A report today comes up with the rather sensationalist conclusion that Children in England are getting a "deficient" primary education. In many ways I agree, but don't let the headlines or government excuses allow you to believe for one minute that this is because of what is actually going on in schools. The problems for this lie with government and their addiction to recording what is measurable but not what is important.
The truth of the matter is, as the report suggests, schools are focusing too much on maths, English and testing. And why is this happening ? The simple answer is a system is in place which is obsessed only with SATs in primary schools and league tables, with this further emphasised by Ofsted inspections which largely ignore the great bulk of what goes on in a school and instead places the focus on test results in Literacy and Numeracy.
I think we all know that being numerate and literate are important, but this government has an obsession with tinkering with education, literacy schemes, numeracy frameworks and national curriculum objectives which mean that teachers are constantly having to change the way something is taught before we know if the way we had been doing it is actually going to be the best or most successful methods.
If a doctor gave out different pills each week to a patient, how does the doctor know which pill s are the ones that cure the patient or which makes them worse ? The same is true of education. We need time to bed things down, see what works and make adjustments accordingly.
I heard David Cameron on Radio Five Live a few days ago going on about education and "his plans", and my heart sank. Not because I am bitterly opposed to the way the Conservatives have treated education in the past with real terms cuts in funding in the 1990s whilst favoured "opted out" schools creamed of money from LEA schools and selected pupils, but because want I want, and what just about every teacher wants to hear is that any new government will have a moratorium on education which means we will have at least 2 years (and preferably longer) with absolutely no change at all.
No change might seem like a cop out, but in the primary sector we need time to see what is working and what is not. We need to given the new literacy and numeracy frameworks, which have only been in place for a few months, time to work. David Cameron and the Tories certainly ought to be planning for what might need to happen, but how about listening to people in education and stop pandering to those who fail to understand there is more to education than changing the curriculum.
If David Cameron want to win over thousands of teachers in a single swoop and make a real difference, he could take on board one of the main thrusts of today's report and seek to deal with the over testing of primary school children by scrapping the key stage two SATs tests and accepting that ongoing informal assessment by teachers (which is allowed at KS1 and KS3) should be the way forward.