OUR WOEFUL SCHOOLS, BY TESCO BOSS
A LESSON IN INCOMPETENCE: 1 IN 3 SCHOOLS FAILS TO PROVIDE ADEQUATE TEACHING
A DAMNING INDICTMENT: SCHOOL SPENDING DOUBLES BUT GCSE GRADES BARELY IMPROVE
These were front-page headlines in three issues of the Daily Mail in late 2009
Headlines like these worry parents, anger teachers, alarm ministers, and sell newspapers. As a result parents agonise over league tables trying to find the best school for their children, teachers know that they can’t work any harder and so mutter about early retirement, ministers look for further ways to put pressure on schools, and newspaper proprietors rub their hands in glee.
Ok, I exaggerate. But the steady condemnation of schools by much of the press, with rare praise for successes, makes me angry. Yet then I ask, what is the evidence for and against these concerns? What do parents of children in school think?
An Ipsos Mori poll of March 2010 of 230 parents interviewed found that 40% said their children’s school was very good; 39% fairly good; 8% neither good nor poor; 6% poor; 3% very poor; and 4% couldn’t say.
So an important point is that the majority of parents are pleased with their children's schools.
What of employers? The Confederation of British Industry (CBI) regularly asks its members how they find school leavers. This is a press release of 11 June 2012
Further progress on school and college leaver attainment requires radical new vision The number of employers who are dissatisfied with school and college leavers’ basic skills remains stuck at around a third – the same as a decade ago – with 42% reporting they have had to provide remedial training for school and college leavers.
Employers are clearly less satisfied than parents.
Notwithstanding the flow of directives from government, the constant goal-post movement of the school inspectorate (Ofsted), the enquiries into examination standards, the increasing complexity of school league tables, and the ministerial rhetoric of ‘raising standards’ in the face of international competition, there is a high level of dissatisfaction among employers. We need to treat this seriously and not disregard it as inevitable.
While newspapers and government ministers blame teachers, I blame government ministers in administrations of both left and right who have pressured schools since the Education Reform Act of 1988. In 24 years there have been twelve different secretaries of state for education, only two of whom had had teaching experience in classrooms, all with dogmatic ideas on how to ‘raise educational standards’ but few listening to the advice of those who have devoted their working lives to the education of young people and recognise the varied impact of environment and family on their development.
To turn to another Ipsos Mori poll, the question ‘would you generally trust these people to tell the truth, or not?’ in 2011 elicited these responses:
Doctors: 88%; Teachers: 81%; Journalists: 19%; Government Ministers: 17%
This provides the starting point for the proposal. Teachers are trusted: sadly ministers are not! So, who should control our children’s education? I am one (of many) who believes that education should be taken from national government and put in the hands of those who know best what young people need – their teachers, working collegially in schools, relating to the local community, and guided – but not controlled – by a national advisory body.
It is a call for the next
government to establish a NATIONAL EDUCATION SERVICE which, I believe, offers the
kind of radical new vision for which the CBI has called while ensuring that parents, and young people, value schooling in every part of the country.
This proposal aims to scrape off the present corrosion and prepare education for gold-plating in terms which should be acceptable to teachers, academics, the business world, and when carefully explained, parents and the general public.
It would abolish Ofsted, end the work of the league table statisticians and wind down the functions of the Department of Education. Also it would require the examination boards to tool up for end-of-schooling diplomas in the place of GCSE and A-level examinations. The Tories would never do it, nor could the Labour of Blair and Brown, but it is just what Miliband's Labour should now be aiming for in 2015 in order ‘to create the means to realise our true potential’ as proclaimed on Labour party membership cards.
The proposed National Education Service would be funded, but not controlled, by the state and run by teachers, working collegially in comprehensive schools and academies, who are trusted to teach each and every one of their pupils to the best of their professional ability in accord with the collegial policies of their institutions and ideals of social justice. Accountability would be bottom-up; a National Education Council would support but not dictate; local administrations would do likewise; governing bodies would be local.
Yes, it would free schools from government control – but not in the way of Mr Gove, whose pseudo-freedoms for academies depended upon secret contracts, damaged other schools, and amounted to freedom for private sector businesses to profit from state funding.
A National Education Service would lead the way to gold-plated education!
Chapter One: CORROSION-OF-EDUCATION - now a free standing essay
Chapter Two: LABOUR-SHOULD-ACT - archived
Chapter Three: EVERYONE-MUST-MASTER-ENGLISH - now a free standing essay
Chapter Four: PROPOSAL-FOR-A-NAT-ED-SERVICE- archived
Chapter Five: LOOKING-BACK-FROM-2040 - now a free standing essay
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This site prepared in 2011. Changes made on 13 March 2015. More on 10 Nov 2015