Skip to main content

Special Needs


I see the government has rumbled one ruse, reportedly used by schools to 'get extra funding and inflate their position in new-style rankings' and that's to label as many pupils as possible with 'Special Educational Needs'. Apparently, in some schools, as many as half of pupils are now diagnosed with learning difficulties or behavioral problems, it was revealed, just weeks after a cross-party group of MPs criticised schools for being too quick to label children with poor reading skills as dyslexic.

Given the enormous pressure placed on schools to improve their results by the government, I'm not surprised at this or in fact any other gambit being used to show an annual league table improvement and in many ways, it mirrors the pressures being applied to hospital trusts in showing constant improvement or to conceal what often appears to the man-in-the-street, to be a steady decline in overall standards which are contradicted by statistics.

The reality of the matter is that few people trust what the author Mark Twain described as: 'Lies, damn lies and statistics' and an excellent example might be the audit commission and the way its assesses councils and local authorities. Naively, I believed that a common set of metrics were used but I've since discovered otherwise and so in future I'll accept 'independent' performance figures as lying somewhere between 'Showing improvement' and 'How long is a piece of string.'

Staying with teaching a moment, I felt this month that the Conservative plans to make teaching a higher-level graduate profession might discriminate against those very good teachers I know who might not carry a first-class degree but show a wonderful control of both the class and the subject they teach. Half the struggle, these days, outside grinding paperwork, is simply class control and keeping the attention and interest of pupils, a number of which might have Special Educational Needs. My own experience is that the best teachers are not always the academically brightest but those with a vocation, incredible patience and a love of their subject. Quite honestly, given the challenging nature of teaching today, which to many educators appears to be more about making children feel good about themselves rather than teaching them, one has to be extremely committed to consider a career in the classroom. It can be extremely rewarding but like water under pressure finding the smallest crack in a dam, today's children will very quickly assess the character strength of any teacher in front of them, which is why the profession experiences high early retirement, nervous breakdowns and stree-related illness.

The issue that government, really has to address, I believe, is not education as such but the nature of the society that feeds into the education system. If like me, you find yourself in a classroom with six 'statemented' teenagers, attempting to play havoc at any opportunity, you really have to ask what the purpose of the teacher really is in such circumstances, as a professional educator or an extension of social services.


Popular posts from this blog

Mainframe to Mobile

Not one of us has a clue what the world will look like in five years’ time, yet we are all preparing for that future – As  computing power has become embedded in everything from our cars and our telephones to our financial markets, technological complexity has eclipsed our ability to comprehend it’s bigger picture impact on the shape of tomorrow.

Our intuition has been formed by a set of experiences and ideas about how things worked during a time when changes were incremental and somewhat predictable. In March 1953. there were only 53 kilobytes of high-speed RAM on the entire planet.

Today, more than 80 per cent of the value of FTSE 500* firms is ‘now dark matter’: the intangible secret recipe of success; the physical stuff companies own and their wages bill accounts for less than 20 per cent: a reversal of the pattern that once prevailed in the 1970s. Very soon, Everything at scale in this world will be managed by algorithms and data and there’s a need for effective platforms for ma…

Civilisational Data Mining

It’s a new expression I haven’t heard before. ‘Civilisational data mining.’

Let me start by putting it in some context. Every character, you or I have typed into the Google search engine or Facebook over the last decade, means something, to someone or perhaps ‘something,’ if it’s an algorithm.


In May 2014, journalists revealed that the United States National Security Agency, the NSA, was recording and archiving every single cell-phone conversation that took place in the Bahamas. In the process they managed to transform a significant proportion of a society’s day to day interactions into unstructured data; valuable information which can of course be analysed, correlated and transformed for whatever purpose the intelligence agency deems fit.

And today, I read that a GOP-hired data company in the United States has ‘leaked’ personal information, preferences and voting intentions on… wait for it… 198 million US citizens.

Within another decade or so, the cost of sequencing the human genome …

The Big Steal

I’m not here to predict the future;” quipped the novelist, Ray Bradbury. “I’m here to prevent it.” And the future looks much like one where giant corporations who hold the most data, the fastest servers, and the greatest processing power will drive all economic growth into the second half of the century.

We live in an unprecedented time. This in the sense that nobody knows what the world will look like in twenty years; one where making confident forecasts in the face of new technologies becomes a real challenge. Before this decade is over, business leaders will face regular and complex decisions about protecting their critical information and systems as more of the existing solutions they have relied upon are exposed as inadequate.

The few real certainties we have available surround the uninterrupted march of Moore’s Law - the notion that the number of transistors in the top-of-the-line processors doubles approximately every two years - and the unpredictability of human nature. Exper…