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Issues in Education: lighting fires or filling pots?

June 17, 2015

The big picture

Pots to fill

Fires to ignite

Formation or information?

THBThe History Boys – Alan Bennett – Hector ‘well-rounded individuals’ v. Irwin –no truth, only presentation. The Head has only one concern—making himself and his school look good; he doesn’t really seem to care much about the boys, just their scores.

“He was a good man but I don’t think there is room for his sort of teacher any more.”

Churches and guilds – for liturgy or work

Board schools – local councils 1870s – for all, with age rising for leaving

1944 post war – tripartite – grammar for uni

Technical for skilled work

Secondary modern for unskilled

11+ based on one day (Fr’s death) – Pickfords

Comprehensives – GS for top 25% – ¾ of them to get 5 o levels

Not comps. Failing if less that 66%

Fires to ignite – teachers enthuse children with what they know words and their own passions

Until Jim Callaghan’s Ruskin Speech 1976 about ‘the secret garden of the curriculum’

‘the secret garden’ (the term was first used by Lord Eccles, Minister of Education, in 1960)

Reaction to anarchy of William Tyndale School

We spend £6bn a year on education, so there will be discussion. But let it be rational. If everything is reduced to such phrases as ‘educational freedom’ versus state control, we shall get nowhere. I repeat that parents, teachers, learned and professional bodies, representatives of higher education and both sides of industry, together with the government, all have an important part to play in formulating and expressing the purpose of education and the standards that we need.

I have been very impressed in the schools I have visited by the enthusiasm and dedication of the teaching profession, by the variety of courses that are offered in our comprehensive schools, especially in arts and crafts as well as other subjects and by the alertness and keenness of many of its pupils. Clearly, life at school is far more full and creative than it was many years ago.

But I am concerned on my journeys to find complaints from industry that new recruits from the schools sometimes do not have the basic tools to do the job that is required.

I have been concerned to find out that many of our best trained students who have completed the higher levels of education at university or polytechnic have no desire to join industry. Their preferences are to stay in academic life or to find their way into the civil service. There seems to be a need for more technological bias in science teaching that will lead towards practical applications in industry rather than towards academic studies.

I would say that we must carry the teaching profession with us. They have the expertise and the professional approach. To the teachers I would say that you must satisfy the parents and industry that what you are doing meets their requirements and the needs of our children

For many years the accent was simply on fitting a so-called inferior group of children with just enough learning to earn their living in the factory. Labour has attacked that attitude consistently, during 60 or 70 years and throughout my childhood. There is now widespread recognition of the need to cater for a child’s personality to let it flower in its fullest possible way.

The balance was wrong in the past. We have a responsibility now to see that we do not get it wrong again in the other direction. There is no virtue in producing socially well-adjusted members of society who are unemployed because they do not have the skills. Nor at the other extreme must they be technically efficient robots.

cause concern. There are the methods and aims of informal instruction, the strong case for the so-called ‘core curriculum’ of basic knowledge; next, what is the proper way of monitoring the use of resources in order to maintain a proper national standard of performance; then there is the role of the inspectorate in relation to national standards; and there is the need to improve relations between industry and education.

Led to 1988 ERA – national curriculum in great detail and OFSTED to measure


SATs – level 4 based on average 11 year old

25% fail expected standard = 25% below average

MG3Every secretary of state tinkers – in a hurry to make a mark

Teachers – summer holidays – new courses

Based on ideology cherry picking research

Current issues:



Narrowing down of subjects


THEN 8 subjects for league tables (5 O’levels was Grammar School target)

No resits

Then resits for English & Maths

Harder exams

No evidence of dumbing down – better, more targeted teaching to pass the test

(English as changed 3 times in 2 years, including midway through the course

MG1Longer day to put more knowledge in

Shorter holidays cheap child care?

ATL surveyed more than 500 members and 35% said they arrive at school between 60 and 90 minutes before their first lesson, with another 31% arriving between 45 and 90 minutes early. The reasons: 80% use it to set up the dassroom, and 57% use it for marking or work preparation.

Meanwhile, 64% say they stay at school for more than 90 minutes after the end of lessons, with 89% using this time for preparation and 77% for marking. And 68% say they work at home every day, with a quarter working at least two or three evenings a week. Of those who stay at school for more than 90 minutes, 66% also work at home every evening…. If the day finished later, when would we do planning and preparation for the next day?

MG2The Free School Norwich is open 51 weeks a year — and is proving very popular with parents struggling with childcare costs.” BUT Meanwhile, the Free School Norwich is actually only open 38 weeks a year, with the extra provision provided by another organisation during holidays and beyond the school day, which parents pay to use

Local authority provision democratically accountable

Academies centrally accountable

Free schools – businesses – may make a profit – crank schools e.g. creationism

Female teachers in primaries


Support assistants

Languages – Mandarin

History – British? World? Chronological?

Less able need best teachers – yet performance related pay

Discipline – attention spans, drugs, alcohol, texting

Learning styles – listening, research, discussion, movement

Exams without coursework/projects

Teacher training on the job

Starting age – Scandinavian 5 higher results when leave

Our education system places undue emphasis on providing answers – often to questions that children do not have. In other words, too often we teach children concepts without context; we need to show them why learning is important. We need to focus on awakening kids’ natural curiosity and teaching them to love learning. A good way to do this is to place children in natural experiences or in games where they can ask questions. In these settings, learning is immediate and strong. Learning can be a structured discovery process, offering students varied learning outcomes – just as our situations and decisions later in life offering different outcomes. Sudhakar Ram

The function of education, therefore, is to teach one to think intensively and to think critically. But education which stops with efficiency may prove the greatest menace to society. The most dangerous criminal may be the man gifted with reason, but with no morals. Martin Luther King

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