EU referendum, brexit and the aftermath

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  • There's still this legal challenge going on about Johnson's referendum bollocks ...­9/may/14/boris-johnson-could-be-challeng­ed-in-court-on-brexit-vote-claim

    ... just as Johnson declares that he would go for 'no deal' (which he actually wouldn't be able to do without involving Parliament) if there was no deal by, erm, Hallowe'en:­9/may/24/boris-johnson-favourite-as-uk-t­o-have-new-pm-by-end-of-july

    I do sometimes think that the EU leaders troll by means of such things as setting the prospective departure date for Hallowe'en.

  • It wasn’t Brexit that broke Theresa May. I hope you’re happy with yourself.

    Sorry everyone - I know she was popular round these parts. I will atone for this someday, somehow.

  • Again on the subject of language teaching we touched on a while ago, here are two more articles on language exams.­19/may/11/modern-language-teaching-under­-threat-from-tough-exams

    There is so much nonsense in attitudes to teaching languages, you hardly know where to start.

    Part of the reason for these declines is both the difficulty of languages compared with other subjects

    Languages are no more nor any less difficult than other subjects. How difficult they are depends entirely on the quality of the teaching and the ability of the person being taught. Surprisingly, both vary. Obviously, neither factor is greatly helped by back-loading stress-inducing exams without much continuous assessment, prompting quickly-forgotten cramming and misperception of the point of language learning, but languages are not any more difficult than anything else.

    and what many experts believe is harsh marking.

    This is, of course, not an aspect of the languages being 'examined'. There is still the much bigger issue that you don't want some exam to 'test' some very small part of what has been meant to be learnt. We need much more questioning of this as an 'assessment method' (and not just for languages, it can be just as bad in completely different subjects).

    This means that at GCSE, languages have typically been marked half a grade more severely than other Ebacc subjects. And the introduction of new GCSEs has made the problem worse.

    I don't even understand how anyone could measure this. The exams must be exceptionally geared towards regurgitation by rote to even enable such a comparison.

    As a result, languages at GCSE are increasingly becoming elite subjects, said Suzanne Graham, a professor of language and education at Reading University. “GCSE modern foreign language entries tend to be highest in independent, selective schools and converter academies, and lowest in schools in more challenging economic circumstances and those with lower levels of attainment overall,” she said. “Low uptake of languages is especially acute among those from more economically disadvantaged backgrounds or those with special educational needs.”

    This is something that I have observed very often since I've lived here, albeit anecdotally, of course. It's hard to ascribe to those behind this aspect of the education system any intention towards making languages a privilege of more moneyed pupils, but it may at the very least be a logical outcome of the manifestation of such attitudes towards languages. This is, of course, a particular problem for linguistically-talented pupils from less moneyed backgrounds, who thereby don't get to develop a key strength, whereas language-related jobs, perhaps even language teaching, end up getting done by less qualified people.

    A Department for Education spokesperson said: “Giving more young people the chance to learn foreign languages helps broaden their horizons and will ensure this country remains an outward-looking, global nation. That is why we made the teaching of a modern or ancient foreign language compulsory in the national curriculum for primary schools in 2014 and why we have included languages within the English baccalaureate performance measure.

    This is very interesting. I'm not against making a language compulsory, even considering the perception that it may be imposed, as language teaching is as important as other compulsory subjects, but it is nonsense to give a choice between an ancient and modern language (which this quote seems to suggest, and I'm too lazy right now to look up what the case actually is). I think in an ideal world every pupil would have instruction in at least one modern/living and one ancient language (learning these actually involves very difficult skills, as an ancient/'dead' language can't be learnt by listening), but I think it is much better to also offer the option of learning two living languages, i.e. making two languages compulsory, with the minimum of one being modern.

    I haven't looked into, and don't understand, the finer points of the 'English Baccalaureate'.

    The other article is mostly figures:­19/may/11/language-exams-how-hard-are-th­ey-and-is-there-a-crisis

    Pupils typically know about 1,000 of the most common words when they take their GCSE. But word lists published by exam boards suggest that relatively uncommon vocabulary is often used in reading and listening comprehension exams.

    This is an appallingly unambitious outcome at GCSE level. Truly shocking. 1,000 words don't get you anywhere close to speaking any language well, not even English, whose native speakers are sometimes said to use comparatively few words in any given day. (I've never believed that.)

    I wouldn't put a figure to the number of words that ought to have been learned by that stage, but 1,000 is definitely not nearly enough.

    Are there socio-economic differences?
    Yes. In the relatively prosperous area of Kensington and Chelsea, west London, 71% of learners took a GCSE in 2016-17; in Middlesbrough the figure was 29%. While three-quarters of selective school pupils took a modern language GCSE, in sponsored academies it was only 38%.

    I suspect that a key factor influencing this is the much more cosmopolitan nature of London, but I'm sure other figures could be given for affluent areas outside London.

    What is the government doing about it?
    The government announced a new centre of excellence at York University to work with schools to help more young people learn foreign languages, and the designation of nine schools in England as language hubs, to improve the teaching of Spanish, French and German. It included language GCSEs in the English baccalaureate, created in 2010. And learning a modern or ancient language has been compulsory in primary schools since 2014.

    I really don't understand the concept of 'language hubs' in the context of schools--are they all boarding schools or would families interested in sending their children there all have to move and change jobs to be nearer them?

    Is there a modern languages crisis?
    The number of pupils taking GCSEs in a foreign language has nearly halved since 2003: in 2002 76% of pupils took a GCSE language, now just 46% do. A major factor in this slump was the decision by the then Labour government in 2004 to make language optional at GCSEs. At A-level, this trend has been exacerbated by the move away from AS-levels, as significant numbers of pupils chose a language as their fourth option at AS-level.

    These seem to be the most significant factors in recent history.

    What impact is Brexit having?
    Just over a third (34%) of state secondary schools report that leaving the EU is having a negative impact on attitudes of pupils and parents towards the benefits of learning a language, according to the British Council’s annual language trends survey of 692 primary schools and 785 secondary schools in England. But Brexit will make the UK economy’s need for languages greater, according to the CBI.

    Well, there is little doubt in my mind that the comparative lack of language skills (I mean lasting, applicable skills, as opposed to the teaching that mostly seems to get measured) is a significant cause of 'Brexit'. Shutting the stable door, etc. (and snottyotter is going to suspect me of doing something clever again)

    How important are language skills to the UK economy?
    According to the CBI, foreign language skills, cultural awareness and understanding global business is vital to the UK’s economy and competitiveness internationally. But lack of these skills is estimated to cost the UK economy 3.5% of GDP.

    I've always found this tendency to constantly assess educational policy against its impact on the 'economy' extremely annoying, whether it concerns languages or any other subject. Good education is a human right and essential for human flourising. Everything else will sort itself out as a consequence of that.

  • The 'English Baccalaureate' is a resource-wasting legacy of Gove's reign at the Department of Education. The French Baccalaureate is an acknowledged system of giving 18 year olds a rounded education. The International Baccalaureate allows the offspring of location jumping international executives to gain a seamless education that will allow (if so chosen) university applications.
    Gove's tawdry English Baccalaureate is an envelope for 16+ exams.
    it is simply a combination of (sensible) subjects that would normally be pursued by the Alpha stream in any Secondary school, (from memory, Eng Language, Eng Literature, Mathematics, the three Sciences, Religious Education, then four options, History, Geography, and a language, with the preposterous reintroduction of Latin over modern European languages and IT),
    with, of course no additional funding, and
    the added twist that all Secondary Schools are now measured by how many of their pupils gain the 'EB', (as I guess no-one calls it).
    At mespilus jr's Secondary School, 2 classes of 30 for Triple Science soon dwindled to one class of 31, as pupils were unable to cope with the workload which included a compulsory extra hour of tuition each week, for Science, Spanish, Mathematics and IT.
    This meant those 29 pupils would not qualify for the EB.
    Latin crept in as the newly self-academised school was a beneficiary of the outreach program from Harrow School.

  • When mespilus jr was applying for a Secondary school place,
    his preferred school offered only GCSE French and Spanish, 'No demand for German'.

  • I don't think it's voters in Islington who Labour need to worry about most when it comes to the fallout from Brexit.

  • I wouldn't be at all surprised. They're probably looking to have done better in Camden.

    Personally I voted Lib Dem in part because they appeared to put a lot more effort in . They were the only ones I saw door knocking for instance.

  • It will be interesting to learn about the final scale of the #deniedmyvote issue (once someone has come up with some reasonable figures).

    I don't know why this is a shock. The referendum was a shit show for non-residents of the UK. It took me the best part of 5 hours on the phone to get the guy at the council to pull his finger out of his arse and find my records. The council where I previously lived in the UK switched from paper to computer 2 years before the event and unless you were locally resident and had signed the forms (not possible for overseas voters obviously), you weren't in the computer.

    Guy I spoke to who used my proxy vote (too late for postal by the time it got sorted) said that in the 3 areas he was doing proxy votes, it was all the same more or less. Not surprised that the government is woefully unprepared (almost suspiciously so) for the European elections.

  • That’s interesting. Quite a painful process. Right or wrongly I have a modicum of sympathy for the council staff. Some years ago I was involved in a London local authority election, and worked closely with the Head of Democratic Services running it. They all seemed to work very hard, and (mostly) cared about what they were doing, some passionately so. However years of under-funding, a prevailing low morale (as a consequence of the endless cuts, as well as the current political environment), combined with an unrealistically compressed timetable, and perhaps some dubious behaviour, have clearly resulted in a bit of a shit show (as you say).

  • Here’s an unusual interpretation of May’s leaving speech­/1132010240944353281?s=21

  • Re the Gove English BAC.
    That's pretty much the curriculum one would have taken as an O level student at a Grammar or Public School in the 70s. I served time in both.
    Though we did have an arts/ science split at 14, what we called the 4th form and the Scientists did one less " arts" subject and the Arts form did one less " science " subject. But very few of us could have coped with the EB.

  • And we could do French, German and I think Russian. I suspect Russian was available as we had a teacher who must have learnt it by being on the Combined Services Language course during his national service.

  • This means that at GCSE, languages have typically been marked half a grade more severely than other Ebacc subjects. And the introduction of new GCSEs has made the problem worse.

    I don't even understand how anyone could measure this.

    I often despair when politicians, media and some academics discuss education and exam grades in this country. If the people in charge speak so much gobbledegook what chance do the children have?

  • This research contains some interesting info on the views and values of those who will be choosing our next Prime Minister (i.e. the Conservative party members).


    Incidentally, contrary to popular belief, their average age is apparently 57. (That's their mean age, while admittedly the mode is the 65-74 range.)

    And a related article which draws out some key points.­0045821759488?s=20

  • The Secondary school I attended switched from Grammar to Comprehensive as I entered the 6th Form, but fortunately it retained its 'A'-level teaching staff.
    When I joined in '71, French was compulsory, and a 2nd Foreign language could be chosen from Spanish, German, Latin, and Russian! I chose Russian as the 'Language Trip' meant the 11 of us were in Red Square in '73!
    The only local Secondary school offering a full choice of languages, was until a (new overflow school opened), a 16-form entry!

  • Yes, it struck me that Gove just wanted to recreate his own (Grammar?) school days.
    I also experienced the same Arts/Science split going into the 4th Year.
    The EB is not as daunting as it looks.
    Unless you attend a Cof E school you can knock Religious Education off the timetable in the first term of the 5th year, (in our nomenclature).
    The biggest change is the opportunity to study both History & Geography. Both could not be timetabled back in the '70s, if you were taking all three Sciences.

  • I think the second link may be wrong? It appears to be a tweet from someone who Stans Obama

  • My experience exactly. You couldn't do 3 sciences and History/Geography.

    Was your Russian teacher a possible ex national service man or a CP member?

  • She was a mature woman, who conceivably could have been a '50s Cambridge University CP member. I'm guessing she organised a school trip each year to Moscow, as we all got our visas without a problem.

  • Russian visas no problem, you say...

  • This video is good although I don’t quite see how Labour get from the position it articulates to (tacitly) supporting Brexit­32266545470689281?s=21

    (Unless Labour Voices are not linked to the leadership)

  • I think in those days the local CP used to do outreach work for Intourist.

    We may need to explain this to our younger readers.

  • And we are having the wrong debate our education system. We obsess about A-levels and Oxbridge and pay next to no attention to FE or vocational training.

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EU referendum, brexit and the aftermath

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