Session 52 – Thursday 30th June 2011

Session Title:
Why are some subjects considered more academic or worthy than others? Is there anything we can do to redress the balance.

Session Summary:

Wow! What a fast paced discussion this week. Due to a bit of confusion there were, at one point in the week, two polls running! I took the topic from the poll that had been originally set up but there was a different front runner on the other poll! Never mind – the creative curriculum will resurface soon I’m sure.
Back to the discussion. It seemed to come down to a few core things: what we felt was most important to us as teachers and how we could ‘empower’ students, what the perceptions were from those outside the profession (parents, future employers, government ministers etc. ) and how we could achieve a balance between skills, facts and other areas of learning. There were no easy answers.
One thing was clear: teaching children how to learn was key to their future development and, with that in mind, an emphasis on cross curricular and hands on learning (as seen in EYFS and FP settings), partnered with good strategies in other areas was mooted by many contributors, in many different ways, as desirable. Some contributors thought that the slant towards certain subjects being seen as more worthy lay at the door of testing and what were traditionally seen, by employers and many others, as subjects desirable in prospective employees. After all, it is easier to measure ability in a subject that can be tested (such as maths or history) than in a subject where things can be open to interpretation (such as art or drama). But should this matter?
Additionally, there were many points raised about pupils having choice. Is the curriculum too narrow? Do other countries have a better system? Does parental or outside pressure play a part in the choices made by pupils in the UK during Year 9? Do pupils tend to choose subjects where they know they will get on with the teacher rather than take a risk? Should the strategies and techniques being used in many primary schools across the country, such as thinking skills and cross curricular teaching, be carried into KS3 and beyond? All of these points were raised and discussed but at some point it seemed as though we were going around in circles and there were no simple conclusions or resolutions to any of the questions put forward. It was that kind of evening.
Although there were no easy answers to the questions raised one thing is certain: everyone believed that all talents and skills should be equally valued and that children should have the opportunity to develop whatever it is that they excel in. But that’s in an ideal world.

Notable Tweets from the Session:
@deerwood: Perhaps it is a legacy, if you need to use your hands more than your mind, is that subject is seen as less academic?

@mattbuxton10: Depends on view of education; For me it’s about self-realisation, For the govt is OECD rankings. Therefore I view subjects of equal worth, govt not so

@ICTMagic: I believe a diverse curriculum is vital & each child has different strengths, but in the end its employers that must value them.

@mikeatedji: doesnt academic also entail ability to make connctions across disciplines? Also its a certain habit of mind, disposition to learn

@GaryAveryICT: creative curriculum in primary really addressing this i think, if done well all subjects are equally important.

@SheliBB: Children should be helped to achieve their potential-they could be the next Vanessa Mae / David Bellamy.We should stop emphasising core subjects

@GaryH2UK: so much focus on facts for exams drives out creativity. Creativity great revenue earner for UK

@mattpearson: disciplined learning is important, and there is *some* sense in what Gove argues on subjects, but it’s very deeply hidden

@jamesmichie: I think there are certain skills / competencies that should be taught in all subjects/lessons to reinforce their value/worth.

@xPunzx: UK only place in europe where hist can be dropped at 14 – why? if we changed exams we could keep broader focus at GCSE?

@TimothyRaybould: some subjects are probably considered more worthy than others based on the salary you can get in the respective career

@RachelOrr: we’re teaching children today skills for jobs that haven’t even been invented or created – how do we know what they will need?

@misshbond: What are children going to benefit more from? Learning dates/quotes or learning how to question/engage/wonder/think for themselves

@PivotalEllie Parental perceptions have a big influence & they often refer to their own schooling.

@ChrisMartinE1: Conversations with Business and physics undergraduates demonstrate why some subjects are valued more highly than others.

@mikeatedji: learning to learn is crucial but we have to build in a value component surely. Education without values has proved dangerous

@TheHeadsOffice: IMHO EYFS have got it right!

@PivotalEllie: It is hard to move forwards in terms of developing curriculum, when so many people are looking back to what is traditional.

@mooshtang: Personally I think some have gone too far with this skills thing- you need a balance of knowledge and skills

@mattpearson: twitter has mobilised popular democrative opinion and amplified it in ways government does not understand

@mattbuxton10: EVERY subject should include knowledge&skills, creativity&functional skills, wow-factors & rigour – none more important than next

Tweet of the Week:

@TimothyRaybould: I believe all kids are good at at least one thing – what is that thing and how do we ensure the kids succeed at it?

Web-Links Highlighted During Session:

This wasn’t really the type of discussion that threw up any links – maybe next time…

About Your Host:

@bevevans22

I work as an ICT Leader and Co-ordinator in a large Welsh Primary school, with pupils ageing from 4 to 11 years.  I love using technology to enhance learning and have a particular interest in creating an inclusive and inviting environment that all children can access and benefit from. I also enjoy creating digital art and resources and run the educational resource site http://www.communication4all.co.uk/ in my spare time.

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