Prime Minister James Callaghan made a speech to an audience at Ruskin College in Oxford on the 18th October, 1976. A speech that, some would argue, launched the Great Debate about education.
Certainly some of the issues and challenges, that James Callaghan raised that day at Ruskin College, remain as pertinent and telling as ever today. Callaghan emphatically stressed, in his speech, the value of the Trade Union movement, not a view often embraced by a Prime Minister today for sure, but also lucidly saw children as delivering an endowment for a future society.
Speaking on that day in 1976, a detailed reading of the full text saw Callaghan giving long credit to Trade Union education energy, highlighting the role that unions and social activists play in energising human capital, often sailing against the pre-dominant elitist and exclusive educational cultural wind.
Callaghan saw the wide and emphatically important debate abroad in the country in his time about the economy, political or otherwise, but ventured to say ‘…not as important in the long run as preparing future generations for life. RH Tawney, from whom I derived a great deal of my thinking years ago, wrote that the endowment of our children is the most precious of the natural resources of this community. So I do not hesitate to discuss how these endowments should be nurtured‘.
Fiona Millar, writing in The Guardian in December 2016, has revisited the 1976 Callaghan postulation and has teased out many facets of the Callaghan analysis that often leaves the contemporary liberal, educated, education-aware reader in despair, when education is viewed down the long telescope of history.
‘Do we have a curriculum that promotes basic standards while allowing a child’s personality to “flower in its fullest possible way” as Callaghan put it?’
‘Would he (Callaghan) have envisaged systems of oversight so fragmented and convoluted that some headteachers can become proprietors of small business empires from which they directly profit?’
‘Would Callaghan have wanted good heads and teachers suffocated by hyper-accountability, wrestling with what is best for their schools against what is best or their pupils, while the less scrupulous boost performance by weeding out the most challenging pupils?’
Millar has chosen a good time to revisit this educational clarion call from a Labour Prime Minister who, on a detailed reading of this speech, represents the gold standard of education analysis and is deserving of perhaps a kinder view from history than he was previously afforded.
Flotsam: an occasional series of education ideas from other places.
An interesting time to be re-visiting this article, of Spring 2015, from Pasi Sahlberg which illustrates the latest Finnish thinking on the convergence , a blending, of the curriculum. ‘To replace the teaching of classic school subjects such as history or English with broader, cross-cutting “topics” as part of a major education reform .’
Educationalists need not panic is the Sahlberg message, despite our current government persistence with testing and rigid curriculum application. We visit Finland in this article, but with a side trip to Singapore too, in the interests of compare and contrast. (Ed.)
Finland’s plans to replace the teaching of classic school subjects such as history or English with broader, cross-cutting “topics” as part of a major education reform have been getting global attention, thanks to an article in The Independent, one of the UK’s trusted newspapers. Stay calm: despite the reforms, Finnish schools will continue to teach mathematics, history, arts, music and other subjects in the future.
But with the new basic school reform all children will also learn via periods looking at broader topics, such as the European Union, community and climate change, or 100 years of Finland’s independence, which would bring in multi-disciplinary modules on languages, geography, sciences and economics.
It is important to underline two fundamental peculiarities of the Finnish education system in order to see the real picture. First, education governance is highly decentralised, giving Finland’s 320 municipalities significant amount of freedom to arrange schooling according to the local circumstances. Central government issues legislation, tops up local funding of schools, and provides a guiding framework for what schools should teach and how.
Second, Finland’s National Curriculum Framework is a loose common standard that steers curriculum planning at the level of the municipalities and their schools. It leaves educators freedom to find the best ways to offer good teaching and learning to all children. Therefore, practices vary from school to school and are often customised to local needs and situations.
The next big reform taking place in Finland is the introduction of a new National Curriculum Framework (NCF), due to come into effect in August 2016.
It is a binding document that sets the overall goals of schooling, describes the principles of teaching and learning, and provides the guidelines for special education, well-being, support services and student assessment in schools. The concept of “phenomenon-based” teaching – a move away from “subjects” and towards inter-disciplinary topics – will have a central place in the new NCF.
Integration of subjects and a holistic approach to teaching and learning are not new in Finland. Since the 1980s, Finnish schools have experimented with this approach and it has been part of the culture of teaching in many Finnish schools since then. This new reform will bring more changes to Finnish middle-school subject teachers who have traditionally worked more on their own subjects than together with their peers in school.
Schools decide the programme
What will change in 2016 is that all basic schools for seven to 16-year-olds must have at least one extended period of multi-disciplinary, phenomenon-based teaching and learning in their curricula. The length of this period is to be decided by schools themselves. Helsinki, the nation’s capital and largest local school system, has decided to require two such yearly periods that must include all subjects and all students in every school in town.
One school in Helsinki has already arranged teaching in a cross-disciplinary way; other schools will have two or more periods of a few weeks each dedicated to integrated teaching and learning.
In most basic schools in other parts of Finland students will probably have one “project” when they study some of their traditional subjects in a holistic manner. One education chief of a middle-size city in Finland predicted via Twitter that: “the end result of this reform will be 320 local variations of the NCF 2016 and 90% of them look a lot like current situation.”
You may wonder why Finland’s education authorities now insist that all schools must spend time on integration and phenomenon-based teaching when Finnish students’ test scores have been declining in the most recent international tests. The answer is that educators in Finland think, quite correctly, that schools should teach what young people need in their lives rather than try to bring national test scores back to where they were.
What Finnish youth need more than before are more integrated knowledge and skills about real world issues, many argue. An integrated approach, based on lessons from some schools with longer experience of that, enhances teacher collaboration in schools and makes learning more meaningful to students.
Students involved in lesson design
What most stories about Finland’s current education reform have failed to cover is the most surprising aspect of the reforms. NCF 2016 states that students must be involved in the planning of phenomenon-based study periods and that they must have voice in assessing what they have learned from it.
Some teachers in Finland see this current reform as a threat and the wrong way to improve teaching and learning in schools. Other teachers think that breaking down the dominance of traditional subjects and isolation of teaching is an opportunity to more fundamental change in schools.
While some schools will seize the opportunity to redesign teaching and learning with non-traditional forms using the NCF 2016 as a guide, others will choose more moderate ways. In any case, teaching subjects will continue in one way or the other in most Finland’s basic schools for now.
Our readers may also be interested in another recent article from The Conversation.
David Hogan, an Australian academic, argues that despite the adoption of Singapore’s ‘Asian’ education model by Conservative governments, reflecting as it does the full embrace of rigid, testing and prescribed curriculum activity, the benefits of this more ‘fixed’ approach is still waiting to be proven.
As a counterpoint, it is the antithesis of the Finnish model in the Sahlberg article above. In fact for Hogan, this adoption in the West of a Singaporean model is a mistake.
Published this month on the web pages of Age of Awareness is an insider view of the education system in Singapore, which also recognises the strength of ‘Asian’ education in the most recent PISA standards rankings.
The article, Singapore’s Education System: A Local Perspective, argues that learning by rote, which it is claimed is the basis of the success featured, denies learners the ability to think creatively and makes finding answers to problems that do not have ‘pre-defined solutions’ very difficult for students in the Singaporean system.
(Editors Note: We like Age of Awareness. With its strapline, ‘Another World is Possible‘, and its content providing an international view on the ‘…creative, innovative, and sustainable changes to the education system‘, we recommend it. See more here… )
Following the ‘Brexit’ referendum and the recent series of affrays across the political landscape, with a resultant refreshed exposition on the economy, the topography of industry is now littered with claims for an upsurge in economic flexibility, innovation, challenge and growth.
We revisit Sir Ken Robinson talking about ‘How to Change Education?’ as a consequence.
What better time in the current climate to look again at the education reform focus of the Robinson arguments about schools as Enlightenment driven, rigid, formulaic and command and control industrial systems.
The RSA Animate, featured above was a wonderful synthesis of those arguments and offers a direct challenge to some more traditional ‘informed thinking’ about the educational process for our children.
You can see the full, original RSA talk (24 mins) by Ken Robinson in July 2013 here…
With the socio-political present focus on ‘the other’, isolation and insularity – the call to arms for fresh thinking about creativity embedded in the Robinsonian education reform argument, to secure the future of all our children, becomes now doubly telling, we think.
‘…Ofsted’s chief inspector of schools, warned that there is a continuing crisis in the education of the poor white working class. Some don’t like to hear that, because they think concentration on difficulties experienced by the white working class detracts from the attention owed to disadvantaged minority students also left behind. But I have little time for that zero-sum game. I think we should address all underachievement‘.
The concept of the working class as a distinctive cohort is problematic. Whether white or dosadvantaged the label attempts t make a singular ‘mass of people’ from a bewildering variety of experience, expectation and shades of outcome.
In her recent article in The Guardian, ‘Why Class Won’t Go Away’, Lynsey Hanley powerfully reflects upon the schisms revealed by the recent referendum and the Brexit debate. The vote, she argues, was split by class and geography.The rising wave of social and economic inequality which has been tolerated for so long at last, in the referendum process, found an outlet for its harboured discontents.
In her work, we would argue, she defines a much more granular and subtle mapping of the working class experience.
Hanley declares that the epithet ‘white working class’ has been a way to define an amorphous cohort in society certainly, ‘…who sort of look like us but who don’t seem to be like us, and we can’t work out why’. ‘The idea that, in a group as heterogeneous as the British working class, it is only the white members who have been “abandoned” has proved magnetic to both columnists and politicians‘, as referenced in the opening remarks from Ofsted above.
Even the Labour Party, Hanley argues, has embraced the singular entity of the white working class as a means to aggregate reasons for the failure of the party at the polls. She nicely evidences the distance of The Labour Party from its ‘working class’ electorate with a narrative of how, pre the 2015 election, Labour Central Office had been unable to find a ‘worker on the minumum wage’ for commentary recording as no-one in the office knew any.
Perhaps it also highlights the vast distance between Party machines of all colours from their grassroots members lived experience.
‘Far more than in other western European countries, if you are born poor in Britain, in a poor area, the chances are that you will remain poor for the rest of your life. If you are born rich, in a rich area, the likelihood is that you will find a way – or will have ways come to you – to stay wealthy and privileged throughout your life, and your children will do the same’.
Hanley describes living in Solihull in the West Midlands in the 1980’s, where the term ‘working class’ was never used. Instead ‘people like us’ or ‘the likes of us’ held sway she says. This is the working class, arguably, defining itself as separate, as a methodology to protect individual and family from the depredations of ever mounting scoial and economic inequality.
‘It needs to be acknowledged that “helplessness” or “dependency” – as defined by politicians seeking to blame individuals for structural failings – is an adaptive stance rather than an innate fact of character’ Hanley says.
In a recent article in The Huffington Post, Sarah Newton argues that class persists too. The schisms defined by Hanley are securely entrenched by the use of, what Newton calls, ‘constructive cultivation’.
This is a framework of social, economic, educative and psychological processes that push middle class children to engage with and perpetuate a class based educational and expectational life landscape.
‘Until we accept in this country that the class system is having an impact on education choices later in life and face it head on and challenge it, then nothing will ever change’.
Equally important for Newton is the cultural legacy of the working class. This neatly chimes with the Hanley thesis of identity as defence. The layering of approaches to low expectation and social prejudice that condition the individual’s approach to life progress. They are, she argues, inherited from generation to generation.
Class has not gone away, it has become bound to the rocky strata of education, politics and economic behaviour. It is bound to the bedrock of inequality. It is this restraining shale which education reform should try and shatter, permanently.
To make the phrase ‘…I think we should address all underachievement’ a la Hugh Muir really mean something.
Read Lynsey Hanley’s book and explore her argument about working class culture and the enduring nature of class inequality – Respectable: The Experience of Class, Allen Lane, April 2016.
Why is class still so central to the experience of living in Britain? It is an urgent question, evaded through a kind of collective shame, but Lynsey Hanley approaches it with wit and passion.Respectable is pithy and provoking, spiced with the personal but solidly grounded in a lifetime’s experience of analysing the world around her. It is one of those valuable books that enables the reader to re-think her past and re-experience her own life. (Hilary Mantel, a review))
Flotsam: an occasional series of ideas from other places…
Bill Gates is in conversation with Nate Bowling, the Washington State Teacher of the Year for 2016 in the US. In the dialogue, the teacher tells Bill Gates that for many students learning ‘…is a matter of life and death’.
“If my students are not successful in school, they end up in the prison-industrial complex.”
The conversation reveals that in the US public school system, half the students enrolled live in poverty. With more than 70 percent of students qualifying for ‘…free or reduced price meals’.
In a separate publication Nate Bowling had published a blog article which has garnered a lot of attention. In it he declares that ‘…America does not care what happens to poor people and most black people‘. The article, entitled The Conversation I’m Tired of not Having, Mr. Bowling goes on to decry the lack of simple political will, in the US, to effect change and re-balance equity in educational opportunity and achievement.
‘Polite society has walled itself off and policymakers are largely indifferent. Better funding for schools is and will remain elusive, because middle class and wealthy people have been conditioned over the last 35 years to think of themselves as taxpayers, rather than citizens’.
In both the conversation with Bill Gates, and in his own article, Nate Bowling has some profoundly strong and supportive comments to make about teaching as a profession and the nature of the role his professional colleagues play, in the disenfranchised school system he works in.
The narrative has a strong resonance in the UK, with the laborious ebb and flow of educational policy, coupled to outcomes that continue to widen, not alleviate, the inequality gap for the many.
Bill Gates conversation with Nate Bowling originally appeared in Gates Notes. Nate Bowling’s reflection on teaching and the development of his profession originally appeared in natebowling.com .
Read both articles to get insights into the US public shool system from the perspective of a black teacher. It is interesting, and provocative, to those who would press for the continuance of the status-quo.
The National Association of Headteachers (NAHT) have recently published an open letter to to the Secretary of State for Education and Minister for Women and Equalities, Nicky Morgan.
The correspondence, the challenge, follows the ending of SATS Week in the Primary sector. We offer the detail of the letter below for review.
Following SATs week, we have collected the feedback of members and urge you to consider some changes to the current and future arrangements for assessment. The experience in a large majority of schools has not been a positive one.
Teachers and head teachers all agree that a thorough review of assessment is necessary. We hope that you will commit to a fundamental review of assessment to avoid further problems next year.
In the meantime there are two pressing concerns and possible solutions:
Hold off on publication of any 2016 test data
A commitment to changing from ‘secure fit’ to ‘best fit’ judgements in the assessment of writing
Publication of Data
Given concerns about both the design and administration of the new assessments, the lack of preparation for schools, the inadequate time to implement the new curriculum for the current cohort, and the variations in approaches between schools resulting from delayed and obscure guidance, it is hard to have confidence in the data produced by this round of assessments.
It is not just that the marks may be lower overall, which could be addressed, but that they will vary in unpredictable ways. We know of widely different approaches to writing assessment across the country, for example. And the content and sequencing of the reading test meant that lower attaining pupils had little opportunity to show their progress. This may result in a skewed distribution of marks that simply setting a lower threshold may not solve. Comparisons between schools become very risky.
School level data should not be externally published under these circumstances. Assessment data should still be available on RAISE Online, which summarises a school’s performance at the end of each Key Stage, and could be shared with parents, but the aggregated school-level scores should not be published externally. We understand that Ofqual is already mandated to conduct a review of this year’s data. In our view a hold on external publication, until we can be sure what the data is telling us, would be a sensible step. In this interim year, we should be cautious about the data that’s been collected.
Problems have arisen with the new secure fit model; teachers need some sensible flexibility when assessing children’s writing and would be happier with a ‘best fit’ model. This would give a more accurate reflection of whether or not a child has grasped the overall skills of writing.
Children who are clearly excellent writers will be incorrectly labelled as working below the expected standard this year simply because teachers are not permitted to use their own judgement about their balance of abilities. We are particularly concerned about the impact on the thousands of dyslexic children in school.
There are few other tests or examinations at any other stage of education, where a student is judged by ‘secure fit’. The top grades at GCSE, A-Level and degree level are all attainable with a score below 100%, and yet only 100% will do if our six and ten year olds are to meet the required standard.
A move from ‘secure fit’ to ‘best fit’ would remove some problems. However, it is clear that the interim framework is not working and needs a sustainable long-term replacement.
Serious problems have emerged in the planning and implementation of tests this year, with a negative effect on schools. We believe that the suggestions we have outlined above would go some way towards settling growing disquiet about assessment and demonstrate a clear faith in the profession to deliver the government’s reforms”.
Russell Hobby, General Secretary Kim Johnson, President James Bowen, NAHT Edge Director Amanda Hulme, Chair of NAHT’s assessment group
Professor Trevor Marchand writes… On the evening of Tuesday March 15, I screened my new documentary film, The Intelligent Hand, at the Fab Lab in the City of London. The event was hosted by the RSA Inequality in Education Network and attracted a diverse audience of educators, university academics, practicing craftspeople, woodwork trainees, and professionals from various sectors.
See The Intelligent Hand here…
I introduced the film with a short talk on craftwork and education, and the screening was followed by a period of focussed discussion amongst audience members in small groupings. In turn, this set the scene for an open Q&A and general conversation. Our discussion was framed by the broad question: ‘What needs to change in order to make vocational education and craftwork attractive options in Britain?’
This article provides a synopsis of my introductory talk before offering a summary of the key issues raised by audience members in conversation.
I began my talk with a brief overview of the anthropological fieldwork I have carried out over the past two decades with minaret builders in Yemen, mud-brick masons in Mali, and fine woodwork trainees in Britain. Each of these studies aimed to understand the technical, social and cultural mechanics of apprenticeship systems and skill-based learning. My research has been part of a burgeoning interest among social scientists, educators, and cognitive and neuroscientists in embodied ways of learning and knowing. My ethnographic approach has endeavoured to move the study of human knowledge well beyond what people say and think to include what they actually do, in practice.
My findings robustly challenge the enduring Cartesian division made between internal mind operations and physical doing. The data demonstrates that craftspeople are thinking with tools-in-hand, and they are actively engaged with materials, other actors, and the surrounding environment in their pursuits to solve problems, enhance skills, broaden knowledge, and construct social identities and professional status.
Calculating, theorising, setting goals, imagining outcomes, and working out hypothetical pathways toward a solution are very much a part of both design and making in craftwork. But, equally, physicists, mathematicians, and philosophers engage bodily and sensorily with the world in solving the tasks and problems they set for themselves. In sum, my introductory talk demonstrated that the boundary drawn between ‘academic’ and ‘hands-on’ work is less tidy and far more porous than what is popularly assumed.
To conclude, I stressed that practical skill learning is not ‘unthinking imitation’. Rather, it involves multiple and highly complex forms (of often non-verbal) communication and, like scholarly knowledge, skilled practice is a hard-earned cognitive achievement. Britain’s education policies therefore need to be reformed around a more holistic definition of ‘knowledge’ – one that recognises the unity of mind and body and that desists from imputing hierarchy between them.
Practical know-how must be accorded the value and status that it merits: not merely for increasing economic productivity or reducing the nation’s skills gap, but more importantly craftwork should be celebrated and promoted as an attractive career path leading to satisfying work and life.
‘What needs to change in order to make vocational education and craftwork attractive options in Britain?’ This question generated our open conversation. Audience members broke into discussion groups and an individual from each volunteered to act as spokesperson, offering a summary of the key ideas, issues, and further questions that arose. A general conversation followed.
Angela launched the exchange with her group’s observation that, historically, England’s education policy has been framed by a persistent mind-body dualism. By contrast, she urged recognition of ‘the parity between using one’s brain and one’s hands’, and she drew our attention to the Steiner School example and its emphasis on learning-by-doing. Anna later noted that tuition fees for Steiner Schools were prohibitively costly for the average family, while, distressingly, state school curricula for young children includes little if any practical hands-on learning.
Cheryl, a college woodworking instructor in the audience, added that, regrettably, ‘many secondary schools no longer host woodworking courses: it’s expensive; it takes up a lot of space; the tools and machinery are expensive; and the overheads are expensive.’ As a consequence, career options in the crafts and trades are made invisible to British youth. As one audience member said, ‘there is a need to make craftspeople role models’. Like sports celebrities, artists, and renowned chefs, their names, skills, values, and contributions to society need to be made part of popular public discourse.
Both David and Sam, as spokesmen for their groups, interrogated the entrenched divide between academic and vocational education, and society’s tendency to stereotype ‘vocational education’ as ‘a cheap job-training scheme, providing a basic level of skills to get people into employment’. The ambiguity of the term ‘vocational’ and its relation to the equally woolly category ‘craft’ was raised.
Emma, a furniture maker, queried the distinction made at her college between fine woodwork as a craft and the bench joinery programme as a vocational route. It was suggested that the NVQ framework has had the effect of narrowing popular understanding of ‘vocational’ as a kind of ‘non-academic, technical training’ for tradespeople, craftspeople, and technicians. In the past, by contrast, vocational training also encompassed the education of lawyers, architects, engineers, and medical doctors. Training in these latter disciplines became firmly established within the university; and today, Sam noted, university qualifications are ‘perceived as more valuable’ and therefore ‘fetch greater remuneration in the job market’.
One participant in Wendy’s group was Swiss, and another Swedish, and together they discussed ‘the differences between Britain and other countries’ in terms of the structural relations between academic and vocational/craft pathways. It emerged that in some European countries it is easier to ‘cross from one to the other’, depending on what kinds of skills and knowledge an individual needs at different points in their professional development.
In Enna’s group, one university student described the Institute of Making at UCL, which, according to its website, is ‘a cross-disciplinary research club for those interested in the made world,’ from molecules to buildings. Group members extolled the notion that ‘doing something with your hands should not be divorced from a university education’.
Joe, as spokesman for his group, asked ‘Can computer coding be considered a craft?’ In response, I recounted my arrival at the Fab Lab earlier that evening, when a young man working there inquired about the subject of my talk. I replied, ‘The importance of craftwork’. He smiled, saying, ‘Oh great! I can relate to that.’ I asked what he did. He told me, ‘I design circuit boards’. In our brief exchange, he made no hesitation in relating his work to ‘craft’: circuit board design, like blowing glass or potting, involves a unity of hands and mind in making, experimenting, and creatively solving problems as they arise.
Another audience member added that he too viewed his work as a craft. He claimed that as a management consultant who analyses and solves business problems, his practice ‘combines art and science’. ‘It involves whole-body learning,’ he continued. ‘It’s about perception, it’s about understanding situations and being able to interpret them. I just use a different set of tools from planes and chisels.’
The subject of ‘power and inequality’ was also tabled for discussion. Graham proclaimed that, ultimately, ‘it’s all about power: about empowering people to bring about social and economic change’. He lamented craft’s second-class status and ventured, ‘If people – in education, in politics, in society – could be made to understand that craftwork can be powerful, it would move mountains. But until we achieve that realisation, we’ll carry on with the malaise that we’ve got.’ Richard highlighted the perverse fact that those most handsomely remunerated are those in the finance sector ‘who make absolutely nothing: they don’t make things, they don’t make books, they don’t make education, they don’t heal us of our ills.’
In thinking about ‘what needs to change’, Catherine pointed to the kinds of social reform advocated by William Morris, and argued for the continued relevance of his ideas. According to Rachel, the starting point for change needs to be with us, the consumers: ‘We need to stop buying cheap sh** from IKEA. We need to seriously understand the value of an object and the effort that goes into making something.’ Emma, the furniture maker, shared her story of struggle to make a living as a craftsperson and the need to find work outside her practice in order to make a living and survive. Wendy, too, told us of friends who tried to set up as woodworkers, and failed. ‘Alongside craft skills need to go business skills,’ she said, and that needs to be a core part of craft and any other kind of vocational training.
Brian underscored the need to focus on inequality, as it is made manifest in power structures, gender hierarchies, social-class privilege and, importantly, access to education, training and work within the craft sector. He felt that craft has an important role to play in counteracting inequality in its various guises. In the UK, for example, women and minority groups are patently underrepresented in carpentry, and niche practices such as fine woodwork and furniture-making are dominated by trainees and practitioners from the middle classes.
Concerning gender, Cheryl, the college instructor, noted that in some years no female trainees enrol on the fine-woodwork programme. She could not explain why this happens, especially since ‘there is not the same stigma attached to going into the carpentry trades for girls as there is for boys’. It is often perceived that boys going into the trades must have failed or performed poorly in school. Cheryl recounted her own experience:
‘I went to an all-girls’ grammar school, and my parents were both teachers. So I can’t imagine that if I were a guy I would have ended up an apprentice on a Southwark council scheme. But that was a wise move for me: I received wages to go to college and get an education, and the qualifications to eventually become a teacher and an assessor. I don’t think that could have happened if I were a boy.’
Charlotte offered some final thoughts on the original question I had posed. She invested hope in the emerging neuroscience discourse to positively change popular (mis)conceptions about the mind-body relation.
‘The neurosciences are informing us that learning is a whole-body activity: that it involves posture and rhythm; it’s about connection to tools; and it involves training vision and touch. All forms of education and work demand that our sensory capabilities are fully developed. When an individual is developed in this way, they are both craftsperson and academic, endowed with creative understanding. We need to develop people broadly.’
Thanks to the Inequality in Education Network, and especially John Bayley and Lynda Haddock for organising and mediating the event. Thanks to Fab Lab for graciously hosting us. And thanks to all those who attended and participated in what was – I hope for all – an evening of stimulating conversation and exchange.
We list below links to a variety of sources that foster a critique of the current relationship between Ofsted and the Academy Trusts.
The links and narrative samples are not ours, they are courtesy of the Reclaiming Education movement. They are telling and offer a comprehensive landscape view of a system in the throes of developmental crisis.
The first reference begins with a letter from Chris Dunne to theFinancial Times. ‘We may regret not having defended our education system…’
We commend the suite in entirety to our readers. Please share this article with colleagues.
Chris Dunne’s letter, “We will come to regret not having defended our education system”, in the Financial Times can be seen here
Henry Stewart’s piece looking at the progress of academies against maintained schools can be read here.
Ofsted condemns Academy Trusts: The Government has announced that it plans to force all schools to become academies. The major problem is going to be who will run these schools, given that Ofsted has some major criticisms of at least 8 of the large academy trusts.
Ofsted Inspections of Academy TrustsOfsted has carried out focused inspections of academies within 9 multi academy trusts. Significantly, only one, the last and smallest one, is positive. The full reports can be found on the Government website here. A map of where the academies are can be found here.
CfBT: 11 primary/8 Secondary“CfBT took on too many academies too quickly. The trust did not have a clear rationale for the selection of schools, a strategy for creating geographical clusters or a plan to meet academies’ different needs. As a result, standards are too low. The trust relied heavily on external consultants but did not ensure their accountability in securing rapid and secure improvement. Headteachers were unable to provide each other with the much needed mutual support or share available expertise. Current CST leaders openly acknowledge these errors.” Full report
Academies Enterprise Trust: 32 primary/30 secondary/5 special”After operating for nearly eight years, the Trust is failing too many pupils. Almost 40% of the pupils attend AET primary academies that do not provide a good standard of education. It is even worse in secondary, where 47% of pupils attend academies that are less than good……
“Children from poor backgrounds do particularly badly in this Trust. The attainment and progress of disadvantaged pupils, in both the primary and secondary academies, still lags behind that of other pupils, and gaps in performance are not narrowing quickly enough……
“The outcomes of the focused inspections failed to demonstrate that the Trust is consistently improving its academies. Full report
Collaborative Academies Trust: 9 schools“Collaborative Academies Trust was set up in 2012 by EdisonLearning ……
………Too many academies have not improved since joining the trust. Of the five academies that have had a full inspection since joining the trust, only one has improved its inspection grade compared with its predecessor school. Two have remained the same and two have declined. This means that, at the time of the focused inspection, there were not yet any good or outstanding academies in the trust. “ Full report
E-Act (formerly Edutrust): 23 academies (was more)“…Nevertheless, the quality of provision for too many pupils in E-ACT academies is not good enough.
……Standards in the secondary academies are too low. Previous interventions by the Trust to raise attainment and accelerate progress have not had enough impact and any improvements have been slow.
….Pupils from poor backgrounds do not do well enough. These pupils make less progress than other pupils nationally. This is an area of serious concern. “ Full report
Kemnal Academies Trust: 15 secondary/26 primary“Less than half of your academies were good or better and there are no longer any outstanding academies in your chain. ………
.. an overwhelming proportion of pupils attending one of the academies inspected are not receiving a good education. “ Full report
Oasis Community Learning Trust: 50? Schools – DfE list and Oasis website appear to disagree.The academy trust has grown rapidly, taking on 30 new academies in the last three years …
Across the trust, some groups of pupils do not achieve well. Disadvantaged pupils, particularly boys, make significantly less progress than their peers nationally………. there is no evidence of an overall strategy or plan that focuses on these particular issues. Full report
School Partnership Trust: 41 schools“The impact of the Trust’s work in bringing about improvement where it is most needed has been too slow. Where standards have been intractably low for some time, the Trust is not driving significant, sustained improvement. …
……The standard of education provided by the Trust is not good enough in around 40% of its academies inspected so far. “ Full report
The Education Fellowship: 12 schools“There is no clear record of improvement in the trust’s academies and standards across the trust are unacceptably variable. In around three quarters of the academies, standards are poor.
Standards declined in five of the eight primary academies in 2014. In the majority of the trust’s 12 academies, the gap in attainment between disadvantaged pupils and their better off peers, both within the academies and compared with pupils nationally, remains unacceptably wide.” Full Report
Wakefield City Academies Trust – the only positive one!“Two years into its development, WCAT is making a positive difference to the quality of provision and outcomes for pupils within its academies. “ Full report
(Flotsam is our occasional series of educational ideas from other places…)
Linking this to live commentary/chat by Facebook sign-in, Karim’s experiment seeks to make the idea of MOOC’s more accessible and discursive. Taking out the loneliness factor from on-line educational consumption? He calls it ClassroomFM.
The early model streams YouTube videos from Stanford University, across a range of themes including enterprise, health, society, technology and education.
As the project develops we would like to see some form of timetable or forward view of upcoming talks, perhaps with ‘time available localised’ to your machine or device, along with other forms of sign-in rather than just Facebook perhaps.
This early iteration of the feed has some way to go to be a mature service, but offers an interesting idea that might be adopted by schools, universities and groups like IETT?
Our growing catalogue of filmed debate could be available on-line, looped continuously 24/7, and interested visitors could drop in and comment and discuss, in real time, with their peers the ideas being presented by the featured speaker. (An IETT tech development project for 2016 perhaps…Ed?)
You can see Karim speak at TED AmsterdamEducation below. It is perhaps a talk strong on chutzpah and less pronounced on reforming detail, but it is entertaining. Those who currently teach and lecture may find it challenging…
We had a small intake of breath when we read the headline for a web article, just published, about a state funded school in Orange County, Florida. They are intent on holding a STEM event only for boys.
No wonder some of the technically qualified, female parents began a petition to resist such a move. Which they did. In the U.S. Title IX states that…
‘No person in the United States shall, on the basis of sex, be excluded from participation in, be denied the benefits of, or be subjected to discrimination under any education program or activity receiving federal financial assistance’.
(Title IX is a portion of the United States Education Amendments of 1972, Public Law No. 92‑318, 86 Stat. 235 (June 23, 1972), codified at 20 U.S.C. §§ 1681–1688, co-authored and introduced by Senator Birch Bayh; it was renamed the Patsy Mink Equal Opportunity in Education Act in 2002…Ed.)
The school have since issued statements stressing that the event was planned as a son and mother event, which still renders some parents speechless, the subject hanging, as it does, on a core branch of the curriculum tree. Stunning thinking in the twenty first century? See the original story on the pages of Jezebel.com here.
The issue of women and science education is part of an on-going debate in England too.
Saturday 21 & Sunday 22 November 2015 at the University of Nottingham – Book on-line here.
‘What is Missing in Action about? A collaboration between the Haydn Green Institute for Innovation and Entrepreneurship and Digital Women UK, this ‘thought space’ will allow female digital entrepreneurs, academics, creative practitioners and those interested in this field, to discuss professional challenges and concerns, share insights and learn from each other’s experiences and studies of digital entrepreneurship.
Why the title? Missing in Action reflects the fact that although female digital entrepreneurs are aspiring to start up status, or are working widely in the UK, very little is known about who they are, which communities they come from, the obstacles they face and which entrepreneurial activities they are engaged or interested in’. (Narrative source – Digital Women UK – November 2015)
Although this is a female digital entrepreneurship event, the undertow of educational neglect of women in science education is, we would argue, a clear current for discussion.