Tag Archives: education

The role of education in creating a fairer and more equal society

My daughter recently turned four and we had to start thinking about schools for her. Not that you actually have to remind yourself of that as I sensed an almost obsessive attitude with schools and what school you would chose for your child around me.

I always felt myself getting very upset in a lot of the school conversations and I had to think for a moment why that was. To me, it is that this talk about needing to get into “the good school” always seems less related to any real knowledge of what the school actually teaches or how they relate to children, but that “the good school” will prevent a child from ending up in a lower social class. This deep-seated fear of downward social movement is something that worries me greatly when it comes to promoting a fairer and more equal society, and yet the competition around schooling and the Ofsted regime seem to do a great job keeping the anxieties going. While I understand very well that we all want our children to find a good job and be financially comfortable, I simply cannot stand for the idea that this is the only determinant in making a good life and promoting a strong society.

There is so much talk about needing to value nurses and social workers and teachers and the like more, that these professions are overworked and under paid. The government resents the fact that it is losing good lower level medical staff to countries like Australia.

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Grammar schools are not the answer

The Prime Minister claims that her plans to create more grammar schools will enhance social mobility and will help to bring about a truly meritocratic society. They will, she says, create ‘a country that works for everyone’.

Sure. Because grammar schools proved so good at doing just that the first time around.

What Mrs May’s proposals will do, of course, is appeal hugely to the seething mass of baby-boomer Tory voters who just can’t wait to get us back to the good old days of the 1950s and serve as a temporary distraction from the Government’s shambolic approach to all things Brexit.

We should, I suppose, perhaps be grateful that the Prime Minister is at least talking about introducing selection on the basis of academic ability, rather than the religious faith, parental wealth and ability to move to a more desirable postcode that determine how many schools currently choose their students.

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Lord Malcolm Bruce writes… Liberalism revitalised

I want to respond to the challenges issued by Paddy and Vince during our conference.

Paddy said the party was “intellectually dead.” Vince said our position on another referendum was disrespectful to the electorate.

Let me take on Vince first. We and our predecessors supported UK membership of the European Community from its inception. The SDP was created largely because of Labour’s equivocation over British membership. We campaigned unstintingly for Remain and we remain convinced that the UK ‘s interests are best served by being a key member of the European Union.

Yes, by a narrow margin the country voted Leave but we have not changed our view and, given that there is no clear idea of what kind of relationship people want – in or out of the single market – let alone the hundreds of cooperative agreements built up over the last 43 years.

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As a former teacher and Chair of Education, this is why I think grammar schools are so wrong

I  am writing to state my fundamental opposition to the re-introduction of grammar schools.  I say this on the basis of  my long career in education.

I was in teacher education for 20 years being a Head of Department at the Maria Grey College and Vice Chairman of the Standing Committee in Education at London University. I was Chair of Education in Devon.

At Maria Grey I lectured in the History of Education and The English Educational System, These are some of the points I made in my lectures:

Education in England is like a nubile Cinderella, sparsely dressed and much interfered with.” (Spoken by the Headmaster in the film IF by Lindsay Anderson.

Social class has been the basis of English Education –  see Newcastle Commission on The Great Schools (Public Schools) where they referred to schools in different categories for the sons of the aristocracy; sons of gentlemen; and the sons of traders.

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Was Michael Gove right?

On 3rd June 2016, Michael Gove drew ridicule when he stated “People in this country have had enough of experts”. However, Theresa May’s announcement that her government are now seeking to actively support1 the reintroduction of selective schools goes against all evidence-based expert opinion.

We mocked Mr Gove but the reintroduction of selective schools may well prove he was right. There appears to widespread support across the right-wing press and the Telegraph website is currently indicating 77% of their readership support the policy.

To make such an argument, I accept that I do need to present credible evidence undermining the case for selective schools. As noted by Branwen Jeffreys, the BBC Education Editor:

Many thought the debate about grammars had become almost irrelevant.

and it is therefore not surprising that recent academic research regarding the impact of selective school’s has been limited. Ironically, I suspect that this may have allowed such an antiquated policy to get its foot in the door.

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Grammar and comprehensive…or Hive?

While the debate over the potential development of new grammar schools rages, I dream of a school that nurtures every person who passes through it by giving them the freedom to grow into their own talents; a school that gives all of our children the skills to make their own opportunities.

Welcome to The Hive.

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In full: Baroness Margaret Sharp’s valedictory Lords speech – on relationship between poor education and poverty

Margaret SharpAs Mark told us yesterday, Margaret Sharp has retired form her position as a Liberal Democrat member of the House of Lords. Yesterday she made her valedictory speech in a debate on poverty. She emphasised the importance of improving education, making the curriculum more vocationally orientated, as a tool to get people out of poverty. Here is her speech in full:

My Lords, I am grateful to the noble Lord, Lord Bird, for initiating what has proved to be a very timely debate, given the commitment made by our new Prime Minister yesterday evening. I applaud the work the noble Lord has been doing over such a long time with the Big Issue and with fighting poverty. I congratulate him on his determination to use his time in this Chamber to continue that fight

As noble Lords are aware, this is my last speech in this Chamber. I was introduced in October 1998, so I have served nearly 18 years and, as many noble Lords know, I am leaving because my husband has just celebrated his 85th birthday and I want to spend more time doing things with him: going to plays and concerts, travelling, seeing friends, reading books—not papers—and even perhaps watching television more often. In saying farewell, I want to say what a privilege it has been to be a Member of this Chamber over this time and how much I have valued the companionship and intellectual stimulus that it has given me. I would like to add a special note of thanks to the staff of the House: the clerks, many of whom I have got to know through work on Select Committees; the officers under Black Rod who are for ever helpful, patient and courteous; and the catering staff who have looked after me and my guests so well over the years. Thank you very much.

The subject of today’s debate is to take note of the causes of poverty. I have spent much of my time in this Chamber on issues of education, being a Front-Bench spokesperson for the Liberal Democrats between 2000 and 2010 and pursuing in particular the cause of part-time, further and adult education. It therefore seems appropriate that I should say a few words about education, or perhaps more importantly the lack of education, as a cause of poverty. This becomes increasingly relevant in this world of globalisation, where we observe a growing dichotomy between the well-qualified who hold down professional and managerial jobs and those with low or no educational qualifications who move in and out of low-paid jobs, often on zero-hours contracts and earning the minimum wage. Many call it the “hour- glass economy” and it helps to explain the phenomenon we see these days of poverty among those who are fully employed. As I think two other speakers have mentioned—the noble Baroness, Lady Warwick, certainly raised it—it is reckoned that 20% of UK full-time employees are in low-paid jobs and 1.5 million children live in families with working parents who do not earn enough to provide for their basic needs.

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