The Compass/NUT Education Inquiry was launched at Portcullis House on Monday 10th June 2013. It will run for a year and aims to be inclusive in nature as we look for a better future for education in the United Kingdom.
Participation is key to the inquiry and its first act was to gather the thoughts of the invited audience about how education could and should be changed in this country.
The list below is a very brief summary of some of the responses to the question “What should the inquiry do?”. A fuller collection of these comments are currently being collated by Compass and will be available on the Compass Education website next week.
What should the inquiry do?
- Focus on wisdom rather than knowledge for value in life
- Review access and equity, ensuring there is greater transparency in admissions policy and access to quality and holistic education for all
- Challenge a system that perpetuates inequalities, particularly in reference to the divisive tiered system of schooling perpetuated by the coalition through its policy on governance
- Ensure that every child has the same entitlement irrespective of the type of school they attend
- Look at an easier route back into education for those disaffected during childhood/adolescence
- Need to involved children and young people in the inquiry
- Remove education from short term political influences of individual politicians and political parties
- Identify who should decide curriculum and how this should be assessed, including the type and timing of national examinations
- Focus on working class underachievement
- Break free from neo-liberal influences on education policy which include knowledge based learning, continuous testing and hierarchy of intellect
- Explore sustainable leadership (concern that many good teachers don’t want to be head teachers because of the demands and vulnerability of the job)
- Return to focusing on the diversity of child development. Better account of emotional, social and spiritual learning.
- Develop a model of education that focuses on developing all of the intelligences, not just the intellect. Social, personal, physical, metaphysical intelligence as well as instinct need to be nurtured.
- Inquiry needs to agree on an urgency of priorities. Virtual destruction of our education system needs to be stopped but we have to prioritise with such a short timeframe for the inquiry
- Focus on technology and its use in the 21st century school
- Look at learning environments and use of libraries
- Explore community and lifelong learning, including focus on further and higher education and its accessibility for all
- Focus on the excitement of education from cradle to grave
- Explore the capabilities required to lead better lives
In our next post we will explore these points in greater detail. At this point, however, it’s worth noting how encouraging it is to be in a room full of people who have such a passion for learning and education, and whose views resonate so much with our own thinking on the purpose of education.
This was extremely evident when Wigan MP Lisa Nandy stood up and reminded us once more that this is about children. Education is about the rights of children to live a fulfilled life. She said that we don’t ask often enough what education is for, and currently there is a real tension between an ideal education and the reality of what we now face through Gove’s extensive and radical reforms. She said that we need to be mindful that teachers need to be left alone and that there’s a real need for stability but we must balance this with a need to overturn some of the policies that the current government has inflicted on schooling and education.
Lisa said that we have to have “big principles made meaningful”. We can’t just make policy statements or proposals. We have to activate them and put them into practice in order that children and young people receive and participate in meaningful education. Once more she asked the vital question, “Do our children enjoy education?” and if they don’t then the system is failing them. We must instil a love of learning that remains with our young people for life. (Thank you, Lisa).
Lisa Nandy continued to say that we need to focus on wellbeing and cited the “Rights Respecting Schools” as an excellent programme for concentrating on the needs of all children. She also said that we should stop having this divisive system of “winning and losing” which is simply not acceptable for children and young people. Labels last!
The meeting concluded with comments from two head teachers, including Sir Alisdair MacDonald, chair of the 2010 review of PSHE Education, as well as an open discussion between all participants.
Their comments are captured in the following bullet points and will be explored and explained further in our next post.
- Address precisely what in education needs to be taken out of the political domain and what needs to be retained, e.g. curriculum and qualifications shouldn’t lie with the secretary of state
- Clear evidence of impartiality of Ofsted or its equivalent. Head of Ofsted shouldn’t be seen as reiterating government policy
- True independence of inspectorate
- Review of Ofsted – there needs to be help for schools (the critical friend)
- Review of middle tier support, management and governance – what is the role of the local authority or its equivalent?
- The importance of the role of school leaders and to try and prevent the top down approach to monitoring quality teaching and learning
- Teacher morale needs to be high and trust put back into the profession – regaining professionalism
- What are we going to do about academies and free schools to stop the division of public sector education?
- The importance of Continued Professional Development, by teachers for teachers and the development of a National College of Teaching
- Discuss what constitutes a truly “National” curriculum when academies and free schools are currently exempt
- Slimming down the curriculum to essentials
- Ensuring sufficient resources are available for early identification programmes, enabling schools to respond swiftly and appropriately to problems for children and young people
Questions and comments from the audience are included in the final section of this post.
- Concern over the amount of practicing teachers present at the meeting. We need to ensure that practitioners are represented in the inquiry so that we have a system of inquiry that is “not done to but embraced with”
- Need for school governor representation
- Do we need to include opposite views within the inquiry? (Neal’s response to this was that the inquiry is open to all as long as there is adherence to the general principles of the collective and agreed views of what constitutes a “good society”.)
- We may need to consider the inquiry as an on-going piece of work, not restricted to one year
- Must look at excellent practice in Wales and Scotland. Is this just a review of education in England? (Response to this was that it is a nationwide exploration of education, including Wales, Scotland and Northern Ireland)
- We need to have a very clear vision – the more succinct, the easier to implement
- Clear definition of entitlement
- Cultivate better leaders
- How do we help teachers get better at what they do?
- What of faith schools and their impact on local schools – creating an unnatural tiered system?
- Review the treatment of school managers and head teachers who are treated like football managers – got rid of prematurely if the school fails to get results.
- Review of league tables that underpin the blame culture
- Consider why head teachers feel unable to speak out against the system for fear of repercussions professionally
- Consider whether our priorities mentioned here would be the same as what children and young people have to say about education
The meeting concluded with a poignant statement that in Finland they don’t use the word “accountability”. Instead they talk of “responsibility”.
Of course we are accountable. We are accountable to our children and young people, in order that they receive the type of education that they’re entitled to but by emphasising our responsibility rather than our accountability, we are already redressing the imbalance and blame that is so frequently dished out to teachers, schools and the profession as a whole. By using the word “responsibility” rather than “accountability” we are already moving away from a deficit model and culture of culpability to a model of inclusion and a culture of creativity.