“The draft of the Clarke report obtained by the Guardian found that the city’s academies, lacking proper oversight, were in a state of . . . benign neglect, “vulnerable to those without good intentions”.
Its criticisms went to the core of the Gove agenda: the helter-skelter conversion to academy status of scores of schools, the ease with which academy chains could be formed, and the light touch regulation that meant the main criterion for success was improving exam results.”
– Guardian editorial 23rd July 2014
“It is surely hypocritical of the government to blame Birmingham council over the Trojan horse affair when for more than 20 years governments have emasculated local education authorities and promoted parent power.”
– letter to the Guardian, Professor Derek Woodrow, 25th July 2014
So what is the central issue here?
In our view it’s the views of the education profession (The Blob?) that have been for decades systematically ignored, sidelined and diminished, even though, when push comes to shove, it’s schools and teachers that have to stand up for the things that really matter – which are the rights, needs and wellbeing of children.
The only good reason for becoming a teacher is to serve, protect and nurture young people and other learners, and in order to do so, teachers must have a clear understanding of their rights and their developmental needs, which are physical, personal, social and emotional as well as intellectual and academic.
The upheavals that have taken place in education in England concern, for the most part, the governance and funding of education, with very little attention paid to the actual needs and rights of learners. These upheavals have been predicated on the notion that all that really matters is “driving up standards”, which are weasel words whose true meaning is “raising test and exam scores”.
Are we in favour of raising attainment? Yes we are. But not if it’s done in an unprincipled fashion that’s detrimental to the holistic development of children. Not if it sidelines physical education, social and emotional learning, creativity, the arts and spiritual development, etc.
The actions of successive education ministers show very clearly their obsession with systems, governance and exam scores, and their neglect of children’s all-round needs and human rights. Children have a right to enjoy childhood, especially those who struggle academically but are able to excel in these other areas of their learning. In fact, even the academically able are in desperate need of an education that is enjoyable, creative and motivating, and enables them to become more personally, socially, spiritually and emotionally intelligent.
When will we ever learn?
A discussion on this morning’s BBC Radio 4 ‘Today’ programme raised several important points about the new regulations that require teachers to actively ‘teach’ British values. Nobody can actually define these specifically ‘British’ values, but teachers are supposed to teach them.
This is nonsense. All schools should enable all children to understand and appreciate whatever we can agree are universal human values. They should also understand that there is nothing specifically British about any of them. Children should also understand the concept of virtue, and the 100+ virtues that we could or should aspire to.
The ‘Today’ programme today included a guest who advocates the right of faith schools to maintain a focus on their particular faith whilst ignoring all others. “Why should children that are being brought up within a particular faith be taken to visit the places of worship of other faiths?”
Here’s someone who just doesn’t get it. Why should parents and others have the right to keep their children ghettoised and incarcerated within their particular places of learning? Children have rights too – which should override all others. Children have an absolute right not to be programmed or brainwashed, and a right to appreciate and understand people of every faith, as well as those of no faith.