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aside on the vaguaries of school education in the uk after reading

updated sun 21 mar 04


Janet Kaiser on sun 21 mar 04

Carol's "take" on a question

Sorry for the long philplike subject line (which will go off the
edge of many screens) but I wanted to applaud Carol and half
change the subject, seeing what I have to say will not help our
young friend in the least. It also seems a slightly appropriate
"rumination" seeing it is NCECA week, when many clay teachers &
educators of the US and elsewhere are congregating. It would do
us good to have the same sort of meeting in other countries,
where falling standards are one consequence of opening up the
public school system to "competition" and "profit-making
organisation". In other words privatisation by the back door.

An extremely thorny subject and one likely to cause a lot of
aggravation... So... All I really just wanted to say, was, "here!
here! Carol!" You hit the nail on the head!! I could and can not
comprehend how we have got ourselves in to the situation that
anyone doing a GCSE (or any other formal educational course
leading to a nationally recognised pre-college qualification) has
to ask "simple" questions (i.e. what should be within the
capability of the most abysmal teacher of little brain and less
professional pride) or some individual or group outside the
classroom. It truly beggars belief.... For sure!

HOWEVER it is finally the voice of someone going through the
system, which gives a degree of substance to what I have claimed
for ages of the "educational system" here in the UK and what many
in Clay Town have questioned me about in the past. They have
asked in various degrees of disbelief... Am I not exaggerating
and overstating? Maybe applying a singular localised mini-problem
and applying it to the whole country? Well, on the whole, no, I
do not believe I do or I am or ever have exaggerated. Even though
it goes without saying there are a few very dedicated teachers
"out there" and some schools actually offer a full and
well-rounded curriculum with the resources to support it all, but
on the whole hundreds, neigh make that thousands of young people
are being denied a full and thorough education for one reason or

Funding is one excuse and I won't go there because it involves
commenting on the allocation of government funding in a country
where military expenditure has suddenly made savings in other
areas of more personal and universal interest (education, health,
etc.) a priority. Know what I mean? The privatisation of
examining bodies and school supply services are other areas
sapping schools of resources and funding, just as what is a
totally amazing rise in the number of administrators one suddenly
finds in schools these days, but to quickly get back onto more
neutral ground...

This particular young person may not (for example) have even been
taught by an art teacher throughout their whole 2year course,
nor had access to any proper instruction beyond a few lucky hits
in the lottery called "school education". It happens all the
time. Someone is sent from an agency to fill in when teachers are
ill or away on maternity leave. They "baby sit" classes and
repeat course work already done. Maybe dabble at a bit of stuff
they remember from their own GCE O levels, which they may or may
not remember and which is outdated to say the least. Who cares
about the kids? Bored out of their brains, unruly and disruptive
on the one hand or on the other hand are highly stressed because
they know they are missing out and are acutely aware they need to
be learning to fulfil parent, school and society expectations...

And I exaggerate not. For example, a dear friend of mine who
still cannot distinguish an e-mail client from a browser and
could not install a programme or new hardware to save her life (
I do that sort of work for her and she cooks us dinner as
payment) was substitute teaching IT (or whatever they call it
these days) to several GCSE classes for over a term last year,
whilst their regular teacher had his second or third nervous

And as for art & design... Well what sort of subject is that? No
agency holds art teachers on their books. After all... Only
losers take it anyhow... We all know that... Oh, yes. Be quite
sure that old myth is still alive and well throughout the school
system. The trouble makers are still sent to the Art Class to get
them out of the way... As if the art teacher has more training or
ability to deal with social, mental, substance abuse and other
problems... But, of course he/she is an "artist" so they
naturally empathise with deranged, distressed and disruptive
pupils... Ha! Of course we do!!!

OK -- OK --... I should not rant. But that is the way it is and
it is so mind-bogglingly depressing, I cannot begin to try
helping this or any other youngster in the grasps of the current
system. I just feel so sorry for them. It must also be made known
that even if the teacher of this young person has a degree in
"ceramic art and design" there is no guarantee they ever touched
a piece of clay let alone know how to teach basic stuff. The
"basics" is no longer part of a general art education at
pre-degree level and I am actually quite surprised that it is
being offered at a school. This person is (believe it or not)
actually part of an elite to have access to clay, let alone the

Must go... The severe gale has veered. Off with the electric any
minute now...


Janet Kaiser

>Could I ask where is your art teacher?
>I would suggest that you need
>to 'shake some trees' and see if you can get your teacher(s)
>(I'd also suggest that you get your parents to help you push for
assistance if
>you are reluctant to do it on your own.)
>For those of you who don't know what GCSE's are: they are the
>exams taken by 16 year olds who are following the English
National Curriculum.
>The GCSE's cover two years worth of study and contain a
combination of
>course work and big exams given at the end. Not fun and very
>Made even harder when teachers are arrogant and less than
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