Back on the Chain Gang

I’m deliberately digging this out, dusting it off, and putting it back out there. They say those who do not learn from history are doomed to repeat it. It’s also true that those who DO learn from history are doomed to sit by impotently while others repeat it. Today’s announcement that the Government is finally giving up any pretence at local autonomy, and is imposing a structure on schools which is essentially competing firms running school franchises in what is essentially a private marketplace is shocking. Not just because of the clear attempt to privatise a key public service (and the determined attempts to pretend this isn’t what is happening), but because it has been tried before. On a smaller scale, to be sure. But it was tried, and it was a disaster. And guess which DFE civil servant was clearing up the mess last time ?

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Academic versus Vocational : Why Does It Need To Be A Choice ?

I want to link Debra Kidd’s passionate blog about academic snobbery here, as I was involved in the conversation on Twitter which I think part-prompted this. I agree with much of what Debra says, although not all, as I’m the Head of of a very successful and very large history department in a state comprehensive and I’m rather less convinced than Debra is that, given the choice between Cromwell and Shakespeare, most students will run towards the bard.

The essence of the argument on Twitter was between some tweeters who argued that schools should impose a very limited range of traditional academic subject choices on students, and other tweeters (including myself), who argued that all students should have as wide a selection as possible of vocational and academic choices. I found myself accused of being in favour of “narrowing” education by suggesting it should be broader, because only traditional academic subjects were worthwhile, and I was thus allegedly guilty of that cardinal sin of having low expectations of less able students by believing they should do vocational qualifications instead. Continue reading

Tristram Hunt’s Observer Piece : Replying to Nothing is Hard

Tristram Hunt has written a piece for The Observer .    I wouldn’t say I’m excited by it. I had to read it twice in case I’d missed any actual content the first time. But sadly, I hadn’t. There just wasn’t any content. Anyway, I’ve helpfully indulged in a little Kremlinology and pulled it apart for any readers too depressed to be able to face reading it raw themselves.  Continue reading

A Market in Children

This will be a short blog (by my standards), and it’s a simple cry of rage. It was prompted by two conversations I had recently. The first was with a friend of mine who left state school teaching after twenty years for many of the same reasons which I write about, but was forced by economic necessity back into a private school catering for the children of wealthy foreigners – mostly eastern Europeans. The second was with an ex-colleague I once worked with at the DFE. Although unconnected, both hit on the same theme : how the introduction of “the market” in education has produced awful consequences for our children. Continue reading