Readers of this website who may have been looking for educational news for 2011 will have found none to date. 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.
Instead I’ve been working on my forthcoming book Education for the Inevitable: Schooling When the Oil Runs Out (Book Guild, out in September, already listed on amazon.co.uk). One chapter, ‘Goodbye to Government Control: Time to Wield Occam’s Razor’ sets out the concerns of this website, but most of the book is about the kind of schooling needed by today’s children since they will grow up in a world beset by the horrendous problems of peak oil and climate change.
Here are some of the significant government-educational events of the past six months.
Another revision. The Department of Education announced in May ‘We want to create a world-class curriculum that will help teachers, parents and children know what children learn at what age. We are currently reviewing all aspects of the national curriculum and will consult fully on the programmes of study when the review concludes.’
In June Education secretary Michael Gove announced that the 700 ‘worst-performing’ primary schools will be made into academies sponsored by ‘high-achieving’ schools. The Anti-Academies Alliance then pointed out that many of the schools targeted are in our poorest communities, with high numbers of pupils eligible for free school meals, high levels of special educational need, and many pupils for whom English is a second language. The Alliance also reported that 60% of secondary schools (1,918) have not applied to become academies and neither have 97% of primary schools (15,198).
The government decided to increase the data published on schools to include teacher absence rates and average salaries and then, to the horror of many, announced that league tables will no longer take account of pupil’s deprivation, ethnicity, and other neighbourhood background factors. The option of abolishing league tables was not considered!
Ofsted has again moved the goal posts. Regardless of pupil background, schools that have below average test results will be ‘failed’ unless they show evidence, over recent years, of steady improvement. Confidential papers seen by the Times Educational Supplement suggest that this may entail more than 5,300 schools being so designated.
On SATs the news may be better. The government-commissioned enquiry by Lord Bews decided that writing tests should be dropped (in favour of teacher assessments) from key stage 2 SATs, leaving the two maths papers and the reading paper. Then Carol Volderman, commissioned to advise on mathematics teaching, recommended that the maths SATs should be dropped ‘because they narrow the curriculum’. Whether the government will accept this view of maths teaching remains to be seen.
This page was created on 12 August 2011