Greedy Tories, Leave our Schools Alone!

Greedy Tories – Leave our Schools Alone

The school bully marches into playgrounds across this country, David Cameron with Nicky Morgan, and Michael Gove cheering from the sidelines, imposing his will.  Against the will of teachers and parents, he pursues the policy of Academisation. Tory policies of destruction of LEAs, and encouraging children and their schools to compete against one another is nothing to do with learning. It has nothing to do with professionalism. Centralised services such as  provision for those with special educational needs (SEN), education welfare, (EWS) support for children’s mental health (CAMHS),  Educational Psychology Services (EPS) , support for children suffering ME/CFS, or EBSR (emotionally based school refusal) can be provided where schools work together within local consortia or LEAs, but where profit is the objective such services are are lost to our children, and as a result so many lives are irrevocably damaged.

The latest we hear from David Cameron is that even “good schools could become Academies“. They have moved on from those schools which were  struggling, having cashed in they are now moving on to those which aren’t.

Cameron now says , “And other schools rated ‘good’ at their last inspection – but which haven’t been maintaining high standards since. They are giving children ‘just enough’ to avoid falling beneath our floor standards. But frankly ‘just enough’ isn’t good enough for my children, and it shouldn’t be for yours.

“So we’re going to say to those schools: if you’re not making fast enough progress in raising standards, you have to change and if you can’t do it yourself, you have to become a sponsored academy and welcome in people with a proven track record of running outstanding schools.”

Of course, everyone would like to see the very best for every child and Labour’s  Every Child Matters set out to do that.  There is no evidence that the policies of Academisation and schools’ privatisation do anything to improve our schools, yet we do see evidence of Academy Schools which have  failed since their staus has changed. OFSTED Chief Michael Wilshaw has stated that struggling schools are no better off under academy control.

In the beginning, the Academisation programme was hidden behind lies of “improving schools”, or ‘reforming education”. The evidence now presents this as a sham, as academies are failing, and one wonders whether the intention is to reacademise the failing academies, or perhaps a new, equally shallow word will be introduced. This programme is, and always has been about privatisation of our state education system, and about profits for companies who wish to speculate. There is privatisation of exam boards, textbooks and buildings, of teacher’s careers and even input on the curriculum itself.

But it is more ominous than all that. They seek to control as well as profit. They seek  a division of our society, where the principle of a universal, comprehensive education system becomes dead and buried. Will they seek to gain control of future generations walking into a zombie world?  I consider Tories underestimate the intelligence of people. I have hope. There is massive opposition  to Academisation of our schools. That voice must be heard, and Labour must oppose  this policy and call for a return to LEAs or teacher managed consortia.

The Eton-Educated Tories are blinkered. The principle that education can be bought is indeed flawed, and evidence shows that education systems are most successful where privatised schools are banned. Societies are successful where its citizens are well educated and  informed,  where skills can develop, where the Arts and Science thrive. But the Conservative Party does not look to improve learning, the quality of life of the majority of citizens, or the development of skills and industry. They seek to make profits and will do so until there is nothing left, but a wasteland –  unless we oppose this and provide an alternative. Labour must  oppose Tory privatisation of our schools,  and reintroduce local consortia where communities support all children for mutual benefit of us all.

We must not allow them to gamble with our children’s lives.

OFSTED song for striking teachers

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What does OFSTED stand for…

FASCINATING AIDA : very funny OFSTED song for teachers

(hat-tip Bill Ball)

We’re all ROARing for Teachers and Education #teacherROAR #GoveMUSTGo

Join Teacher ROAR in sharing this message together at the same time – automatically. Thunderclap Link here.

 It is planned  for 9pm on 16th October, the eve of the teachers’ strike. Please add your name *now* by clicking on that link. Then it  will tweet automatically from your account.

“I’m ROARing my support for teachers, striking tomorrow for a better education system! #GoveMUSTgo #teacherROARhttp://thndr.it/1gr9896

How The Gove Stole Summer (with apologies to Dr. Suess)

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How The Gove Stole Summer

In which Dr. Suess posthumously questions Michael Gove’s decision to abolish summer holidays for school children 

Every schoolchild in England liked summer a lot...
But the Gove, who lived in Westminster, did NOT!
The Gove hated summer! The whole summer season!
Now, please don't ask why. No one quite knows the reason.
It could be his head wasn't screwed on just right.
It could be, perhaps, that his shoes were too tight.
But I think the most likely reason of all,
May have been that his heart was two sizes too small.

Whatever the reason, his shoes or his heart,
Gove stood there in July, watching school holidays start,
Staring down from his office with a sour, Govey frown,
At the happy boys and girls below in the town.
"They're happy and carefree!" he snarled with a sneer,
"Tomorrow is summer holidays! They're practically here!"
Then he growled, with his Gove fingers nervously drumming,
"I MUST find some way to stop summer from coming!"
For tomorrow, he knew, all the children would wake,
Bright and early the next morning to a long summer break.

And then! Oh, the noise! Oh, the Noise!
Noise! Noise! Noise!
That's one thing Gove hated! The NOISE!
NOISE! NOISE! NOISE!
And he knew all the children would play and be happy.
And they'd play! And be happy! Be HAPPY!
HAPPY! HAPPY!
They'd play games in the garden, and eat lots of tasty snacks,
Instead of doing tests, and going up chimney stacks,
And THEN they'd do something he liked least of all!
Every schoolchild in England, the tall and the small,
Once summer vacation was fully in swing,
Would play and be happy and forget who was KING!
They'd play and forget HE was king! KING!
KING! KING!

And the more the Gove thought what summmer would bring,
The more the Gove thought, "I must stop this whole thing!"
"Why, I've put up with being a nobody for so long till now!"
"I MUST stop this summer from coming! But HOW?"
Then he got an idea! An awful idea!
THE GOVE GOT A WONDERFUL, AWFUL IDEA!
"I know just what to do!" The GOVE laughed in his throat.
And he made a quick costume from parts of a goat.
And he chuckled, and clucked, "What a great GOVEY trick!"
"With these horns and these hooves, I look just like Old Nick!"

"All I need is a reason..." The Gove looked around.
But, since his reason was scarce, there was none to be found.
Did that stop the old Gove? No! The Gove simply said,
"If I can't find a reason, I'll invent one instead!"
So he called his friend, Murdoch. And they made up some shit,
About selling off playing fields and being forced to permit 
The wholesale starvation and privatisation,
Of the nation's school buildings and state education.

Now I'm sorry this tale is so short and so snappy,
But unlike the original, this ending won't be so happy.
Because the GOVE isn't just a fictional monstrosity,
He's real flesh and blood, and full of pomposity,
So parents watch out! It's not just the summer vacation,
The GOVE'S out to get YOU - and your children's education!

.

You can get Dr Seuss’s original version here:

How the Grinch Stole Christmas

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Gove’s Selective Truth. , Finland’s education success was because they BANNED private schools.

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At the very least, Michael Gove is selective with the truth. Deviously and deceptively he has pursued a campaign to demolish state education. (1) Ambitious for a five year parliament, he hopes the speed of his changes (2) will ensure they are permanent, schools ensnared in long term contracts. We observe school-bully tactics and, where sweeteners did not work, Gove forcibly ensured the conversion to Academies.

No longer does the public believe him, and recent polls (YouGov) YouGov Education and Skills show confidence declining. The conservatives led on Education in January and are now 10 points behind Labour. (24 % compared with 34% Labour)

Early in this parliament, Gove instigated visits to observe the highly performing Finnish Education system regarded as one of the best in the world. Subsequently, the Finnish free-school model was included in the government’s white paper. Simultaneously, the media continued to drive home the message of failing schools, and sell us the Academy argument, veiling the truth of the plan to privatise.

What was obvious to observers who visited Finland is how teaching is regarded as one of the most prestigious careers, along with medicine and law. Children enjoyed learning. They were allowed to develop interest are not constantly jumping through the hoops of competition, which achieves nothing but to label children as failures. Education provision for sick children is enabled by technology. There is a lot of snow in Finland, but children unable to get to school can still access lessons. Gove’s policies are hitting the education of sick children in the UK (3) harder than ever.

Finnish communities differed than British towns, where contrasting affluent and less affluent residential areas demonstrate the inequality in our society. Inequality is perpetuated because of the power exercised by a privileged minority, products of a private education system.

“Finland’s educational system. Fascinating thing about three decades ago Finland has an educational system that is doing terribly and they look around and they go okay what are we going to do about this, we gotta revamp the whole thing.”

Cenk Uygur and Ana Kasparian discuss the revolutionary educational system Finland has instituted and the results of that system on the education of their children. Read more about it here (4), (5)

Every child in Finland must have access to good schools. Having a parallel private and state schools prevents this. There can be no true comprehensive school system while the elitist private school system exists. It was a brave decision to make it illegal to charge for education in Finland. Banning private education should improve education for all children. (6), (7)

Local Schools Network: Would Abolishing Private Education improve Education for All?

In mentioning the revered the Finnish system in his white paper, Gove omits to state the most obvious factors.

  1. Privately funded education is banned in Finland.
  2. The emphasis is on equality, and not excellence.
  3. There is no standardised testing until 16.
  4. Competition is frowned upon.
  5. Children are encouraged to follow their interests, and develop their skills, rather than forced to follow a homogenised curriculum devised by governments.
  6. Teachers are well paid, well qualified and respected in the community.

Without supporting evidence , Mr Gove’s justification for his changes were that the education system was failing. This demonstrates more deceit.

In January 2011 he said, “In the last ten years, we have plummeted in the world rankings from 4th to 16th for science, 7th to 25th for literacy and 8th to 28th for maths. These are facts from which we cannot hide.”

Yet, recent reports assess the UK Education system as sixth in the world (8), but this is unlikely to feature on Mr Gove’s press release.

Any educationalist knows that competition kills learning. What it does facilitate is a means to ensure to the privileged few prosper. The furore which followed the fiasco of the GCSE English results, demonstrates how Gove plans for more children to fail.The European Baccalaureate is examined at 18, but Gove’s Bac is proposed at 16. The recent introduction of the English Baccalaureate concentrates on core subjects of English, Maths, Science, a foreign language and humanities. Creative subjects are sidelined. Teachers must be allowed to focus on the children they teach, not tables and achievement targets.

go-away-Gove-its-our-school

Mr Gove, please can we have our schools back? And most important of all, our children?

  1. Academisation and the Demolition of our Education System
  2. New Statesman: Why whirlwind Gove is acting so fast.
  3. Academisation and the Neglect of Sick Children
  4. The Atlantic: What American Schools keep ignoring about Finnish Schools Success
  5. Video on Finnish Education system by Cenk Uygur and Ana Kasparian
  6. Local Schools Network: Would abolishing private schools improve education of all our children?
  7. Video Excerpt from talk by Pasi Sahlberg in the House of Commons. Sahlberg is, as his website tells us, Director General of CIMO in Helsinki, Finland.
  8. Local Schools Network: UK is 6th in international education league
  9. Local Schools Network: Where is the evidence of Private Sector Delivery?

Fall Out of Gove

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Fall Out of Gove,

By Liam Carr, Previously Published here

The GCSE results have fallen for the first time ever. Only by 0.4% but a fall nonetheless. 0.4% is a small percentage and as they go up every year you could say that it is right that they could fall. This is a persuasive argument but ignores the impact the GCSE readjustment has on both students and schools.
The cause of the fall is not a fall in the ability of the students. Education like any other field improves over time: Athletes are running faster now than they did 20 years ago. Medicines have been developed to treat diseases that were previously fatal. Space scientists have landed a huge remote controlled jeep on Mars. There is a climbing analogy that is even better: 30 years ago very few people had climbed Everest; now it is summited on almost every day during May by multiple groups of climbers. Has Everest got smaller? No, but the people who climb it are better equipped for it than the previous generation. Progress is being made in almost every sphere of human endeavour. It is seen as a good thing in athletics, medicine and in space, why not education?
The previous generation may well be uncomfortable with the progress in education. They look back with rose tinted spectacles at a golden age when they did long division at primary school, (incorrectly believing that primary school children no longer learn how to do long division) and think that standards have slipped. This illusion is due the in part to the comprehensive nature of our education system. O-Levels were only done by people who passed the 11 plus. Comparisons between GCSEs and O-Levels and fail to take this into account.
0.4% is a small decrease but it hides the impact his readjustment has on the factor by which schools are measured. The Education Secretary (whose policy disasters are outlined here) has put pressure on exam boards and his English meddling half way through the academic year does the most damage: Between 4000 and 10 000 real young people with hopes and aspirations will be affected. The impact on the students will be felt by them for many years to come, they will feel cheated and rightly so, if they had sat the English GCSEs in January they would have beaten Goves cynical adjustment. Unfortunatly then can’t turn back the clock, nor can then fill in an application form like this;“GCSE English – D (Downgraded by Gove)” Good schools with hardworking teachers are taking a massive hit on their percentage of pupils achieving 5 A* to C including English and Maths; that means that Gove has an excuse to academy-fy or close and reopen a ‘free’ school down the road.

This is not about improving academic standards. It is about giving a slice of the education budget to private companies. It is as ideological as when Thatcher fought the Unions in the 1980s. Gove is setting himself against the teaching profession in order to impress those in his own Party.  Gove is building an education system more suited to 1950s Britain and he is a danger to the future competitiveness of our country.

Making the Grade

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Young people strive for independence. Fears of unemployment, debt, tuition charges make the transition to independence possible much later in life. Carefree teenage years seem a thing of the past, with anxiety and pressure put upon our children from an early age. Rather than allowing them freedom to discover the world through their education, the obsession with exams leads many to anxiety, and even suicide. Yet the government seems intent on labelling our young people failures rather than celebrating achievement and motivating them to learn. Darrell Goodliffe’s  article ( previously published here) laments this and urges a stronger response from Labour.

Making The Grade

by Darrell Goodliffe

GCSE results day was a day when many, justifiably, were celebrating outstanding academic achievement. However, for different reasons, both the government and opposition failed to make the grade. Exam result days have become somewhat ritualistic, there are winners and losers but no matter what the outcome it has become typical for the political classes, usually accompanied by the media, to frown sternly and wag their finger. Little thought is given by either side to the far-reaching effect that the different outcomes have on so many lives. The government has however, have elevated this thoughtlessness to a whole new level. It is simply not fair that many pupils were denied a better grade in subjects, especially GCSE English, to satisfy the political whims of the Westminster class. It becomes even more unfair when you realise that had they been but a year older they would have obtained a totally different grade and their whole prospects would have been different.

Sadly, we should expect no better from a government which views us all as lab rats, pawns in its grand ideological designs. However, to play with the futures of so many in such a crass and uncaring way is a new low even for the current incumbents. Michael Gove has defined himself in his position by his subservience to ideological dogma and the ravenous gaggle of private interests looking to carve up the state education system in the name of making a quick buck. Flexibility in the National Curriculum is desperately needed but when that extends to the teaching of a religious belief, ie, in creationism, as established fact, you can be pretty its not the kind of flexibility that will help educate critical, and socially and crucially, economically, active human beings. His desire to batter state schools into becoming academies, against the wishes of all those involved, is democratically abhorrent.

Mr Gove is many things and sadly, for us, a political heavyweight is one of the things he is.

Meanwhile, his opposite number, Stephen Twigg, is scraping a featherweight. I accept that he is hampered by Labour’s continued lack of an over-arching meta-narrative with which to oppose the government but that still doesn’t excuse his generally poor performance.

He merely suggested that the government may be responsible for an unfair manipulation of the grading of today’s papers in the case of English rather than asserted what we can all see plainly to be a established fact. In being so equivocal he let down the students themselves, the teachers who had worked so hard and he let down his own Party. He had a golden opportunity to land a sucker punch on Mr Gove and he fluffed his lines.

Furthermore, he has no real vision to oppose Mr Gove’s let-alone any sensible policies. So, even given the restraints placed on him by the wider problems Labour has, his performance in-office is consistently poor enough to warrant a swift reshuffle away from the education brief.

Labour’s political garden looks especially rosy at the moment. However, there are plenty of signs that this is due merely due to dissatisfaction with the government as opposed to popular enthusiasm for a early Labour return to the corridors of power. We cannot afford to be carrying dead weight like Stephen Twigg and have to be cautious. At times, we barely look like an effective opposition, let-alone a potential government-in-waiting. Until we convert popular dissent into popular assent for our program the opinion polls will matter little in the grand scheme of things. Labour is sitting its own exam and there is along way to go for it to be able to reach the heights that so many achieved today.

From Think Left

An Olympic Challenge – Prizes for all please.

Academisation and the demolition of our Education System

What Price Failure

Integration and Inclusion

Michael Gove will be judged by history to be the worst education secretary ever.

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By Liam Carr http://liamrcarr.blogspot.com/

Michael Gove will be judged by history to be the worst education secretary ever. This is not vitriol or hatred .. although I do hate some of his polices which are not moving education forward but sending it back to a time of greater inequality.

Everyone is an expert in education. We are experienced in that we have all been to school. Some of us may have children who are in school. Everyone has an opinion on education. Conversations invariably start with what do you do for a living … and when people find out that I am a teacher, it always elicits a response;

“I couldn’t do that, I don’t know how you manage with kids these days”

“You only do it for the holidays”

“I was terrible at <insert subject here> when I was at school… I hated my teacher”

Occasionally parents will talk at length about their own children’s experiences at school, but often people will look worried, shake their head, and ask quietly:

“What do you think of Gove?”

This, in itself, is quite surprising.  I have been teaching for a reasonable length of time and will have had many of the ‘so what do you do for a living’ conversations but no-one really asked “What do you think of Blunkett?”

The education secretary is well known, some of which can be put down to his exploits way beyond his remit. Does anyone remember the Gove boat? A ludicrous proposal to spend £60M on a new royal yacht for the Queen.

Gove will be remembered as an education secretary because of his insatiable appetite for reform along with a failure to listen to those who may be of a different opinion to himself. Other education secretaries have made an impact.  Ken Baker, the architect of Ofsted was also a reformist, and faced great opposition at the time but he will probably be remembered for introducing teacher training days, still known as Baker days by many.

Blunkett also faced criticism but his legacy is that he left behind a more inclusive education system, and while there are many advocates of specialist provision, many students have benefited from inclusion. Blunkett opened the doors of mainstream education to those who previously would not have had the option.

There are other education secretaries who have got on with the job of improving standards of education more quietly;  Alan Milburn and Charles Clarke for example.

The flagship policy is to invest heavily in free schools which are set up by individuals who would not normally be able to access a slice of the education budget. This seems like reform for the sake of reform… and targeting funding not to the areas of greatest need, but to wherever an interested party is willing to set one up. This is the key argument against free schools.. that they do nothing to address inequality of provision across the country, or even within a local authority.

It is true that inequality in education is a difficult challenge to overcome.  Progress was made by the previous government, for whom education was certainly a priority, but it is still unfair that the strongest indicator of how a child will do at school is the socio-economic background of their parents.  While there are many aspects to this problem, some of which are beyond the control of government, equality of access and provision can and should be addressed by the government.

Inequality of provision is poisonous. It leads to parents knowing that they are not sending their children to the best school around… but also knowing that they can’t afford to move house just to get a place. It leads to students who know that their school isn’t the best around… the resulting lack of pride in the school leads to a lack of pride in the work produced. Inequality in education should be challenged, and can only be addressed in a joined up rather than a fragmented system. Gove seems at ease with inequality.  Since he took office not only has the pupil premium been cut but also diverted from schools in less affluent to those in more affluent areas. Despite the cuts, Surrey and Rutland enjoy increases between 6% and 26%, while Middlesbrough and the Wirral are hit with a reduction of 46% and 54%1 Just as Osborne did in his millionaire’s budget, Gove is intent on redistributing wealth from the have-nots to the have-lots. (or have-yachts)

There are also valid objections to Ofsted reform. He was forced to back down over ‘no notice’ inspections, but some teachers are dismayed that the satisfactory grade is being replaced by ‘requires improvement’ and a move to put more schools into special measures. My concern is that both policies are being implemented at once. Changing the criteria for observations is fine, the criteria are constantly reviewed, as we learn more about how children learn, but making the criteria more difficult to achieve and coming in with no notice and making it easier to sack teachers will simply give Gove the results he is after: ‘Teachers are not good enough’ and should be replaced, as he has suggested, with those with firsts from Oxford and ex-army officers.

There are other unhelpful policy combinations, scrapping the education maintenance allowance and raising tuition fees, has resulted in a fall in students from normal backgrounds doing A-Levels. Cutting ‘Building schools for the future’ and turning all outstanding schools into academies results in schools that are run down, in terms of facilities, becoming substandard places to learn.

There are other more minor gaffes that are listed on his Wikipedia page, such as when making a speech calling for improvement in Science and attributing some of Kelvin’s laws to Newton, but it is the return to a less equal education system that is most worrying

Mary Bousted of the Association of Teachers and Lecturers describes an education system that is stratified on class lines:

We have schools for the elite, schools for the middle class and schools for the working class, too few schools have mixed intakes where children can learn those intangible life skills of aspiration, effort and persistence from one another… The effect of unbalanced school intake is toxic for the poorest and most dispossessed… [Blaming teachers] if the poor don’t make as much progress as the rich is a nonsense. It is a lie which conveniently enables ministers to evade responsibility for the effects of their policies.”

ATL is traditionally a Union for those who don’t like Unions.  They have been on strike for the first time in their history.  If even moderate union members will strike, then Gove and his education department need to look at the combined effect of what they are doing. There are enough staff there.  He has assigned an astonishing 133 Civil servant in his free school department and there are only 24 free schools in existence.2  That is just wasteful from the party of ‘small government’, when other departments are facing decimation.

Gove’s attack on the state education has gone fairly unnoticed by many, possibly shrouded by attacks on the NHS.  I will borrow a quote originally said of the NHS:  A truly comprehensive education system will be around as long as there are people around to fight for it.

Much is at stake here. We are risking losing a generation of young people from less privileged backgrounds who will not be able to access the opportunity that the previous generation enjoyed. The Coalition may go on to claim that standards of education under Gove have gone up but only for those whose parents can afford to take advantage of what is on offer.

  1. http://www.guardian.co.uk/news/datablog/2012/mar/16/pupil-premium-child-poverty-data?CMP=twt_gu
  2. http://www.independent.co.uk/news/education/education-news/gove-assigns-133-civil-servants-to-free-schools-project-despite-only-24-being-open-7631008.html