One of the last talks for this term was made by Edward Cearns, an Old Chigwellian who represents the city centre of Cambridge on Cambridgeshire County Council. He made a moving speech uniting politics and equality. The fact that he spoke from his own experience and shared his own ideas and understandings made his talk interesting, easy to understand, and at the same time made everyone in the room think about the world we live in. Mr Cearns spoke of Equality and explained to us what a politician could do about it. He focused mainly on the topic of equality of sexuality, as it was a topic very important to him and also something he has been working on in his council. He was very proud to announce that his council has supported his proposal to fly the rainbow flag every February starting next year.
Mr Cearns also brought to our attention two charities he has been working with, both of which support homosexual, bisexual or transgender people. “sexYOUality” has been involved in telling the story of homosexuals who had to deal with the prejudice of the last century, Section 28, and were treated as “ill”. It also supports young people to come to terms with their sexuality. The second one was “Stonewall”. They had recently produced a film called “Free” also presenting the life of homosexual, bisexual and transgender people nowadays.
I think everyone enjoyed the talk and the “Williams Project” would be happy to welcome back Mr Cearns.
What was so interesting about Dr. Pepper’s talk was the similarity of his presentation to his topic: useful, statistical and logical. He remained engaging, clear and formal throughout.
Beginning with the establishment of himself as a speaker from King’s College London certainly aided this; it built up a level of respect and contextualised his discussion of the education system PISA (the Program for International Student Assessment) and its pros and cons. What could also be noted about his presentation style was his relaxed introduction of PISA firstly by reference to the Italian location, then by a very concise and factual recollection of its aims.
We learnt it is a means of analysing the education systems of different countries by assessing 15-year-old students in the areas of mathematics, science, reading and financial literacy, and we were given some sense of attainment within the system when he presented us with statistics relating to the positions of the United Kingdom and other states over the years. Dr. Pepper presented to us this system as flawed in that it only measured those countries willing to compete, but that it enabled those countries to improve the education system.
With a percentage of those present being unfamiliar with PISA, it was both interesting and developing of our understanding to to learn about its global importance. What also helped in this was his handling of our questions, as it established, basically and physically, exactly what we were discussing.
It was precisely for this reason that Dr. Pepper’s talk was a memorable and constructive session of the Williams Project, and one to look back on fondly.
Old Chigwellian and School Governor Dr Tony Pruss gave two talks, each focusing on two aspects of his life. The first aspect was his time as a boy at Chigwell in the 1950s and 1960s, a time of young boarders, corporal punishment, cold showers and some quite extreme masters and praefects. Tony’s stories of scrapes and escapes, especially the Grand Boycott of the CCF Parade, were very funny, and rather enlightening to the students of today. Let’s hope they don’t get any ideas.
The second part of both talks was about Tony’s career as a GP and Police Surgeon. This time more amazing horror stories, but these were set in a grown-up world: being “GP” to drunks and drug addicts, and visiting the sites of accidental deaths, murders and suicides; he had seen it all.
I don’t remember a more intense listening at a Williams Project meeting: Tony had experienced a life that was close enough to us in location and time, but different in so many ways. He had direct experience of life’s underbelly, and we all realised that here was that rare thing: someone talking to the young and telling the truth.
David Carter, whose Latin textbooks we use at Chigwell, spoke clearly and engagingly to the WP about his ideas on language acquisition and language teaching, in particular the theories of Stephen Krashen (video). This philosophy revolves around the idea of ‘comprehensible input’ – that the (only) way the brain learns languages properly is by receiving messages which it understands. Mr Porter, in an exciting 5-minute lesson segment, demonstrated this very clearly with Russian, and David himself explained how he used this in his Latin textbooks – providing interlinear translations for the students to read aloud.
Simon Coffey from King’s College London led a continuation of our work on the recent inspection report. A great presentation on how teachers try to cater for mixed abilities in the classroom (“differentiation”) and one of the best discussions we have had. Thanks to all those involved.
The Headmaster, aided by Mrs Gwinn and Mr Saunders, took the combined branches of the WP through the school’s recent inspection report, and asked them for their views on what they would do if they were in charge. A fascinating discussion ensued, focusing on differentiation: how every pupil is best stretched in lessons; we might continue this at a future meeting.