Sunday, 23 October 2011

A Plague on Both Your Houses

It's not original to use this quotation, but sometimes it just springs to the exasperated mind.

This Sunday I watched the Politics Show on tele, attracted by the trailer for the acaedmy with a country home in France. But actually, immoral and astonishing as this was, what caused me to curse the Coalition and Labour alike was several unchallenged premisses:

1. that the UK is awash with failing schools
2. that failing schools need drastic changes
3. that "academy status" had somehow turned some schools round
4. that a school or academy's success should be measured by its GCSE results

So I want to say:

1. Says who? Says anyone with a vested interest or a compulsive need to rubbish the public education service
2. More than anything, vulnerable children need continuity, not the loss of their school, of their identity [ie their school name], the teachers they knew, nor a [massive] or sudden change of uniform
3. This was carefully engineered spin at its best. A throw-away line about academy status improving schools; what was omitted from this was that where academies improved their exam results [still, apparently, the only indicator!] was where they changed their intake. Where academies did not make massive or indeed any improvements, and here is hats off to South Leeds, was where they kept the same pupils, and who did not exclude children in the way the David Young Academy, Leeds does in order to improve their position in the league tables.
4. Well, here we go: As a teacher, and a parent of five children [four I made myself and one I stole/fostered] there were four occasions when I had to choose where my 11 -year-olds would attend school. I lived mid-way between two high schools, and possibly wrongly chose my first school. By the time the next two were heading for secondary, City of Leeds School had relocated to half a mile from my house. It did not have a good reputation for exam results, but having worked at the truly wonderful Foxwood School, Seacroft. I absolutely knew what a fatuous, superficial consideration that was. So I sent them to my local school. Where they got a good education and boosted the school's results while they were at it.

4b Almost all teachers in all schools have degrees and teaching certificates. It then becomes up to the receiving students and their families to want to access what they have to offer.

The astonished NUT member on this panel could only incredule [if this wasn't a verb, it is now], hearing the teachers' union called a dinosaur, and all the rest. OMG. What do you do with an expert, a specialist, someone who has given his life to teaching, a union member who will have visited more schools in his lifetime than the rest of the panel put together. Insult him, and offer arguments beneath his contempt.

The interviewer suggested that somehow private education companies would be bound to be better than the faceless "bureaucrats" in local education authorities. The interviewer asked us, the audience to be astonished that Bradford City Football Club was going into schooling. Well, Mr Interviewer, do your homework. The sports - schools link has been around for years. And the way he used the word "bureaucrats", like he was saying "apparatchiks".

The whole programme was a depressing example of politicians' ignorance and how dangerous power is in their hands. I could go on but I will just stop.

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