'Britain's involvement in the slave-trade', as from September.

Now, to be clear, i'm not claiming this as a case of 'political correctness gone mad', but this thread did seem like a good place to discuss the politicisation of education. My point being that i was - and am - a bit of a history buff. Whenever given the options at GCSE, A-Level, Degree and postgraduate level, i've opted to study subjects which would be broadly classifiable as a) Historical and b) British-based. What troubles me is that even after A-levels (and i wasn't a bad student) i still had no broad conception of British History. There were swathes of it that had never been mentioned. Even taken as a greatest hits (and misses) of the British, there were gaping holes in my knowledge which i've since been making an effort to plug. I have enough experience to compare my own historical education with adults of comparable age and education in at least two other countries: South Korea and the United States, and i've got to say that our system is a bit of a mess. Both, in fact, deliver what we do not: a broad-scope idea of history - as it pertains to their own country. Now, i'd take the criticism - from any with comparable experience - that both these countries don't 'do' international well-enough (esp. the US), but they push out students with an understanding of the history of ideas, systems, things, places, and people that they are most likely to encounter. We focus on 'study skills' where frankly - most people will never apply these to any great degree and be left with no information on which to exercise these skills.

It strikes me - and i know UK teachers today who support the view - that we impart no historical unity - no grand narratives - just a succession of isolated parts which someone - for political reasons - has dubbed 'most important. I'm no whig, but if i were asked to make suggestions as to the shape of a syllabus it would probably aim at explaining the key steps that have been taken historically to explain where Britain and Britons find themselves today: 1066 and all that? Well, to some extent, perhaps.

Apparently, the only compulsory secondary-level subjects at the moment are: British Empire, two world wars and the Holocaust.

As to what 'British Empire' will cover, I'm not sure - though, loosely-speaking it's a very important area...

I was listening to a debate on Radio 4 the other day and the apologist for the current mess was explaining that - across the range of subjects - the focus is and should be skills and not 'knowledge'. I wasn't entirely sure where to start with a critique of this (there are so many choices) but the list would run fairly long.

Sorry if this is slightly meandering; had a few last-night...

The one thing i would say that seems to have changed [for the better] - and seems to be covered very well, is local history.

Edit: i'd be very interested to hear thoughts from teachers.
 

JamesWhitehead

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#2
yithian: "the focus is and should be skills and not 'knowledge'."

This is the mantra of the National Curriculum. History is not my subject, though I have occasionally been called on to teach it to SATS and GCSE pupils with all materials supplied. What arrived each week was usually some form of game or kit. One was a version of a Civil War battle with hundreds of pieces and a set of rules that not even the brightest kids could understand. Then there was the Portaits activity which quizzed the pupils about details which were totally invisible on their poor photocopies of a range of images, from Queen Bess to Madonna. A recurring theme was that it was vital for the kids to distinguish between primary and secondary sources. Fine in theory but tending in practice to undermine narrative and substitute a confusing mosaic of shifting viewpoints.

In English there has been a corresponding shift away from close scrutiny of the canon of English Literature towards an emphasis on genre which scrupulously avoids value judgments. It has been argued, I think rightly, that the teaching of the canon with its rigorous Leavisite distinctions between Art and mere Journalism or Entertainment was a profoundly moral and empowering experience for the post-war generation of upwardly-mobile graduates. Seeming to be deeply conservative in content, it gave those who mastered it a moral superiority which was radical in practice. A generation of teachers emerged with a rather stern set of principles in which the criticism of Art was always going to imply a criticism of life.

Some of that remains but the heart has been ripped out. Those out of sympathy with the so-called Reforms have retired, left the profession or opted for casual and marginal rôles. In place of the accepted canon, we have a distrust for the work of Dead White Males. The recent graduate is adrift without a moral compass in a world of competing "discourses" and taught to be suspicious of the "privileged" view.

Lower down the system, Shakespeare is no longer central to the A-level syllabus. Instead of sitting a full paper and knowing two plays in great detail, the candidate is required only to answer a single question and given forty-five minutes to do it. Despite a hideous penumbra of meta-language, designed to make the study of English more scientific, the A-level syllabus lacks the kind of back-bone which imparts real confidence to pupils. The close scrutiny of the text - any text - is viewed as a cruel and unusual punishment. In a world of short attention-spans, enthusiasm is characterized as sad geekdom. It is painfully clear that the exam is something you sit to get where you want to be and its demands are felt to be external to the personality not in any way transformative. :(

edit: rigorous! noticed and corrected.
 

Yithian

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#3
Thanks for the reply James; felt like i was talking to myself.

JamesWhitehead said:
In English there has been a corresponding shift away from close scrutiny of the canon of English Literature towards an emphasis on genre which scrupulously avoids value judgments.
Well, that's the heart of the matter in my experience.

In this new landscape, everything is the equal of everything else. (We've jumped from the acceptable: 'Some believe x superior to y' to the illegitimate '...therefore nothing is superior to anything else'. It's all predicated on the intellectual mistrust of authority that accompanied philosophy from the 50s onward.

Now, while i'll accept that the layman can manage valuable insight into scripture, it would be foolish to discount the fact that the theologian has been studying the same topics for a lot longer and in a lot more depth. Is it silly to think he should be entitled to a little more credence?

In years gone by, you'd learn the standard positions and judgements and - if you continued far enough - finally get the chance to start questioning and forming them yourself . This had the advantage that, if you didn't pursue a subject far, you would at least have an idea of the basic texts and what the standard debates are. In short, you came out with an idea of the terrain, having walked the well-trodden foothills, even if you weren't yet adequately prepared to strike out and cut your own route across the mountains. The most simple knowledge: who wrote this, what the letters in this equation represent, why this law was repealed, gave you a intelligible sketch which could be fished-out whenever required. That is empowering in itself.

Example: I was in a village church the other week and i took an interest in the list of the priests who had held office there. After a few minutes, the warden came over and we got chatting. When i noticed the anomalies in the mid-seventeenth century - with the same priest deprived of his office and later returned - i managed to drag to mind the idea of Laudianism and noted that this priest had returned to the parish in the midst of the civil war as the High-Church movement was being overrun by Puritanism. Now, this was no great insight, and i couldn't recall all the details, but it did give me a rough idea as to what had probably happened and helped me to recall some of the relevant facts. Had the same situation occurred but with my education happening a decade later, would i manage the same thoughts? Or would i be left wondering as to the motivations of the church sign-writer?

Today, we seem to be starting students with all the meta-studies - that were once - for good reason - the preserve of advanced students.

To return to history: i would like students (school-level) to come out with a rough sketch of history: with the stock evidence and arguments. It's largely pointless to teach the skills of a historian or an archivist to someone who will most-likely never apply them. Save the historical conspiracy-theories to those more qualified to construct and deconstruct them.
 

rynner2

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#4
theyithian said:
Today, we seem to be starting students with all the meta-studies - that were once - for good reason - the preserve of advanced students.
I said something similar, many moons ago, but whether on this thread or another I no longer recall.

But I think we're drifting outside of PC now, unless it has truly become a portmanteau phrase.
 

Yithian

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#5
rynner said:
theyithian said:
Today, we seem to be starting students with all the meta-studies - that were once - for good reason - the preserve of advanced students.
I said something similar, many moons ago, but whether on this thread or another I no longer recall.

But I think we're drifting outside of PC now, unless it has truly become a portmanteau phrase.
Yes, I'm drifting off-thread with abandon. Let it flow, we can get it cut out it if the discussion goes anywhere. It's not a screamingly exciting thread anyway: more pasted stories than discussion.
 

JamesWhitehead

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#6
The politics of Education is a complex subject but it is clear that Education must be a political subject. Despite which there is an over-easy assumption that everyone is broadly in favour of Education. The tabloids have tended to encourage us to view the field in terms of back-to-basics, common-sense conservatives versus do-as-you-likee radicals. It's clear who the villain is in this narrative.

Despite the antipathy, it tends to be assumed that everyone in the game means well, even if their approach leads to chaos and confusion in practice. I am fairly certain that this holds good if we are discussing teachers. Not many people are going to devote a career to the business of dumbing down sectors of the population. We assume that the horrible outcomes of so many educations are therefore accidental.

But teachers are kept pretty busy and are more likely to find their meetings are taken up with policy on mobile phones or the financial consequences of ditching the Coke-machine. They are contractually obliged to deliver the curriculum which is decided for them and there no space or forum whatever within any school I know for the discussion of what exactly they are doing or why. Essentially they are competing with the schools in the area to top league-tables and they won't do that by questioning why they are on a race-track in the first place.

It is said that Mrs Thatcher was herself quite horrified when the prescriptive nature of the National Curriculum was displayed to her. She had demanded regulations and she got them - in spades! The declared enemy was a statistically rather insignificant number of schools where "radical" educational theories - often drawn from etite schools' practices - were found to be failing their pupils. What followed, however was a much wider cull of what used to be called Liberal Educational values.

At the heart of it was one of the fundamental divides in Education but it is one that does not often dare to show its hand. Put simply, there is no need for everyone to succeed. In fact it is socially inconvenient if education equips youngsters with ideas above their station. If significant numbers are alienated by the whole experience of their schooling, they adjust to their station more easily.

Sounds sinister? Does anyone want the expensive packages of "Reforms" to be futile? Yet there is no burning need for them to be successful. The need for a managerial class operating with delusions of personal freedom and responsibilty was met by the Grammar School system, which conveniently removed potential leaders from over-much association with their own class. Now we know that social mobility is stalled. When we hear talk of this generation, it is to fret if there will be enough of them to nurse us or staff all the call-centres.

Here is a good long read and a lot of food for thought. The American educationalist James Taylor Gatto fell out of love with the system and has ended up as a hero of the home-education movement. He began to question what he was doing in school and how those institutions had come into being. He uncovered a lot of educational theory which underpins today's schools and some of it is deeply shocking. For instance, the division of the school day into individual subjects was specifically proposed to counteract the influence of teachers who were encouraging too much joined-up thinking in their pupils.

The whole book is available to read online:

The Underground History of American Education

There are many reasons for the great dumbing-down apart from the failures of the school system and I'm not sure Gatto addresses many of these. Family breakdown, drugs, cheap drink, reality-tv, poor diet are all going to make any educational success against all odds for some pupils. Yet the world of competing schools is a bit like a race where some of the horses have three legs.

Some will argue that the hewers of wood and the drawers of water will be better served by a more practical curriculum. It is on its way so we can expect the horizons of pupils to be determined more and more by the expectations of their parents. You can see how that fits a world without social mobility like a glove.

I'll shut up now.

Anyway, I agree this debate probably needs its own thread. :)
 

stu neville

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#7
Thread duly split and created.

When I get more than ten minutes to myself on the PC I'll add my ha'porth. Put it this way, I won't be taking up an opposing stand-point to the sentiments already aired...
 

Fats_Tuesday

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#8
I'm not sure history was ever taught well in British schools.

Despite history being one of my main passions and interests as an adult, the O-level syllabus in the mid-80s completely failed to engage me, as even then, it seemed to select a few specific subjects to study in great detail, rather than creating a framework of historical understanding. The sciences on the other hand were extremely well taught back then, and they were what I ended up studying.

My own interest in history developed independently, initially through simply driving round and exploring historical sites from various eras, reading non-academic history books and exploring the parts that grabbed my attention in more detail over the internet, once it became available.

I'm by no means an expert or academic, but I'd say I have a decent self-taught grasp of history, no thanks to the British education system. Just don't ask me to remember specific years, like those old O-level exams did! That was another reason I got turned off the subject back then.

I think GCSE history should be focusing on developing similar frameworks of understanding, without delving too far into the minutiae.
 

rynner2

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#9
Fats_Tuesday said:
I'm not sure history was ever taught well in British schools.
I only got one year of history at school, then I had to choose between that and geography, so I went with the latter.

Later I taught myself history, starting with the history of other subjects I was interested in.

History (and other subjects) in schools seems under threat anyway:

The end of History (and Greek, and Latin...)
http://www.forteantimes.com/forum/viewtopic.php?t=30384

Another thread on schools' shortcomings is:-

English Language education
http://www.forteantimes.com/forum/viewtopic.php?t=25678
 

JamesWhitehead

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#10
"I'm not sure history was ever taught well in British schools."

Certainly not in mine either! Three days a week our depressed and dishevelled master would dictate a set of notes on the topic of the week. These were in the form of numbered paragraphs and bullet-points. We had to learn them and every Friday in class we wrote the essay. Failure to reach the pass-mark meant doing it again after school. It failed completely to engage our interest, though we were a compliant bunch. I would never advocate a return to the Grammar School methods of yore.

As soon as I could, I dropped the subject. My knowledge of history gradually filled out, like yours, by an interest in the past, helped in my case by wide reading and a love of classical music. I would not like to be tested on my knowledge of Kings and Queens or dates of battles. The history of ideas, sensitivity to styles and fashions, the ways in which ordinary people lived have since engaged me a lot more than lists of facts ever could. So I think a key word - used by yithian in his original post - is Narrative, from which the facts take on some life!

Memorizing the clauses of the Treaties of Tilsit seems an odd occupation for any twelve-year-old, unless the human consequences of treaties are explored. I think I still have my ink-blotted exercise-book, which itself seems a bit of an antiquarian relic. I suspect at the back of my mind there is a fear that one Friday I will be called on to write that essay and still be found wanting! :)
 

McAvennie

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#11
I did History GCSE and A-Level and remember it mainly being Napoleon and WWII.

While I see the merits in switching things around a bit from year to year and in some cases picking subjects that are relevant to today's issues I still think that first and foremost you should learn things relevant to your country.

To me the slavery issue is not something integral to the mainstream history of Britain. It is certainly worth covering but not as a key part of the syllabus as I believe is being suggested.

If the suggestion is the it was such a terrible and offensive chapter of British history that it needs to be covered then I'd counter that the Irish potato famine and Highland clearances in Scotland are a more pertinent example of Britain's tyrannical social policies - given that these were the direct result of governmental policies rather than individual businessmen.

I stand to be corrected on my loose understanding of those two issues - but I wasn't taught about it in school and haven't recently had the opportunity to read media coverage of Ken Livingstone weeping crocodile tears as he apologised for his part in it all.
 

JamesWhitehead

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#12
More or less weekly we hear Government initiatives announced which add another social ill to the list of those they suppose can be tackled in schools. Schools will then have to monitor what they are doing to combat that particular ill. It provides another set of tick-boxes by which the "success" of a school can be measured and keeps a whole layer of staff tied up in the task of making sure the school's funding and reputation are not put at risk by refusing to jump through the hoop.

The amount of energy which schools put into the business of back-watching has to be seen at close quarters to be believed. Whole teams of people exist in some schools to work on spreadsheets and presentations and flow-charts to make sure that everyone can see the Emperor's Clothes.

The old adage used to be that "what gets measured gets done." Someone humourless has failed to see the irony implicit in the statement and run off with the idea that more measurement ensures everything gets done. I don't think Schrödinger's Cat would last long in its dead-alive unmeasured state these days. :(
 

rynner2

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#13
State schools 'should teach pupils right to strike'
By Daily Mail Reporter
Last updated at 1:03 AM on 31st August 2008

All State schools will be forced to offer lessons on the ‘importance’ of trade unions in a controversial plan to be put forward at next week’s TUC conference.

Union leaders are urging Gordon Brown to put ‘trade unionism’ on the National Curriculum alongside compulsory subjects such as English and maths.

The 250,000-strong Communication Workers’ Union - formerly led by Health Secretary and potential Labour leadership challenger Alan Johnson - also wants State funding for union officials to visit schools and teach about the right to strike.

Striking tanker drivers outside Stanlow Oil Refinery in Cheshire - union leaders suggest strikes should be added to the curriculum

The demands, in a motion to next week’s annual union congress at Brighton, will reinforce fears that union barons bankrolling the Labour Party are determined force the Prime Minister to lurch to the Left. The union has donated £4.6million to Labour since 2001.

Its motion for the congress - which will be attended by Mr Brown - calls on the Government ‘to increase opportunities to learn about trade unionism within the National Curriculum, including specific reference to our contribution to the development of a civilised society’.

Last night, the CWU - which represents workers at the Post Office as well as BT and the cable-television sector - did not deny that union chiefs hope the plan will be a recruiting sergeant.

But it added: ‘We are not trying to brainwash children.’

The Tories seized on the proposal as proof of a new drive to get a beleaguered Mr Brown to agree to a raft of Left-wing policies - including demands at next week’s congress from giant union Unite to scrap ‘anti-trade union’ laws and bring back secondary picketing.

Conservative chairman Caroline Spelman said: ‘It risks taking the country back to the 1970s.’

The latest Electoral Commission figures on party donations last week revealed that trade unions donated two thirds of Labour funding in the three months to June.

The Qualifications and Curriculum Authority said existing subjects already give ‘scope for schools to cover the development of the union movement’.

http://www.dailymail.co.uk/news/article ... trike.html
 

BaronHardacre

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#14
I did history at GCSE and at A-Level.
If memory serves, for GCSE we covered JFK, a little of the reformation (based mainly on the history of Fountains Abbey), and the industrial revolution (up to, but not including the first formations of the unions). The latter was the biggest part of the course.
For A-level the biggest part of the course was, yes you've guessed it, more industrial revolution.
For me, we now seem to be at the point where we're teaching kids to pass exams, rather than giving them an education.
I know exams have always been important, but surely we should be developing the overall skills set of children, rather than just how many A stars they can get?
 

lupinwick

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#15
I had a slightly different experience of history at school. Due to timetable constraints a number of those pupils expected to do O-level were offered 16+ history (due to Computer Studies being offered for the first time). The 16+ history covered the following areas:

History of medicine
Industrial revolution
China (boxer rebellion)
Norman architecture
Interpretation of sources (primary and secondary sources, type of source etc.)

The tools required to manipulate the information presented were far more important in the exams. One paper was on the core subject areas (3 hours, 6 questions or thereabouts). The second paper was on interpretation, 4 questions offered plus a list of sources and essay question, none of which were on the subject areas we had covered.

The kids doing the standard O-level papers were fairly jealous.
 

rynner2

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#16
State secondaries urged to bring back the house system
Cornerstone of private schools 'helps pupils to settle in'
By Richard Garner, Education Editor
Sunday, 31 August 2008

The days of the "house" system – a cornerstone of Britain's independent schools – is making a comeback in the state sector.

Its return will be urged this week as a way of helping youngsters settle in during their first year of secondary schooling.

The system is used widely in the private school sector and is extolled in many of the most famous books written about private schooling – such as Goodbye Mr Chips, Tom Brown's Schooldays and Enid Blyton's Mallory Towers series.

On the eve of the start of a new school year, it is now being endorsed by the Specialist Schools and Academies trust (SSAT) – which represents most of the state secondary schools in England – as a way of preventing youngsters from slipping back after finishing primary school.

Ministers are alarmed at the number of pupils who appear to regress in their first year at secondary school. Researchers estimate the progress of as many as one in three pupils suffers when they move up to secondary school. Government research published earlier this year showed 16 per cent of pupils did not feel ready to start secondary school at the time of transfer – and 3 per cent were still worried a term after they started.

Supporters of the house system argue that it is a way of getting younger pupils to mix with older students – and remove the fear of them being a little fish in a big pool. The SSAT says several schools, including some of the Government's flagship academies, have already introduced the system as a means of bringing pupils of different age groups together.

"Ensuring students feel comfortable in their new surroundings and making them feel part of their new environment as quickly as possible is key to avoiding this dip in performance," the SSAT's report said. "It is a big leap for many students for whom social integration is of greater concern than the academic challenge. Happy students will be successful."

The SSAT also recommends allowing primary pupils to visit their secondary schools before they start there, and getting secondary pupils to visit primary schools to explain how their school works. Another idea is for 11-year-olds to be admitted at least a day before the new term starts to help familiarise them with the space and the facilities without other pupils around.

The friendliness of older children at secondary school was also vital, according to the SSAT research. "Secondary schools could involve older children to help year seven (11- and 12-year-olds) settle, and this strategy may alleviate children's and parents' worries, as well as reduce incidents of bullying," it added. "Older children in the school could assume the role of sister or brother since children with older siblings integrate better."

The report also indicates that secondary schools "do not appear to 'trust' data on children provided by primary schools". As a result, they are re-testing all children in their first term. Too many youngsters, it is argued, have spent the last year of primary school being coached to pass National Curriculum tests and have actually learnt little.

http://www.independent.co.uk/news/educa ... 13930.html

Brings back memories! But as far as I remember, the house system in my schooldays had little to do with integrating new arrivals to the 'big school' with their elders, but was mainly a way of dividing classes into teams for sports and other activities.
 

JamesWhitehead

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#17
rynner: " . . . as far as I remember, the house system in my schooldays had little to do with integrating new arrivals to the 'big school' with their elders, but was mainly a way of dividing classes into teams for sports and other activities."

Exactly. It was applied half-heartedly in my school and we were assigned to Houses by the teacher reading down the register and giving us each the name of a long-dead English Cardinal to inspire our loyalty. From time to time, we sheepishly had to ask to be reminded which House we belonged to.

This silly proposal seeks to recreate the House system with a modern spin on it: it is to be about Belonging not Competition. The public school system ensured that competition between Houses was fierce and across the board from academic scores to sports. Dog-fighting was a great favourite at Eton! America added its own quasi-Masonic twists and came up with the Fraternities, which seem to be a hot-bed of nasty initiations, hard-drinking and codes of silence. Group loyalty is not universally regarded as a virtue.

Most Secondary Schools have elaborate induction procedures to ease the transition but the regression effect remains - it is well-known and not a new discovery. Assigning pupil-helpers to the new kids is widely-practiced and good for both but fostering group-loyalty artificially seems likely to fizzle quickly unless it is built into the school system from the ground up. As ever, an educational proposal seems to be floated to address a real enough problem with a mix of nostalgia and wishful-thinking. Its partial implementation - all that ever happens, before some new initiative arrives - will probably just add a new layer of confusion for the little newcomers. :(
 

Yithian

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#18
JamesWhitehead said:
It was applied half-heartedly in my school and we were assigned to Houses by the teacher reading down the register and giving us each the name of a long-dead English Cardinal to inspire our loyalty.
Looks like my old school has re-implemented the house system.
Sounds good to me. They've also done well by choosing to name each house after World war II ships and aircraft and by awarding an annual house cup that is assessed across every kind of activity - so plenty of competition.

I like the idea: being a part of something from day one; Having people to look out for you. 'Hey may be a useless skinny geek, but he's our skinny geek...'

At least this way you'll only be shown the blue goldfish by your own house. That'll be a comfort... :S
 

LaurenChurchill

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#19
Only reason I liked the house system was that it meant on some days I didn't have to wear green to school. I could wear red!

Ours were named after planets. Mars owned them all ;)
 

Novena

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#20
At my school the houses were all named after local rivers, then one day they decided to change it to trees. I was in "Oak" and I still remember the cringe-making speech by the head of house after they changed it, saying that all the youngest pupils could be "the little acorns" :roll: At my sixth form they were all named after former pupils who had been killed in the First World War. I think the house system does bring with it a certain amount of cohesion, even if you're not the sort of person interested in sports. I didn't know they'd done away with it.
 

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#21
Like Rynner and James Whitehead my school had a half-hearted house system that was mainly for dividing the year up into sports teams. Being Catholic they were named after some of the Forty Martyrs of England and Wales, I was in Campion, there were Arrowsmith and Southworth and I can't remember what the other one was. Nobody really paid them any attention...
 

GNC

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#22
Our houses were named after famous historical Scotsmen. Robert Burns, William Wallace, Robert the Bruce and David Livingstone (the one I was part of). Very strange because I went to school in Belgium. Ba-dum tish.
 

lupinwick

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#23
My school had saints for the houses (Aidan, Bede, Cuthbert and Ebba). No doubt you can tell which region of the country I grew up in :)

The house point system was interesting (points for academic and sporting achievements) with the winning house getting a day trip to Whitley Bay.
 

_Lizard23_

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#24
My middle school (11-13) had groovy Fortean houses ... mythological monsters .... I only remember Wyvern (blue) and Griffin (green) but there were red and yellow also. It was an old Secondary Modern School, with wood panelling and a latin motto and everything and they'd probably been around for decades. By high school (13-16/18 ), a modern new-built comp, they were just the colours. I don't recall them ever being used for anything except arranging sports days as mentioned by others - and a bit of mild 'us n them' taunting in the younger years - "reds, reds, they piss their beds, they wear their undies on their heads!" etc. There were house points and a yearly winner but I don't remember anyone ever actually giving a toss.

I did history until 'O' level and all I really retain now is a)the exams involved the most insane amounts of writing and b)the events leading up to and during the Russian Revolution (it was the first era we studied so I always managed to revise at least that much before giving up out of sheer boredom). I scraped a C on pretty much that alone I think. It was mainly an exercise in memory alone really .... the exam essay questions would put a particular twist on the thing ... "Examine the importance of the Russo-Japanese war as a catalyst for revolution in Russia" or some such, but it hardly seemed to matter, marks came from spewing out all the correct names, dates and places, not any kind of interpretation .... although I didn't do very well and I've never taught or marked it so I'm not qualified to judge. The idea of assessing the credibility of different kinds of source materials and so on sounds much more useful in theory than cramming a bunch of 'facts' into your head for a few hours, regurgitating them and then forgetting the whole thing. In theory.

I do 'get a bit Daily Mail' about the exam results issue occasionally .... I was considered a very high achiever at a pretty well peforming school, but my grades look positively pedestrian twenty years later and I can't say that I've noticed school leavers being generally more intelligent or well educated now as compared to then.

I grew up surrounded by teachers and most seemed to opt for early retirement as the national curriculum and successive reforms came in, moaning endlssly that there was no time for any actual teaching anymore. Most of my contemporaries who now teach seem to complain mainly about discipline and out-of-hours work (planning, marking, paperwork) and I counter with the old canard about being on holiday half the year.

I think of all the issues in education it is basic literacy that worries me the most - with something like 20% of the general adult population in the UK (and the US I believe) having what is described as 'low literacy skills' (compared to 10% through the rest of Europe), and poor literacy having a very strong link to violent crime, imprisonment etc it really does seem that our education system is failing an awful lot of people, and it makes the year-on-year exam triumphs seem even more suspicious.
In my worst nightmares some well-meaning but batshitcrazy govermental body decides that the reason for this is that the English language is just 'too hard' and instigates a programme of spelling reform as a natural progression from the (in my opinion) misguided obsession with 'phonics'.
 

lupinwick

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#25
Don't mention being functionally illiterate either. Last figure I heard was quite high (1 in 5 adults not able to use an index?!). To be honest that was in 2000 (BBC) and I haven't uncovered any similar figures since then. Although this is sobering reading.
 

McAvennie

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#26
Smith (Green) Bateman (Red) at my first school

Explorers at middle Scott (Yellow) can't remember the rest.

And no idea about Secondary. I was in Blue house.

Class idea, stirring up petty rivals between children. Ace!
 

GabrielleM

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#27
In junior school we had Balmoral, Buckingham, Sandringham and Windsor. So patriotic. In secondary school they didn't bother with houses at all. My junior school was very sports oriented and deeply competetive not just within the houses but also on a county level. If you happened to be a sporty child then the teachers bent over backwards for you. If you weren't (*raises hand*), they tended to ignore you.
 

McAvennie

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#28
GabrielleM said:
My junior school was very sports oriented and deeply competetive not just within the houses but also on a county level. If you happened to be a sporty child then the teachers bent over backwards for you. If you weren't (*raises hand*), they tended to ignore you.
Go read a book poindexter!

;)
 

stu neville

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#30
Our houses were named after old villages or manors in the area. Callicroft, Woodlands... the one I inhabited was called Hampton, to several years of shared glee :).
 
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