Nick - if you want to make Education your priority then lets adopt the principle of having as little change as possible

Of course Nick Clegg is right to make education an absolute priority for the Lib Dems. Labour talked a lot about education but for some sectors, particularly ages 7-11 and for 16+, Labour has done very little. But Nick does need to beware of promising more change.

Education has, in recent years, undergone so many changes that it is very difficult for those working in education to be totally sure if anything that is brought in will last more than two years before it is scrapped and replaced by something else.

In the Primary sector at the moment we are just starting to have to implement the new Literacy and Numeracy Strategies, which replace the old ones and old QCA schemes of work (which are about seven years old) and if you then look at the teaching of reading to the youngest children, the teaching of "jolly phonics" which was pushed about two years ago is now being replaced by "synthetic phonics", which i think is a great teaching programme, but as ever schools that are teaching it fear that the government will announce a new method in two years time.

In truth, since the National Curriculum was introduced and the league tables and Ofsted, school have been in a constant state of flux, with no time ever being given by government to just see if something really works.

So yes Nick, education is a priority. But those of us who work in education would also like to know that it won't be change for changes sake.


Anonymous said...

Ironically all the problems you talk about are the result of the government running education, which is why the Conservatives are looking at giving more power to parents instead. Surely this move would count as productive change?

Man in a Shed said...

Your man may be on the edge of being really radical, if what Melissa Kite reports in The Sunday Telegraph is to be believed.

If he actually means what he says about his liberalism being important to him then he should act on it.

I watched the first part of the BBC's Tory! Tory! Tory! documentary yesterday and was struck by how Margaret Thatcher was to a large extent really a liberal, albeit a Tory one. Getting the state out of industry was radical, unthinkable and now ultimately almost irreversible ( unless your man Vince Cable gets listened to on Northern Rock).

I can see why each of the clients of the socialist state don't want more government initiatives - given their disruption and top down nature. However their is political space for a party that wants to free those areas from state dictatorship and effective monopoly. Education and Health are prime candidates for this.

If Nick Clegg knows how to do this then he is starting out on an interesting journey.

Nich Starling said...

No. Putting parents in control is the next step on from selection. This panders to the middle classes and excludes those who go to deprived schools and schools in areas of social deprivation.

Man in a Shed said...

That's not a very liberal attitude.

The problem is when the state says what is good for you and you should shut up and accept it quality and effectiveness nose dive.

Since middle class parents pay for a good education through their taxes - surely they should receive it.

What you are really saying is that those who consume and pay for a service should have no say in how it is delivered. That's the road to socialist failure that has been to well established over the years.

As is becoming increasingly clear the social deprivation is really family break down deprivation (its implicit in your reference to middle class parents) - something the state through welfare has largely created.

Nich Starling said...

No, that is not what I am saying. I am saying that education should be in the hands of the democratic system.

Selection, or parent choice as it is called at the moment, panders to middle clss people who can afford to have two cars, can afford to drive their children to the other side of town, and does nothing for the deprived who might have no car and are forced to use their local school.

As for saying that people sho pay the msot tax should have the biggest say, that's a very very odd route to go down. I guess The Duke of Westminster should have the right to vet some laws then ?

We'll have to agree to differ. Merry Christmas and thanks for your views, which I do appreciate (even at this late hour 00.33hrs)

Anonymous said...

I am with you on the not creating change for changes sake, but I am also very much of the view that we need to personalise learning. Children are individuals. I look at my three and their different ways of learning.

Eldest - fantastic imagination no inclination to put anything on paper but give him a computer and bingo!

Middle - writes really, really really fast and takes everything in but needs to slow down and go back and re learn her spellings - no time in the class room so I do it!

Youngest - too far ahead of herself, she has done most of the foundation stage and will only be four next week.

The best thing we can do for children is stop testing them. Lets allow children to be children and learn mainly through play - not learn to pass tests!!!

Linda Jack said...


I wanted to comment on your piece but first I must respond to Man in a Shed "people who pay for services should have a say in them" yes I agree, that is why we have what is called a "democracy" in this country, why we all have an opportunity to choose representatives. The problem is, and this started pre Blair, that local government has been effectively emasculated and all the power is now held centrally. Why should it only be down to parents to have a say anyway? This is a service we all pay for and that impacts upon us all. The logical conclusion of your argument is that each individual should have a say in every service we pay for, police and fire services?DWP? etc. This is ludicrous and is why we have a less cumbersome system which involves us choosing someone to represent our interests, however flawed that system is I wonder what you would replace it with?

Nich, I agree with you to some extent about change. However, the problem as I see it (and I have to confess that I have not taught for 20 years, although I am a school governor and did a lot of school based work as a Youth Worker)is that governments consistently play at the edges, change is invariably the wrong kind of change. What we need is a root and branch approach that tackles the fact that our education system is failing 1 in 7 children who hate school, not just impose additional pressures, paperwork and targets, on already hardpressed teachers. What has characterised this government (and I have seen it up close representing youth workers nationally) is a cavalier attitude towards frontline workers. They are more likely to listen to freshfaced bright young things in their favourite think tanks than those who work at the coalface. So, some proper consultation with teachers and pupils before Nick jumps in with more change would be a grand first step.


Nich Starling said...

I agree with Mr Anonymous and Linda.

Man in a Shed said...

And a happy Christmas with a more liberal New year to you also Nick.

Linda - I have to disagree with your point on democracy. Why should one set of parents be forced by the masses to educate their children a particular way. That's institutional bullying and oppression.

Also we well know that democracy just doesn't have the fine resolution (or necessarily the wisdom) to control things like individual schools. ( A point hinted at by the Lib Dems today shows how vastly more money is put into schools in Labour areas, compared with comparable schools controlled by other areas ).

Nobody asks for democracy in industrial production or the service industries. People would now think you were mad to suggest renationalising say British Telecom - but 20 years ago the majority thought just that.

State run education is a deteriorating failure. Empowering individual parents to make choices for their children will improve matters for all. There will always be families that need some help, and where advocates may be needed to get the just opportunities for children - but this is no excuse to drown the entire system in the tar of state control.

Ok I know we are going to disagree - but I invite you to consider being radical in the way Margaret Thatcher was with her liberal and liberalising ideas.

Just don't accept it can't be done and some children are destined to be failed. Have faith in something better.

Linda Jack said...

Oooh MrManinaShed,

I have to come back to you but it is late on Christmas Day and I am supposed to be continuing to participate in family festivities tomorrow, so I will return to this debate later!

Anonymous said...

Norfolk Blogger,

You seem to have a condescending attitude to 'middle class parents'. I am assuming by this you mean 'parents who actually care about their children's education'. Granted parents are not the only stakeholders - staff concerns are just as valid - but isn't giving parents more involvement a good thing?

Having been involved with Parent Teacher Associations and as a parent governor it is hard enough to get parents interested in school activities. More say in the running of a school may help combat such apathy!