Education Issues

Back in what now seems like another life I was a teacher.  I worked for almost 10 years at what was then one of the largest (and certainly one of the least well-organised) secondary schools in the country, then went on to the rather more civilised atmosphere of sixth-form education, at what became a community college and than part of a larger FE college. When I left teaching to work in photography I continued to teach part-time for a few years, and I’m still a member of the NUT, albeit a retired member, as well as a full member of the NUJ.

It was an interesting career and had its enjoyable and rewarding moments, but if you’ve never tried it you can never appreciate how demanding and stressful it can be, and I glad to be able to leave the profession and make a living writing and taking pictures. And I was able to do so partly because of the experience I’d gained in teaching in one of the finest art departments in the country, with an A level photography course which I’d set up and helped to make almost certainly the best in the country, with colleagues whose skills and experience complemented mine.

Osborne Must Go – The Bast…

I would probably have stayed in teaching longer but for the policies of successive governments and their various reforms and innovations which have made such a mess of our education system. Of course we needed changes, but changes that were made on educational grounds, not because of ignorance and dogma.

There seem to be several major underlying assumptions behind most of the reforms we have seen: that you can’t trust teachers or local authorities, that education experts know nothing about education and that the private sector will always make a better job of it.

Guck Fove

Teachers were hoping for better things when when Michael Gove was replaced as Education Secretary, but instead got the threat to make all schools into academies – a hare-brained Labour scheme from the depths of New Labour, almost as unforgiveable as going to war in Iraq.

There is no evidence that academies improve the educational results of children and the plans remove all democratic controls from education as well as side-lining parents. They (along with so-called ‘free schools’, whose freedom seems to be mainly a freedom for some individuals to grab community assets) make sensible planning of educational provision impossible, and remove many of the safeguards on teacher employment that the unions have struggled for years to establish – perhaps their main attraction for the political right.

As someone who was a union rep for around 15 of my teaching years I can assure you that teachers by and large are a pretty conservative group and it isn’t easy to get them as a  body to show any militancy. But on 23rd March there seemed to be plenty of angry teachers marching to say Hands Off Our Schools, including those from the ATL, a union that many joined because they felt the NUT was too radical.

The unions say government should be addressing the real issues of teacher shortage, lack of pupil places and chaos in the curriculum rather than creating more organisational chaos. And clearly they are right.

By the time the march was going past the Dept for Education, the light was falling, and the narrow street with fairly tall buildings was getting pretty dim. I’d increased the ISO I was working at to ISO2000, but with the teachers getting rather agitated it perhaps wasn’t quite high enough, and many images were too blurred to use.

It’s always a bit difficult to know how high an ISO to use, and the image quality with both the D700 and the D810 does noticeably drop off at higher ISO, but ISO3200 is certainly normally usable and the extra 2/3 stop would have resulted in a few more sharp pictures – or a little extra depth of field.

All of the pictures at that point were taken with the D700 and the 16-35mm,  and even at 16mm depth of field isn’t huge when working close to the subjects as I like to do. And when close people’s movements become more important and more likely to blur. Of course blur in the right places – such as the hand and the NUT flag in the top picture – can improve images, but in the wrong places will ruin.

The 16-35mm does have image stabilisation, but that is really no help in stopping subject movement, though perhaps might cancel out some of the more erratic photographer movements. But somehow in those cases where it would be useful I almost always manage to have turned it off, though seldom intentionally.


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My London Diary : Buildings of London : River Lea/Lee Valley : London’s Industrial Heritage

All photographs on this and my other sites, unless otherwise stated, are taken by and copyright of Peter Marshall, and are available for reproduction or can be bought as prints.

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