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Wednesday, 26 March 2014

The Original 3 Rs

The Three Rs in modern times has several meanings including Reduce, Recycle, Reuse. But the original phrase referring to education came from a speech made by Sir William Curtis in 1795.  Sir William Chris was an alderman known also as 'Billy the Biscuit' because it is said he revolutionised the technology of biscuit baking and biscuit storage aboard ship. At the age of 30, William Curtis, in Wapping, on the edge of the City of London was at the centre of one of one of the largest and most profitable trade networks in the known world and as a result went on to become Alderman and Lord Mayor.

Due to his looks, his mangled catch words and phrases he became a delight of satirists and it is thought today that he was dyslexic. It is hardly surprising then that he, it is said, had no time for those who talked about the importance of Latin and Greek;  Listening to a debate on schooling Curtis said in the House, ‘What children need,’ is the three Rs, Readin’, Ritin’ and Rithmetic' and the phrase was born.

How ironic are these words and the history behind them with the advent of the new 'Govian' Curriculum which includes the teaching of both Latin and Greek! In his own apparently bumbling way William Curtis was right then and now. Through the 3Rs everything else can be not only understood better but also taught. 

Reading - through the mastery of this skill we open up to ourselves and our pupils the vast world of literature, history, the sciences and other languages. Reading is food for your mind and soul. Reading informs you of what's happening around, helps you remain updated about what's changing and not just that. Reading encourages you to think and imagine, think out-of-the-box and imagine the impossible. It's through reading that you understand that knowledge knows no bounds and It's through reading that we gain exposure to information from different sources. The latest developments in technology, advancements in science, breakthroughs in different fields, the inventions, discoveries, product launches, movie reviews, celebrity gossip, changing political scenarios; just everything around us can become knowledge gained and all through reading.

Writing - Learning to write is essential because it is a vehicle for communication, connection and creativity. The art of handwriting increases brain activity and hones fine motor skills. Writing is a major form of communication that allows people to interact with, and learn from, others. Instruction in writing helps children understand how to organise ideas and construct meaning, processes similar to those they use while reading. In fact, research indicates that writing and reading develop together and instruction in both areas leads to improvements in both writing and reading.

Arithmetic (Maths to you and I) - The technology around us was developed by engineers and scientists using mathematical skill. we might not have the computers, internet and mobile phones without people's mathematical skills. Jobs ranging from doctors and vets to fashion designers and gardeners rely on mathematical skill. Maths really is every where! In nature - good old Fibonacci, in the carpets we stand on (area), the food we eat (volume, capacity, money,) the list is endless.

Teachers all around the world are teaching these skills every day in their classrooms or they were. Over the last few years the pressures upon teachers and pupils alike have become unbearable resulting in three teacher strikes in the UK in as many years. Teachers are leaving the profession in droves, pupils are stressed out and education is becoming a chore for all involved rather that the joy that it should be.

So maybe it should be us the educators that are calling for 'back to basics'. These skills are crucial but I believe getting lost amongst the confusion that reigns in education today. Teachers are having their attention taken away from what is important, teaching and learning! They are being forced to focus on things that do not improve teaching or learning but focus instead on the constant strive to achieve targets, display evidence, show progress and of course tame that elusive beast the 'outstanding lesson.' 

Professional development needs to be based upon improving teaching and learning, allowing teachers to develop and refine their skills, keep up to date with the world of educational research and changes in technology . Teachers need to be allowed turn their attention back to the people that matter, the pupils. They should have more time to plan and teach enriching lessons, collaborate with their peers and above all to do what they do best teach!!!