If you managed to finish reading Part One without chucking your computer against a wall, here’s Part Two (including some irrelevant pictures which might break the monotony of continuous and perhaps incomprehensible text).
Ideally my alternative system of education, not just schooling, would first require the enrolment of all parents and potential parents in a planned course of study through which they would acquire an understanding of the concepts which underpin the “New Learning”, and the completion a programme of activities designed to teach, or in some cases merely reinforce, parenting and interpersonal skills.
All prospective trainee school teachers would be required to have undertaken a minimum of two years’ employment, at the completion of secondary school, in a field unrelated to teaching, in order to allow them to be “de-institutionalised” to some degree. Currently some teachers never experience life outside an educational institution, moving from primary to secondary and then tertiary schools before becoming employed in schools. This can have a tendency to limit real life awareness in some cases.
The process of applying for training will include a psychological screening process which will attempt to avoid the recruitment of megalomaniacs, potential paedophiles and bludgers who want the longer holidays but not the responsibilities which teaching brings.
All currently employed teachers, regardless of their levels of experience or managerial positions, would undertake a fully paid re-training course in order to obtain the necessary qualifications to teach the “New Learning”. Those currently employed in leadership roles would require specialist training in leadership to ensure that their professional behaviours were consistent with the New Learning ethos.
The continuing employment of classroom teachers would be contingent upon annual assessments conducted by both educational administrators and students. These assessments may include some student performance indicators, but would highlight each teacher’s capacity to function as an educator in a team situation, as well as the teacher’s awareness of the needs of individual students and knowledge of strategies for meeting those needs.
Of equal importance would be students’ assessments of these same criteria in company with student ratings relating to concepts such as mutual respect, procedural fairness and pastoral care. The fact that large numbers of students consider a teacher to be effective should carry as much weight as the opinions of any administrators.
Since the best teaching and learning is inspired in a “top-down situation” the effectiveness of educational leaders becomes vital to maximising the learning process. Administrators certainly need to be knowledgeable of the learning process and system management issues, but, above all, they must be committed to focussing primarily upon the satisfaction of student needs. In New Learning there is no place for the inflated ego of a prima donna consumed with self-advancement and the gaining of personal kudos.
The assessment of educational leaders would be undertaken by small teams of assessors comprised of peer educational leaders as well as classroom teachers seconded from their schools for a minimum period of one year. An in-school assessment component will include judgements presented by both teachers and students. These are people who are entirely capable of rating the performance of a school’s executive teachers.
The aim of the New Learning is terribly simple.
“New Learning will promote the development of people who are individuals, capable of critical thought, self-responsibility and ego management, and who are inclined to choose appropriate pro-social behaviours which enhance the life experiences of themselves and others.”
The objectives which would need to be achieved in order to achieve this aim are also simple. Listed without consideration of priority they include:
- Students will engage in learning at a level which is appropriate to their stages of intellectual and social development. The chronological age of a student will be a secondary consideration when choosing a learning level. A student’s readiness to commence the formal learning programme will be determined by educational advisors.
- Students will follow a compulsory core learning programme which teaches communication, numeracy, competence in using information technology, and human development. Both formal and informal assessments will be conducted in these learning areas and the outcomes will form the basis for the awarding of a Certificate of Completion – Core Learning.
- Students will be given the opportunity to undertake learning in areas of personal interest in both on and off campus locations. Learning in these areas will contribute to the earning of a Certificate of Participation or a Certificate of Competence.
- Students will utilise the services of educational advisors when determining their proposed exit level from the school system. Some students may choose to enter vocational learning upon completion of the compulsory core learning programme, with a view to gaining employment, whilst others may nominate to continue with study which will form the basis for further academic or vocational learning.
The structure of the learning environment will follow these guidelines:
- Learning centres will be designed to cater for a maximum number of approximately two hundred and fifty students per site.
- In cities and large towns several learning centres will be located in proximity to each other to enable safe and economical movement between centres. Transport for students between centres may be provided.
- Students will have mobility across learning centres in order to access opportunities in specific learning areas.
- Learning for geographically isolated students, or for those for whom attendance at a learning centre is not practicable, will be provided via a specialist team of educators which will utilise any appropriate means to deliver learning experiences to students.
- Classroom teachers will be allocated on a maximum ratio of twenty students per teacher for the compulsory core learning programme. In other areas of study class sizes may vary from small to large groups to meet the needs of students.
- Additional support personnel will be provided to offer individual remediation and extension for students, and to assist students to undertake learning in areas of personal interest in both on and off campus locations.
- Each learning centre will be administered by a Centre Manager (Learning), a Centre Manager (Administration), a Student Welfare Officer, a Counsellor accessible for support to students and teachers, and sufficient teaching and ancillary staff to meet the particular requirements of each learning centre.
- The Centre Manager (Learning) will have excellent teaching skills and will have had extensive classroom teaching experience in addition to advanced training in educational theory and practice, and in personnel management. This person will be involved in the full range of student-centred activities, including the demonstration of effective teaching strategies, the mentoring of less-experienced teachers, the planning and implementation of teaching/learning programmes and ensuring support for students in need of specialist assistance. The principal responsibility of this person is to provide the highest quality learning opportunities and outcomes.
- The Centre Manager (Administration) will have had extensive classroom teaching experience in addition to advanced training in school financial management, resource, time and space management, the management of school-related legal matters, and in personnel management. This person will be responsible for financial management, resource management including within-school staff allocations, the establishment and maintenance of school procedures, the keeping of records and the provision of short and long term planning. The principal responsibility of this person is to provide the highest level of efficiency in delivering quality learning. This role involves no mandatory classroom teaching duties.
- The Student Welfare Officer will have had extensive classroom teaching experience in addition to advanced training in student behaviour management. The role may involve this officer in any aspect of student welfare whether the issues be school-related or arising out of school, and may include matters relating to the transition from school to further education or to the workplace. This officer should organise and chair a committee of volunteer teachers and suitable others to oversee the management of student welfare matters. This role involves no mandatory classroom teaching duties.
- The Counsellor will have qualifications in Psychology and be trained in the recognition of the particular issues which may affect students and teachers in the school environment. This role involves no mandatory classroom teaching duties.
A number of basic principles underpin this plan:
- All costs of schooling will be borne by governments at primary, secondary and tertiary levels. Equivalent learning opportunities will be provided for all students without discrimination on any basis, and may continue to be accessed only by students who accept responsibility for their learning. Whilst community groups may wish to support school managers, they will not provide benefits such as funding and other resources unless these are available to all schools. There will be no corporate sponsorship which is not available to all schools.
- Whilst Education will be considered both a right and a privilege, it will not be compulsory. With rights come attendant responsibilities. Those who wish to access opportunities for education, for themselves or others, must agree to accept those responsibilities. Failure by any participant to properly discharge these responsibilities will see the participant removed from the learning situation and may result in exclusion from the education process.
- Exclusion from a learning site will impact upon the student and upon the student’s care givers. In order to be eligible for any social security benefits, including child endowment, education support and unemployment benefits, a student must be involved in full-time learning, or have completed sufficient learning to be awarded the Certificate of Completion – Core Learning. There is no requirement that this certificate be earned during a set period of time and a student who has experienced exclusion may well return to learning at any age in order to satisfy the requirements for the awarding of the Certificate of Completion – Core Learning. No government funding will be provided to any person who is not actively involved in learning or who has not earned a Certificate of Completion – Core Learning.
- The responsibility for student welfare will reside with each student’s care-givers. Care-givers who have experienced the New Learning, either as students themselves or through post-school training, and have an understanding of the principles of New Learning, may readily accept and discharge this responsibility. When it becomes apparent that a student requires additional support, this responsibility will pass to the school’s Student Welfare Officer who will take action to support the student and the care-givers.
- It will be the responsibility of teachers to provide the most effective teaching possible. The responsibility for student behaviour will reside with each student and with the student’s care-givers. Whilst pastoral care is an essential component of effective teaching, it will not be the responsibility of classroom teachers to teach behaviour.
- Students whose behaviours in any learning situation negatively impact upon the welfare or learning opportunities of others will be denied access to that particular learning situation until appropriate replacement behaviours are chosen.
- When unacceptable behaviours are identified in a learning environment a student will be made aware of this, initially by a teacher who observes the behaviour, and if necessary in a conference with specialist behaviour managers within the school, usually the Student Welfare Officer and the Counsellor. At this point care-givers will be advised and they may elect to become involved in the behaviour management process. Care will be taken to reinforce the knowledge that it is the behaviour which is unacceptable and not the person using it.
- The inappropriate behaviour will be identified by name and a real-life instance of its use will be described. The student may or may not choose to accept that s/he has used this behaviour. Suitable replacement behaviours will be suggested and, if necessary taught as part of a programme devised and implemented by the student welfare committee. The student may or may not choose to use these replacement behaviours in the learning situation.
- If behaviours continue to be inappropriate for the setting, following a second conference with specialist behaviour managers within the school, a written advice to the student, and a copy for care-givers, will be provided. A further instance of unacceptable behaviour will result in a denial of access to that specific learning situation.
- Students will not be suspended from school. When a student’s behaviour continues to be inappropriate, despite his/her involvement in the behaviour management process, and precludes his/her involvement in a learning activity, the student will be denied access to that activity but will continue to access other learning activities.
- When denied access to learning situations, students will attend a supervised in-school location where they will undertake individual learning activities related to the denied activities, and which require minimal input from supervising staff. In a worst-case scenario a student may be denied access to all regular learning activities and so spend all learning time in the supervised individual learning location.
- A student denied access to a regular learning situation may apply for a behaviour management conference at any time after completing a minimum of two sessions in the alternative situation. If the specialist behaviour managers agree that desirable behavioural change is likely to occur when the student returns to a regular situation, a plan for the return will be designed by the behaviour managers and the student and his/her care-givers. At a time determined within the plan for return, the student’s response to the plan will be reviewed and full access to the usual learning process may or may not be granted.
- Should a student continue to use unacceptable behaviours, despite being given the opportunity to learn and use acceptable alternative behaviours, and if his/her behaviours continue to have a negative impact upon the welfare or learning opportunities for other students, a committee comprised of both Centre Managers, the members of the Student Welfare team and other suitable persons, will meet to decide whether the student may be excluded entirely from the learning site. Depending upon the decision, a plan for retention of the student within the learning environment, or a plan for his/her return to the learning environment following a period of exclusion, will be developed and implemented.
If you’re still with me after all of that you deserve a medal. Part Three is probably more of the same, but if you’re game it’ll conclude the whole rant. I’ll publish it in a week or so.