Academies and Free Schools – A failed experiment in education

PowellAs of June 2015 there are over four thousand academies in England. Originally introduced by New Labour back in 2000 in order to support failing schools in socially deprived areas, academies have long since remained a controversial topic. Touted by governments as the miraculous magic answer to improving standards and loathed quite rightly by teaching unions opposed to their undemocratic nature and the neo-liberal free market approach they are constructed around. ‘Academies equals success’ has been the long repeated mantra for many years now, you would be forgiven for thinking that this is the only approach to education and LEA controlled state schools have been an all-round epic failure, yet statistically does this add up? Continue reading

Labour’s timid education manifesto – and what it must include next time

Tristram Hunt 1Our education eystem has undergone a severe and vicious ideological assault since 2010 with teacher morale at all-time lows, a rise in child mental health issues due to over testing and a teacher recruitment crisis to name but a few. Never was there such an education Secretary that provoked such vitriol and contempt than Michael Gove. His successor, Nicky Morgan, is hardly winning any popularity contests either.

It really should have been easy fare for Labour with this on their side but instead they produced what could only be described as one of the blandest and most timid education manifestos they have ever written which sadly failed to get to grips with key educational issues. Our children are some of the most over tested children in the world, with tests starting as young as five, an age where in most countries they are enjoying a more holistic curriculum centred on social skills and learning through play. Continue reading

The Gove legacy undermines exams

school examsThere is a broad consensus on education policy across the main parties at Westminster, which has only cracked in two areas: (i) Labour is demanding qualified teacher status in state schools and it does so with solid parental support; (ii) less immediately controversial is a split over exam reform.

Despite cross party support for exam reform, the planned decoupling of the AS and A Level exam systems, has destabilised the consensus with Labour opposing the split. Michael Gove’s planned return to traditional end-of-course exams was intended to build support among academic traditionalists and the wider public but criticism has mounted. The GCSE pass rate has dropped from 59.2% to 52.6% focussing attention on the GCSE reforms – still supported by Labour, unlike the AS reforms. Continue reading

Reshuffle: ‘Gove Out’ is a hollow victory for education campaigners

GoveFor a man who has had an online game dedicated to slapping him millions of times, it is some what of an achievement that Michael Gove has lasted as long as he has.

Derided by teachers and the butt of jokes over his condemnation of strike action despite his union past (he was a member of the NUJ and took part in a strike), Gove it seems could not weather the final storm.

The recent public sector strikes which included thousands of teachers, Gove, rather than the Prime Minister, was the focal point for hatred and ridicule. Continue reading

Promoting “British values”

English Defence League march in NewcastleThe recent affair of the alleged extremism of some Birmingham schools has revived debate about “British values”. Michael Gove has issued draft changes to the funding agreement for new schools that would require commitment to “the fundamental British values” of (1) democracy, (2) the rule of law, (3) individual liberty, (4) mutual respect and (5) tolerance of those of different faiths and beliefs. Back in 2011 the Home office had already defined extremism as active opposition to these values in its Prevent Strategy.

On 25th June 2014 John Denham initiated a House of Commons debate on “British values and teaching”. In his opening speech he said that people tended to divide into two camps: (1) those supporting the government’s approach; (2) those who reject the idea of British values. Not fitting into either group, he said he felt a need for debate. Continue reading