The Education System

Odd to see this in The Guardian but welcome all the same:

There is now a torrent of evidence emerging that Britain\’s rigid, centralised approach to teaching has utterly failed in what it set out to do. It has not raised achievement, enthused pupils, narrowed the gaps between rich and poor, or given children the skills they need to make the most of their working and private lives. International surveys, small-scale studies of classroom practice, and the reports of the government\’s own agencies are all leading to the same conclusion: that real learning has been fatally abandoned for the sake of some very minor improvements in test results. Teachers are so preoccupied with telling pupils the answers they need for their exams that they can rarely respond to children\’s curiosity, arouse their interest, or find out what they think.

So what is needed is the abolition of that rigid and centralised approach.

Allow each school to conduct itself as it sees fit: to teach using whatever method they themselves prefer.

Slap that voucher on the back of every snot nose and let the market sort it out.

What\’s not to like?

14 thoughts on “The Education System”

  1. No, no, no, you need the “rigid and centralised approach” to tell teachers to “respond to children’s curiosity, arouse their interest, or find out what they think.”
    You don’t think teachers will do it without being told? Without Ed Balls hands on the levers of power the education system would collapse;)

  2. Remembering to state clearly that vouchers can’t be topped up – if you want a private education, you pay the full whack. Otherwise the poorest, most disruptive kids will get clustered together and fail miserably together, entrenching middle- and upper-class advantage.

    And personally I’d be in favour of giving low-income household higher-valued education vouchers so that the poor kids get a better education and chance to move up the chain. If all schools can be encouraged to take a small proportion of poor kids (due to their very valuable vouchers) then everyone will win.

  3. Perhaps we might usefully reflect on how the overly centralised, command-and-control system of managing schools developed.

    It started with Kenneth Baker, as a Conservative education minister, introducing a national curriculum twenty years ago. That was in response to mounting concerns at the time about failing schools and poor attainment standards among school leavers when a good education was becoming increasingly important for getting a job and staying employed because of international competition:
    http://education.guardian.co.uk/schools/story/0,,2267841,00.html

    The rot started IMO with Blunkett’s mania as education minister for introducing daily initiatives regardless of the capacity of schools to absorb them: “a day without a new initiative is a day wasted,” was his declared guideline.

    The Lib Dems collected statistics on the scale of the new initiatives. Over the three years from May 1997 to May 2000, when Blunkett was education secretary in Blair’s first government, the Department of Education issued to Local Education Authorities:

    – 315 consultation papers
    – 387 regulation documents
    – 437 guidance documents
    – 143 data collection documents
    – 9 letters from Ministers

    In total, 1291 separate pieces of paperwork – which works out at more than one a day. Blunkett’s excuse was that he had good reason to be concerned about failing schools. But then consider this recent news report relating to Yorkshire:

    “ONE in five of the country’s worst 50 schools based on 14-year-olds’ test results can be found in Yorkshire, according to shocking figures published today. . . Dozens of secondary schools from across the region are languishing at the bottom of the league tables for key stage three tests in English, maths and science.”
    http://www.yorkshirepost.co.uk/schools/Tests-gloom-for-Yorkshires-failing.3824612.jp

  4. “Remembering to state clearly that vouchers can’t be topped up – if you want a private education, you pay the full whack. ”

    That strikes me as grossly unfair. These vouchers are not a gift; parents (well tax payers) have already paid for them. Your policy is not so much people pay the full whack, as making them pay twice.

  5. I just found a reference at Statistics Canada that puts per pupil spending in Canada at $9000, as of 2006. that just half 9000 Pounds at current exchange rates. And we think our schools are expensive.
    I don’t think our teachers are paid a lot less than other places ; about $52000 – 70000 for senior teachers depending on province and education. Where does the money go?

  6. I think it’s something that used to be called “lying”, but is now called “misspeaking”.

    The made-up £9000 figure is conveniently high enough to imply that private schools could easily take over the state’s role, whereas the correct £4500 figure is low enough to make it obvious to even the dimmest libertoonian that this wouldn’t work. So obviously it makes sense to use the £9000…

    Tim adds: As I understand it the higher figure adds in capital expenditure (which private schools get from their fees of course) plus teachers’ pension payments (ditto). But then I still have’t actually seen both sets of calculations…..

  7. “Remembering to state clearly that vouchers can’t be topped up – if you want a private education, you pay the full whack.” On the contrary, announce it to the world so that as many people as possible use private schooling.
    “Otherwise the poorest, most disruptive kids will get clustered together and fail miserably together”: bollocks, if they are clustered together then they can be effectively taught using techniques suited to their state – by large, gruff, retired sarn’t-majors with no disposition to be mucked about.

  8. “Remembering to state clearly that vouchers can’t be topped up – if you want a private education, you pay the full whack. Otherwise the poorest, most disruptive kids will get clustered together and fail miserably together, entrenching middle- and upper-class advantage.

    And personally I’d be in favour of giving low-income household higher-valued education vouchers so that the poor kids get a better education and chance to move up the chain. If all schools can be encouraged to take a small proportion of poor kids (due to their very valuable vouchers) then everyone will win.”

    You just don’t get it do you?

    The schools are rubbish because they can’t contain or arrest the behaviour of violent, disruptive kids who’s parents couldn’t care less. They can’t expel them without a federal case. And the parents are more likely to smash up the school than take control of their kids. It’s not because they are poor. It’s because they have a rotten empty abusive home environment.

    There is no justification for inflicting the woes of the problem family, upon all the other children in the school.

    No amount of voucher money will compensate for a child who violently abuses staff and other pupils, and deprives 30 other kids of a decent education, daily.

    The schools must be able to select their intake. Allow the voucher to be topped up, but also allow the schools to run scholarships, to help the families who are committed to education, but too hard up to pay the premium.

    And the most disruptive kids need a very different type of education anyway. Far better to have them all in one place. Because right now, no-one is addressing their problems. We are just offloading the burden onto 11 year old shoulders.

    Oh and stop pretending to care about the poor and the working class, you don’t. They are the ones who can’t afford to pay to get their kids into a decent school. What you want, is to keep them down.

  9. “They can’t expel them without a federal case.”

    Please explain what “a federal case” might be in the context of the UK education system.

    Or alternatively, stop talking ideological nonsense with no basis in reality…

  10. Well the term is what we call a figure of speech.

    What it meant to me, prior to my escape from the chalkface, was that every excluded pupil had to have individual lesson plans sent to him, and marked, and followed up. Every day. With all necessary resources supplied.

    And we never achieved a permanent exclusion, but we did get lumbered with a couple of pupils who had been permanently chucked out of other schools. The class teachers weren’t allowed to know what they had done to get expelled, but all the children knew, and many of them were scared of these new arrivals. One had sexually assaulted a first year child, and the other had set a girl on fire, using a neat trick with an aerosol can and a lighter.

    Oh and here’s some more of that nonsense with no basis in reality, except there are teachers in this thread with much more experience than me.

    http://www.telegraph.co.uk/news/main.jhtml?xml=/news/2008/03/27/nschools127.xml#form

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