Tag Archives: education

WATCH: Kirsty on introducing inclusive sex education in Wales

Kirsty Williams is the Lib Dem representative in the world of Government at the moment and she’s doing great liberal things. This week, she announced that Welsh schoolchildren will receive inclusive sex and relationship education from the time they start school.

From Walesonline

The new version – which will see the topic become relationships and sexuality education (RSE) – places an emphasis on “forming and maintaining healthy, happy and fulfilling relationships”.

Announcing the change the Welsh Government added: “Learners will also be given a much broader understanding of sexuality that is fully inclusive of LGBTQI+ learners and includes wider issues such as consent, domestic abuse, and respecting diversity.

“The decision to change the focus of this area of study to relationships and sexuality, as well as the decision to make it statutory, reflects its immense importance in terms of how learners understand themselves, each other, their community and society.”

Watch Kirsty talking about it below:

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The ‘Education battlefield’

It wasn’t always Tory v Labour, and it doesn’t have to be again!

State education, particularly at secondary level, is like the proverbial curate’s egg, thanks largely to mistakes made by politicians of all parties over the past sixty years – and I include the 2010-2015 coalition as well. However, much of the mess was already in place by the beginning of this decade so I suppose that we could call it a joint affair between Tories and Labour. However, much of the success of state education is down to Liberals, as were the ideas behind the Welfare State, which emerged from the 1942 Beveridge Report.

State education, that is to say, the education of the many not the few, really began with the 1870 Elementary Education Act, and drafted by Liberal MP William Forester, which established through democratically elected School Boards, voluntary elementary education for children from 5 to 13 (raised to 14 in the 1918 Fisher Act). What Forster wanted to achieve was to retain Britain’s competitive edge in world trade. To do that, he needed an educated workforce (where have we heard that before?). This was achieved in spite of massive opposition from certain quarters, who saw no reason to educate the working classes above a certain rudimentary level. The 1901 Balfour Act, opposed largely by the Liberal Party and non conformists, replaced local School Boards with Local Education Authorities and succeeded in allowing the C of E and Catholic Churches to get on board and possibly was the main reason why the Tories were virtually annihilated at the 1906 General Election.

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Layla Moran: We shouldn’t be punishing children for taking part in dance and music

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Back in the day, I used to get permission to be away from school to take part in the local arts festivals. It was good for me to broaden my experience and skills and good for the school to see its pupils win awards and present themselves well.

So I was pretty annoyed to see that the Royal Academy of Dance had complained that the Government’s rules on term time absence from school prevented children from taking their dance exams. From the BBC:

According to RAD exams director Andrew McBirnie, before 2013 ballet exams could be run “during the school day and the student was able to leave a class at say 10 o’clock, do their exam and be back by lunchtime – and that seemed to be a perfectly legitimate activity that the student might be doing as part of their all-round education.

“Increasingly over the last few years… there have been more and more schools saying: ‘No we can’t allow this any more because of this issue with unauthorised absence.'”

Just this week, a study showed the beneficial effects of structured music education on cognitive ability and academic performance:

Structured music lessons significantly enhance children’s cognitive abilities — including language-based reasoning, short-term memory, planning and inhibition — which lead to improved academic performance. Published in Frontiers in Neuroscience, the research is the first large-scale, longitudinal study to be adapted into the regular school curriculum. Visual arts lessons were also found to significantly improve children’s visual and spatial memory.

Just like when I was at school in the 80s, a Conservative Government squeezes school budgets and music specialist education is the first to go, as a report in the Guardian highlighted last week.

The director of the Royal College of Music has criticised the “steady decline” of music provision in UK state schools.

Prof Colin Lawson used a speech celebrating Prince Charles’s 25-year association with the school to add his voice to a situation that Andrew Lloyd Webber has called a “national scandal”.

Lawson praised work that has been done to analyse the effect of arts and culture on public health.

The Liberal Democrats have long opposed the limits to term time holidays anyway, but Layla Moran had this to say about today’s reports:

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Bercow, Ten Years On – the #SLCN campaign

I CAN, the children’s communication charity, and The Royal College of Speech and Language Therapists have launched Bercow: Ten Years On. This report delves into the support, or lack of support, children with speech, language and communication needs (SLCN) receive in England.

Over 2,500 people were consulted about speech and language therapy provision for children and young people. Only 15% thought that adequate speech and language therapy is provided.

Why is this a liberal issue? Well, we advocate free speech, in its many forms, one of which is oral. If we do not help children and young people with speech and language difficulties, they face a lifetime of communication hindrance.

We, as Lib Dems, also want to give children the best start in life. We are behind free school meals, the Pupil Premium and shared parental leave, so we should also get behind the call to improve speech and language services so that these children can better engage with education, more easily make friends and have communication skills for life.

Only 50% of children and young people with speech and language communication difficulties are identified. So one of the calls in this report is for early diagnosis and early intervention.

I was surprised to learn that 60% of young offenders in England have been found to have speech and language communication needs. With early intervention, many of these young people would not have communication difficulties.

Some of the recommendations of what must be done to improve the situation at a local and national level address social mobility:

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WATCH: Layla Moran attack Tory and DUP on cuts to free school meals

Back in the 70s, Margaret Thatcher was dubbed Thatcher the Milk Snatcher as she introduced cuts to free school milk. Nearly 50 years on, it’s another Tory Government, in cahoots with the DUP, who are trying to restrict free school meals, which were introduced due to Lib Dem pressure during the coalition years.

Watch Layla Moran speak in favour of extending free school meals, not cutting them back and urging the government not to close the childcare vouchers scheme:

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Willie Rennie’s Christmas Message: Scottish Lib Dems stand up for better mental health, education and police services

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Here is Willie Rennie’s Christmas Message:

May I wish everyone a Merry Christmas.

2017 was the year the Liberal Democrats turned the corner. We started winning elections again with more MPs and in charge of more councils. I believe that winning is not just good for the Liberal Democrats but is also good for the country.

It means that we have moderate, outward looking, optimistic voices making the case for change and challenging authority and government.

It means that we can shout louder for people who need mental health services. The services are inadequate and must change.

It means we can challenge with greater impact the government and police chiefs on the running of Police Scotland. Without the Liberal Democrats many of the problems of Police Scotland would have gone untested and unchallenged.

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Corbyn is wrong to state that education is not about personal advancement

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Governments should empower individuals to lead fulfilling lives. This principle is a cornerstone of liberal ideology and nowhere is it more important than in education policy. Whilst in government, The Liberal Democrats empowered disadvantaged pupils by providing schools with extra money to give these individuals the same life chances as their more advantaged peers. We empowered skilled young people by expanding apprenticeships- a move which recognised the rich diversity of talent and ambition we have in our society. Our policies for empowering individuals through education continue to be one of our greatest strengths. But not everyone agrees that the purpose of education is to empower people.

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Layla Moran talks education and inequality

Layla Moran has given an interview to the Oxford Student about her life and political priorities.

She talked about her early life and the influence it had on her:

Layla, having been born to a British father and a Palestinian mother, spoke of some of complications connected to coming from a multicultural background. “We had to move around a lot when I was younger so when all my peers would say ‘I grew up in this village’, I could never really say that I had”. But it is exactly this, combined with Layla’s career as a maths and physics teacher, that has

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Layla to May: Sack “witch-hunt” whip

It’s not surprising that an MP for a university town is horrified at the actions of a Government whip in writing to universities demanding to know who is teaching what about Brexit on their campuses.

It was reported today that Chris Heaton-Harris, a leading eurosceptic MP and a senior government whip, wrote to vice-chancellors at the start of this month asking for the names of any professors involved in teaching on Brexit and the content of their lectures.

Layla who is also Liberal Democrat Education Spokesperson said:

This chilling letter could have come straight out of a dystopian novel.

Conservative Brexiteers know

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The Love of Learning

What are we doing to our young people? Testing them until the joy is out of learning and school is just one tick box after another. The head of Ofsted, Amanda Spielman, said

The regular taking of test papers does little to increase a child’s ability to comprehend.

We have completely the wrong approach to learning. We need holistic education for our young people, encompassing the widest range of subjects, building character and instilling the love of learning.

This includes the arts. When I was 11, we moved to Missouri. I started at a new junior high school (years 6-7 in the English system) which had a school band. Up to that stage I had played a bit of piano and sung in the church choir. The music teacher asked if I’d like to learn the clarinet as he needed more players in his band. Within three months I was sitting 2nd chair in the clarinet section. I would never have learned an instrument if it hadn’t been for the opportunity at this state school. I remember my parents, who were on a tight budget, scraping money together for some private lessons later that year, costing $4 a lesson.

Years later, I’m a professional musician, wondering where the next generation of musicians is coming from. We need music, and all the arts, as an integral part of our schools. The economic argument is obvious – the creative industries contribute £87.4 billion per year to the economy. We would be denuded as a society without the undergirding of the arts which permeate and enrich our lives.

But I wish to make the moral argument, bringing me back to the opening point of school being too much about testing. Having an arts-inclusive curriculum builds a well-rounded intellect. The brain, when it has to marry the left and right halves in analysing and performing a piece of music, develops physiologically. Attention spans are lengthened when one learns to concentrate on playing your part in a band. Aesthetic awareness is broadened, that life is not about ticking boxes but about beauty, relationships and creativity. Learning to sing together builds community and teaches young people to work together. We learn that coming together produces something more wonderful than striving alone.

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A lifelong “learning account”. Liberal, radical, just the way the party needs to go.

From free school meals in 1906 and 2014 to the Pupil Premium, Liberals have a proud and positive history in terms of reforming education in the UK. Despite this, Vince Cable’s idea of a “learning account” might be the most radical yet. The policy seems to be in its infancy at the moment with Vince Cable asking to “develop” the policy with the party. It would see all young people given a learning account, that they could use at any point in life for education purposes. As Mr Cable argued this is “fundamentally a liberal idea” and it is astonishing how little attention it has received.

The possible positives from this scheme seem remarkable; it would encourage social mobility as those from lower income households could make most use of the money. There are also deeper impacts in culture and sport, the power of education to inspire should not be forgotten. Giving people the freedom to choose exactly what to do with their education throughout adult life will give people an opportunity to pursue talents and careers they would previously only dreamed of.

There are of course some complaints. This of course would be an expensive policy and Vince Cable’s reply of taxing wealth certainly needs to be expanded upon. Yet here Vince Cable’s economic clout comes to the fold. In a recent speech to the Resolution Foundation on inequality he outlined how taxes can be improved. Specifically stopping loopholes in capital gains and inheritance tax as well as raising proposing tax on property value rather than council tax among other suggestions. Therefore, such a scheme would not be as hard to implement. 

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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:

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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. 

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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.

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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.

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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. 

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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.

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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

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LibLink: David Laws: It’s time for Theresa May to ditch grammar school plans

David Laws, our former Schools Minister now heading up the Education Policy Institute (which used to be the CentreForum think tank) has been writing for the Observer. He’s driven a coach and horses through the Government’s case for grammar schools, which he says even fails to convince Education Secretary Justine Greening.

It is one of the worst kept secrets in Westminster that education secretary Justine Greening is not the biggest supporter of the policy that is now the social mobility “flagship” of Theresa May’s government – expanding the number of grammar schools.

Greening must be aware of the clear UK and international evidence that selective education both fails to raise overall standards, and undermines the prospects of poor children. Education Policy Institute researchers last year analysed the government’s own schools data and drew two key conclusions. First, that almost no children on free school meals get into grammar schools – a risible 4,000 out of more than eight million pupils in the whole of England. Second, that although there is a small benefit for pupils who are admitted to selective schools, this is offset by the worse results for other pupils in areas with a significant number of grammar places.

He outlines how he poorest children will be the worst affected by the move to grammar schools:

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Brexit related divisiveness mars school exchange visit

Three Spanish Exchange students have descended on our home this week. Full of fun, responsive and impeccably mannered, it has been a pleasure to have them around. About parts of their experience in England, though, it is impossible to be so complimentary.

Their looks of bemusement have grown ever stronger during the week as the farcical events surrounding Gibraltar have unfolded.

Firstly, they watched in amazement as a former Tory leader – not a rogue backbencher, a former leader – envisaged a situation in which Britain would sent a Task Force, Union Jacks waving and bugles blowing, to defend the future of the island.

Walking round the supermarket, they stumbled across the front page of The Sun with its headline “Up Yours Senors”, although I suppose we should be mildly relieved that the paper fell short of calling for all-out war.

If they go back to the supermarket today, they can check out the Daily Mail with its tale of how a “Tiny Royal Navy patrol vessel chases giant Spanish gunboat out of British waters.”

Two newspapers which have done so much damage to the culture of the nation.

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Passing the buck: A right fine mess at the Department for Education

Well, there it is. According to the TES, in the brave new world of Justine Greening’s Department for Education, a GCSE pass is now a grade 4. Except when it is a 5, because a 5 is also a pass. And just to remind you, the top grade is a 9, and the bottom grade a 1. Except maybe it’s a zero. Nobody really knows anymore, so don’t feel too left out.

And don’t panic, if you’re a student, a parent or a teacher. Because all will be well. Don’t listen to anyone who complains about the government not knowing what a GCSE pass actually means a mere 6 weeks before the exams. If we all stay united, Britain is unstoppable, remember. It’s just the moaners who bring us all down.

Still sceptical? As well you might be. It’s worth recalling how we ended up here, with the government announcing that a GCSE pass is both a grade 4 and a grade 5 rather like Boris Johnson when he announced he wanted to have his euro cake and eat it.

That’s the problem with nonsense. Like misbehaviour in schools, when one minister gets away with it, the others all start to copy. First it was Boris, then David Davis and Liam Fox with their pirouettes on the Single Market and immigration, and now it’s Justine Greening in education.

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John Pugh MP writes: Campaigning for your local school

Its Spring and much is stirring as people look cheerfully ahead at prospects new. Every well informed individual in the schools sector though looks ahead with scarcely disguised pessimism.

There is one very obvious reason for this. School funding is scheduled to nose dive. Heads know it,teachers know it and gradually parents are getting to hear about it. Today we have seen a new report published by the Education Policy Institute underlining the same grim statistics that troubled everyone from the National Union of Teachersto the National Audit Office. https://www.nao.org.uk/report/financial-sustainability-in-schools

The message is stark. Rejigging pupil funding on a national formula within a budget falling in real terms by £3 billion spells gloom for all. Nearly every school they suggest will lose and on average that will cost two teachers to primary schools and six to secondary schools. In many places the impacts will be worse.

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Kirsty Williams on building last year’s elections and building an education system that inspires pride and confidence

Kirsty Williams has been speaking to the South Wales Argus about her role as Education Secretary in the Welsh Government. She has great ambitions for the role.

I want to have an education system that the profession are proud of and parents and learners have confidence in.

That is quite a high bar, and she wants to work in partnership with those groups, unlike a certain former English education secretary whose tenure in office seemed to alienate everyone.

I am confident that by working together we can achieve my ultimate goal, which is to have a first-class education system for Wales and one which people around the world will want to come and look at, what were the changes we undertook and what were the reforms we put through that led to that system.

But I can’t do it on my own. I can only do it in partnership with parents, learners and educators.

What was it, though, that inspired Kirsty to get involved in politics as a young woman?

Growing up in Llanelli, Ms Williams cited watching family members working in the steel industry lose their jobs and seeing a lecture by Social Democratic Party (SDP) MP Roy Jenkins, later a Lib Dem peer, as one of the biggest influences on her political development.

“I just remember listening to the lecture and thinking ‘I can’t say it in the same words he can but that’s the kind of community and society I want to live in’,” she said.

Being brought up in a family where politics was discussed and debated sparked her interest:

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One mental health first aider per school is not enough

I welcomed Theresa May’s announcement on Monday in which she said “every secondary school in the country to be offered mental health first aid training”. MHFA England has campaigned for many years to get school staff trained in Mental Health First Aid and are thrilled that there will be at least one Mental Health First Aider in each secondary school.

But it doesn’t go far enough. Every single teacher, as part of their teacher training course, should be trained in Mental Health First Aid.

Poppy Jaman, CEO of MHFA England, said:

Mental ill health in young people is a growing health concern, with half of all lifetime cases of mental health issues starting by the age of 14.

There is a bespoke MHFA England course called Youth Mental Health First Aid which could be modified for teacher training. A short course could change a young person’s life.

A teacher overseeing a class of 30+ pupils needs to have the skills to recognise early warning signs of mental ill-health. One first aider per school can help in moments of crisis, but cannot possibly pick up all the mental health warning signs within the school population. A large part of the MHFA course is in learning about various mental health problems (such as stress, anxiety, depression, self-harm, suicide ideation, psychosis) and how to intervene early on.

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A fairer formula for schools: it’s not just about funding

In the face of Brexit and a Trump Presidency, our communities face a period of crisis and uncertainty. We therefore must continue to focus attention on supporting and improving school’s here in the UK so that our young people are as well-equipped as possible to adapt to this rapidly changing world.

Aside from the distracting nonsense of Grammar Schools, the Government is pursuing ambitious reforms to the national schools’ funding formula. The second stage of their consultation was published on 14th December and, having campaigned for such reforms for several years, there are many aspects that I welcome. However there are also concerns surrounding the potential 8% real-term cuts that are being imposed nationally by 2019-20.

With all this in mind, school funding is likely to become the focus of debate in education, but, I believe, that we may end up further overlooking a far more important issue that is currently driving our education system into crisis: the understaffing of UK schools.

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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.

Posted in Op-eds | Also tagged | 39 Comments
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