Dear Damian Hinds: tree climbing, lifesaving classes … why this policy flurry?

A phrase I learned some years ago working in schools is “busy-work” – work that keeps children busy but has little value in itself, as the dictionary puts it. It first cropped up in an education report in South Carolina in 1886. Writer and broadcaster, Michael Rosen writes in the The Guardian.

This old tradition has taken a hold on you and your department. Since late November, you’ve been issuing policy statements at least once a week covering tree-climbingplastic wastelifesaving, your “year-long battle” to reduce teachers’ workload, when teachers shouldn’t send emails, and the old standby: a call to local authority schools to become academies.

Lifesaving classes caught my eye. I’ve noticed that for the younger ones, school swimming lessons have become much less frequent. I guessed schools had to cut back: there’s the long run-up to Sats to manage and the budget cuts to cope with. But you’ve found a solution to the problem of children who are unable to swim falling into the water and getting into difficulty: teach them lifesaving. 

It’s an excellent idea, but I am a little concerned that some of the children who might be called on to do the lifesaving won’t know how to swim – which will leave the problem of how the lifesavers are going to get across the water to the child in difficulty. I guess that’s a detail one of the nice young people at the ministry will sort out later.

Your enthusiasm for climbing trees came in a package of activities that included: sleeping under canvas, exploring a cave, learning to knit and starting a vegetable patch. “Bluntly, it is about doing stuff that doesn’t involve looking at a screen. It’s about getting out and about,” you said. Given that schools are finding it difficult to find the time to get “out and about” to the local swimming pool, I’m struggling to see how they’re going to go caving and grow onions. And won’t learning to knit (a skill) cut into the time needed to deliver the knowledge-rich curriculum?

Read the full article Dear Damian Hinds: tree climbing, lifesaving classes … why this policy flurry?

Please tell us your thoughts in comments or via Twitter ~ Tamsin


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