Classroom jargon is not helping pupils’ success criteria

DO your children discuss their Success Criteria with you? Are you fully aware of their Learning Objectives? How about their ELS?

Is it right that teachers are talking to six-year-olds using management speak which most parents don’t understand, yet alone their kids?

It’s truly astonishing how teachers are being told to talk to our children. It actually makes me really cross.

For those of you who haven’t had to darken the doors of a primary school for some decades, let me explain.

School has always had a reputation for the blah, blah, blah. Even the most conscientious of swots must have drifted off when certain teachers forgot how to have a normal conversation with their fellow human beings.

But now even good teachers are trotting out phrases like ‘going forward’ and ‘achieving targets.’ It’s like they’ve been brainwashed.

And it’s having a knock-on effect – or should I say – a third-generation projection.

I teach university students and with very few exceptions, even those with A-grade A Levels cannot express themselves clearly in writing.

I’m not sure anyone could pinpoint when the jargon of modern teaching started infecting state-school classrooms.

It’s as if somewhere in the late 90s, a ‘consultant educator,’ with no grasp on reality, vomited all the management phrases they knew into a curriculum manual. A manual which should have stayed in the staffroom.

My first foray back into a primary school classroom in two decades came when I attended open days for Jed.

First, there seemed to be so many adults in the class. Teaching assistants, one-to-one carers, and if you’re lucky, a full-time teacher.

Second, their work didn’t appeared to get corrected. However, they did have little abbreviations like ‘LO’ written at the top of each page. Weird.

Eventually I mustered the courage to reveal to my son that despite telling him otherwise, I didn’t actually know everything:

“What’s ‘LO’ mean?” I asked.

“It’s the thing you have to have done by the end of the lesson.”

“Yes, but what does it stand for?”

“Er, I think it’s Learning Objective.”

“OK. Well, what’s an objective? What does the word mean?”

“. . . Er, I dunno. Can I go and watch Bob The Builder now?”

This highly-dramatised discussion with six-year-old Jed happened more than half his life ago.

But I had the same kind of ‘interface’ last week with Billy, aged 7. Only instead of Bob the Builder he’d have requested Spongebob Squarepants. Or Star Wars: The Clone Wars.

The catalyst for my fresh bewilderment was ‘open-day’ at Billy’s primary school. A school I like very much, and which has done pretty well by my offspring so far.

We parents were given a leaflet with “Questions to Ask Your Child:”

They included phrases like What are you learning about in ELS? (I’ll translate in brackets: ELS = Early Learning Skills).

How do you use VCOP? (VCOP is the way they are told to write a sentence using Vocabulary. Connectives. Openers. Punctuation).

How do Success Criteria help you? (I’m not making this up)

When and how do you use your targets? (Like salesmen, five-year-olds have Targets, to be discussed with parents at ‘Termly Learning Conferences’ (which used to be called parents’ evenings) You even have to sign a ‘contract’)

The children at Open Day were very well-behaved and read aloud about all of the above jargon, plus ‘Core Values’ and the ‘Fish Wish’ (Fun. Involvement. Show. Help)

I asked a few children, including my own, if they could explain some of the phrases. Some of them recited, parrot-fashion, what had been on the board. Then I asked them to tell me what the words actually meant, and they didn’t know.

I’m all for expanding vocabulary, but if you are going to spout this nonsense at kids, you should explain what the ruddy words MEAN.

We should worry. Good schools are losing their ‘core values’ by relying on utter, utter gibberish. They accused previous generations for teaching by rote because we learned rhymes like ‘Every name is called a noun’ and ‘I before E except after C’ ? At least it was useful.

This management speak is absurd, meaningless, empty and misleading in adult working life, so why on earth are we endorsing it in schools?

I’m not being a pedant. Language does need to evolve to survive, but sloppy clichés and meaningless verbal noise do not make you clever. They make you annoying.

Can’t anyone just speak plainly any more? Or is that just blue-sky thinking?

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