Thursday, 1 November 2012

They want to know what you think ... I think.

We are currently about halfway through the Department for Education's consultation on the reform of the KS4 examination system.

Have you responded yet?

Lots of teachers that I've spoken to haven't read, much less responded, to the consultation.  The frenetic pace of the first half-term being one reason.  However, many teachers said that they hadn't responded because they didn't think they'd be listened to, so it would be a waste of time.

I can sympathise with this view.  Reading through the consultation questions it feels a little like we're being asked 'Which stick would you like me to hit you with - the ash or the oak?' rather than, 'Should I hit you?'

But, and it is a big but, if teachers (and others actually involved in Education) don't respond to the consultation, then the DfE will have no evidence of the depth of feeling about the changes.  It's easy to send out disparaging tweets about the EBCs (and other policies) on twitter, but does take a bit of time to respond to the consultation.  If we care about education, we should be willing to put time in to making our views known.  If we want students to have periodic tables, calculators or set texts in their exams we need to say so.   
I'm not going to comment on specific questions, but others have blogged about them, and about the EBCs in general.  See for example, from an English teacher's point of view by @panderson1979, or from a Headteacher's view from @johntomsett

On a recent course we looked at the consultation documents and discussed the questions.  To do this we made use of a cooperative learning activity that could be useful for departments to carry out in order to assist their teachers to respond to the consultation.  It would take about 1 hour to do well, but the time could be shortened if needed. 

Step 1: What does the consultation say? 
The participants on the course were split into groups of 5 and each group was given a copy of the 19 page consultation document (printed onto single sided A4 paper) and a sheet of flip chart paper which had been split into 8 pieces.
Each member of the group was given sections of the consultation to read and then summarise on the flip chart pieces.  The list shows who was asked to read what.  Each section had to be summarised on separate pieces of paper.

  1. 2 pieces of paper for sections 2 + 3
  2. 2 pieces for sections 4 + 8
  3. 1 piece for section 5.1 - 5.13
  4. 1 piece for section 5.14 - 5.25
  5. 2 pieces for sections 6 + 7 
 The groups were given about 15 minutes to read and summarise their section of the document.

Step 2: Putting it all together
Each member of the group used their flipchart piece to summarise what they had read and learnt.  This took about 20 minutes.  It was helpful if the group didn’t discuss what they heard at this point (though to be fair, they were very keen to comment on the information).
 In this way the flipchart paper was rebuilt to provide an overview of the consultation as a whole. 
 There was then time for the group to discuss the consultation, say what they thought, and suggest other possibilities, as well as share ideas between groups.  This could take quite a while depending on how vocal people are.

Step 3: Answering the questions
 Helpfully (?), the Department for Education have provided a word document for responses.  I printed this out onto A3 sheets of paper and put them around the room in numerical order.

The teachers then wandered around, writing their answers and thoughts to the questions, discussing further with each other as they did so.  Some question got lots of responses (e.g. should there be tiering and should students be allowed to take calculators, periodic tables or set texts into the exam), others none.  However, as I pointed out during the session, you don’t have to respond to every question – just those you’ve got an opinion about.

At the end of the session, I typed the answers into the word document and emailed it to participants.  That way, when they answer the consultation they have got a starting point to work from.

This process can be adapted depending on how many people you have, or how much time you have. However, it is very important that teachers give their views on these proposals, and I hope that this simple activity will help you to do that by 10th December 2012.