Summer holiday 2013 and the October 2014 half term saw a number of “discussions” via Twitter, not all of them edifying. Some people seem to like to argue for the sake of arguing. It can cause a bit of a Twitter stir, increasing traffic to a site, so could be seen as a form of personal advertising.
In at least one case, I have wondered if the dilemma was based on the participants’ teaching situations, and as such began to consider the telescope as a metaphor; your personal clarity depends on which end you choose to put to your eye, or in Nelson’s case, supposedly, whether you can see or not with that eye, or choose not to as the apocryphal stories have it.
As a young child, my dad had a telescope and I’d enjoy putting it on a wall for stability and looking around the neighbourhood, delighting when we went on holiday to Paignton, where the rocks provided the stability and I could explore Torbay. I had to learn to get the length right and organise the eye piece, but, that done, the sheer delight of bringing boats and fishermen into close up was a revelation, matched only by the arrival one Christmas of a microscope. I still cherish my copy of “Common Objects of the Microscope” written by the Rev J.G.Wood in 1872, bought for the princely sum of 6d in a second hand book shop. At the time, I couldn’t read the words, but the pictures were interesting. As for the Observer series…rapture.
As a child progresses through the system, there is a developing track record of experience and any necessary support having been given, so teachers know what the children have done and should have a clear view of their ability. Internal moderation is likely to have added to the quality and acceptance of the judgements made.
In a Primary school, the growth ethic is very strong, looking to build on the positives, while subtly ironing out the areas where difficulty is being encountered, in the knowledge that a young learner has a lot to learn and their school career is long. It’s easy to accentuate what is not known and depress performance. In many ways, the growth ethic has been supported for many years by levelness descriptors, showing children where they are in their learning and where they need to improve. In the current climate, it is likely that many Primary schools will choose to hold to these as they provide a suitable progression ladder, while exploring alternatives.
School contexts can create diverse needs. In a post on personalisation, I gave examples from a variety of London based IQM schools dealing with significantly different issues from many others. They had to develop approaches which were significantly individual in nature.
Transfer can be a significant time of difficulty. There are significant discussions between schools before transfer, visits between schools, with vulnerable pupils having a greater degree of access and support to aid the transfer process. Detailed records are created and shared. Used effectively they can lead to a rapid start to the new school setting. Ignored, teaching can be less well structured, with less positive outcomes and relationships as a result.
Looking down on the preceding stage, the following questions have been articulated at some time;
- What did they do in nursery, EYFS, Infants, Juniors, years 7-9 and why can’t they all do the same things?
- What have they been doing for the last x years?
- Surely there’s a proven approach which should have been used?
They also forget, as do adults, often as a result of not playing with an idea and fixing it in memory. They may not yet have trained their memory to retain, organise or recall essential information with fluency.
Every child is unique, despite sharing characteristics with their peers. Rather than looking at them through the telescope, a magnifying glass or microscope would be more useful, seeking to identify the specific aspects which need support and which are sufficiently secure to be challenged.
According to annual statements, 25% of year six children leave Primary School unable to read, a global statement. Many of these children will have achieved level 3 at a high level, so they can read, but perhaps not yet sufficiently well. To look at the detail of individualised needs and to provide discrete remediation to those needs is essential if learners are to continue to make progress.
It’s the little things that matter, within the bigger picture of progress. Learning is the sum of the parts; know the children well and keep refining the picture, so that engagement and interventions are clear, have purpose and improve outcomes.
Look up, look down, look around; it is a case of 360 degree, 20:20 vision. Whose misconception is it anyway?