Posted in challenges, Life, Miscellaneous, Opinion Posts

Mass Observation Project – Summer 2012 Directive

Education vs Experience
Education vs Experience (Photo credit: gtalan)

Wow, Summer 2012 seems like so long ago now, but I have finally written my response to the first part of the directive. Like all my other writing this took a back seat while I focussed on my recovery from BPD and finding a job, but as it is now done and I thought it was really interesting I thought it would be nice to share with you, I hope you enjoy it and why not share your own experiences in the comments below!? 🙂

So I present to you Massobs Summer Directive Part 1 –

Schools, teachers and pupils

Please start by listing the schools and colleges you attended up until the age of 18. You don’t have to provide the full names of the places but it would be useful if you could indicate what kind of institution they were. If you were educated at home or did not attend formal education please give details.

Burtons Farm Infant School
Princethorpe Infant and Junior School
Hillcrest Secondary Girls School
Shenley Court Comprehensive Secondary School

Are you, or have you ever been, employed in education (in any capacity)? What sort of job do/did you do? What is/was it like?

I haven’t,  although I did volunteer in my children’s infant school helping out in reception and year 1 classes for a while, mainly just sitting reading with the children and providing general help around the classroom for the teachers. I have done my PTTLS (Preparing to teach in the lifelong learning sector) qualification and am considering completing the DTTLS (Diploma) to enable me to teach in colleges as I would like to teach adults, but would not like to teach younger children.

Your perceptions of teachers

What are the first five words which come to mind when you think of a teacher?


What do you remember about your own teachers? Can you describe your favourite teacher? Can you describe your worst?

I remember teachers always seemed to be really old to me and I looked up to them as holders of knowledge, inspirational although I didn’t want to be like them as I couldn’t stand the idea of having to control 30 children for 5 days a week. My favourite teacher was Mr Fisher, he was class teacher for my year 4 (what would now be year 6), final year of junior school. I loved his classroom it was the biggest in the school and he had jars full of animal skulls and other interesting things on shelves by the door, whilst in his class we were the first in the school to get a computer in our classroom because he was interested in moving forward with the times. The worst teacher I remember was Mr Jordan he smelled bad and was always just rude and not nice to us kids, I wondered why someone who clearly didn’t like children would chose to teach as a job.

What kind of people do you think choose to become teachers? Why do you think they teach?

I think people who become teachers are keen to share knowledge with others, especially children and must want to work with helping children learn and develop into well-rounded adults (even though the reality is not necessarily as good as the ideal).

Images of teachers

Can you think of any examples of representations of teachers in books, films, or television? Please give details and say whether you think these images are positive or negative.

I think there is quite a mix in the way teachers are portrayed in books, films and television there are some positive representations but on the whole I think negative representations outweigh the positives. When I was younger I watched Grange Hill and you had everything from the bullying PE teacher to the meek, bookish English teacher, I think the roles were very stereotyped back then. Now you have programmes like Waterloo road where so many of the teachers fit newer stereotypes – the older teachers are grumpy and hate the children they teach but there are far more younger teachers in television today who have the same faults and stereotypes you see in other current media, drug problems, teachers sleeping with pupils, cheating husbands it’s all so much more about shock and drama so I wouldn’t consider the representations to be very positive in most instances and the same sort of portrayals are evident in books and films.

What about how teachers are represented in the news? Are teachers and the issues relating to their profession represented adequately?

I don’t think teachers are fairly represented in the news, mainly the only times you ever really hear anything about the teaching profession is when there is either a major incident involving a school or teachers are going on strike over pay conditions, or schools are being highlighted for failing government standards such as ‘Ofstead’ inspections or poor exam results. The day to day representation of the profession is unfair and inadequate in showing the pressures educators have to deal with – everyone gets the impression that they work 5 days, 9am till 4pm and have lots of holidays but the reality is that they spend many hours outside the times in class writing lesson plans, marking work and other preparations for classes or running before/after school activities on top of their normal working hours, and they cannot take holidays or have time off at other times outside the scheduled school holidays so they miss out on a lot of what the rest of us can take advantage of such as term-time cheap deals for vacations.

How do you think the public image of teaching has changed over the years? Is it better or worse? What do you think has influenced these changes?

I don’t think the public image of teaching has changed much since I was young, it was and still is represented as the old joke “Those that can do, those that can’t teach” and despite televisions adverts trying to inspire people to consider a career in teaching the lack of positive images of the profession beyond these advertisements discourages people from entering the profession. I think the media in general has a lot to do with the influence of the image of teaching, and peoples own school experiences also influence how they view the profession.

School pupils

What do you think school is like for children and young people today? How different do you think these are compared to your own experiences?

I think that there is a lot more pressure on young people from a younger age now with regard to examinations, SAT’s tests and schools being required to meet targets. Other than that in general I think school hasn’t changed much looking at what my children have experienced, bullying is still commonplace and teachers are still a mixture of people who actually like kids and want to inspire and educate them and those who you wonder why they became teachers cause they seem to hate children. I think playtime isn’t as much fun as it was when I was little because health and safety over obsession restricts the freedom to gain bumps and bruises from fun rough and tumble play. Computers also seem to have a major impact and are probably ‘dumbing down’ a lot of kids as they can just Google anything now and get the answers they need where as we used to actually have to go to a library, find a book and read about things to learn and find answers for assignments. Actually another thing I recall my daughter doing her GCSE’s and on her coursework she and her class mates were practically told what to write to get a higher grade so that the school would achieve its targets – that kind of thing would never have happened when I was at school, it had to be all our own work.

What kind of education should children experience? What should they be taught? How should they be taught? Who decides? Who should decide?

I think children need a wider experience in their education that doesn’t just include academic, bookish importance, not everyone learns well that way, and there should be more hands on work. They should be taught a range of life skills in addition to the national curriculum, financial education should be more important for running a home, avoiding bad debt and having a secure future; along with skills such as basic DIY. They should be taught using a variety of methods that don’t just rely so heavily on technology and computers as it seems is becoming the norm now, like I said hands on stuff, vocational training needs to become more important again. Over all the government still decides what is taught in schools at the moment with the ‘National Curriculum’ specifying what must be covered, but I think it should be a more localised decision in the hands of the individual schools based on local need and pupil abilities.

Are there any subjects/topics that you consider to be vital to a child’s education? Or is there anything currently taught in schools that you consider to be ‘old fashioned’ or unnecessary? Is there anything that you weren’t taught at school but wish you were?

I think foreign languages should have higher priority and be taught from a much younger age, as well as a wider selection of languages being available, Globalisation is increasing all the time and not being able to speak a second language is holding back UK children in comparison with their European counterparts. As I said above financial education bills, pensions, debt, mortgages are all things that need to be covered far more as global debt and poverty are on the increase and people are not educated in managing their money well enough to survive, they just spend beyond their means with no consideration of their own futures. Citizenship, which has been introduced as a subject in recent years I thing should also take a higher priority teaching young people about the society in which they live, the laws and governance of the land and politics these things are important in shaping the future of our country and it’s place in the world. Unless they can make them more relevant to the modern world I think geography, history and religious education are unnecessary and should be optional subjects, if they are still taught in the same formats as when I was at school (which they seemed to be when looking at what my children were learning) they have no real use in modern society – religious education needs an over haul so you actually learn about religion in a useful way, the same applies to geography and history; all three are important subjects in their own way but the application has been wrong for some time.  I wish I had been taught citizenship and financial education along with more practical things for running a home, basically all the things I have said I think should be taught now!

Assessment and qualifications

What do you think about assessment (exams, coursework, qualifications etc) in schools? Are school pupils over assessed? Or perhaps they are not assessed enough?

I think there are a lot more problems with examinations now than there used to be, the pressure for schools to meet certain targets in results and league tables is putting extra pressures on pupils as well. I think regular assessments are important to check a child’s progress and get them help and support in areas they are struggling if they need it, but I don’t know how they can continue to do this and fulfil the targets whilst reducing the pressure it causes, there needs to be a better balance. I think end of course/year exams are less useful than ongoing continuous assessment in showing how well or not a pupil is achieving.

Do you think examinations are harder or easier? What impact do you think examinations have upon pupils? Do you think this is similar or different to your own experiences?

I don’t think examinations, in particular GCSE’s which there has been a lot of fuss about in the past few years, are easier than they were when I was at school but I do feel that ongoing assessment rather than traditional end of year exams may be a better approach, even now when I am studying I prefer courses that give me lot’s of assignments that are assessed throughout the course than courses with a big exam at the end because I struggle under the pressure of only having that 1-3 hours of the exam to be able to demonstrate my knowledge fairly, as result my marks in such exams are 10-20% less than what I get in ongoing assessments and can bring my overall achievement score down by a whole grade, I’m sure the same applies to many students!

Schools in your area

What types of schools are near you? Who runs them? Are they selective or comprehensive? Are they an academy? Independent? Are the physical buildings in good shape or in poor condition?

I don’t know a lot about most of the schools where I live as my own children are now in college and I don’t feel the need to keep in touch with what schools are good/bad like I did when my children were younger. I have noticed in local newspapers that the majority of high schools in the area are now academies, which I believe means they are no longer run by the local authorities and can be more selective in accepting pupils. Other than that I think all other schools in the area are comprehensive, local authority run, I don’t think there are any independent schools. While I don’t think it has an impact on the education provided there does seems to be an abundance of Catholic schools in the area, but I think they are not like the Catholic schools where I used to live ( i.e. you don’t have to be catholic to attend them here). From what I have seen driving around the area the school buildings are not as old as those where I used to live and appear to be in a fair state of repair, but I suspect that they could probably do with being fixed up or replaced in the near future as most schools across the country have been standing for very long times and are nearing the end of their useful lives…

Have you ever had to make a decision about where to send a child to school? What factors influenced your decision? Were you/are you happy with your decision? What advice would you give to adult/carer when they are making a decision about where to send a child to school?

I had to decide which schools to send my children to when they were younger, for primary education location was the key factor for me, I wasn’t interested in league tables, a school that was close so the children could make friends locally was more important. But, when it came to secondary schools I was more interested in avoiding what I considered to be the key failings of my own secondary education; I didn’t want my children to go to single-sex schools, feeling it was important they learn to be ‘friends’ with the opposite sex throughout their schooling; I also didn’t want me children to go to a massive school, there were 10 classes per year group in my secondary school, far too many pupils to get lost in, I felt a smaller school would provide a closer relationship between pupils and tutors who would be less likely to forget your name because of the sheer volume of kids passing through their doors each day. Location was less important, but I still didn’t want my kids to have to travel too far for school as it would mean that they would not get to see their friends much outside of school. I was happy with my decisions when it came to my daughters education but with my son additional factors came into play, he had special educational needs that needed to be catered for, overall due to the lack of suitable schooling for children with autism I felt that his education was a letdown, I did the best I could with the available options but the options were poor and I don’t think he really got the help and education he needed. If I were advising another adult/carer I would just say that they should base their decision on what would best suit their child, and as each child is individual and different this means there is no advice that will fit everyone, you really do have to take your time to look at all the options available and make the most informed decision you can given the options available to you and your child.


What was your experience of school and teachers?

Do you have any strong memories of school life?

What subjects would you have liked to learn at school that you didn’t?



Self-published author whose first book Coffee Break Companion, a collection of short stories and poems is now available on Amazon. S.L.Grigg lives in Bromsgrove with her family. Working in the NHS and enjoying reading, Pilates and travel, amongst other things when she isn't too busy writing.

6 thoughts on “Mass Observation Project – Summer 2012 Directive

  1. People have always been lazy. Obesity is a first world problem that sits hand in hand with laziness. If you want an excuse not to do something, just ask a person who’s obese (obesity is super-fat, then there’s super-obese – actual term!)

    There will never be a knight in shining armour when it comes to your care / education. Free education and free health care are what people have come to rely or maybe depend on. The only people who can make a difference are people who are prepared to do something. Talk is cheap. Action is worth its weight in gold.

    There is no open source alternative to Word or Excel. I know there’s open office, but it’s not even a shadow of MS Office. But of course, it’s a lot easier for teachers to learn to use than in-depth programming, thus, so it is.

    As for your daughter dropping out of ICT, I assume this was at New College? From the level of teaching I’ve personally seen there, I’d be surprised anyone passes anything except health and beauty classes. In a recent finance report some 94000 pupils “passed” such a course in England + Wales, with only 24000 new jobs available in the sector. 215000 plumbers were needed last year, but only 122000 were taught. It’s a lot easier to get people on popular courses rather than taxing courses. Alas as far as I know, the college will still be paid the same per pupil. College is a business. The only purpose of businesses is to make money.

    If your daughter *really* wants to learn ICT and is motivated, she’d be better getting as many programming books out the library (or using the internet) and teaching herself. I’d kill to have the technology that’s available to young people today when I was their age. An Android phone can be programmed in Java and has advanced graphics, GPS, touch inputs, movement sensors, cameras etc. Anything from image recognition to gaming is possible. Apple IPhones are a little more closed source and thus harder to develop for, but still possible. There are new people learning daily and even forums which help teach them!

    As for ICT DIp. level 3? No loss, but if she wants to anyway I did some research a while back and saw a dip3 ICT book in the town library which actually looked concise and would be a good read for general ICT knowledge regardless. Learning about processors and taking them apart etc was popular 8-12 years ago when it was cheaper to buy computer parts and build your own system. Now with companies like Dell, Sony etc buying in bulk they can buy cheaper than you ever could. Even with their profit added, it’s still cheaper and not worth the hassle. However, learning about processors, stacks etc are useful if you want to program but that stuff can be learnt in 20 mins with the right information.


    1. Laziness is endemic now, along with obesity! :/

      I agree wholeheartedly, I take education seriously and spend a fortune each year continuing my own, n such thing as free eduction for me any more!

      I have to agree open office isn’t as good as MS Office, but we should at least educate people in alternatives to encourage future developments and competition in the market place. Allowing Microsoft to dominate the world market isn’t healthy…

      At the time we lived in Birmingham and my daughter was attending Halesowen College for her Dip ICT but I know what you mean about the courses and education. She is now studying Childcare at New College and thankfully doing well, planning to go to Uni when she finishes her current course (touch wood!) I think her experience with the ICT course before put her off completely, but maybe some of what you suggest should be promoted to young people as things to look at ‘before’ taking the leap from school ICT to ‘proper’ ICT studies, then they will be better prepared for what they will be expected to know and do! 🙂


  2. As a former school teacher, this has been very interesting to read! Especially your perceptions of teachers! I’ve left education because I became very disheartened by the curriculum – the adults not the kids – and I have no qualms about believing the curriculum is not about educating children but achieving a national standard so our country can be compared to others.

    You write your daughter and friends “were practically told what to write to get a higher grade so that the school would achieve its targets” and this is so common across a range of subjects. How is this going to help your daughter? Does it inspire her, allow her to grow and study? Not in the slightest, but hey, it makes our country achieve better-than-America results in the numbers tables and our country can be Great once again!

    From seeing education on both sides I know other people within the system recognise there are problems, but change brings about hard work, and change is nigh impossible what with all the paperwork and redtape within the school system.

    A fine point is the ICT curriculum (my subject), children are taught to death how to make a powerpoint presentation, how to make stuff they type in word look pretty, and some simple – now almost outdated – vocabulary for computers. In the quick world of computing, but the time a change can be made, the technology is outdated. Combined with the lack of (even basic) subject knowledge exhibited from many ICT teachers (I once taught a large group of ICT teachers from the county) is shocking.

    As a teacher, I “worked” 8.45 to 3.30 extended to 4.30 with meetings maybe 3 days a week, but in reality I was lesson planning until at least 8pm every day (often until 10pm) in addition to marking / lesson planning at least one whole day during the weekend. The notion that teaching well is an easy job is absurd. I always joked that the teaching part was the easiest part!

    I never really had an issue with behaviour, but one stressful aspect is the lack of respect from a few pupils – which strangely is also found in the parents when you meet them. (I taught secondary). From birth, children mostly experience a society where ill behaviour has no formal retribution; if the correct moral values aren’t instilled by parents then where should they come from?

    This is probably why some of the older teachers become cynical and quick tempered; worn down by the stress and pains of teaching. It’s sad, but it pays their bills and they are so invested in it, they probably couldn’t switch careers. Teachers certainly don’t teach for the money!

    Post 16 education is a business with the children going in being customers with the govt paying. No promises that the education has to be useful. I think it’s sickening that they’re offered courses which are of no use whatsoever..

    But teaching is a partnership with parents and parents shouldn’t / can’t expect teachers to teach everything and then whine because their child doesn’t know x, y and z. [b]Parents are ultimately responsible for the teaching of their children and have to be prepared to invest the time to teach them[/b]. It’s a common feeling of teachers that they would like to do more, but they can’t.


    1. Glad you found it interesting, I enjoyed writing it as it bought back lots of memories and made me think about some things that I would not otherwise have thought about. Indeed I was furious at the idea of my daughter not doing the work herself, we won’t be a Great country again with these methods of educating future generations instead we will become a nation of fake, uneducated, fat slobs – ohh wait, we’re almost there already… is it too late to correct this problem? For the current generations who have left school in the last 15-20 years I fear it is, hopefully things will change (are? changing??) soon enough that the ones after them will be okay, but they will have one hell of a mess to clear up after national debt will be astronomical (its bad enough now & getting worse) as no-one will be able to add 2+2 to get 4 never mind anything more complicated… but I’m off on a rant here, so back to topic…

      I agree when I saw what my daughter was being taught as ICT in school I stated categorically that the use of Microsoft office applications was not what I would call ICT, not even considering the issues of the value of open source software as an alternative, but I felt she was being ill-prepared for her intended college ICT Level 3 Diploma in ICT and I was correct, she did not know the basics of how a computer works, fixing basic problems and very soon dropped out of the college course because she cold not cope with the leap from Powerpoint to processors/programming etc (And to be honest I was not impressed with the way they were taught to use powerpoint either – too much content in the presentations, it is supposed to be a presentation ‘aid’ not ‘The’ presentation!).

      Yes, I’m sure I mentioned that I recognise what many do not, the long hours teachers work outside of the classroom, I agree too few people respect teachers many not even considering it a ‘proper’ job because they view education as being 9am-3.30pm with lots of holidays i.e. teachers only work when pupils are present – durr foolish idiots to think that!

      I like what you say about parents being ultimately responsible for teaching their children, that is very true, as parents we may not have the subject knowledge and need to rely on schools for that but we can and should be investing the time to teach our children respect, ambition, to be hardworking… life skills, judgement and a desire to learn based on understanding the value for them and others of gaining knowledge, even in things they may not enjoy!


  3. Hi,

    My experience of school and teachers was probably not the most positive or favorable. I was involved with a teacher in what I believed to be a relationship from the age of 14 for a number of years. Many years later I discovered this had a major impact on my life. Many people considered what happened abuse. The teacher was actually imprisoned. I had an extremely hard time with this concept as although my wise mind knew it was abuse I struggled emotionally as the person filled an unmet emotional need due to my upbringing so I therefore thought the person was a good person and could only see them this way. So I guess you could say not really the best recollection of teachers and my school years.


Leave a Reply

Please log in using one of these methods to post your comment: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s