Tag Archives: education

LibLink Layla Moran: Public school exam cheating row shows just how unlevel the playing field is

Oxford West and Abingdon MP Layla Moran has been writing for Times Red Box about the exam cheating scandal and why it matters.

These are not victimless crimes. I feel especially sorry for those students whose grades were nullified. They were only doing what their teacher said and their future has now been compromised. The teachers involved should feel ashamed. There is also a wider societal impact. More people than expected gaining high grades can ultimately lead to grade inflation and then a re-banding of passes, making it harder for other pupils to gain a good result.

But there is a broader question of unfairness here. Pupils from state schools are already massively pushing up hill on that famous playing field (assuming, of course, their playing field has not been sold off to balance the books by a cash-strapped education authority).

Layla has some suggestions for action:

Posted in News | Also tagged , and | 7 Comments

Is failure to use technology to enhance learning failing school pupils?

The format of education hasn’t really changed since Victorian times. Students are still packed into a classroom with a teacher who spends most of their time doing some variation of lecturing to the students, before they then apply whatever they’ve just heard to some real examples. This system treats everyone equally by treating pretty much everyone the same, using the same techniques and the same curriculum for everyone, regardless of their differences. Liberal Democrats tend to challenge traditional policies, and should challenge the current educational system too. We also tend to look solely to teachers for educational policy but it is also worth listening to the perspective of students.

Technology promised a revolution in classrooms, with very little change in the techniques in the publicly funded and conservative education sector. Technology has changed the way in which the teacher delivers the information to the class, allowing a little more interactivity but keeping the key parts of the teacher lecturing to the students on masse. Technology could, and should, be causing a more revolutionary change to education, like a number of charter schools are in the United States.

One charter school chain, called Summit Public Schools, has used technology to revolutionise their teaching. Students mainly learn from online courses and doing project work, supported by a teacher who moves from more authoritarian current role to a mentor, supporting students in their learning and explaining more difficult concepts. These schools save teachers a significant amount of time on marking, allowing teachers to support their students more and removing a significant source of stress. The school still requires students to cover a broad curriculum using a personal learning plan, though they are free to learn at their own pace and choose their topic at the time. 

Posted in News | 15 Comments

Solving the school places crisis without building a single classroom

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In the London Borough of Bromley, as in many places across the country, we are facing a massive projected shortfall in school places over the next few years. Councillors and activists from all parties are busy scrutinising planning applications for new schools of all shapes and sizes. But is it really necessary?

Imagine a school, let’s call it the Tweddle Academy (though pupils and staff just call it Tweds). Tweds was once a medium sized comprehensive with 1200 children on roll. Now it is an establishment providing all-through education for 2400 kids aged 6 to 18.

The school day at Tweds begins at 7.30am when children aged 6 to 12 arrive. They attend lessons until 10.20am, have a 20 minute break, then it’s back to the classroom. At 1.30pm they head to the school canteen for lunch before being dismissed for the day an hour later.

At 1.15pm while the younger pupils come to the end of lessons, teachers wait by the school gate to register the senior cohort. At 1.30pm, after the younger children have moved to the canteen, the 13 to 18 year olds begin their lessons. Their school day runs from 1.30pm to 7.30pm, with a 20 minute break.

Posted in Op-eds | Also tagged | 39 Comments

LibLink: Paddy Ashdown: Tories’ Royal Marine cut plays fast and loose with UK defence

It makes sense that Paddy should write for the Plymouth Herald on defence given the city’s strategic importance.

He took the Government to task for cutting the Marines – about which he knows more than most people:

For more than three centuries – from Gibraltar and Trafalgar to Normandy and Afghanistan – the Royal Marines have epitomised those qualities. They have fought in more theatres and won more battles than any other British unit. In our nation’s hours of danger, they have been, as Lord St Vincent predicted in 1802, “the country’s sheet anchor”.

So the news that the Government is cutting 200 Royal Marine posts – at such a volatile time in world affairs – should concern us all. They are committing this folly in response to a crisis of their own making.

The cost of Conservative foolishness doesn’t end with the Royal Marines. They’ve cut personnel numbers, breaking their manifesto promise not to reduce the Army below 82,000. Troops on the frontline are deprived of basic equipment and combat training has been slashed, putting soldiers’ lives in greater peril. Warships sit idle at quaysides. No wonder top generals have accused the Government of “deception” over defence.

The Tories are very practised at talking tough on defence in elections. But look at the history: it’s always Tories who cut most on defence in government. It’s now clear that Mrs May will get back in because of the hopelessness of the Labour Party. But it would be very dangerous to give her a big enough majority to ignore us again.

Posted in LibLink | Also tagged , , and | 2 Comments

Let’s make the Lib Dems the party of education, education, education

Education is going through a difficult time, with many schools declaring teachers redundant, increasing class sizes, cutting out subjects and asking parents for money. The Government claims education has never been better funded. It takes no account that this is mainly due to an increase in pupil numbers, or that additional costs are being placed on schools. Nor do they mention the unfunded increase in National Insurance. They are prepared to waste money on Grammar Schools. As Liberal Democrats we should take a different view, scrap the Grammar Schools and start funding education with a fully costed proposal, part funded by savings from staying in the Single Market.

When we have sorted out the finance and stopped wasting money on Grammar and Free Schools it is time to break down the National Education System (which Labour appear to support), and remove the Regional Schools Commissioners. The tasks currently carried nationally and regionally should be devolved locally, through revamped LEAs. That is not returning to the old LEA structure, but LEA school support was very valuable and in many cases achieved more than a ticking off from Ofstead. League tables should go, and be replaced by a report of strengths and weaknesses, with proposed improvement actions. 

Posted in Op-eds | 27 Comments

Why things need to change in education

At no other time during a 10 year teaching career has the horizon appeared so dark and bleak over the educational landscape.  Retention is low and recruitment equally as poor within the sector, begging the question “Why is it so hard to find teachers?”  Even now as I type, I find myself questioning if this is what I want for my future.

The truth is that the profession is built on people with a passion for their career, people who believe in the importance and the worth of educating and guiding future generations.  And it is the good will and convictions of their beliefs that has held it together thus far, but with ever increasing frequency more and more have had this good will stretched to breaking point.

Teachers have become the puppets of a system that helps the few at the expense of the many.  A child’s education should not be determined by how rich they are or their faith, but yet this is the system we find ourselves in.

With the Conservatives in government we have suffered through an educational leader, Michael Gove,  who openly decried experts, who had a complete lack of experience or expertise in an educational environment.  Though he has since moved on, each passing Education Secretary has had equally little experience or desire to listen to experts.  Even now Mrs May plans to force Grammar Schools into the system without and evidence that they work, at the expense of schools that are already operating.

Posted in News | 41 Comments

Lib Dems to deliver £7 billion schools funding boost

Tim Farron and Sarah Olney have announced that the Liberal Democrats will invest nearly £7bn more in schools and colleges over the next parliament.

The funding would reverse cuts to frontline school and college budgets, protect per pupil funding in real terms and ensure no school loses out from the National Funding Formula.

Liberal Democrat Shadow Education Secretary Sarah Olney said:

Children are being taught in overcrowded classes by overworked teachers – but Theresa May doesn’t care.

While funding per pupil is set to see the biggest cuts in a generation, billions of pounds are being spent on divisive plans to expand grammars and free schools.

This extra £7 billion of funding would ensure no school and no child loses out.

We will reverse crippling Conservative cuts to school budgets and invest to ensure every child has the opportunity to succeed.

Tim Farron added

Posted in News | Also tagged , and | 19 Comments
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