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Keep politicians out of education.

(136 Posts)
CariGransnet (GNHQ) Thu 07-Jun-12 13:40:43

Our latest guest blog post is by Beryl Kingston - who believes firmly that parents and teacher know a lot more about learning than the powers that be. Do you agree with her - or do you believe it's right that Westminster rules the roost?

Mishap Thu 07-Jun-12 13:45:41

Hear hear Beryl Kingston!!!!
Simply don't set me off on this subject - you will never stop me!!!

Joan Thu 07-Jun-12 13:58:34

Leave education to the educators! Keep politicians out!

I live in Queensland Australia and when I came here 33 years ago, we had a dreadful far-right State government, held in power by a shameless gerrymander, and with a religious Premier. He started messing with the school curriculum: asking for creationism to be taught, banning sex education: you know the sort of thing. The only way I could avoid this rubbish was to enroll my little lad in the local catholic school. Catholic education here is pretty good: they did cover sex education and evolution for instance, and no religious brainwashing went on.

That state government and police ended up being investigated, some MPs and even the police commissioner ended up doing serious prison time, electoral reform took place, and the premier only escaped prison because of a dodgy jury, where the jury foreman was a supporter of him.

So - my own experience says keep the pollies out!!

absentgrana Thu 07-Jun-12 14:12:55

Education should be what it says on the tin – a leading out – not a cramming in. Politicians are the worst people for tinkering with education as they appear to see its sole purpose as getting a job. Do you remember when the really fat, often unshaven guy (Charles someone, was it Clark) who was Minister for Education in Tony Blair's government said that he couldn't see the point of a degree in history? How many times does some politician think he is the best person to decide what works of literature should be compulsory at what age or what historical topics should be on the curriculum. Who decided on a one-size-fits-all way of teaching children to read? Why do universities come under the umbrella of the Minister for Business? Grr, indeed.

vampirequeen Thu 07-Jun-12 14:35:06

Totally agree. Politicians know nothing about educating children and let's be honest they don't send their children to the state schools they constantly tinker with and underfund. Those who have children at state schools make sure they're not your run of the mill inner city affair. They send their children to places like the London Oratory which somehow manage to choose which children they will take.

They demand that we test and assess our children into submission. Starting this month the first formal test (although they say it's not but to me a test that officially grades children and therefore a school is formal) takes place in Year 1 when a child can be as young as 5 years old. Children will be shown groups of letters. Some will be real words like 'clown' others will be nonsense words like 'clowd'. The child has to build the 'word' using phonics knowledge. Basically say what you see.

Phonics is a step to reading's not the be all and end all. This tests phonic knowledge not the ability to read which would make more sense.

Teachers have always tested and assessed but each government makes it sound as if we sit around all day doing nothing not knowing or caring what each child has learned. So instead of testing at the appropriate time for the child/class we now have to conform to official dates.

nanaej Thu 07-Jun-12 20:53:38

My experience is that all young children can learn all the basic skills in primary school through a well structured play based , practical and investigative curriculum. Some children gain these skills sooner than others for all sorts of reasons but the majority can get there! Children learn best when feeling confident and happy! A good teacher is able to get the best out of all the children in a class. In my 35 years in London state schools there are far, far more good teachers than not smile They would be able to to the job even better without frequent instruction from the lads at the DfE who do not know one end of a child from the other!!

PatriciaPT Fri 08-Jun-12 11:11:59

Strikes me that teachers need all the energy they have to do the actual job of education (thanks to whoever reminded us that it means 'leading out' - absolutely agree) and with political interference every 5 minutes, they are increasingly required to spend (ie waste) lots of that energy on filling in forms, anguishing about targets and worrying about accusations of abuse. How on earth they manage to teach at all is a bit of a mystery to me. Get politics & politicians out of education, the sooner the better. (And the health and social services while we're at it).

Some years ago some politician suggested raising the school leaving age to 18 (doubtless in order to improve the employment statistics). I wanted to ask him (it was a he I think, but I can't remember who) if he had ever met a 15 year old who didn't want to be in school? I've known some, and I can only imagine what they would have done to the education of the 17 & 18 year olds who actually wanted to be in education, had they been forced to share a classroom with those who didn't. And I often want to ask these people, have they ever visited a real school since they left their own! One suspects not.

Anagram Fri 08-Jun-12 11:14:46

I believe the school leaving age is actually being raised to 18 - not sure when. Maybe it already has been?

nanaej Fri 08-Jun-12 11:30:23

Through work I met young civil servants from DfE. They were personable young men, mostly educated out of the state system and who certainly had not been in mainstream state schools for more than a week! One, who I remember well, was i/c of London Schools. However he had not been briefed about key government policies (e.g.the phonics tests for 6 yr olds) and could not answer questions or understand the various professional opinions because he had no background in education except his own school experience! It really is no way to provide quality education!

JessM Fri 08-Jun-12 11:56:14

Hello Beryl
Don't I remember you from the NCT 30 years ago?
Are you lurking on GN under a pseudonym I wonder?
Your post is touching and I agree to a great extent that there is too much political interference. The level of interference in Education has always been too detailed - on a par with interfering with the clinical judgements of doctors.
Politicians know little about education but that does not stop them delving in and saying what should or should not be taught and how.
However the picture you paint of ideal learning is far from the reality experienced by many children and is very focussed on the very young child.
I think politicians do need to call schools to account for their outputs - why is it, for instance, that a primary school can be paid a lot of money to teach a child for 6 or 7 years and fail to get them even started as a reader? It is a scandal!
I have seen the effect of tight target setting and close attention on a low performing secondary at first hand. It is not ideal but there are certainly now a lot more teenagers leaving our school with the kind of qualifications they need to get them into a job. For the first time in 40 years, one of them went to Cambridge last year. The teachers are working harder and giving more interesting and stimulating lessons.

nanaej Fri 08-Jun-12 12:08:10

Jess i agree that some schools need particular help and support to make sure children/students gain the outcomes they need. However overtime governments have put in sweeping policies that the majority of schools do not need to take on because the are doing well!

LisaStAlbans Fri 08-Jun-12 13:24:41

So glad to read this post and comments. You have all said what I have believed for a long while now: (

In response to JessM's point "why is it, for instance, that a primary school can be paid a lot of money to teach a child for 6 or 7 years and fail to get them even started as a reader? It is a scandal!" I would say that state schools have to offer a "one size fits all" in order to reach the Government targets ... not the teachers you understand, the SYSTEM.

If education is a round hole and your child is a round peg - happy days. If they have any other type of learning difference, there is not a Plan B. Not really, not consistently across the primary years.

Has everyone seen Sir Ken Robinson speak? He is very witty and eloquent and a pleasure to watch. If you have 10 minutes, take a look at his famous speech at TED. It will really blow your hair back and get you thinking. Enjoy!

JessM Fri 08-Jun-12 14:06:13

Primary schools in this country have always turned out non readers, whatever the political regime in this country and whatever reading methods they have advocated. Hence high levels of adult illiteracy.

girlracer Fri 08-Jun-12 18:29:44

Simple answer to the education problem.

Make manual skills, e.g. bricklaying, building, plumbing, waitressing, cool again. As Maureen Lipman said in that memorable BT advert "People will always need plates" so teaching pottery is not a waste of time. Give these less academic teenagers a chance to learn a skill, rather than waste time studying academic subjects, this will give them some self-respect and hopefully a job for life. Down the road from my house, there is a recently completed corner wall on a property which is a work of art, I admire it every time I go past. Someone had to learn how to create this and if it had been me, I would have been very proud. Stop regarding university as the be-all and end-all of life, especially in the middle classes. All my friends agree, we can't be the only ones, so come on MPs in the Dept. of Education - listen to the masses out there!

JessM Fri 08-Jun-12 18:33:44

They may be cool girlracer but if the jobs aren't out there, the jobs aren't out there. You've got to have a market for hand crafted pots before you can make a living out of it.
There has been a huge reduction of manual jobs over the last few decades and an increase of jobs that need people to be literate, numerate and use a computer.
Unless you get those basics in place you are letting children down - they cannot fully take their place as adults in our complex society.

vampirequeen Fri 08-Jun-12 20:04:59

There will always be some children with special needs who, no matter how hard they and the teachers try, will never achieve the levels expected. Many of these children still have to take the SATS exams even though everyone knows they will not be able to achieve level 4.

JessM Sat 09-Jun-12 10:29:21

Course there will vampirequeen but in recent years there has been a lot more funding for special needs and still some primary schools turn out far too many non-readers who cannot access the secondary curriculum. As chair of governors in a "challenging" school I have seen this at first hand - and we have to play catch up despite fact that secondary staff have no training in teaching of reading .

Mamie Sat 09-Jun-12 14:19:27

Just out of interest, Jess, how many children coming into your Year 7 are below Level 3? I presume this is what you mean by a "non-reader"?

Jacey Sun 10-Jun-12 09:52:48

I see it is predicted that Gove is going to tinker again this weekshock

Focus on spelling etc ...not reading; 7yr olds to be taught a foreign language ...I wonder which one??

So yet again the primary time-table is going to be squeezed hmm

montymops Sun 10-Jun-12 09:52:56

Does the Chair of Governors necessarily have any more of a background in education than a politician?
It is very easy to blame the teachers - teachers blame teachers! Infant teachers blame Nursery teachers, Junior teachers blame Infant teachers, Secondary teachers blame Primary teachers, university lecturers blame the whole lot....but where does it get you?
In the end, most of those children who have books at home, who have parents who read themselves and who read to their children, who have parents who take their child to libraries and who give them a variety of educational experiences, who have parents who are willing to support the school in their efforts to teach and discipline their child, will succeed in reading - there will, even then, be a few who struggle.
In my experience, many children who have lacked that vital parental input in the early years, may never catch up.

Jacey Sun 10-Jun-12 09:53:41

Oh and learning poetry by heart?? grin

absentgrana Sun 10-Jun-12 09:59:51

Yes, he's tinkering and micromanaging. Apparently, there is now a list of specific words that all primary school children will be expected to be able to spell before they leave primary school. I am all in favour of correct spelling but that is absurd. I'm also in favour of teaching a foreign language at primary level, but this will require specialist language teachers and that means increased costs. Where is the money to come from?

What I am most in favour of is letting head teachers and teachers get on with their jobs without some politician who has no background in education continually poking his/her nose into school affairs and making constant changes.

Mamie Sun 10-Jun-12 15:11:26

To be honest I can't see much that is new with the Gove proposals. Phonics - already there; enjoyment of books and poetry - already there; lists of spellings for each year group - already there (The Spelling Bank, anyone?), can't remember if learning poetry by heart is statutory, but seen plenty of it done in primary schools.
Totally agree about each phase blaming the one before Montymops; that is why the cross-phase stuff that we have discussed before is so important.

pammygran Sun 10-Jun-12 17:43:07

Rubbish...state education is appalling...bring back nowadays know virtually nothing, a young girl on TV recently, when asked what a Vulva was, she thought it was a French cheese!

nanaej Sun 10-Jun-12 17:50:01

Not exactly a deep analysis of educational standards pammy My kids know loads as do my grand kids...all state educated too!
Surprised she did not say a car! grin Why was she being asked that on TV?