Tag: school visit
Authors, travelling around schools, see stuff – stuff that inspectors would never see or even bother to look for, because inspectors are looking for what they want to see.
I keep seeing the Green, Amber and Red colours of testing software printouts. This software works out where to put the most resources to achieve the best test results. That sounds like a reasonable proposition, but in truth it confirms that the current education system is structurally designed to promote failure. Test results are all that matter. The education and-life chances of the children in the system come second. The “customer” – the child being educated – has been taken out of the equation.
If your child is in the green area then you are doing the right thing. You are helping them with homework, encouraging them to read and providing them with a full and diverse cultural feed. They will learn to read despite being at school.
If your child is in the amber areas, then it is worthwhile for the school to put effort into raising your child’s reading levels one or two grades. You can do this easily at home by reading to them in bed every night and showing some interest in their homework and schooling. The school can feel confident that if they invest time and resources in this group, they will bring their overall target levels up. The education system has such a distorted view, nothing else matters but the levels.
If your child is in the red area, you probably don’t care, and neither do the school. They know that it will take a huge effort to raise these children up just one grade, that will not have any effect on the school’s overall performance. These are the children that are doomed to illiteracy – they will cost the country a fortune over their lifetimes in social and medical care, prison and welfare. But that does not matter because because meeting reading level targets are more important.
The chances are that red area children have no books at home. The amber area children may have up to ten. The green area children could have over 200!
Before arriving at school, green children can have heard over 30 million more words spoken than a child in the red area, who may never have sung a nursery rhyme at home, had a book read to them at bedtime, used a knife or fork and my well have not learned to use the toilet.
Children’s centres were supposed to help with early years intervention. But children have to leave the centres to go to school and start learning to read. If the stats say it’s not worth schools bothering with children who need too much time spent on them, then it’s not worth spending the time on them.
The recent report of Britain’s failing literacy standards bears all this out. After 14 years of the Literacy Strategy and the National Curriculum someone needs to hang their head in shame and admit they got it all wrong. After 14 years, literacy should be at 99% of all school leavers.
So where has it gone wrong? Literacy has been redefined as the ability to decode text. That is not literacy – that is a boring, wet, grey, Wednesday afternoon lesson. Literacy is the ability to read. How have we forgotten that?
Reading is the one core skill. Without being able to read, forget about writing and “‘rithmetic”. No child should ever be allowed to fall behind in reading skills. That should be the core statement of education. If children can’t read, don’t progress them onto subjects they don’t have a cat in hell’s chance of understanding.
And how do we promote reading? The cryingly, simple, obvious solution is to read books! Hundred’s of them and if children don’t hear books read to them at home, they need to hear them read in school. Thanks to targets, there is no time for telling stories in school anymore. The key to reading is not phonetics or any other fashionable system, the key is story.
Human beings are hard-wired to listen to an learn from stories. Politicians know this – they tell enough of them. Advertisers know this – story is their trade. Religions know this – Faith is just the believing of a great story. So why has education forgotten and ignored the very keystone on which it is built?
It is story that draws the child closer and closer to the text, they marvel that those squiggly marks make up words that mean something, words that tell fantastic tales and explain fantastic concepts. Once the connection is made, nothing will stop a child wanting to learn to read so they can do that amazing, magic trick themselves.
Teacher education is such that a whole new generation has been taught nothing about children’s books or how to read them to their children. How are we going to convert them back to story-time?
Learning to read is the hardest job anyone will ever do in their entire lives. To condemn a child to the red area is to write them off, to mark them out as the detritus of society.
How many times have I heard teachers say, “But what can I do? Targets have to be met.” Forget about striking over pensions – we’re all in the same boat there, so teacher’s won’t get any sympathy from the public over that, but how about striking for the right to teach?
And how about hauling parents in and reminding them that they have responsibilities too? School is not a child-minding service, it’s a partnership of Family, Child and School – giving the child the best opportunities in life and preparing them to make the most of their talents so they can contribute to society. When did we ever stop wanting better for our children? What happened that all responsibility has been outsourced to over-stretched schools?
The real test of education is the number of happy, fulfilled adults that have benefitted from their time at school. The target should be adults that behave, that understand the difference between right and wrong, that have the confidence to rely on their own resources, that contribute to life and society, adults who cherish the next generation and help them on their way in the hope that they will help in return when we get older.
The education system that does not work for its “customer’s” best interests is broken and those in charge of setting the targets are as guilty as the red area children will be, when they grow up and appear before the magistrates in the dock.
I was childishly pleased when I came up with the series title, Little Horrors. They’re horror stories for small children, whom we often call little horrors themselves. Actually there’s no horror in them at all, just the suggestion. They are meant to be funny with moments of doubt… Shiver with fear.. shake with laughter, as the series slogan goes!
I love reading these stories to Key Stage 1 children. Some hug each other, some pose and pretend they aren’t scared, some burst into tears, but most laugh and join in with the noises and actions. Sadly the publishers, Orchard Books decided not to reprint. But that gave me the opportunity to bring the stories back to life again.
Online, print-on-demand publishing is an amazing thing. The first book in the series, The Swamp Man in now available in old fashioned print and as an ebook for the iPad. When I discovered the Open Dyslexic Font, I made it available as a Dyslexic font edition on the ipad too. The type is weighted so the letters behave themselves and sit on the line and the page colour is cream.
If you would like a signed copy of the Swamp Man, then click here
The Swamp Man – Little Horrors book.
I went to Brussels in Belgium on the Eurostar Train this week and I took my sketchbook with me. I thought it was a great way to share the experience with you as it is a record of my thoughts and things that catch my eye as I go along.
I was visiting the British International School in Brussels, which is in a wonderful old house full of Art Nouveau and Art Deco details. I had a great time there meeting the children, who come from all over the world, telling them stories and showing them how to draw stuff!
Thanks to everyone at the school for arranging the trip and making it both possible and memorable.
The Summer is here and that means that over the next few months hundreds of thousands of children will be visiting libraries up and down the land, borrowing books, reading them and getting small prizes for their effort. I remember the long summer holidays going on for ever. By the time I got back to school, I’d forgotten everything I’d learned the year before. The Summer reading challenge helps to keep up the habit of reading – the most important skill and person can learn in this world. Not analysis of text – reading – that means books and stories that make you laugh or cry or hyperventilate with fear.
I’m very proud to have been a part of the start of the Summer reading challenge. Andrea Reece was a brilliant Marketing Director at Hodder Children’s Books, whom I’d worked with previously, when she worked at Harper Collins. She came up with the idea of selling a “Leap into Reading” summer reading scheme to bookshop. He idea inadvertently pioneered the format of the Summer Reading Challenge we have all come to know and love. Dump Bins full of early readers were sold to bookshops. With each dump bin full of books came pencils, badges, posters and erasers, which were prizes for reading a book each week of the holidays. There was a passport that had to filled in to gain the next prize. Some libraries spotted the possibilities and bought the bins too. They started their own, individual summer reading schemes.
What were they to do the next year – well somewhere along over the next year, the Summer Reading Challenge got started and has carried on ever since.
I remember all this because my character, The Ginger Ninja, was leaping over the top of the dump bin and all the gifts had his smiling face all over them.
My readers will know that the Ginger Ninja has moved onto the 21st century, gracing the iPad with a built in video drawing lesson!and you can get a free story by joining my mailing list.
Good luck to all involved in the Summer Reading Challenge – I know it’s a lot of hard work, but I know that many Librarians look forward to those happy, smiling faces coming for the next book each week through the summer – and in many areas it has a quite profound effect in inspiring and maintaining reading proficiency through the long, long holiday.
I recently had a trip to Hull, where they have white telephone boxes, to Visit Libraries and Longhill Primary School – he’s a video about it
I had a wonderful afternoon with the infants at Warden Hill Primary School in Cheltenham today.
We had a load of fun telling stories and doing wonderful drawings. I took some very shaky photos of some of my favourite Cat and Dog drawings that were done by children in the Reception year. Sorry I couldn’t put them all in or Years one and two’s Whale drawing, but they were all fantastic! You can practice the drawings using these videos Cat Dog and Whale
Thanks for a great time everyone!
I went to Switzerland this week to visit L’Ecole Internationale Bilingue du Haut-Lac in the town of Vevey, which is the international headquarters of Nestle foods. Over two very busy days, I saw everyone in the infants and juniors and went up to the secondary department to talk to year sevens.
I’ve returned very tired and with a head full of cold but, as so often happens on these trips, a head full of ideas too. For me, the most exciting thing was to see everyone’s reaction to my new iPhone App, more of which later. The App went live on the iTunes store while I was away. I should probably have been attending to it, But I couldn’t remember my Apple Password!
We had great fun with Nursery, Reception and Year One, who are split into two cohorts on different sites, as it is a bilingual school. They had written a story about Mickey the Marmot, which I then illustrated for them. Over at the main school, Mickey had magically turned into Sally – some forceful girl editors involved there, I think – and had become an astronaut. So I gave her a spacesuit, earrings and handbag!
In a couple of my sessions I found it quite hard to concentrate, as the huge picture windows looked out over lake Geneva and every now and then A huge bird would swoop past. It was a very dark bird of prey, which I’m pretty sure was a Black Kite. I saw one dive down and catch a fish later and it looked exactly like this video at Arkive.com.
We had lots of stories and did lots of drawing and I had a great time. Many thanks to everyone for making it such a memorable trip. I shall have to do a How to draw Mickey the Marmot video soon!
What a great name – Clehonger – it’s a village to the west of Hereford and yesterday, Valentine’s Day, I visited the primary school for their Exciting Writing Week.The theme was Around The World, and I spent a bit of time trying to find around the world links to my books. Having done so, I hunted out some props from my visits to places I’ve lived or visited in my past that have inspired some of my books.
I talked about Viking Vik, who lives where my Norwegian Auntie has a summer house, and How the Rhioceros hot his skin, which is set somewhere around Aden, where I lived as a boy, and Axel Storm Jungle Fortress, which is set in a jungle very like one I visited on the Island of Guam. Japanese soldiers on Guam, that never surrendered until the 1970′s, were also an inspiration for this book.
I was interviewed by young journalists working on the school newspaper. I was flummoxed by one question, “Do you have any hobbies?”
Of course I don’t, Everything I do is my hobby! Thinking about it, with the children, I realised just how lucky I am. I think it is most people’s dream to be able to do what they enjoy most all day, and that’s pretty much what I get to do!
Thanks everyone for making it such a great day. I picked up a cold last week, so I hope I didn’t appear to be not working on all cylinders!