Think tank calls for teachers to be given more free periods

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The Centre for Independent Studies (CIS) has released a report foreshadowing the “Gonksi 2.0” review of how school may best spend any additional money available through new funding arrangements.

As you might imagine, the author, Blaise Joseph, recommends that there be greater support for systematic synthetic phonics. He notes that teachers don’t seem to be properly prepared for teaching phonics by their training institutions and makes the well-known point that phonics in general – and systematic synthetic phonics in particular – is backed by a wealth of evidence spanning English speaking countries across the world.

However, Joseph has two more suggestions. He points to the high level of classrooms disruption in Australian schools and suggests that we need to invest in better training. The educational establishment in Australia certainly have a fingers-in-ears approach to this subject, preferring to focus on the plight of students excluded from schools rather than on making schools safer environments in which to learn, something that might actually reduce exclusions in the long term. Behaviour is a topic that brings out the ideologues, as I was reminded by the U.K. reaction to a recent blog post by Old Andrew where teachers shared stories of some of the worst behaviour they had encountered. These testimonies made a few people ‘angry‘, such is the strength of feeling against anyone who suggests we might have a bit of a problem. We have the same constituency in Australia and so it is going to be hard to move things forward. Insistence on engage-them-into-behaving is probably why we have such an issue with discipline in the first place.

Joseph’s other suggestion is that teachers should spend less time teaching. We have a lot of contact time compared to other countries and this means that we have less time for planning and collaboration. If there is money available then I would suggest that this would be a great use of it, particularly for teachers who are working in a tough context. However, as Joseph cautions, “It is important teachers are not burdened with extra administrative work in lieu of more teaching hours. For example, expecting teachers to prepare lesson plans using templates that are not evidence-based would be time consuming and ineffective.” It would all be for nought if it becomes a box-filling exercise.

Finally, Joseph mentions that investing in ed-tech and smaller class sizes are not supported by the evidence at present.

You might notice that I am credited with reviewing Joseph’s report. I am keen to work collaboratively with anyone who wishes to see a more evidence-informed approach to education. No doubt this will lead some to feverishly conclude something about ‘neoliberal imaginaries’ and all that malarkey. So be it.


4 thoughts on “Think tank calls for teachers to be given more free periods

  1. Unfortunately, the argument around classroom management is weak to the point of irrelevance. While Joseph admits the data is not good enough, he then leaps into blaming TEACHERS and their lack of classroom management skills. Despite Marzano claiming a good teacher with weak management is better than a weak teacher with good management, clearly schools need good teachers with good managers in this area. The reality is that ‘high expectations’ cannot be maintained unless up-the-line teachers are supported.

    I support the move of some American and British schools in hiring specific people to deal with behaviour. However, until we accept that silence is necessary for students to think and retrieve in the abstract subjects like Maths, English, Science and History, then we are stuck on the treadmill.

    I’m all for looking at how much we should expect an adolescent to sit inside at a desk for, but if they are going to, then it needs to be highly regulated to learn the knowledge of generations. I work in a very tough school and even then I’d estimate 75-80% of the kids WANT to be quiet and listen. Fortunately I have supportive Senior Executives, but even then, the system makes a tonne of excuses that makes it hard for us to ensure ideal learning environments.

  2. Greg, I can’t help but think that you do yourself a disservice by putting your hat in with the CIS crowd.
    Although I may agree with them about some things, their extreme right wing agenda (and I very much would class it as that) means that a lot of people will discount what they say out of hand.
    Both Blaise and Jennifer have shown that they don’t care about evidence when it comes to the damaging effects of private schools and choice – why do they care about evidence when it comes to literacy, behaviour, class sizes etc.?

    1. Teaching methods are not political. Claiming that they are is like claiming that methods of conducting knee surgery are political or methods of making espresso coffee are political. I may not agree with CIS on many of their policy positions but, on the ones to do with effective teaching strategies, there is strong evidence to support their claims. Should I deny this through a sense of tribalism? No, I don’t think so. If we are going to improve education in Australia then we will need to assemble a broad coalition. I would love to have the attention of other, more left-leaning think-tanks. Unfortunately, they seem deaf to this discussion. Hopefully, Gonski 2.0 might provide the context for this.

      And a quibble: I do not think that reviewing a document produced by CIS on an area in which I have some limited expertise is equivalent to ‘putting [my] hat in with the CIS crowd’.

      You are, as ever, entitled to your views on this.

      1. Hi Greg, No offence intended – I just seem to see your name around Buckingham and Joseph a lot nowadays. I don’t think it has to be political either but it always seems to be. In Australia (and arguably the Anglosphere) we seem incapable to consider more than a single dichotomy encompassing everything and this seems to be true for both the left and the right. Libertarians back conservatives, conservatives back capitalists rather than agree with anyone on the left etc.
        Personally I find it very difficult to endorse anything put out by the CIS because of the whole ‘CIS package’ even though as I alluded, I do agree about the issues you have presented here. It’s bit like endorsing Kevin Donnelly – I do find I agree with him on some things – but his religious nutter vibe in other pieces completely overshadows them and means I find it hard to do so both personally and publicly.

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