Tuesday, February 03, 2015

A Manifesto for Education

On Tuesday 27th January we had Bob Archer of the Redbridge National Union of Teachers come to speak at our coffee morning on “A manifesto for our children’s education” – a document drawn up by the NUT in response to the “crisis” in our education system, which they believe is near breakdown due to ill-advised interference by recent successive governments, and to try and influence politicians in the run-up to the general election later this year in May.

The booklet (cover pictured) is available as a PDF here and is only 314Kb. It is quite a light and easy read but the salient points are delivered clearly and concisely and backed up with references to the evidence and statistical analysis. What else would you expect from the teaching profession? Even the bitlight nature of the PDF illustrates an attention to detail that some local authorities and political parties might like to consider (not everyone has unlimited broadband). I suggest you read it for yourself but here are a few notes from me:

Bob’s first point was that politicians should listen to parents and teachers and he told us that he will be meeting Lee Scott, MP for Ilford North at least until May, this coming Friday 6th February at the OK coral in Barkingside High Street. How much influence Lee has I don’t know but it seems the government’s mind is already made up. This below from yesterday, 2nd Feb.
The prime minister’s announcement today [2 Feb 2015] that, if elected, the Tories will force “mediocre” schools to convert to academies was important for a couple of reasons. First, it indicated that the government wants to make education an election issue. Second, it shows that politicians never learn. There is now a bucket load of evidence that academies don’t raise standards: a report from the House of Commons education committee last week showed this, as has Henry Stewart’s forensic analysis of academies’ results for the Local Schools Network. Furthermore, we have lots of significant research evidence from the US and Sweden where similar “academy-style” schools have been set up. Clearly they are not a good way to invest taxpayers’ money.
The curriculum needs to be inclusive and flexible. Exam subjects have been narrowed to academic only with vocation and trade subjects eliminated. Who’s going to unblock your drain?

There is a drive to one size fits all with the teaching of reading by using phonetics. Not all children respond to this method. We noted particularly that those gifted with musical ability have a unique way of learning, not to mention those with speech and language difficulties.

Learning to pass tests instead of learning how to learn stifles creativity and innovation.

Academies are not subject to the same standards as local authority schools. They are not required to employ qualified teachers. They are however subject to the market and while they are not required to do so it is in their interests to hold substantial reserves (which otherwise would be put into front line education) just in case they are sued.

We have a fractured system. The local authority is legally obliged to provide education for all those within its remit but it cannot build any new schools. It has a legal obligation but is totally reliant on the market for new school places. Somewhere along the line this is going to break.

The notion of giving democratic control back to communities is undermined by the fact that any problems with academies are referred not to local elected representatives but to the centralised Department for Education and the Secretary of State.

There was a suggestion that Head Teachers of state schools are being encouraged (bullied was the actual word used) to convert to academies.


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