The Education Debates – Part One


It’s hard to stay positive sometimes. Much as I admire and respect the BBC’s efforts to inform, educate and entertain, I hate it when serious programmes are required to ‘balance’ their presentations by including zealous, elitist, think-tank idiots. And I say that as a sincere believer in inclusivity. Take a bow, Rachel Wolf, aged 27, director of New Schools Network, and policy advisor to the Conservative party.

As described in yesterday’s 3D Eye post, this first of three ‘debates’ asked the question, what is education FOR?

If there was a “progressive” voice on the panel of yesterday’s programme it was difficult to know who it might be. Perhaps Anthony Seldon, biographer of Tony Blair and the head of one of the most expensive fee-paying schools in the country.

Certainly not Estelle Morris, Lady Morris, who famously resigned from her post in government some ten years ago on the grounds that she wasn’t up to doing it. Her contribution to this programme was mainly to let us know that the curriculum for every child should consist of a “tight, rigorous body of knowledge and basic skills”.

It was Seldon who had the wit to say that it’s the job of schools to help all students to make the most of their talents, to awaken curiosity, and to turn young people into lifelong learners. He also pointed out that the government is wasting its time fiddling with a new national curriculum since the International Baccalaureat is already well established, and seeks to move schools away from rote learning for tests and exams towards the promotion of thinking skills, and original and creative thinking. He’s also a believer in the primacy of happiness and wellbeing, and the development of values and virtues in young people.

Iram Siraj-Blatchford of the Institute of Education, London University, stressed the importance of the Early Years and what children learn about learning, and about themselves as learners. Do they, in fact, learn how to learn?

Ignorant Parent #1 chipped in with some concern about children learning about themselves, and thought it’s more important for them to “learn about the world”.

Ignorant Parent #2 was angry about turning schools into “large therapy sessions”.

Seldon then came back and said that schools which develop “more rounded individuals” also tend to come top of the league tables.

Ms Wolf was adamant that every child should be made to pass their GCSEs in physics, maths and chemistry (she’s a science graduate) before they’re allowed to turn their thoughts to becoming hairdressers, carpenters, dancers, etc. Estelle Morris seemed to agree.

Seldon was the only one who spoke about “different intelligences and different capabilities that schools should recognise and develop”. “We see which way their traits take them and celebrate their differences.” He was also concerned about whether young people actually love learning for its own sake, or are even interested in learning.

Fancy that – caring about what children think and feel. Maybe the head of a school is more inclined to do so when they’re charging parents around twice the national average annual income for each year’s fees.

About 3D Eye

Gary Foskett and Clare Blackhall are educationalists, writers and consultants. We work with schools and other organisations who share our vision of how schools, businesses, etc should work in the 21st Century. We also run courses and contribute to conferences - speaking about our three dimensional model of intelligences and how schools, colleges and universities can develop the full potential of all their staff and students. We also offer consultancy for businesses and public sector organisations to support staff training and organisational change and development. For more detailed information read our blog at or see our website at
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