Tag Archives: Education

Oxbridge woes for Welsh Students

In the ‘BBC NEWS’ this week end there was an article about students from Wales failing to get into the two oldest universities in the English speaking world. I will now say from the outset that I am not employed in any way in the educational world. I do have a daughter half way through the GCSE two year course. In the past year there has been instances that have come to mind to maybe explain this phenomenon. And I am not blaming the teachers but the WGEC, Our students are no longer taught to understand a subject but to pass the exam. My daughters head of English offered the top set a quick course in Shakespeare, not to learn the bards prose or to study his works with loving caress, but to answer the questions that will come up in the exam.


Of course four hours a week are set aside to learn Welsh, which every GCSE student has to study. And then there is the Welsh Baccalaureate , another four hours in which we still have no idea what is being taught, it has become the lesson to do homework. The teachers in local schools will happily talk about the overloaded work schedule they have and how they are pushed by the management of the schools to ensure that their students PASS the exams. It is now I believe, that a score of 37% in mathematics will gain you a C grade. 


Our children are being let down by the welsh Government in its drive to tick boxes in a check list that only they care about. We have a banding system a total of 5 bands. But here is the clincher there are only a set number of places in each band. So if every school scores exactly the same we still have a top school and a bottom placed school. If the catchment area is from a poorer area and a greater percentage of students are eligible for free school dinners, then don’t even bother looking at the top band, never mind about the quality of teaching, learning or understanding. Back to my main point. The Welsh Government in it ceaseless aim to be different from English Government seems to be doing so at the detriment of our children. 


So are these OxBridge hubs going to achieve what they are being set out to do? Only time will tell but Oxford and Cambridge are the best universities in the World and will only take the best students in the world. Why should they be forced to take substandard students because of pressure from less than 5% of the UK population is shouting ‘me too’. 


Bite sized Life!

My oldest daughter has a friend over the other day, who mentioned that she did not like reading. I would have been surprised but only a few days before I read that National Literacy Trust released info that 17% of children and teenagers would admit to be embarrassed if found reading.

As an avid reader a husband to an avid reader and thankfully a father to four children who enjoy reading. This study I actually find to be very sad. A little delving and I started to understand her statement. It wasn’t that she didn’t read or that she was embarrassed to read it was just that she found that concentrating long enough and holding the information in her head about different characters was difficult.

Now I am sure that if we threw Shakespeare at any fourteen year old, they would balk at the weight of the book let alone at the words used between the covers. But we do have thousands of children who are now in their mid teens, who have never had to concentrate on anything for longer than thirty minutes.

As very small children we teach them to read by giving them a book with ten maybe fifteen words on a page explaining the whole story. (I am not knocking this it is the best way to learn to read). The problem is everything is now aimed a the most base level of understanding. Television programmes are interrupted four maybe five times an hour for advertising. The story is stopped people can think over the last ten minutes of viewing and digest it then continue on with the next ten minutes. You can watch the first two minutes of the ‘Ten o’clock news’ get the bulletin and then walk out of the room with just enough info to ensure the world isn’t going to end before Saturday.

Even the scourge of this decade ‘Social Media’ everything is delivered instantly and quickly as possible. I am not going to go on for ages about our language becoming despoiled as I believe that language itself is a living thing and adapts to its time. Don’t forget it wasn’t that long ago we used ‘fall’ instead of ‘autumn’ even our most common word ‘the’ is relatively new to our language.

Back on track sorry. Instant gratification is almost now seen as a human right. We want everything now! Instant food has become the norm rather than a once a month treat. Credit, and not just money but everything tangible, clothes, tech, even cars.

We can wake up in the morning with nothing and by the time we go to bed we can have a wardrobe full of clothes, enough tech to fly to the moon and back a very nice car on the drive outside and a holiday booked to South of France. But none of it is paid for.

Or instant life has set our culture on a downward spiral. There are a few that try to buck the trend, cooking everything from scratch, making their own clothes. This should be the way forward but it is always going to be a struggle as our whole country is against it. The economy isn’t made for slow cook lamb. It is cheaper to but a pair of jeans, made for almost slave labour in a far flung country, have it driven to the port, put on a container ship, sailed from the other side of the world to Rotterdam, driven through three countries put on another ship driven to a depot then delivered to a store where they then sell them for £14.99 and still make a profit. If you try buying enough denim to make a pair of jeans it will cost you. at £7.85 per metre. nearly £40.  Also no school teaches enough of the original sowing, or for that matter cooking skills.

What does this have to do with not enjoying reading I hear you say! Well it’s just that our culture doesn’t encourage anybody to think for them selves anymore. Having to work out a problem in your head is not something even children have to do. When I was a child back in the 70’s and 80’s I played out side (on a small holding) we used sticks as guns, or swords two sticks became ski poles. When it snowed we used plastic coal bags as sledges. A piece of string had a thousand of imaginative uses. If you look through a toy magazine there is a toy for every conceivable situation.

The imagination has been taken out of our children’s well childhood. So when they come to read a book, their imagination just can’t keep up. They can’t imagine a world behind a wardrobe, or rafting down the Mississippi river. The one exception to our Children’s world is about a boy who escapes our world and is included into an imaginative magical one. Kudos to J K Rowling. Let’s not forget that the 12 year old who read that first book is in their late twenties now.

I encourage my children to read but even more importantly I encourage them to write.