How was education for you? How was it for me?
As the end of another academic year draws to a close, my 22nd in teaching and 36th in the UK schooling system(!); I thought I would just reminisce over my school days from 20+ years ago… I want to take you back to the spring and summer of 1990; the year when Thatcher resigned; Saddam Hussein and his troops invaded Kuwait and Mandela was set free!
From 2013 to 1990:
Well, I was shy, spotty and spiky-haired teenager in the seaside town of Fleetwood, Lancashire…
Fleetwood High School was once situated between Beach Road and ‘The Broadway. A typical school in middle-England, which I found quite moderate after 3 years in a Welsh comprehensive in the mining-valleys! FHS was founded in 1977 as a comprehensive non-denominational secondary school, a successor to Fleetwood Grammar School (1921–77) and Bailey School.
I attended FHS from 1989-1990 in year 11, and then from 1990-1993 in the sixth form (one year repeating my GCSEs). It was ‘re-branded’ as Fleetwood Sports College in 2005 when the school was given specialist school status in sport, but reverted to its original name in September 2010. Where I once studied, the school moved to its new location. I cannot remember this name – perhaps it was an annexe of the school I attended – but I do remember visiting the facilities to play sports and teach as an A level student before leaving for Goldsmiths College to study a BAEd (which no longer exists either!)
School report from 1990:
What I would like to do, is share my subject-by-subject school report from my time in Year 11; my final year at secondary school. By doing so, I’d also like to share with you, what I would also write (as a teacher today) about myself and my own report.
Before I begin, please take into account the following:
- I once received the cane (belt) at a Scottish primary school in 1979 for (what I believe was) not signing along to a hymn.
- As a child, I attended 4 primary schools. These primary schools in Kilbirnie (reports also available), Dundee, Camberwell and Newcastle.
- I attended 3 secondary schools from the age of 11-16 years old. These schools were in Newcastle, Tonyrefail (reports also available) and Fleetwood.
- I was educated in Scotland, England and Wales.
- I was a very shy and quiet student.
- I received Free School Meals.
- Of my 3 brothers, I attended Fleetwood High School with two of them.
- I continued my GCSEs into Year 12.
- I left school at 19 and was the first of a generation to attend university.
Attendance: Well, my attendance was 97.6%. 5 days absent. (Spot the tip-ex). I still mirror this (or better) at work today…
Punctuality: Excellent. It still is at work today; but not so much at home.
Subject comments: Obvious highlights show a good grasp on Business Studies and Computer Studies. Whereas, I totally flunked my Maths mock GCSE exam and it is apparent, that I was ‘not secure’ with 5 GCSE passes to make it onto A-levels. I don’t recall being too worried about this at 16.
I also have no idea why I have 0 (zero) merits or de-merits!
Teachers I recall from this time are: Mr. Boldy (Design and Technology) who I am still in touch with today. Mrs. Scott (English); Mr. Borthwick (History); Mr. Jowett (Graphics) and that is all my memory will suffice…
English subject report :
- Effort Grade: C
- Attainment grade for Language: D
- Attainment grade for Literature: D
- Examination Grade: –
“Ross has tried hard with his assignments. His language attainment is on the C/D borderline. If he can produce a good discursive piece he should improve the grade. His most recent piece on ‘Flight’ was good – he could improve his literature grade too, even at this stage.”
by Mrs. J Scott.
And today, I recall huge hang-ups about my English education. I love the subject today, but I did not enjoy English as a child. I was shy. Reading in silence was boring. Reading out aloud, in front of my peers was challenging and daunting for me! Literacy did not have the status 30 years ago that it does today. The opportunities for reading and writing has also changed. The digital native is upon us – in every classroom – and it is a real challenge for all classroom teachers to adapt our techniques and increase the range of opportunities for students to engage with literacy and English.
If I told you I did NOT struggle with simple grammatical rules in my own writing, I’d be lying.
Blogging publicly and writing for The Guardian has enhanced my own literacy-learning, but it does come with a hazard warning. Reading and writing, speaking and listening in all walks have life, have significantly developed since I was 16 years old. But, my journey is not complete.
Do you know your adjectives, from your verbs? Your definitions from your etymological and phonetic vocabulary? Or when do use a semi-colon, a noun, a connective or a plural?
This was something I do not think I was taught enough of at school. I do not recollect anything other than spelling tests, reading to myself, to the class; or writing stories and responses to sonnets, poems and fables. Being a student in several schools throughout my entire childhood certainly did not help, but even today, despite a few hang-ups, I work at developing my own spelling, vocabulary and punctuation.
My mother said she used to read the dictionary, and at times I have tried this, but with the introduction of computers, and then the internet, writing suddenly changed with online spellcheckers; synonymy replacements and the useful (Ctrl +C / Ctrl +V) copy and paste. It is even easier to replicate a piece of literature without it truly being your own and that is what worries me most about being a classroom teacher. The opportunity, for our students to grasp the fundamental principals of literacy, to equip them to live and work in a world that makes sense. A world where they can interact and engage with others.
The key here, is that we grasp whatever method we can use, to improve literacy in ourselves and our students. We do all that we can to address any of our hang-ups and challenge ourselves to develop our own spelling, pronunciations or even dyslexia…
I just wonder what Mrs. J. Scott would write in her school report today.
Maths subject report:
- Effort Grade: C
- Attainment Grade: E
- Examination Grade: U
“Ross has continued to work steadily. I feel that there are large areas of basic work which needs attention and time is short. I wish he had been in the set longer in order to have covered more of these areas. However, he does try and is providing with a good base on which to build. There is still 3 months to go.”
by Mr. B. Crompton.
My Maths story:
My recollections of Maths at primary school in Scotland, were standing up and reciting the 1-25 times-tables backwards and forwards. I was really good at it… but it has led to nowhere! Looking back, I found Maths really hard. I enjoyed the problem-solving aspects of the subject, but I really did not get the logic of algebra and the equations that came with it. I just didn’t get the purpose of it all.
Moving to another school in my 4th-5th year (currently between Year 10 (1989) and Year 11 (1990)) may have proven to be detrimental to my overall school-studies, including my study of Maths. My inert nature was to try, but moving schools, from a strict grammar-setting environment to a comprehensive classroom may have made an impact too. Who knows? Maybe it didn’t? It may have been purely down to different teaching in another part of the country? Another syllabus? Bullying? All I know is; is that I failed my Maths GCSE with a grade D in the summer of 1990. I luckily re-sat the exam, three months later in December 1990 whilst in the first year of 6th form and thankfully achieved a grade C. This allowed my to commence my A-levels at the start of the following academic year – putting me one year behind, friends of my age.
Well, it still is contentious whether or not I enjoy Maths. I do struggle to grasp concepts and occasionally make silly mistakes. What I have learned, is that double-checking results and using two or three various ways of checking calculations is very good practice. This cannot be under-estimated as a school leader, dealing with budgets in excess of £8M. It is vital to check the numbers; tax and VAT statistics, using the experts around you.
Science subject report:
- Effort Grade: D
- Attainment Grade: D
- Examination Grade: E
“Ross has coped very well with the demands of the subject. He needs to improve on his revision techniques in the weeks ahead if he is to gain a better exam grade than that recorded here.”
by Mr. J. H. Ingham.