These are crucial days for the re-shaping of our national policies on education. We need a major rethink on how the education system is run in England. We need as many teachers, educationalists, students, parents and other stakeholders as possible to become aware of the key issues and to have their say – both now and via the ballot box in 2015. Consider these words from the Compass Interim Report of its Inquiry into a 21st Century Education System:
“Education is probably the most important activity people can create together, for education, along with the family, is the means by which we understand and reach our full potential as human beings . . .
Power has become highly concentrated in the hands of ministers, resulting in constant politically and ideologically imposed change, which demoralises teachers, confuses students and parents, and marginalises key stakeholders like the business community. At the same time, furious competition between education providers has led to education provision becoming highly fragmented and the lack of collaboration is damaging the prospects of all learners, especially the most vulnerable.”
(Page 6, The Bloomsbury Paper: http://compass.3cdn.net/78fe8b157df89dc89b_9em6b4j8f.pdf )
The Labour Party leadership clearly appreciates the need to address these concerns, and to that end David Blunkett MP was asked to produce a policy review, which has now been published: Review of education structures, functions and the raising of standards for all.
3Di has already commented on the aspects of this report that we have concerns about – http://3diassochiates.wordpress.com/2014/05/14/over-to-you-tristram/
On balance, however, it needs to be said that this is a formidable piece of work that deserves to be read by anyone who sees the need for a coherent and equitable education system that is shaped through local accountability and which both supports and appropriately challenges education professionals. We particularly like the report’s strap line: Putting students and parents first.
We strongly encourage everyone to read both these reports, and to consider their many similar thoughts and conclusions, especially those on the governance of education, which was David Blunkett’s somewhat restricted remit. (The Compass Report is much wider-ranging in its scope.)
These paragraphs give a flavour of the Blunkett report-
Schools and colleges are not factories to instil facts, and then hope that young people somehow make sense of them and become functioning and creative adults.
We have to provide the opportunity to build those thinking or critical skills, which allow the analytical faculties to develop – to be able to challenge, as well as to make sense of the ever-changing world around us.
Accessing data via an iPhone* or computer is necessary in the modern world – but not sufficient. The mind of a child is, after all, more sophisticated than even the most highly-developed computer.
(*Other smartphones are available)
Children need to learn how to reason and how to study, and not just how to display their knowledge of acquired facts. Equally, developing the character of the individual child and their growth into an active and constructive citizen is vital to the future of all of us.
Those inspiring teachers, stirring texts and imaginative programmes of learning, which light a candle and engender a love of learning for life, must also be central to our goals. Indeed, an Institute of Education study in autumn 2013 found that children who read for pleasure perform significantly better at school in Maths as well as English.
Creativity is necessary in a world where innovation and entrepreneurship, both economic and social, will be vital to the survival of our species and to the civilised outcome of an ever more urbanised society. As all good teachers know, the joy of teaching is to see a child develop and flourish, to grow into an independent and self-confident adult.
Historically, education was driven by the economic and commercial needs of an economy that required basic functionality from a wide swath of the populous.
We have moved substantially away from this basic utilitarian view, as we have from the ‘trickle down’ philosophy that only a small percentage of the population needed to be highly educated.
Today’s employees must be flexible and creative, able to adapt to rapidly changing circumstances, to team work and to the use of individual initiative.
David Blunkett met with members of Compass’s education group this week to discuss these two Inquiries and their respective reports. There was general agreement that “We’re on the same page” and “going in the same direction” – in terms of the need to decentralise the entire system away from the direct control of the Secretary of State. As for a return to Local Authority responsibilty for all mainstream schools, this is still a point of contention, with Compass and Labour seeing the need for Local Education Boards [LEAs?] made up of a range of stakeholders, whilst the NUT and others support a complete restoration of responsibility to Local Authorities. The NUT also has major concerns about teacher contracts and national pay scales, which were not within the remit of the Blunkett report.
Once again we urge everyone who cares about education and the wellbeing of students and teachers to find time to read these two major reports, to discuss their contents with others, and to give feedback to Compass, David Blunkett and the Labour Party.