Information about my work as a Labour Councillor for East Finchley in the London Borough of Barnet

Thursday, 21 June 2012

Another top down reorganisation

Mr. Gove's proposed reforms are confirmation of everything that is bad about him. He is a reactionary dinosaur, who only wants children to study subjects that he found interesting like Latin and Chemistry. They are both interesting subjects, but to subject children to regurgitating declensions and memorising the periodic table are not what real education is about.

Real education is about equipping tomorrow’s workforce with the tools to give them the best chance of successful in life. That means teaching kids how to assess. Teaching kids how to understand complex ideas and subjects, or even more importantly how to get into position to understand them. It isn’t about knowing that King Henry VII and Elizabeth of York got married on 18th January 1486. It's about understanding why there needed to be a union between the houses of York and Lancaster. It's about being able to map out the reasons why the wars of the roses happened at all. Seeing it from different points of view, and understanding why different people made the choices they made. Asking how that is relevant to the world today. That is real education.

Mr. Gove just wants children to be able to recite facts, not to be taught how to understand things, which in itself is such an important skill. As a governor at an outstanding school, I believe that it is value added which counts. Our school is exceptional because it gets the best out of the kids who go there. It offers courses that the kids want to do because they are interested in them and because they want to pursue them as careers. The school is brilliant at getting the best out of its children by telling them how well they are doing and how they are progressing. The attitude is entirely focused on what we can do to help the pupil progress.

Under Mr. Gove's plans, schools like ours will no longer be valued by what they provide, because the exams will be about "tough" questions and regurgitating facts. The emphasis will change from looking at the progress the school has achieved to the final outcome. That punishes schools like ours, with high SEN, EFL and poorer backgrounds pupils. They will always suffer in comparison with getting the final grade. What you will see is that schools which focus on the processes and progress will get penalised, and because the most important thing will be final grades, they will slip back. All the hard fought progress will be lost.

The clamour for "tough" exams is coming from those who don't understand or care about getting the most out of people. They are harping for a "classical" education which is about knowing things which are no doubt interesting, but will be irrelevant to the future life of the learners. Interesting that it is that King Henry V was the first post Norman invasion King of England who spoke English as his first language, it isn't vital to know that. If you want people to know that sort of thing then go to a pub quiz. I don't see why tomorrow’s apple store genius needs to know that. It isn't going to help him, outside of me being his only customer.

Update (12.22 21/6/12): Having read more commentaty, I have something further to add. Mr. Gove attacks schools which offer pupils the chance to take modules early, and retake them if they fail. He wants there to be a two year run up to final exams. That is a test of memory, not a test of intelligence. I think it is better to constantly offer pupils the opportunity to improve their results, rather than offer them a highly stressful test, which is make or break. Ruin your life if you have hayfever in June, because you only have one shot on one day.