UK Education: is it fair and fit for purpose?

Posted in: Comment, News and Updates

This was the title of a St. George's House seminar then Tuesday which I went to by kind invitation of the NUS.   A great setting, of course, and we met in a room (the Vicar's Hall) where it seems it was "not impossible" that Queen Elizabeth I and William Shakespeare might have both been at the same time.  Well, if so, I hope they had been better prepared for their meeting than we were.

The answer to the first question is, of course "No", but then unfairness seems to be built into the human condition, unless that is, you can have control of your genes, parents, domicile, luck, etc.  Is it just? would have been a better question, but that wasn't on offer.  As it was, much time was wasted by the bien-peasant teachers present railing against the existence of independent schools – as if anything could be done about that, save, making all schools independent of government orthodoxies and political prejudice, of course.

Fit for purpose is a different matter, and is much the more important issue.  Indeed that was why I went, thinking that we might get the chance to explore how children / schools / the curriculum could be helped to face up to existential issues such as climate change, the challenge offered by the sustainable development goals, and the fact that the rest of the world exists.  No chance; too many people were fixated by the problems of teacher supply about which "something needs to be done" (again!), and by teacher training more generally, or by disagreements over how good / bad Finnish schools have now become.  It would be easy to blame the rather self-indulgent co-ordinator for all this, as he just followed where most people wanted to go (apart from reading some very dodgy verse – which he thought was edgy) in the lunch break.

Here are the highlights:

  • the deranged woman who thought we'd need to wait 500 years before we could know climate change was real
  • the recruiter for a top finance firm who had given up recruiting from Russell Group universities because he could not guarantee quality
  • the independent school bloke who spoke up for the needs of the neglected social classes C D&E.  His point was that their parents need help to help their children and he focused on interesting maintained sector attempts to do that – a point echoed by the Head of Ofsted in a recent speech

That wasn't much to show for a day, but happily was ...

  • great conversations with the NUS
  • finding that the admirable Tim Oates has written on Finland and the ...
  • Born to Learn animations which I shall be recommending to the (equally admirable) parents of my grandchildren.

Not an entirely wasted day, then.

Posted in: Comment, News and Updates


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