There’s an interesting letter in the Guardian today from a certain Tom Wilson, who apparently lives in Sheffield:
The report from the OECD, Equity and Quality in Education, is a damning indictment of the education policies followed by the Blair, Brown and Cameron administrations. For Britain to be on a par with Greece, Spain and Italy and behind Estonia, Poland and Slovenia is shameful. The destruction of local authority education departments, support for faith schools and free schools, and all the other tampering has led to this. I doubt if any education minister in the past 20 years deserves anything other than beheading.
Whoa! – calm down, Tom! We can deal with all this, whatever it is, without recourse to violence. We don’t need to be Dirty Harry, or indeed summon up the tumbrils – although a certain amount of, say, dismay, or even anger, would seem to be inevitable here.
On what basis are ‘we’ on a par with Spain and Italy? Why is that such a bad thing in itself? And is it necessarily ‘shameful’ to be ‘behind’ Poland, Slovenia, etc?
Think about it, Tom. Haven’t at least some English local authority education departments, through their sheer uselessness and/or wastefulness, forfeited the right to be major players in what goes on in education? Don’t ‘free schools’ potentially have a role to play in parts of the country where LA’s have colluded in the effort to turn schools into targets-chasing results factories with little or no concern for the broader developmental needs of pupils? I’m just saying.
So what is this OECD report that Mr Wilson refers to?
At first 3Di assumed this is the story that hit the headlines back in December 2010, and since there’s no harm in keeping it in mind – thanks Mr Wilson for reminding us!
UK schools slip down world rankings
OECD study shows that despite comparatively high levels of per-pupil spending, the UK is behind Poland and Norway
The UK is ranked 25th for reading, 28th for maths and 16th for science. In 2006, when 57 countries were included in the study, it was placed 17th, 24th and 14th respectively. Poland has stretched ahead of the UK in maths, while Norway is now ranked higher in reading and maths.
Top countries in the Pisa study
4. Hong Kong-China
7. New Zealand
25. United Kingdom
Andreas Shleicher, head of the Pisa programme, said the picture for the UK was “stagnant at best”.
“Many other countries have seen quite significant improvement,” he added.
Michael Gove, the education secretary, said he was daunted “by the scale of the challenge”.
“Other countries have been improving rapidly and despite the massive investment over the last 13 years, we haven’t been improving at the rate we should have been. We are not getting value for money and we’ve got to ensure we do better.”
He said that other regions and nations had succeeded in “closing the gap”.
“They have made opportunity more equal, democratised access to knowledge and placed an uncompromised emphasis on higher standards all at the same time.”
Andy Burnham, Labour’s shadow education secretary, said that English schools were better today than they were in the 1980s and 1990s. “We should build on this strong foundation to keep driving up standards so they are on a par with the best in the world.”
[Oh dear, Andy – this is SO feeble. ‘Strong foundation’! ‘Driving up standards’ indeed. Spare us the cliches already.]
But wait! – there’s a new report just out – embargoed until yesterday in fact. So this is hot off the presses, and Tom Wilson is indeed ahead of the game!
Equity and Quality in Education:
Supporting Disadvantaged Students and Schools
We’ll leave YOU, dear readers, to have a good look at it, as indeed shall we, after which we can all begin commenting. See you back here soon, we hope.
Perhaps the Guardian is planning to comment, or even to mention the report, in the education section next Tuesday. (There was no mention of the report in the paper either yesterday or today. Many pages on Harry Redknapp and Fabio Capello though.)
Here’s the Telegraph’s take on the report: