Good, bad or indifferent?

Robert McCartney has sparked a debate about the value of the proposed “Enriched Curriculum” which shifts from traditional teaching methods in Key Stage 1 to more play based forms of learning. He believes evaluation research shows the approach fails the children in deprived communities and the reluctance of CCEA for the research to be published proves they have a secret agenda. The CCEA, Department of Education and researchers reject this. The dispute seems to be around what McCartney means by failure. The tentative conculsions show the enriched curriculum does not seem to deliver improved results so it does not fail in comparison with traditional methods:

“At the end of their third year, children in the first cohort in Shankill schools equalled the performance of control groups until (Sproule, Trew, Rafferty, Walsh, O’Neill, McGuinness, Sheehy 2003). Results for children in the second group of schools appear to be following the pattern of those in the Shankill schools. There are no measured gains as yet, except in oral language skills in the first two years, as measured by the Bus Story Test”

However, as it doesn’t seem to be leading to greater educational achievement/progress and thus not narrowing the educational gap between poorer and richer communities, should it be considered a failure?

  • Alan

    *There are no measured gains as yet, except in oral language skills in the first two years, as measured by the Bus Story Test*

    So there are measured gains. Save us all from dabblers!

  • VP

    Bob has failed to take an holistic view of the education landsacape in the province. We have a long tail of under-achievement which has been ignored for far too long. This has resulted in :

    – the worst teen-age pregnancy rate in the UK
    – a high proportion of school leavers with less than five “good” GCSE passes

    The Enriched Curriculum is a long term gain and not a short term pay off to be measured by three years of statistics. Bob could better spend his time by serious observation of what is actually happening in education rather than this knee-jerk ranting.

  • Bob’s spot on.

  • Rapunsel

    Spot on VP.

    Heard the interview this morning and had an unusual opportunity to try and think the issues through. Bob McCartney is trying to set himself up as some sort of educational expert with the interests of the working class at heart. Fat chance of that, he’s really about preserving the status quo! It seems to me that the guy from CCEA and the principal of was it Ballysillan PS ? made a good case for this new curriculum. At a particilar point in time children were not as advanced as a control group but further along they were .

    Fair Deal

    “However, as it doesn’t seem to be leading to greater educational achievement/progress and thus not narrowing the educational gap between poorer and richer communities, should it be considered a failure?”

    Having read other posts of yours I didn’t think you had a simplistic analysis of the link betwene education and poverty as might be assumed by your post. My experience is that it can be poverty that leads to educational underperformance and thus the cycle continues. Schools have a key role but not the whole responsibility

  • Crataegus

    “except in oral language skills in the first two years”

    Bob, let me tell you as someone who has sat through enough job interviews, oral language skills are important. I have come across too many 16 year olds who can’t string a sentence together and they tend to come from inner city wards. It’s appalling and improvement is welcome.

    I agree with Rapunsel yes there is a link between poverty and educational performance, but performance is also a reflection of the total resources supporting the child. The support, ability and skills of the parents and greater family are crucial. However if the parents have limited skills the child, no matter how intelligent is at a disadvantage. Under performing is such a serious problem it should be the educational priority. Secondary reform is too late for most. How we effectively channel resources into Primary education and Nursery care are crucial.

  • David Michael

    Here we go again. Blame the teachers, blame the curriculum.

    Try limiting each household to one TV set and watch the kiddies’ performance soar.

  • Animus

    Yes, in the days before TV every child was a budding genius.

    Bob misses the fundamental point that time has marched on – the system he advocates was fit for purpose 60 years ago, but it’s outdated now.

    The top criteria for admission to nursery is whether parents are in receipt of benefit. That seems a very reasonable way to go. Craetegus is just right when s/he says that kids whose parents can’t give them necessary support are already at a disadvantage. So measures to try to combat that disadvantage at an early stage are vital. Pre-school has the most profound effect on the youngest children in the class as well as those in areas of most disadvantage.

  • David Michael

    Animus

    “Yes, in the days before TV every child was a budding genius.”

    You’re trivializing a reasonable argument. Kids learn nothing from TV. They do when they interact with other kids and their parents.

  • Animus

    I think you’re making a simplistic argument David. I agree that personal interaction is more important than TV and that children shouldn’t have a telly in their rooms, but I disagree that children learn nothing from TV. I don’t watch much myself and I don’t let my young child watch any, but not everything on it is tosh. Demonising tv as the purveyor of all society’s ills isn’t particularly helpful.

  • David Michael

    Animus, I wouldn’t suggest such a thing. TV is not the purveyor but the showcase. The warped values a child picks up from TV can only do harm.

    I’m interested to know what kids learn from TV.

  • Pete Baker

    The point that the new improved[sic] teaching methods don’t appear to produce any improvement in results seems to be being missed.

    “Here we go again. Blame the teachers, blame the curriculum.”

    The point that’s being missed, it would appear, is that it’s not about the teaching methods/curriculum, its about the teachers[and the pupils].. and how good/bad they are.

  • Animus

    Don’t you have BBC 2? There is a raft of edutainment programmes. There are channels on history, nature, etc. There is also crap like Big Brother, but parents can take control over what is watched. Mine did. I plan to when my child is old enough to watch TV. Don’t blame the medium for its message.

    In the advent of mass literacy, people worried about the warped values children would learn, particularly from reading fiction. There is more to TV than warped values.

  • David Michael

    This is all very noble, Animus, but does it work in real life?

    The children I come across (at all levels) watching TV are generally watching shite cartoons or other inanities.

    Similarly the libraries contain many fine books but the little darlings will invariably borrow Harry Potter.

  • willis

    Bob says

    “The project seems to indicate that New Labour, together with local SDLP and Sinn Fein politicians, are advocates of an educational programme which further disadvantages their already disadvantaged constituents.”

    Accepted that Gerry Adams is MP for the Greater Shankill.

    What has it got to do with Labour or the SDLP?

  • Alan

    *The point that the new improved[sic] teaching methods don’t appear to produce any improvement in results seems to be being missed. *

    It is far too early to know yet.

    The point is that this method involves putting off learning at the age of 4 until the child is ready for it. Of course there will be a question about improvement over such a short time frame, when the point of the method is to discourage teaching for a significant proportion of the time in question.

  • willis

    CCEA has replied, including a link to the report and Executive summary.

  • Animus

    If Harry Potter gets kids interested in reading, why not? Maybe you were reading Kafka as a 10 year old, but I wasn’t. I read lots of rubbish books interspersed with ‘quality literature’. How can kids tell the difference if they don’t get a bit of both? I’m quite snobby about what I read now, but I would never denigrate a child’s reading material. You can’t encourage them to read other things if you can’t get them to read anything in the first place.

    And a few cartoons – what’s the harm? I don’t spend every hour of my day pursuing learning (obviously, as I’m posting here) but there is a balance to be maintained.

    Back to the orginal point of this post, for 4 year olds, I welcome the play approach – formal learning for such a young age group is not appropriate and may put kids off. Nursery provision is largely play based and there is significant evidence to show that it benefits disadvantaged children in particular.

  • David Michael

    The play approach? It’s been a disaster and kids in these islands are leaving school semiliterate and seminumerate. Universities are complaining and rightly so.

    But because successive governments have invested so much in this failed experiment, nobody wishes to be the one to pull the plug. Child-centred education produces nothing but kids who have learned how to play.

    That’s why they watch nothing but games on TV. They ain’t fit for anything else. And I don’t exactly see them queuing up to borrow the half-decent library books, if they read at all.

    So when somebody can explain to me why people aged forty and upwards are better educated than the younger ones then I’ll pay attention.

  • Animus

    I’m under 40, but then I wasn’t educated here. Your post smacks of fogeyism.

    The play approach is new, so we might as well try it David, if what’s going on now isn’t working! The failed experiment is the 11 plus which throws a number of children to the scrap heap at 11. Academic intelligence is important, but so is vocationed education. Most of us will have cause to use the services of a plumber, joiner, mechanic or hairdresser at some point.

    I’d love to know what you think of the Entitlement Framework David, which provides more options at 14.

  • David Michael

    Animus, I apologize for sounding like a fogey 🙂 But it’s my perception that older folks have a much broader and well-rounded education.

    Still not convinced about play being a central part of education. Who says learning has to be fun? It’s reaping the benefits that’s the fun part. People appreciate more what they work hard for; kids are no exception.

    Yup, I approve very much of the Entitlement Framework. I wish we’d had it when I was a lad. I’ve seen so many square pegs come and go, and been all the unhappier for the bad fit. Vocational education will always have my vote.

  • Alan

    *Still not convinced about play being a central part of education. Who says learning has to be fun? It’s reaping the benefits that’s the fun part. People appreciate more what they work hard for; kids are no exception. *

    I’m not impressed by the concept of *fun-less* education for four year olds. Keep sounding those vowels, Johnny, in 22 years you can become a baby barrister.

    They are little more than babies. Remember, because we bring children into school in the academic year that they come of age, there are kids who will leave their first year of education still only four.

  • Animus

    I think it’s hard to convince a four or five year old to think of reaping any sort of benefit in the long term. For a child that age, a week is long-term. So any form of learning that is fun as well as educational is worth trying. That’s why reading aloud is so much fun for youngsters (and their parents).

    I remember learning the alphabet as a song and I loved it. That’s play-based learning. It’s more memorable than sheer rote learning and it still achieves the goal of teaching. But it works for older pupils as well. Think about it – you can read Hamlet and answer questions or you can act it out. Which is the more interesting form of learning? You can still make them work hard, but it can be fun too.

  • David Michael

    Sure, Alan, the ankle biters need their play and it would be churlish to deny them.

    Animus

    “I think it’s hard to convince a four or five year old to think of reaping any sort of benefit in the long term.”

    You’ve highlighted a situation I keep coming across. It’s impossible to convince a 4 or 5-year-old of anything, mainly because they haven’t reached the age of reason yet. I smile when I see mothers in shops trying to talk a kid out of wanting sweeties or whatever.

    I take your points about the alphabet song. Song and rhyme are great teaching aids, But try engaging with a young person (18-25) who “learned” in a playful way. Even speech is difficult for them. No wonder; no one set them to work at learning.

  • willis

    David M

    Are you serious?

    But try engaging with a young person (18-25) who “learned” in a playful way. Even speech is difficult for them. No wonder; no one set them to work at learning.

    How would you know?

    I think we can take it that Dawson Baillie did not learn in a “playful” way.

    He is the benchmark