Daily Archives: 3 April, 2010

teachers union: ‘pupil voice being manipulated’

I was very interested to read this report on the BBC news website, and subsequently how it has been reported by various news channels and newspapers.

As Leader of Portsmouth Youth Council – back when I was actually young! – I spent a lot of time having to try and teach adults that the old ways of ‘do as I tell you, because I say so’ are no longer good enough. The world has changed. No longer is it right to expect young people to ‘respect your elders’. Respect should be earnt, not demanded based on age alone.

Unfortunately, I cannot escape the feeling that the teaching profession is having to be dragged kicking and screaming into the twenty-first century when it comes to a more pupil-centric approach. Schools are NOT about teachers, teachers are NOT the most important thing about a school. Its like a hospital where no-one gives a damm about the patients, or a library where no-one is allowed to touch the books – what would be the point?

I cannot help but feel that opposition to the student voice programme is based more on fears that the age-old uberlord status of the teacher as an authority figure is changing, than any genuine concerns. If anyone goes into teaching because they like the thought of being some kind of unassailable lord of the classroom, I think they are in the wrong job. If you can’t work with young people constructively, then you shouldn’t be there. I’ve seen, with my own eyes, countless examples of how work that empowers and involves young people is the most rewarding.

If the reports given by the teaching union are true then it looks like teachers and pupils alike need to be given a lot more training in precisely how involving students in running schools can work. While its quite wrong for anyone to be asked to sing in an interview, thats not about the young people themselves, thats poor facilitation. Examples need to be made of good and bad practise, and more research needs to be produced, and guidance disseminated. Sadly, we in Britain are far behind most of the rest of the word in involving young people.

As for fears that pupils reporting on teachers performance might undermine teachers confidence, I almost can’t believe what I’m reading. If I was a teacher, I think I would want to know what pupils think of the way I was teaching. If I was struggling, I would want to know, and why Just because they are children, it does not lessen the importance of their views. In a lot of ways I would suggest that their views are more important than OFSTED.

Of course its always going to be difficult making such a massive culture change to any profession. But the problem is that for years Schools have stuck to an almost Victorian mode of teaching, where the adult is god, and the child is half a person. Such an approach might have been OK in 1867 (read the Parliamentary Reports into the condition of schools, that led to the Education Act in 1870), but in 2010, its just not good enough.

Maybe the problem is that many in the teaching profession are still expecting young people who have the internet and ipods to conform to Nineteenth Century principles?

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The recollections of Private Pattenden

After reading the War Diary of the 1st Hampshires from the battle of Le Cateau, I discovered that it also includes a copy of the private diary of Private F.G.Pattenden. To find such a document, especially in amongst an official unit diary, is a pleasant surprise. It gives us a more unofficial, down to earth perspective.

On Monday 24 August, when the 1st Hampshires were waiting to go up to the front, Pattenden writes that ‘We are waiting at Have Station to begin our 12 hour ride to somewhere. It is very hot here… after 16 hours of grinding and bumping, roar and rattle we have now reached the town of Le Cateau…’

The next day: ‘After a hurried breakfast… we stood by for orders and moved off through Le Cateau. We have now retired and at 11.50am we are waiting for the Germans to appear. All the poor refugees are going by us, crying bitterly… we all have good brave hearts with us and are all prepared to help our good friends the French. What a fine country this is’. Pattenden then tells us that he was acting as the CO’s orderly, which might suggest why his recollections found their way into the war diary.

The entry for Wednesday 26 August 1914 was begun at 5am, after two and a half hours rest at the roadside. In true tommy language, Pattenden tells us that ‘we done a night march from about 7pm to 2 or 3.15 o’clock’. In a foretaste of how the day would pan out, he wrote that ‘we are having a baptism of fire’. Apparently shrapnel was causing the most casualties. ‘We marvellously escaped annihilation, we had to retire and they caught us with shrapnel, it was nearly a wholesale rout and slaughter. Poor old Kennard is dead’. This view once again backs up the conclusion that the battle of Le Cateau was a well-fought delaying action.

Private Pattenden’s diary continues throughout the retreat from Mons, all the way to the end of September 1914. Recollections such as this are so important, especially considering that so many of the sources we rely on to tell us about the Great War come from officialdom, or officer-poets.

As he is not listed on either the Portsmouth Cenotaph or the Commonweath War Graves database, it looks like Private Pattenden survived the war. Kennard was Private Ernest Joel Kennard, age 24. He has no known grave, and is remembered on the La Ferte-sous-Jouarre Memorial.

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