Wednesday, 4 January 2012

Achieving Full Potential Within The Entire Education System

A post from Tedious Tantrums.

A New Year and an old topic, education. I can’t keep away from it. Mrs TT is a teacher and I am a great supporter of meaningful education, which is appropriate for the needs of our young people and our country.

Education itself actually causes many of the problems we have to face on a daily basis, be it education itself, or any other of the hundreds of other topics which take up our leaders and politicians time. Our leaders and politicians come either from independent schools or a comprehensive education background, which is fair enough as long as this does not also encourage elitism and division.

Far too many of them go to Oxbridge and are taught the same subjects in the same classes and come out with the same degrees. Sure, they put a left or right spin on it, but it boils down to the same thing. Very few of them have run a business, far too many of them have gone into marketing or the softer side of the business world. Armed with Oxbridge theories and precious little experience they attempt to run the world by becoming politicians and then leaders.

If we want a great education system in Scotland and the UK we really need to start at the beginning again. The Curriculum for Excellence looks good on paper but it seems unlikely to succeed at least at secondary level, the jury is still out. Maybe it could work and work well but there are a number of flaws; teacher training, council education departments, central government and teacher career paths.

Teacher training has been hijacked for political reasons. A level playing field for all pupils/students is never going to work, a lack of competition for pupils/students is never going to work and dumbing down the content of courses cheats every single person in our nation.

Education, if it is about anything at all, is about to ensuring that EVERY pupil/student achieves their full potential. The current system does not allow this to happen. A teacher cannot give enough time to each pupil/student to ensure that this is the case. The system then is WRONG. The system has to reflect the core aim “that EVERY pupil/student achieves their full potential”.

To achieve this “every student teacher has to achieve their full potential” and again the system of student teaching has to change to achieve this.

It would be difficult for the political left or right to argue against this. Obviously they would but this provides a further significant change to that part of the process. There is no place for politicisation in any area of education.

It would be difficult for the different religions to argue against this. Obviously they would but this provides a further significant change to that part of the process. There is no place for religion in any area of education.

This then would have an impact on the local council education department. The easiest way to achieve this is to reduce the size and influence of the local education department down to the lowest possible level to support schools.

In reducing the Education Department down to a much smaller size, significantly more resources could be provided directly to schools for schools to decide on what is best for their requirements. This would also require a different relationship with central government and the development of a much improved funding model used to invest in every individual pupil/student, student teacher, teacher and school.

A centralisation of teaching resources could then be developed and shared nationally to stop continual wheel re-invention and duplication whilst promoting best practice in line with the aim of every school and every teacher to ensure EVERY pupil/student achieves their full potential.

This would then require a different type of management to be introduced to schools. This along with other steps required to achieve the first five aims listed below will, be the subject of next weeks post and possible at least one further post to follow. Meantime please feel free to comment.

Identified aims –
  • EVERY pupil/student should achieve their full potential;
  • EVERY student teacher should achieve their full potential;
  • There is NO PLACE for politicisation within education;
  • There is No PLACE for religion in any area of education;
  • REDUCE the size and influence of local education department to the lowest possible level required to support schools.


Edward Spalton said...

As you say, education has been hi-jacked by political correctness/social engineering.

Back in the Eighties, when I was a governor of an infants' school, we were supposed to be gaining more control. It was called LMS, Local Management of Schools and it was a total fraud with all decisions guided from above and rubber stamped by political and trade union appointees whom the parent governors were given to believe to be "the experts".

The school was supposed to have a sort of mission statement or target. When I suggested that this should be an aim for every child to be reading and writing up to an adequate standard, I became a total outcast. Nothing so specific should be suggested because some children might not achieve it - so how would they feel?

So the officially adopted aim was "to be a welcoming school" - utter meaningless drivel, topped off by a policy "to make the students (sic) responsible for their own learning" - therefore teachers were not to blame for any low achievement!

That adults could spend an evening producing such soft-headed rubbish to order was just about believable. That they should be the people in charge of developing young minds was utterly dispiriting.

Any system which sets out with the average as its aim is bound to end up with ever decreasing attainment.

Actually, the older teachers just paid lip service to the politically required ethos and managed to get on with their jobs pretty well - in spite of lurking "advisors" from County Hall. The younger teachers appeared mostly to believe the disastrous theories they had been taught at teacher training college.

Anonymous said...

My thoughts exactly Edward. I worked with the Dept of Education & Skills for a time part of which had me speaking with school Head Teachers and governors etc. There was a great deal of enthusiasm from the schools and a wariness when it came to offering them additional support.

The local education depts, were also wary. Everyone was protecting their corner.

hector said...

is possibly private schools an issue in this?if you live in an area where the state schools are not up to your standard,you have the money and the interest in your child's education system, where is the incentive to get it sorted out.all you need do is look around for better school in the private sector.if that option was not available would the parents those kids sit back and let the situation deteriorate? p.t.a meetings may be a bit different.

Dean MacKinnon-Thomson said...

No room for politicisation in education?

Someone had better let the teaching unions that then?

Elby the Beserk said...

Simples. Convert all state schools into Free Steiner Academies.


Purpose of education, said Rudolf Steiner, is to produce "free and responsible adults". Manifestly, the state system is failing in that.

By chance I got hold of the 60s Maths text book I did for my O & C board Maths 'O' level. Showed it to the very bright kid of friends of ours, studying Physics at a top Uni.

First area he looked at, opening the book at random, he said - "We did that in the second year of our 'A's".

Just one example, but a clear one of how grade inflation has taken hold. Quite how it serves our children to be told that they can never fail. however bad they are at a subject, I do not know.

Anonymous said...

I'm not sure that removing independent schools from the system would help.

I recently heard Hector, that it is becoming increasingly difficult for independent schools to deliver due to the interference from parents. "We have paid X amount for our child to attend and we expect Y. How are you going to address this" seems to be the way of it. This could o lead to standards being lowered as they are forced to pander to so many needs which they do not have the resources for.

Anonymous said...

Spot on Dean. Unions in schools are not good. The solution is to provide teachers with the working conditions which are acceptable and which are not subject to political meddling.

Anonymous said...

I'm not sure about Steiner being the solution Elby. They seem to work reasonably well at the moment. I'll take a rain check on this if you don't mind. I'll return to it in the next week or two as part of this s Education topic.

subrosa said...

Independent schools are not the problem, they're the solution. Mind you TT, if your information is correct there are quite a few bad managers in independent schools. None I used to know would tolerate such interference from parents. They all stuck together too because their standards were their selling point and the loss of a couple of pupils was less important.

Dean's comment has a lot to do with it. Independent schools are not 'run' by teachers more interested in what their union does than their pupils do and within the state sector I've met many of that ilk.

I too must look into the Steiner schools again. Many years ago I had quite a bit to do with them but I've lost contact now. If their progress is as it was, then well done them.

Joe Public said...

Can we also allow children to experience for themselves, risk?

When kids are not allowed to climb trees or play conkers, they grow up to assume the real world is padded with cotton wool.

It ain't; it never will be; and, sometimes "accidents" are the fault of the injured for not being aware of potential danger.

Anonymous said...

The national curriculum has also had an impact on independent schools.

Parent pester power is unfortunately very prevalent in both state and independent schools. The bigger and better the schools are the more likely they are to withstand the pressure.

I'll save the union part for later.

Thanks SR.

Anonymous said...

Interesting point JoeP. Freeing up the schools and reducing the input of the council should address that to a degree. Educating and encouraging parents to assess and accept risk would also help.

Dean MacKinnon-Thomson said...

Independent schools tend to be more flexible in terms of education policy approaches too, not encumbered by the dead hand of local government.

'City Academies' is a Blairesque educational invention that I personally wouldn't mind seeing in Scotland ... but even then, there are issues with that model too.

Edward Spalton said...

Hello again TT!

As the late Professor Joad used to say on the Brains Trust "It all depends what you mean by..." in this case "pester power"

The infants' school where I was (briefly) a governor was the one which our own children had attended a few years before. It really did a very good job for them but the retiring head knew that standards were slipping and felt powerless to do anything about it. The new head - a very pleasant lady- really couldn't see the problem for all was for the best and would be even better with more "resources" - which were actually quite plentiful as classes were small (18 -22, if I recall correctly).

It was at the Junior school where the rot set in. Our son had been encouraged by his teacher in the infants' school and was well ahead. This was inconvenient in the Juniors which pretended to make "the individual needs of the child" its yardstick but didn't. We always tried to support the school but, after a while, suggested that he should have some more advanced things to read to us in the evening because he was being given stuff he had mastered the year before. We were told very tartly that "it was not the school's policy" to do any such thing - So much for individual needs!

At that point, I think, we were classified as "pushy middle class parents" - presumably that is something like "pester power".

As business was very good, I took both children out into the private sector. Looking back from a somewhat impoverished old age, I might have done just as well by moving to the catchment area of a better state school - but I did at least have the feeling that I was calling the shots because I was paying (twice as I got no rebate from the state!). I suppose the staff were used to the fact that every child had "pushy middle class parents" with high expectations and catered accordingly!

The thing which finally prompted my decision to go private was the conversation of two teachers at the junior school, overheard by my son. "I don't know why we bother" said one "We're only educating them for unemployment". He was greatly worried by this but thought he might just be alright because I had my own business. So I took my educational custom elsewhere.

Anonymous said...

Hi Dean, I think there is room for almost any kind of educational establishment as long as they deliver the main aim of enuring every child reaches their own potential.

Anonymous said...

Free choice should never be restricted. If you want to use independent then it is your choice to do so. No matter the type of education establishment as long as they deliver. There are good schools all over the UK who achieve this although it's devalued because they meet the government needs not the childrens or employers.

I appreciate your input to this Edward.

Elby the Beserk said...

tedioustantrums - have you met any Steiner School graduates? If not, then you would not really be in a position to comment on how well or not they work, methinks

Independent schools.

My incredibly smart - but not academically so - stepdaughter, spent three years at Bryanston. They were utterly unable to engage with her intelligence, as all they did was teach how to pass exams. That she could do without turning up to lessons (as she did - she was told she would not pass History or Greek as a result of her failure to attend, and she sailed thru' both).

They failed her spectacularly. 40 years ago, teachers would have been delighted to have a pupil of her ability, curiosity, and natural wit. Now, they don't know what to do with such kids.

subrosa said...

Elby, that's a tragedy. The few independent schools I've had contact with in the past 2o years have varied in their provision for young people insofar as some were only interested in results while others emphasised the pastoral aspect.

Obviously those which ensured their pupils were given an all-round education were the most popular with parents seeking a well rounded teenager at the end of it.

Steiner schools produced well rounded youngsters and their system was copied by a few other forward thinking independents.

Elby the Beserk said...

Subrosa - I was fortunate to receive a fantastic education at a "second string" Public School in the 60s. The Leys, in Cambridge. The late Christopher Hitchens was in the same house, and bound for glory even back then! Whilst I am sure that most kids will receive a far better education at most independent schools, I think they are more exam results orientated than they should be.

Pastorally, the school my stepdaughter was at was quite good, and she by no means had a bad time there - but she didn't receive the education she was due, as she was not your normal bright kid.

On Steiner schools - a list of what distinguishes them from mainstream education is here. Many had a pre-conceived idea that they are "free" schools, akin to Summerhill, whereas in fact, the curriculum is very well-defined.

Disclaimer. All my four - now adult - children were educated at Steiner Schools, and whilst this impoverished us for 20 years, I have no regrets whatsoever, and the kids are now appreciating what they received there. But yes, I am biased towards them! I still hear from (joys of Facebook) a lot of their peers, and they are thriving and fine human beings.

subrosa said...

Elby, if you drop me an email I explain my reasons more expansively, because I do understand your concerns.

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