Residents, parents and teachers are planning to turn out in force at Barnet Planning Committee at Barnet Town Hall at 7pm on Wednesday when the Education Funding Agency makes an application LINK for the proposed Ark Pioneer School. The EFA will to attempt to “solve”problems raised by residents regarding traffic congestion, high levels of air pollution, little parking for staff, dense development, 7 days a week schooling, transporting children from the other side of the borough and answer claims that the proposed site is not where new housing calls for a large all -through school such as this. The 4-18 school in Barnet Lane would commence with 90 children admitted to Reception and 180 to Year 7.
The EFA are proposing to buy up roads around the school and meet the cost of re-modelling them. Those opposed to the plans are asking whether the money could not be better used on existing schools.
It is not only the planning aspects of the school that concern teachers and parents but the proposed teaching method. It will be called Ark Pioneer because it introduces a new system, unlike those at existing Ark schools in Brent. 'Blended learning' through technology is central to the plans.
In an extended article on the Local Schools Network website LINK Matthew Bennett traces the origin of the concept back to Rocketship Education in the US:
John Danner’s plan for Rocketship was to ‘make something that’s KIPP-like in terms of results’. The chain copied many features of the KIPP (US Charter Schools) model: an extended school day and year, a narrowing of the curriculum in order to focus on literacy and maths, and a ‘data-driven’ approach geared to driving up students’ test scores. In 2012, the young ‘Rocketeers’ had an 8.00 a.m. to 4.00 p.m. day. This was divided into two 100-minute blocks of literacy instruction, one 100-minute block of maths, and a further 100 minutes in the ‘learning lab’. There was no provision for art, music or PE. The current curriculum seems to be slightly broader, including science, social studies and art as well as maths and reading. But science is ‘embedded’ in maths, and social studies and art are ‘embedded’ in literacy instruction. 50 per cent of teachers’ pay is tied to their students’ scores in maths and reading tests.
But more than that teachers and parents are concerned that this model will be used to have lessons delivered by teaching assistants rather than qualified teachers, with children overseen as they work on ipads. John Danner made it plain that the method was aimed at saving money:
I do think we’re at a time, as a country, where this stuff really fits pretty well with economic crises … when you’re in a situation when you’re gonna be laying people off anyway, how do you make that as good as possible, and one of the ways is to have more of the work happening somewhere other than a classroom, through technology
Barnet NUT are holding a meeting on Wednesday but will finish in time to get down to Barnet Town Hall. Jenny Brown, a teacher, resident and parent, as well as member of the Campaign for the Advancement of State Education (CASE), is urging people to join in the protest at Barnet Town Hall:John Danner, co-founder of Rocketship Education, 2010 (ibid)
I think it is vital that people turn up on Wednesday to apply pressure as part of the challenge to computer learning replacing teachers.
Teaching is based on a pedagogy not rote content. Our profession is being threatened along with creative thinking, well being and the development of each child, young person and teachers of the future.