Thursday, 23 August 2012

Ejukashun 4 all!

Today the GCSE results are out and with it the scandal of falling grades.  There’s been a huge debate around grade inflation and, in English, the lack of attention paid to spelling and grammar. I’m probably being an old fogey when I admit that seeing people use ‘loose’ when they mean ‘lose’, or incapable of using apostrophes properly really grinds my gears.

Top tip – don’t use apostrophes to indicate a plural, PLEASE, or I may be tempted to take drastic violent action.

Shadow Education Minister, Stephen Twigg was on TV this morning bemoaning the lack of opportunities for assessing spoken English, presentation skills, teamwork and the like. So whilst we aren’t even assessing basics like punctuation, are we to turn our grading machine onto soft skills too? He seems to misunderstand completely how confidence is built, how sociability is enhanced and how creative minds are gradually unleashed.

Here’s our response (start your predictability meter now) - the Government, realising that schools have neither the required skills, resources nor time to take on these kinds of classes,  must recognise the need for these softer skills and bring back some appropriate funding to allow more general access.  

The axing of the Extended Schools Schemes and drastic reduction in partnership funding has hit sports particularly hard, ironic in the light of the success of Team GB and the calls for more participation generally. It has hit organisations like Best too – we were working well with some local schools providing places for children who really needed the kind of support we could offer but otherwise couldn’t access it.
The kinds of skills we enhance don’t need assessing, the effects are completely individual and progress begins and ends at a different point for everyone. Yes, there are certificates available (like LAMDA’s excellent portfolio) but these are based around specific vocational techniques rather than overall confidence building, sociability and general outlook on the world – great for those that want that kind of validation but not suitable or necessary for everyone.

The biggest buzz we get is when a parent tells us the school have noticed a positive difference in a child after spending time with Best – and we are delighted to say this happens frequently. We just wish more children could get this kind of support.  And imagine if this building of confidence, openness and creativity was allowed to continue throughout the education cycle... the benefits to UK plc could be huge!

Anyway before I loose my temper with it's silliness, its time to stop writing blog's, and get on with something more betterer thats got less thing's to get grammatically wrongly. See me afterwards, Ed. 

Monday, 13 August 2012

Our revels now are ended...

"Our revels now are ended. These our actors, 
As I foretold you, were all spirits, and 
Are melted into air, into thin air; 
And, like the baseless fabric of this vision, 
The cloud-capped towers, the gorgeous palaces, 
The solemn temples, the great globe itself, 
Yea, all which it inherit, shall dissolve, 
And, like this insubstantial pageant faded, 
Leave not a rack behind. 
The Tempest IV, i, 166-174

Suddenly my days are emptier. The Olympics, which have occupied so much working and sitting on the sofa time, are over. And our summer courses, which have their own wonderful, positive energy, are also over. Both have been huge successes and both share a number of common denominators – some quite surprising!

Getting on with each other
Me outside the Copper Box,
inevitable clipboard in hand
We’ve seen at the Olympics a kind of openness, willingness to co-operate, acceptance of other people’s quirks, teamwork and attitude from spectators and volunteers alike. All of this has created a warm, happy, secure and entirely memorable atmosphere. We’re lucky because that’s just the kind of atmosphere we always get at Best for our summer courses.

Hard work producing fantastic results
Our Olympic results have shown that there is no substitute for effort and that sometimes consequent results are spectacular. In our summer courses the children (and teachers) do work incredibly hard and we think the results speak for themselves in the shows. But there is also a fulfilment which means that at the end of each day our students, like athletes in training, feel they have achieved something – delivered a ‘Personal Best’.

Copper Box Team saying goodbye
as the Games end
Teamwork is crucial
In so many events, teamwork is absolutely crucial. Even individual athletes rely on a support team of trainers, physios, sponsors etc. Medals cannot be won without the contribution of (often less celebrated) colleagues (Chris Froome for example). Our summer courses are totally reliant on the group gelling to tell a story that they have all invented – they all contribute.

People are mostly quite nice!
A strange one, this, but as I wrote in my previous blog I think the Olympics have unearthed a hidden seam of warmth and openness in the erstwhile reserved British nation. We see the same thing happening at Best as children get to know each other over the week.

Planning is everything
The delivery of the games has been a logistical masterpiece. Our cynical expectations of transport nightmares, disorganised venues, queues and embarrassment have failed to materialise. Instead everything is so well organised that it appears effortless. There is (I can personally attest) a massive, multi-agency effort going on behind the scenes so that what the public sees is a calm, coordinated and confident delivery – Games with a smile. The atmosphere in the Park and at all the venues is testament to this triumph of organisation. And on a much smaller scale, but just as importantly, it’s like that at Best too. The children experience the result of huge amounts of planning and experience which starts as soon as the previous year is over (in fact planning for next year is already under way). We (Annette and I and the teachers) can seem relaxed and confident only because we know we’ve planned for virtually every eventuality, based on many years of experience so we too never stop smiling. Mind you, just getting my diary co-ordinated to be in the right place at the right time over the past few weeks has been a miracle of planning in itself!

In every aspect, from the electric opening ceremony to the wonderfully cheesy finale, the Games have shown Britain, and its people, at their Best. (sorry – couldn’t resist!)

So as the long Olympic/summer course-less weeks stretch ahead, I’ll take comfort from the words that precede the passage quoted above.

“Be cheerful, sir”
and never forgetting the line after...

“We are such stuff as dreams are made on.”

Go TeamGB!