ISANet Newsletter 26 November 2012 – the ‘Weather-affected’ edition.
“It is easier to build strong children than to repair broken men.” Frederick Douglas*
This clear sighted statement about the development of the child into adult is by an orator I knew not of, whose story is worth reading*. In many ways, this is why I come to work each day, to ensure that young boys and girls grow successfully and develop a degree of resilience that will sustain them through Life’s troubles, whenever and wherever they might come. Hold that thought…
The immediacy of modern news is such that I don’t read about the failure of a new flood relief scheme pump to work, I actually watch the news video – http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=6TmK0TkHnUE
I am sure that every possible procedure was put in place to ensure the system would ‘fail-safe’, yet it did not, and people’s homes have been flooded out. The cost of the Flood-relief scheme was £1.5 million, and precious use that turned out to be. Hold that thought…
This last week, we learn that the DfE has overspent its £7.3 billion pound academies budget by £1billion, because of a tenfold increase in the number of English schools converting to academies. “The Department for Education (DfE) met the expense from its overall budget”, says the National Audit Office report. “The department was unprepared for the financial implications of rapid expansion,” the authors say. The government said it made “no apology for spending money on a programme that is proven to drive up standards” (source BBC news)
As no-one seems to have found the evidence that turning schools into academies actually leads to school improvement, (here’s one sophisticated report that tests the thesis- http://blogs.channel4.com/factcheck/factcheck/8994) it seems to me that such statements are made by DfE officials and ministers in turn, cynically avoiding the truth, and despite that, used to justify over spending £1000,000,000. That’s a big number!
Here’s the maths. The £1billion pounds is over a two year period March 2010-April 2012, in which the number of academies has grown by 2000 (from a low number of 203). The overspend represents a whopping £500,000 per school. Now you and I know that if we had that sort of extra money falling in our laps, we could make a pretty good case for suggesting that we could improve our school performance too! More on So where did all the money go here.
But as with the Flood relief scheme in Kempsey, this extra spending is no guarantee of making improvements; at least we know in Kempsey that to put the matter right, the pump has got to be switched on, but in education the picture is so much more complex. Across the country, what state schools are crying out for is for their basic infrastructure to be repaired, for roofs to be mended and for buildings to be renewed. The casual response of the DfE is that this extra spending has happened within Budget – coming from the draconian cuts that Local authorities have had to endure from their budgets. The DfE has built few if any accountability measures into their Academies, and you can read more here, on the govtoday website.
1. I think we all know the secret of learning is not just about learning to read, but learning to listen well as well. Here’s a lovely UK website that has a mine of audio stories you might like to check out – http://storynory.com/
2. I don’t know much about the Knewton corp, rather grandly suggesting that “Education is right now undergoing a monumental shift, from the one-size-fits-all factory model to a digital, personalized model. Knewton is at the forefront of this change”. Well anyway, I was researching how to speed up reading, and this page on their blog covered a lot of the ground well.
3. Google’s world of wonders is like their Art project, a way of going somewhere without using petrol! I love the Jurassic coast and Ironbridge as examples of places you can visit virtually, as well of course as the Barrier Reef and Scott’s Antarctic hut, two sights rather further away.
Onto things Digital
● The Inaugural ISANet Unconference took place on Saturday 24 November. The main stream of talks was provided by Learning ‘slams’ during which 5 minute sessions under pretty rapid fire delegates highlighted some learning approaches or technical tips that worked for them, and this provided for an interesting, if eclectic mix of subjects. Unwitting stars of the show were undoubtedly the students of Claires Court and Wellacre Academy who presented with great polish and in addition were on hand to show the adults how to work the kit!
● I came across this simple little Google Search into Movie creator at the Unconference – really quite fun – here’s the tool, and here’s two movies I created about the ISANet using it – http://goo.gl/17Fym and http://youtu.be/Ida8O6Wgtp4.
And finally: As the pressures of term get tougher, Happiness moves into short supply – watch this short TED talk by Shawn Achor on ‘The happy secret to better work’ – amusing and thought-provoking. http://goo.gl/C4WTh
Thanks for reading, listening and playing with this slightly edited membership newsletter for teachers and techies in education.
* http://www.frederickdouglass.org/douglass_bio.html . As I am married to a History teacher, I was reminded of his claim to fame as an upwardly mobile slave.