Subject Specific Misery

I’ve noticed that teacher’s lives are made more difficult by the way in which ‘the system’ works. It’s well known that there is a huge problem with excessive reform leaving teachers with an instable and chaotic working environment. Another example is the issue with exclusion – in order to keep exclusion figures down, students who deserve this sanction are often left in school, and teachers are then held solely accountable for their behaviour.
In addition to these whole school issues, there are some subject specific ones that I’ve had teachers complain to me about. These not only can make a difficult job impossible, but as they are subject specific, can often mean a member of SMT is unsympathetic towards them if it is outside their subject specialism, adding to the misery.

I start with my own subject, music.

Two tier Music
In order to study GCSE and A level music, you have to have achieved a certain level of performance ability. This is not taught in keystage 2 or 3 music, so that in order to be able to study for these qualifications, you need to have instrumental tuition outside of school. Those that don’t get the tuition, can’t progress to qualifications in this subject. 

There are schemes to counteract this, such as wider opportunities or schools subsidising lessons through a music service, but none of this is consistent across all schools. This effects the uptake of music beyond keystage 3, and can effect results where students have been accepted onto a course and have no instrumental tuition, both things that I’m sure you’re aware can land a teacher in serious trouble.

Drama and Dance in other subjects
I’ve worked in performing arts departments, and currently Drama is featured as a section within the national curriculum for English, and Dance appears in the PE document. Whereas you are unlikely to find a weekly lesson of Dance at keystage 3, Drama is regularly included as a separate lesson in a student’s timetable.

This causes two problems: firstly there is much less information for a teacher to plan their lessons with than if it was a standalone subject. This makes provision across different schools too varied, leaves teachers vulnerable to in house manipulation by SMT creating their own requirements, and gives new teachers less of an idea of what they should be doing. Secondly, it diminishes it’s importance in everybody’s eyes, to the point where students see it as an easy lesson.

Behind the times ICT
Everyone knows that the world of computing, by it’s very nature, moves fast and those working with IT need to constantly update their skills in order to remain current. The national curriculum and exam specifications don’t do this enough for this subject, which leaves student’s knowledge obsolete. There is also a distinct lack of coding, networking and ‘administrator’ activities and too much of a focus on ‘end user’ activities.

Irrelevant MFL
Most schools offer French, Spanish and maybe German as MFL options, with Welsh featuring across the border. Are these really the most relevant languages currently? It’s the equivalent of only allowing music students the choice of a few traditional, easy choice instruments. What about offering Mandarin, Hindi or Arabic to allow students to compete in the modern business world?

Maths is too abstract
All teenagers say that they don’t need half the stuff they learn in Maths, and we’re all familiar with attempts to make maths relevant by starting questions with, “Susie is on a train travelling at 40mph, and leaves the station at 11:20am...” But I don’t think this goes far enough, and I’m speaking as someone who loved discrete abstract maths and took it at A level. Students are crying out for education in personal finances, business accounts and economics as well as discrete study that supports scientific subjects.

RE too variable
RE lessons have no National Curriculum, only non statutory guidance.  Non-denominational schools have their curriculum set by the local education authority, through the advice of a local SACRE and ASC groups, who produce an agreed syllabus. Denominational schools take their advice from their own denomination.

Are there any other subject issues that you’d like to add? Do you agree with what I’ve written, or have I got your subject all wrong? Please comment below with your thoughts.


Post a Comment