Author Archives: Helen Flynn

Opinion: Setting the record straight

Screen Shot 2014-03-09 at 08.06.08 Liberal Democrats LibbyI was misquoted on BBC radio 4 on Monday. They said I had asked for Nick Clegg’s resignation. Would that it were as simple as asking for a leader to resign–as if that would change everything. But it isn’t. And I don’t feel in any way that I am being evasive or woolly by not asking for a change of leadership. What I am asking for is a root and branch review of our campaign strategy.

Let’s examine the facts.

We have just suffered a disastrous set …

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21st Century Education: A Social Liberal Approach

slflogoThe Social Liberal Forum are proud to announce the publication today of our newest publication: 21st Century Education.  The contributors to this publication are all experts in the world of education—the majority of whom are teachers—who are also members of the Liberal Democrats.   Grass roots members at that, many with long years of party membership.  As the editor of the booklet I am grateful that all the contributors were happy to write under the Social Liberal Forum banner.

What we are predominantly grappling with in this publication are not the usual battlegrounds of …

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Opinion: UKIP – let’s have a debate about low skills

strawberriesThere has been an inconsistency between two highly prominent policy areas that has been niggling away at the back of my mind for quite some time now.  UKIP needs to take note.

So, take two policy areas and also take into account the temperature (at least according to the Daily Mail, etc) of the voters.

The first area is education.  Schools that do not match up to the floor levels at Key Stage 2 and at GCSE are pounced upon by Ofsted.  They require improvement or are put into special measures.  All children must get 5 good GCSEs.  They must progress and they must aspire.  Think of the slogans that populate the UK and US education policy discourse: “no child must be left behind; “every child matters”; and social mobility is regarded and upheld as a kind of rebalancing panacea to address all social ills and help narrow the gap.

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Opinion: Getting back to sanity – EBC plans now dropped

The news about the abandonment of the EBC is to be welcomed by all interested in a progressive and inclusive education system. Is this beginning of the end of the regular Gove-ian, back of the envelope initiatives, which seem to have little to do with evidence-based, rigorous research and planning, and more to do with a kind of “Tom Brown’s Schooldays”, personal take on what makes for a good education? Somehow I doubt that. But at least it’s a start.

The education world has been suffering from major shock and awe style reforms and promises (threats?) of reform, such as EBCs …

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Opinion: Pity Gove’s 400?

You may have seen the list of the 400 “worst primaries in England”, according to M. Gove.  If not, you can download it here: Primaries.

I am not about to re-visit the bone of contention that is academy status among Lib Dem colleagues, but I do think we have to look very carefully at the whole issue of forcing schools to become academies–and look at it as Liberal Democrats, who value both devolution of powers and liberalism.

I know that those to the right of the party will say that there is …

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Opinion: How GCSEs made me envy my son

The heady waft of future and assured pupil disengagement is already pungent only one day after the announcement of the new exam system.  The wrong-headedness of the “reform” is enough to actually make you gasp.

Don’t get me wrong, I really do hate the personal anecdote–beloved of many politicians and responsible in my view for so much political damage (and used to the usual effect yesterday in that disturbing article in the Evening Standard).

But here’s one.  My elder son recently gained 11 A stars in his GSCEs.  He is a very academic child, as I was.  But as he did …

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Opinion: Finally lost it….

If there was ever any doubt as to the credibility and effectiveness of Michael Gove as Education Secretary, that has now been dispelled by the recent announcement via the Daily Mail about bringing back ‘O’ Levels.

Some I know have discarded this as not being serious, more an opportunity for Gove to act the Tory whilst his colleague flails around, making his opportunity for anything other than a one-term stint as Prime Minister highly unlikely.

Maybe it is a political move to manoeuvre himself into a prime position as custodian of the right wing, but the idea that he would use …

Posted in News and Op-eds | Tagged and | 62 Comments

Academisation: Is this the equivalent of the FE sector’s 1993 moment?

Academies are opening at an exponential rate. But there’s nothing new under the sun, as the saying goes—we have been here before, if we would all but look. A useful lesson can be learned from the FE sector and begs the questions: how long before all our schools are classified as being in the private sector? And what should we as Liberal Democrats feel and do about that?

Under the Further and Higher Education Act 1992 (which took effect in April 1993), colleges were “incorporated”, ie they were given full financial independence, together with full powers to own assets, employ staff, …

Posted in Op-eds | Tagged and | 9 Comments

Opinion: Claiming the centre ground

As (at least) one Lib Dem member commented after the local council elections, “the only way is up” from now on. But to win back support and indeed increase our base we need to refocus. It is right that we should be emphasising our distinctiveness in the coalition, but we need to do a lot more. We need to clearly articulate what we stand for, and communicate it relentlessly to the electorate. In the same way that the more tribal parties will repeat over and over again the same phrase so that people end up parroting them (regardless of …

Posted in Op-eds | 41 Comments

Opinion: It shouldn’t just be about the NHS

As an education campaigner and someone who believes in the principles behind the NHS, I have been following the news about the changes we have managed to make to the health bill with interest, and, obviously, pleasure that we have made a difference.

But when are we going to get our collective heads out of the sand when it comes to the privatisation of state education, where “any willing provider” that we were all so horrified about when proposed in the health bill is already rampaging through the education sector?

It will not be long, believe me, where we are seen as …

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