Following the Annual General Meeting in November the Club welcomed member Michael Pipes who spoke on the Acquisition of Knowledge. Michael provided an insightful and humorous account of his experiences from a young physics teacher in Rutland through to a member of the School Improvement Team at OFSTED.
After studying physics at Oxford he went on to teach physics in secondary schools for the next 25 years. He then moved to Portsmouth in 1975 as founding Head of City of Portsmouth Boys School, successfully running the large comprehensive school of 1,700 teenage boys until he left the post in 1979.
In 1981 he became a governor of The Portsmouth Grammar School, based in Old Portsmouth. For over three decades, he worked with headteachers at the school to raise educational standards in the city.
Early in his career he undertook the opportunity to improve an ailing course in home economics. Not only was it necessary to accommodate both boys and girls but pupils often forgot to bring cooking ingredients to lessons. So he issued free ingredients and let the pupils buy the resulting freshly cooked pies and cakes - which they often resold at a profit. Class attendance significantly improved!
Of note, Michael pioneered a novel approach to the scheduling of lessons by using a modular block system providing greater flexibility and choice for pupils. He also introduced flexible lunch times and staggered school leaving times.
The acquisition of knowledge requires three disciplines: memory, skills and understanding. Memory can be short term or long term. It is long term memory that is most valuable for consistent learning and can be recalled when required. Last minute, intense revision for exams often resides in short term memory and is later forgotten.
High level skills are often practical, such as woodwork, music and sport. These can be taught and developed well in schools whereas low level social skills tend to be acquired at home. Pupils from deprived homes often lack the opportunity to develop these social skills. Understanding is the ability to provide context to problems and challenges, and apply acquired experiences to solve them.