Cheslyn Hay High School Year 9s regenerate the area

I had an excellent day with Cheslyn Hay High School Year 9s. The school is very big on giving pupils the opportunity to develop their business and social skills.

The pupils did an Intelligence Quiz and a mini-challenge to create an art installation to demonstrate the future of Cheslyn Hay. We then gave them a budget of £100k to develop any part of town into a Social Enterprise Business.

All pupils came up with great ideas and then presented them to a judging panel made up of local business representatives:  Peter Cadman, Julie Lee and Tracey Wellings.There was a lot of ‘facing your fears’ as the pupils stood out front with a microphone in their hands and we ended up with fourteen superb presentations.

Young people developing the skills they’ll need for future success.

I’ll be back to see them again next year in Year 10!

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Literacy Day for Year 7 and 8 – One hundred twelve year-olds reading the Times and Mail!

I ran a two-day Literacy Event at The Mirus Academy in Walsall last week. Each day I had groups of Year 7 and 8 pupils developing their reading and writing abilities in a fun, competitive environment.

As usual, I had fantastic support from the local business community.

Day 1: David Tomalin – Age UK    Jacqui Pountney MBE – WES   Helen Gelsthorpe-Smith – Henn and Westwood

Day 2: David Tomalin- Age UK   Louise Taylor and Nicola Delahey- Juniper Training  Craig Vincent- Local Entrepreneur

My aim was to get the young people to read a quality newspaper and present a story they liked. I have to say they did a great job and chose some great stories, some of which I hadn’t seen.

A superb day with a group of lovely young people.

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Special School Business People of the Future

It was great to run a business challenge at Castle School with their primary pupils.

They had to invent and present a range of brand new businesses in only two hours. All of them came up with great ideas and faced their fears by standing in front of everyone to make their presentations.

They may not be academically-gifted but they can certainly hold their own in terms of ideas and communication.

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Gove destroying Britain’s Entrepreneurial Spirit


George Osborne has been trumpeting the beginnings of an economic recovery as if he was responsible for it! read the Daily Mail article here.

He talks about Britain’s Entrepreneurs leading the way. Not for long if Michael Gove has his way. His plans for introducing rote learning in schools and to focus on history and classics is trampling on the creativity I see in our young people every day.

I’ve never heard an employer ask that a new employee knows who Winston Churchill was or how to conjugate a latin verb. What’s the point of teaching kids to remember useless facts that they can Google if they need it? What employer needs kids who can remember useless facts and write them down at a certain time under certain conditions?

We need to enthuse kids with learning and make schools a vibrant, creative environment where they can gain confidence, learn through doing and make them a force to reckon with in the workplace of the future.

Michael Gove wants a conveyor belt of people who followed his path.What we don’t need is a tide of young people being trained to become politicians. If that’s what happens then the last person standing please turn out the lights.


Spelling and Grammar test SATS

Spelling and grammar test for all 11-year-olds next week to tackle poor literacy

I know loads of adults who would struggle to spell some of the words in this article!

Up to 600,000 schoolchildren will be required to sit a new exam in spelling, punctuation and grammar amid fears that almost a quarter of pupils are starting secondary education with substandard literacy skills. This is from the Telegraph…

For the first time next week, all 11-year-olds in England will be tested on 20 commonly misspelt words such as “separate”, “preferred” and “necessary”, it was revealed.

The exam – part of the annual round of SATs tests – will also cover the correct use of punctuation, including colons and apostrophes, and ensure that pupils apply grammatical rules such as subordinate clauses and a range of connectives.

The move comes amid concerns that the basics were neglected under the last government, with too many pupils struggling to write accurate sentences and structure essays properly.

Some of the worst spelling mistakes from old-style writing exams – based on a piece of prose – have included “tareybul” for terrible, “unyoushil” for unusual, “rtecker” for article and “avelerbilltey” for availability.

England’s main classroom unions have attacked the test, insisting it will heap extra pressure on young children and force teachers to drill pupils to pass.

The National Union of Teachers is investigating the possibility of boycotting the exam altogether next year.

But Elizabeth Truss, the Education Minister, said too many children “struggle with the basics of the English language at primary school, then don’t catch up at secondary school”.

A sample writing test carried out last year found 23 per cent of 11-year-olds failed to reach the expected standard for their age group – equating to around 125,000 children.

She added: “That is why employers bemoan the poor literacy of so many school and college leavers.

“This new test will mean that children are again taught the skills they need to understand our language, and to use it properly, creatively and effectively.”

Previously under Labour, pupils were given a writing test covering a simple piece of prose, but it was scrapped because of concerns over poor marking.

Next week, pupils will take the new spelling and grammar test alongside a reading and maths exam.

It will be made up of a 45-minute grammar test and a separate 15-minute spelling exam covering 20 words.

Pupils will be expected to recognise the difference between formal and non-standard English, in response to concerns that too many youngsters rely on so-called “text speak”.

The exam will also focus on the grammatical functions of words, including nouns, verbs, adjectives, adverbs, pronouns, prepositions and conjunctions.

Michael Gove on ‘ Mr Men’ History – He’s not bothered about the future

Gove criticises ‘Mr Men’ history teaching

Michael Gove Michael Gove said he had not been surprised there had been so much debate about the plans for history

The Education Secretary Michael Gove has accused some teachers of promoting an “infantilised” view of history.

In a speech in Brighton, he criticised an online lesson plan that suggested students could create a Mr Men character based on Adolf Hitler.

There is no evidence schools are using this Mr Men approach in the classroom. Its creator calls it a “revision tool”.

Mr Gove also hit back at critics of his new history curriculum to be introduced in England’s schools in September 2014.

The government says it will give children a complete history of Britain, in chronological order.

In his speech to independent school leaders at Brighton College, Mr Gove ridiculed the suggestion – on a website called Active History – that the Mr Men children’s books, written by Roger Hargreaves, could be used as a way of explaining Hitler to pupils.

He said: “One set of history teaching resources… suggests spending classroom time depicting the rise of Hitler as a Mr Men story.

“I may be unfamiliar with all of Roger Hargreaves’s work, but I am not sure he ever got round to producing Mr Anti-Semitic Dictator, Mr Junker General or Mr Dutch Communist Scapegoat,” he said.

The Mr Men books are a popular series for younger children, which has characters such as Mr Happy and Little Miss Sunshine.

Russel Tarr, who runs Active History from France, where he works as a teacher said the lesson plan was a revision tool for the end of a six-week course on the rise of Hitler, during which the 15- and 16-year-old pupils would have written a 1,000-word essay on the topic.

“The purpose of the activity is a further challenge to get them to think about it in a different way and to take a complex story about which they have written an in-depth essay and turn it into something that can be used for other students,” he said.

Mr Tarr said teaching should be rigorous and challenging, but it was “academic snobbery” to say you could only study history by taking lots of detailed notes.

Mr Gove also complained about teaching materials for primary school children published by the Historical Association, a group which has criticised his curriculum plans.

‘Eddy the Teddy’

The association has accused him of “misrepresenting” its material.

Mr Gove said teachers were encouraged to teach the early Middle Ages “by studying the depiction of King John as a cowardly lion in Disney’s Robin Hood”.

“If that proves too taxing, then they are asked to organise a fashion parade or make Plasticine models,” he added.

The Historical Association told the BBC the reference to King John was not in its lesson plan but in an article it had published, in which the point was to show pupils that film depictions of historical figures “may not be a true representation of the past”.

A spokeswoman said: “It seems unfair that he has used an unfair representation of us and of history teaching generally for political purposes”.

The education secretary listed other suggestions for primary teachers, produced by other groups, including using characters such as Nemo, a fish from the Disney film of the same name or “Eddy the Teddy”.

He went on to tell conference delegates “this infantilisation” continued to GCSE level.

Historians divided

He told conference delegates he had not been surprised by the intensity of the debate about changes to the history curriculum.

Some historians, including David Starkey and Niall Ferguson have welcomed the plans, but others, including the Historical Association, have criticised them.

The government says children will learn a complete history of Britain, with a clear “narrative of British progress” and an emphasis on heroes and heroines.

The youngest children, as is currently the case, will be taught about key historical figures, and from the age of seven, pupils will be expected to learn a detailed chronological history of Britain, from the Stone Age through to the end of the Cold War.

In February, the Historical Association welcomed the review of the history curriculum but described the plans put forward as “unworkable”.

It said its main concern was for primary schools, where teachers without specialist history knowledge would be “expected to teach complex areas of history such as religion, war, identity and nation building without any training or resources and possibly little historical knowledge of their own”.

A consultation on the proposed new national curriculum has just closed, and Mr Gove said he would weigh carefully all submissions about how plans can be improved.

He added: “The draft history curriculum is a direct attempt to address the failure – over generations – to ensure children grow up knowing the story of our islands.”

In his speech, Mr Gove also appeared to criticise the work of Stephenie Meyer, author of the popular Twilight series of books.

“Stephenie Meyer cannot hold a flaming-pitch torch to George Eliot,” he said.

“There is a great tradition of English literature – a canon of transcendent works – and Breaking Dawn [the fourth and final novel in the the Twilight series] is not part of it.”

The education secretary complained too few GCSE English students studied novels or plays from before the 20th Century.

Petition Michael Gove to Teach in a School!


Here’s a good one. Maria Rudden has started a petition to get Michael Gove to teach for a term in a school.

He’ll never do it but it’s got to be worth signing the petition to put a bit of pressure on.

I think all Government ministers should be required to work in the area they are managing. Perhaps some real world decisions could be made based on experience instead of meetings with the great and not so good.

School Curriculum -Stop Meddling Politicians


his BBC News article about the ‘Pub Quiz’ school curriculum is spot on. Pumping useless facts into kids is not the way to go. Showing them potential careers and jobs will inspire them to achieve at school, not actively making lessons more boring.

I don’t want this blog to turn into constant Michael Gove bashing, but we can’t let him continue on a path of making school irrelevant and tedious (for kids and teachers!).

The curriculum needs to be brought to life by bringing employers and specialists into schools not by introducing yet another raft of pointless targets and inspections. Enough already.