In today’s Guardian Education – twenty snapshots of mini-manifestos written by a selection of thoughtful educationalists . . . and Toby Young.
What to do with the Y factor? Why pay any attention to it? This man is more than a rent-a-gob. He’s an obsessive attention seeker, a mouthpiece for Govism and a hard-right reactionary ideologue. We can surely agree on this as a starting point? So let’s move on.
OK let’s not. Let’s dwell for one brief moment on his words of wisdom in this article.
If a for-profit company can set up, own and operate a free school at less cost to the taxpayer than a charitable organisation, and if it can guarantee above-average pupil outcomes, it shouldn’t be prevented from doing so for ideological reasons.
Anyone getting a whiff of self-interest in this blatant attempt to marketise education and sell it off to the lowest bidder(s)? Key words here: ‘for-profit’, ‘taxpayer’, ‘own’, ‘outcomes’, ‘above average’, ‘ideological’. Additional tags: ‘results’, ‘data’, ‘ownership’, ‘private sector’, ‘profits’, ‘dividends’, ‘tests’, etc. Words not required: children, wellbeing, learning, teaching.
Debra Kidd focuses on the need to have education policy driven by professionals – by people who understand the all-round wellbeing of children and the need for holistic learning, who have years of experience working within schools and high levels of expertise in pedagogy.
I’d love to see proposals for a Royal College of Teaching – an idea that has gained cross-party support – actually get off the ground. But it must be created by the teaching profession, not the government. Having an independent body working in collaboration with government and ministers to develop policy – based on proven research – could really make a difference.
Anthony Seldon and Peter Hyman are agreed on the need to scrap 16+ exams.
I’d like a see a new government that’s brave enough to do away with GCSEs and introduce the International Baccalaureate. The fact that our kids grow up in this global world and we have a diddy national education system with quaint little exams called GCSEs is madness. The IB is the best exam system in the world, and everyone should be doing it. (Mr Seldon)
The GCSE should be abolished completely. With the school-leaving age rising to 18 next year – something all of the political parties seem to agree is a good idea – what exactly is the point of having an exam at 16? It just gets in the way. (Mr Hyman)
Professional development, qualified teacher status, pay and conditions of service are key topics:
Ensure all teachers in all state schools are qualified. A return to a national pay scale would also be welcome, as having teachers being paid differently in different schools can lead to staffing problems. (Christine Blower)
Let’s scrap performance-related pay. The teacher labour market was already a mess, but the introduction of this has made things even worse. When you have different schools having different rules around pay and conditions it’s damaging to morale. (Andrew Old)
Top of the list is great teaching; so much of the policy change over the last four years has been about structures and accountability, we’ve lost sight of the basics. That’s why we’d like to see a professional development programme leading to qualified teacher status (QTS) after a maximum of two years’ induction and a master’s-level professional qualification after five years. We’d also like to see a national fund to attract talented teachers to schools in the most deprived areas and a three-year contract for headteachers who take on the most challenging schools. (John Tomsett)
Any new government will need to invest serious money in the recruitment and retention of school leaders – particularly in the most challenging schools. Over the next five years, we’re going to need thousands more headteachers, but the number of applicants is plummeting. Some of that might be about addressing some of the pressures of the job. There are a lot of people who are deputy heads who are saying, “Why on earth would I become a headteacher? I’ve got a leadership role, I’ve got responsibility and so on, but I don’t have to deal with the amount of rubbish that comes along with that.” The government is going to have to look at the level of risk associated with taking on challenging schools. (Russell Hobby)
Peter Hyman and Anthony Seldon are also in agreement on the importance of the kinds of achievements and learning that are beyond the academic:
The recent decision to drop the speaking and listening component from the English GCSE was a bad one. It’s not about debating clubs; it’s about helping children develop self-confidence and thinking skills – the kinds of things employers look for. And there’s something very illogical about that decision: we assess children’s oral communication skills in French or German, so why not in English? It’s a pattern that is being repeated right across the curriculum; exams are getting narrower, so they are a snapshot of what a child can remember on a given day rather than a test of their true abilities. (Hyman)
A bigger emphasis on character education would also be good. Unfortunately, some of the advisers in our current government made the terrible mistake of thinking the development of good character is somehow the enemy of academic excellence. But if we are trying to build good atmospheres in schools, and get kids to grow up to become good employees, then turning up on time, being responsible, civil, polite, caring, thoughtful and honest – they need to know these things. (Seldon)
Let the final word in this particular post go to Camila Batmanghelidjh, who truly understands the idiocy of rankings, league tables and the whole ideology of ‘driving up standards’ –
Michael Gove seems to think that, no matter what your disadvantage, you can attain educationally. The truth is that some children are so disadvantaged that it affects their brain functioning to such a level that they can’t even sit still or stay calm in school – never mind pass exams. We’re seeing a lot of schools trying to get rid of their most vulnerable pupils because they are having an impact on their attainment levels. I’d like to see some kind of measure introduced that rewards schools for dealing with the more disturbed and challenging pupils. Unless this happens, things aren’t going to change.