Monday, 4 December 2017

It says here you're a Vegetarian...

As part of the transition to the the new school building in late 2016, Hampstead's Canteen transitioned to a cashless biometric payment system. Recently, there have a number of reports of students being denied certain items of food, or in some cases all of the items available, because they are incorrectly listed on the system as being unable to eat them.

Generally, students have been told to have their parents write to the school to rectify any mistakenly recorded dietary preferences. It is difficult to ascertain the exact frequency of such events, but if it turns out that dietary preferences will continue to be erroneously recorded in the future, it seems incumbent upon the school to undertake further steps to prevent it, and to the greatest extent possible, minimize its effects.

Monday, 13 November 2017

Edexcel Introduce Maths Listening Exam

As part of a scheme to screw absolutely everyone over reforms to the GCSE specification, Edexcel is to introduce a Maths listening exam.

We caught up with Edexcel representative Mark S. Kheem to get to grips with the new qualification.
According to an official release, the maths listening exam will be comprised of sixteen questions, each read out sequentially. After every question has been read out, the entire set is read out once more. Exclusive to The Trash, here's a sample you can expect to see (hear) in your summer examinations:

"Jack has a number of numbers. Aisha also has a number of numbers, each of these being the number of numbers that everyone else who has a number of numbers has. If Jack has more numbers than Aisha, can we be sure that Jack has more numbers than anyone else? Explain your answer."

"If a parent picks the most obtuse way humanely possible to distribute food, how likely is it that all of their children will simultaneously throw a tantrum? Hence show that 3n²-4=8.

"Picture a pentagon formed by placing an equilateral triangle with the same side length as a square on top of such a square. Then picture two squares of side length a third the side length of the square placed vertically a third of the way into the square, horizontally a quarter of the way in from each side of the larger square respectively. Now picture a rectangle placed at the bottom of the pentagon. You should see something a bit like a cartoon house. Can you picture yourself inside it? Using Pythagoras' Theorem, explain your answer."

Although many have praised the "rigorously rigorous rigor" of the new specification, others have raised concerns that a maths listening exam is "probably the worst thing that anyone has ever come up with". We put this point to Mark S. Kheem, who said: "logically speaking, the rational thing to do is to undertake a considered course of action supported by scientifically gathered empirical evidence, and let me tell you, I've seen the figures". Although its unclear what "the figures" are, we appreciate access to Mark S. Kheem, and welcome any and all moves towards transparency and openness.

DISCLAIMER: This article is a spoof.

Friday, 20 October 2017

Restricted Access to A-Levels

It is all very well to talk in abstracts, but perhaps a closer, more concrete take on the issues at hand is needed. Although The Trash has often spoken of Hampstead's obsession with league tables and results, the excesses of this obsession are multiple and varied; so much so that it is often difficult to know where to begin.

Regardless, we must begin somewhere. Beneath the surface of "amazing results" and a "commitment to progression", Hampstead kicked out almost 40 students between Years 12 and 13. Although it is made fairly clear that students must "re-enroll" for the second year, the situation is not as simple as a contractual agreement between two participants (the students and the school). To absolve themselves of responsibility, a first claim the school might make is that "students are responsible for their results, and Sixth Formers should behave more like adults than children". In spite of what truth it might contain, accepting this view wholesale and in isolation leaves us with an incomplete perspective, and ultimately relies on the masses and masses of unspoken rhetoric about "the real world", "toughness" and "facing up to reality" to make any sense at all. For one, the vast majority of Sixth Formers at Hampstead were also at Hampstead throughout secondary school; it ought to be asked where exactly they acquired whatever traits are supposedly responsible for their poor performance at A Level. Equally, where does Hampstead somehow cease being actively involved in the life of one of its students? "You have been here for 6 years, but now, I am afraid, we must throw you to the wind."

We are told that there is a magic line separating GCSEs and A Levels. No such thing truly exists. It is plainly true that a lot of things (must) change as one transitions, but (in Hampstead at least) many things do not. With their strictly enforced codes on uniform and tucked in shirts, their constant watching presence, “planners out all lesson”, and other assertions of power for the sake of it throughout lower secondary, the Management refuses to allow independence, and leaves even the possibility of independence foreclosed. To do well at GCSE, students are largely better off mindlessly swallowing all the mark schemes and factoids they are ceaselessly fed than they are trying to understand, let alone develop a genuine interest in, a subject. Five years of this treatment hardly work wonders for "personal development" or "flourishing", or any of the vapid euphemisms that serve to conceal the fact that those subjected to such a destructive system actually have to live with it. So without independence or interest, students start their A Levels. But if they fall short, it is seen as their fault for lacking the very things of which they have been systematically deprived; a chance to be independent, and a wide space to pursue and develop interests.

When it comes to shoving tens of students out, perhaps a case for the ruthlessness of bureaucratic management is not so clear.

Thursday, 5 October 2017

Losing The Keys to Learning

A recent decision to begin locking a number of classrooms/study spaces in the Sixth Form area has caused delays to Year 13 lessons, after they were left locked during scheduled lessons.

A number of classrooms that until recently were left unlocked during free periods for Sixth Form study are now being locked on a regular basis, in what appears to be a move to combat "irresponsible usage". However, the persistent unavailability of keys to the rooms is causing delays to lessons, in some cases taking up to 20 minutes of a lesson, requiring subject teachers to find other classrooms.

Three Year 13 classes and their teachers wait for the keys.
This particular situation is not entirely exceptional. Watching a teacher inquire about the keys to a classroom is a routine part of lesson for many, and while it largely takes very little time, it can drag on. Dealing with access to a classroom, or an alternate classroom, should occupy as little of a teacher's time as possible. Yet again however, because of systematic issues and management blunders, teachers are left with no choice but to consume time that could otherwise be put to teaching, and in this case has actually been explicitly designated for it.

Regardless of how much "irresponsible usage" of the SF rooms was taking place, trying to prevent it in the aim of somehow improving the Sixth Form is incredibly counterproductive if it actively hinders the provision of teaching. The haphazard decision making and poor communication typical of Management is plain to see here. So much for "every minute is a learning minute".