Free School from Government Control by SATs, Ofsted, and National Curriculum
This web site was set up in February 2009 to put the case for freeing schools from government control in terms of Sats, Ofsted, national curriculum and Whitehall micromanagement. It was, of course, a critique of the current policies of a Labour government. These restrictions on schools still operate under the Coalition government (elected in May 2010) and so the arguments advanced on the website are still pertinent.
However, among the policies being introduced by the new government is one of ‘free schools’ – meaning schools set up by groups of parents and others which will be independent of local government but financed by national government. IF YOU HAVE COME TO THIS WEBSITE TO LEARN MORE ABOUT THE COALITION PLANS FOR ‘FREE SCHOOLS’ YOU WILL BE DISAPPOINTED!
In the web-site title, free-school-from-government-control, the word ‘free’ is a verb – the Coalition government is using it as an adjective!
In September 2011 the ideas of this website were developed in print. EDUCATION FOR THE INEVITABLE: SCHOOLING WHEN THE OIL RUNS OUT, Michael Bassey, Book Guild Publishing (available from most booksellers including Amazon),
The current regime in English schools of SATs formal testing, Ofsted inspection and national curriculum is damaging the education and therefore the life-chances of the nation’s children. There is abundant evidence of this. Schools should be freed from political controls.
Everyone agrees that the schools of England should provide the best possible education for our young people in terms both of their individual destinies and of the future economic and ecological needs of the nation. But opinions differ on how this should be achieved. The stance of this website is that government intervention in schools has served a valuable purpose but is now counterproductive to the best interests of our young people.
Today educational decisions as to what is right for pupils should be determined by those who by training, experience and commitment are best qualified to decide – their teachers. The best education comes when it arises from the classroom decisions of teachers, working collegially together, with parents, governors and local communities. Likewise the best accountability is based on the local knowledge of school governors, trained for this voluntary work and supported by national guidelines. Education today is ill-served when central government, meaning well, but remote from classrooms, tries to control what teachers do and tries to measure educational achievements with ineffective instruments.
The current regime in English schools of SATs formal testing, league tables, centrally-imposed targets of attainment, Ofsted inspections, obligatory national curriculum, and micro-management of schools by government and its quangos, is damaging the education and therefore the life-chances of the nation’s children.
Between the bureaucracy of government control (as now) and the anarchy of autonomous classrooms (as in the past) lies a clear path to the ideal that every school should be a good school. It is based on the idea of collegiality, meaning that teachers work together to make the best decisions for their pupils, while ensuring that parents are appropriately involved, governors are able to provide effective accountability, and support is gained, when needed, from neighbouring schools, local authorities and national advice. Further to this is the need to establish a national advisory body, independent of executive government, which ensures the flow of relevant information between schools, Parliament and all involved in the education of our young people.
The purpose of this website is to show that, in England, government impact, from both conservatives and labour, with the best of intentions, but in ignorance and deafness, has trammelled schools with excessive testing, obsessive inspection, and a restrictive curriculum which has taken from teachers their professional autonomy, damaged their status in the public eye and in consequence endangered the all-round education of the nation’s young.
I, the author of this website, Michael Bassey, am an emeritus professor of Education, with many years of practical and research experience of education in England. Like many people today I grieve at what is happening in our educational institutions. Here is brought together the evidence of many distinguished professionals and senior academics who share these concerns. It is a call for action by teachers’ associations, parents, like-minded politicians, and all who care about the future of our children.
William of Occam, in the 14th century, wrote that ‘It is vain to do with more what can be done with less’. When it is taxpayers’ money that is being used to do with more what could be done with less it is not vain, but politically foolhardy and financially scandalous. But when it is children’s education that is being bedevilled by more in the form of excessive testing, obsessive inspection and a restrictive curriculum, it is morally wrong and totally unacceptable.
Political action is needed to take Occam’s razor to SATs formal testing, league tables of school results, Ofsted inspections, the national curriculum and government micro-managment, and excise them from the English system of national education.
Proposals for such action are set out on this website. Click on the Navigation bars for Nat Ed Serv to see suggestions for a National Education Service.
A COHERENT STRATEGY FOR EDUCATIONAL ADVANCE
It is, of course, not sufficient to say, ‘No more SATs’ and ‘Abolish Ofsted’: we must provide something better. Parents, teachers and other professionals need to combine forces with the teachers’ unions and associations and bring to an end government control of schools. But there should be no half-measures. It is root and branch pruning that is needed, with grafting new stock, not hedge clipping. This is why a coherent strategy for educational advance is needed, as is suggested in the following 12 points for a campaign, which underpin the proposals for a National Education Service.
1. All nursery, primary and secondary schools shall be empowered to work collegially. (See note A below)
2. National government and its educational agencies and local government, shall no longer issue to schools directives that impinge on curricula, teaching methods and assessment practices, but may offer non-mandatory advice and local support.
3. Ofsted inspections of schools shall cease and be replaced by school self-evaluation, with local administration (See Note C below) inspectorates providing support when requested by governing bodies.
4. The national curriculum and related teaching strategies shall no longer be obligatory and may be varied according to schools’ own decisions. Each school shall publish for parents a statement of aims with an account of its chosen curriculum.
5. Teacher assessments shall replace all external assessments of pupils until end-of-schooling assessments for the proposed diplomas. (See note B below)These assessments shall be communicated to each pupil’s parents regularly and the combined results discussed by governing bodies as part of school evaluation.
6. Government shall no longer set targets for school or pupil performance. Nor shall schools be ‘named and shamed’.
7. League tables of school assessments shall not be made. In their place schools shall publish annual reports from their governing bodies of school work and progress, making these available to the local administration and the local community.
8. Governing bodies shall be the prime agents of public accountability, supported by local administrations and reporting to them on an annual basis.
9. An independent National Education Council shall be established to advise Parliament, general public, local administrations, schools, teachers, governors, parents and academic researchers on significant issues in educational practice and accountability, and on the relation of education to society. Its membership shall be drawn from these groups. It shall be funded by government at a level to enable it to undertake and sponsor research and to carry out effectively its functions.
10. The National Education Council shall be responsible for the monitoring of national standards achieved in the basic skills taught in schools through a robust national sampling procedure.
11. Local administrations shall report annually to the National Education Council on the state and progress of education in their area, drawing on reports from school governing bodies.
12. The National Education Council shall report annually to Parliament, and hence to the nation, on the state and progress of education nationally, drawing on reports from local administrations and such other evidence as it obtains.
Note A: A collegial school is one:
• where decisions as to the most appropriate curriculum, teaching methods and assessment practices are taken by the teachers;
• where the head is recognised as the educational leader of the school in both developing the curriculum, teaching methods and assessment practices of the school and in challenging and supporting the work of individual teachers; and similar authority is delegated to various educational leaders within the school according to the size and organisation of the school;
• where the school’s aim is to provide the best all-round educational experience for every child and to strive to raise the standard of this provision;
• where colleagues recognise the strengths and weaknesses of each other and draw encouragement from the first and give support to the second in order to build on strengths and overcome weaknesses in their teaching;
• where assessment for learning has become part of the pedagogic fabric of the school;
• where assessment of attainment is regularly made by the teachers themselves and communicated to parents;
• where parents are regularly in touch with the educational development of their children;
• where the governors, seen as lay representatives of the parents and of the local community, are included in the educational discussions of the school and, from time to time, give the local administration an accountability report on the extent to which the school is achieving its stated aim;
• where the teachers enjoy the trust of parents and the respect of society at large; and
• where the school gates are open to parents and the local community, but closed to national government and its agencies.
Collegial schools permit the teachers’ professional commitment to flourish while being accountable to the local community for the effective education of their pupils.
Note B:In English and mathematics the current national curriculum levels of 1 to 8 shall continue to be used as the basis of teacher assessments and communications to parents. The proposed National Education Council shall provide training materials to support new teachers in making these assessments and advice for local administrations on how schools assessments should be moderated locally to ensure standards are maintained.
Note C: Since the functions of the local authorities have become (rightly) ones of administration rather than direction, I prefer to see them being called 'local administrations' - and perhaps working outside the remit of local councils.
This page was last amended on 5 October 2012
CLICK ON THE FOLLOWING (or on the navigation buttons)TO FIND ARGUMENTS AND EVIDENCE IN SUPPORT OF THESE POINTS
- Wake-Up-Parents: parents are urged to give voice to some of the listed concerns about the education of their children by writing to MPs
- TACKLING-LITERACY-DEFICIENCY suggests stay in primary school till Level 4 reached and a pass/fail literacy Competence test (like the driving test taken as often as needed to pass) from 11 onwards
- NATIONAL-EDUCATION-SERVICE Introduction
- NATIONAL-EDUCATION-SERVICE. Five essays showing how government should create a coherent education system relevant to the work-places, leisure pursuits and lives of tomorrows’ citizens
- CORROSION-OF-EDUCATION Chapter One of National Education Service Proposal
- CORROSION-OF-EDUCATION shows extensive criticisms of educational policies of governments of the last 25 years and how little notice has been taken.
- LABOUR-SHOULD-ACT Chapter Two of National Education Service Proposal
- LABOUR-SHOULD-ACT argues that the next Labour government must recast our education, every school and academy good, comprehensive and local, with power transferred from government to teachers
- EVERYONE-MUST-MASTER-ENGLISH Chapter 3 of National Education Service Proposal
- EVERYONE-MUST-MASTER-ENGLISH for their own sakes in order to enjoy the cultural wealth of the world, not just the needs of employers. A 'driving test' (pass/fail) at any age after 11 is proposed.
- PROPOSAL-FOR-A-NAT-ED-SERVICE Chapter Four
- PROPOSAL-FOR-A-NAT-ED-SERVICE sets out how this must ensure that all schools and academies are good, comprehensive, local, collegially run by teachers with local and national support but not dictat
- LOOKING-BACK-FROM-2040 Chapter Five of National Education Service Proposal
- LOOKING-BACK-FROM-2040 imagines the school experiences of someone starting school in 2015 when the Nat-Ed-System started
- Why Sats Formal Testing Should Be Abolished
- SATs inhibit children’s all-round development and should be scrapped. Teacher assessments are what matters for quality learning and to keep parents informed.
- Why Ofsted Should Be Abolished
- Ofsted seeks to raise standards but often damages schools and teachers. It should be abolished. Schools can and will improve without state bullying.
- School accountability without SATs or Ofsted
- School accountability is ineffectively assessed by SATs and by Ofsted. Better local and national ways are needed
- Why the National Curriculum Should Not Be Obligatory
- The national curriculum deskills teachers, restricting their creativity and narrowing the experience of children. Teachers in collegial schools, not government, should make curricular decisions
- Collegial Schools Will Provide the Best Education
- In collegial schools, teachers determine the curriculum, pedagogy, and assessment of pupils. They work co-operatively, involving parents and governors, to provide the best education for pupils.
- What Is Education and What Does It Entail?
- Education needs warm-hearted professional firebrands in collegial schools, not knowledge-transmitting, skills-training technicians working to government manual and rule-book in gradgrind factories
- A National Education Council is Needed
- A national body is needed when schools are free of government control, to provide a non-mandatory oversight of education. It must be independent, government funded, and report annually to Parliament.
- Government political impact on schools since 1988
- Political impact led by 11 cabinet ministers in succession has moved England’s education system from being the least state-controlled in the world in 1988 to the most.
- AN ALTERNATIVE TO ‘PERFORMATIVE GOAL-ORIENTED’ EDUCATION
- A new book suggests an alternative for primary schools to the ‘performative goal-oriented’ approach demanded by government. It argues for teachers and children to work collaboratively.
- Political Action: a Charter for Educational Advance
- Political action is needed to transfer power from government to schools in order to salvage education. Here is a ‘Charter for Educational Advance’ for campaigners to act on.
- Politics of Secondary Education in England in 2010
- Secondary schools are in a mess. First remove government control. Second replace external tests and exams by diplomas taken at 18+. Third from 16 spend as long on community work as in-school work
- Report-card for schools: a critique and proposal
- The DCSF has proposed a report-card that would encapsulate a school's achievements each year. In my view this has a number of major faults. An alternative design is proposed.
- News Reports from the Education Press Show Damage to the Nation's Children
- News of concerns of teachers’ professional associations/unions, reports of academic research into school issues, opinions of distinguished educationalists and rebuffs by government spokespersons.
- Educational press-reports-2003 Central Control Damages Teaching
- ‘The concentration of educational decision-making at the centre has led to a situation where command and control dominates, and this has now reached a point where it is seriously counter-productive’
- Educational press-reports-2004. New Labour Needs to Curb Its Control Freakery
- Professional concern about the pressure on children and teachers continued to be forcefully expressed by representatives of a wide range of bodies, academic researchers and parents.
- Educational press-reports-2005 Government and Teachers in Different Universes
- This year it became increasingly clear that New Labour had little understanding of education as perceived by teachers, but a great vision of it as a political arena for catching votes.
- Educational press-reports-2006 More Money but Goalposts Moved
- There were increasing concerns about Ofsted, targets, testing, curriculum, and stress on children, teachers and heads
- Educational press-reports-2007 More Initiatives but UK Kids Unhappy
- Department Split and Ed Balls Becomes Fifth Secretary of State (All with Initiativitis) in Six Years. Pressure on SATs Growing. Concerns about Children’s Lives and their Happiness
- Educational press-reports-2008 Cambridge Review highly critical of government
- Narrowing of the curriculum and the intensity of test preparation has resulted in a decline in the quality of primary education. More concerns about Ofsted and stress on children, teachers and heads.
- Educational press-reports-2009 Jan-Jun Trusting teachers still not on agenda
- SATs, Ofsted and the national curriculum continue to bedevil the school experience of the nation’s children, as do ministerial attempts to micromanage the education system – but concerns bubble
- Educational press-reports-2009-Jul-Dec: Watch this space
- Press-reports-2009-Jul-Dec PM: I want to free teachers to work small miracles. TES editor: Why should teachers trust either party to let them do their job? And more ...
- Educational press-reports-2010-Jan-May Classroom is No Place for Politicians
- The next few months will influence education policy for a decade. LibDems offer an Education Freedom Act. Tories will rewrite the curriculum. Schools will boycott Sats. What next?
- Educational press-reports-2010-Jun-Dec: GOVErnment
- It may seem pernickety for a website called free-school-from-government-control to challenge a government that offers some schools some freedoms, but read what educationalists are saying.
- Educational press-reports-2011: more sadness than hope
- No news? The truth is that I have been too dispirited to enter up the gloomy reports of what the Coalition government has been doing during recent months. Now I've written press-reports-2011.
- Educational press-reports-2012: concerns about government
- Press-reports-2012 raise the question: are schools heading for privatisation? Major concerns expressed by union general secretaries and educational journalists.
- BACCALAUREATE-WORRIES-1 "The English Baccalaureate: A Perfect Storm Ahead" an essay by Prof Michael Bassey (6 December 2012) suggesting a hidden agenda for the privatisation of schools.
- Commons-debate-on-baccalaureate: Bassey’s critique
- A report and critical commentary on the Parliamentary debate of 16 January 2013. Sadly based on much unchallenged opinion rather than professional evidence.
- Labour-education-2015: Coherent Planning Needed Now
- Labour-education-2015. National Education Service - a one-nation development. In May 2015 three Commissions (primary, secondary, tertiary). Proposals by April 2017. Ballot teachers for agreement
- GOVE-AMBITIONS FOR WORLD CLASS AND TO LIBERATE FROM IGNORANCE
- Michael Gove-ambitions for world class education and his inept approach to ‘liberating our poorest children from ignorance’ will be disastrous for the nation.