Tag Archives: education policy

Let’s scrap external exams

When it comes to education policy, we need blue sky thinking. And I think that scrapping external exams would be a fantastic example of this.

Let’s remind ourselves of some of the negative consequences of our exam system:

  1. Stress – Student wellbeing is considered collateral damage. Having yearly exams which have such a huge impact on your life is incredibly stressful, and I doubt that adults would cope any better than teenagers do. We are sacrificing our young people to a system which we know is harming their mental health, but which we

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A 21st-Century Liberal Approach to Education

Education has always been of special importance for liberals and Liberal Democrats throughout the ages. It has been one of the best vehicles for enabling individuals to obtain their full potential, develop their talents and make the most of the opportunities that they are presented with. It is with this in mind that Helen Flynn and John Howson’s chapter is so warmly received in the latest publication from the Social Liberal Forum, ‘Four Go In Search of Big Ideas’.

Flynn and Howson rightly place great emphasis on the need to improve early years education. They call for a highly funded early years sector that is equipped with the staff necessary to develop the learning of schoolchildren and identify any potential barriers that they may face in future learning. These teachers would need to be well educated and properly trained. The authors identify that educational inequalities emerge even before children start their formal education at the age of five. The socio-economic inequalities faced by children from the poorest backgrounds need to be tackled with extra funding from the very beginning.

Flynn and Howson propose a professional College of Teaching that would be a watchdog for professional standards in education in a similar way that the British Medical Association is in regard to the NHS. This is very much needed if the public is to continue to have faith in the professionalism and high standards of the UK’s education sector. In a similar vein, Flynn and Howson also suggest having Chief Education Officer in government who would help to guarantee best practice and develop evidence-based policy.

Posted in Books and Op-eds | 10 Comments

Sure Start centre closures hit vulnerable families hardest

One of my main election platforms last year when running for Oxfordshire County Council was the closure of our local children’s centre. I’m glad to report that it has re-opened as a community initiative, run by a committee of volunteers.

But that is not the case in many areas of the country. Research published today by the Sutton Trust and conducted by academics from Oxford University shows that as many as 1,000 Sure Start centres have closed since 2009, with 69% of local authorities reporting a budget decrease in the last two years.

Professor Kathy Silva, one of the authors of the “Stop Start” report, writes

We surveyed local authorities across the country and found reductions in senior staff and ‘hollowing out’ of open-access services, the kinds of non-stigmatising activities aimed at all families in the surrounding neighbourhood and not just those on the books of Social Services.

…Hard-pressed local authority officials described that cuts necessitated a major shift away from open access activities such as Stay & Play or Rhyme Time, to statutory duties of child protection or social work support for families whose children are ‘at risk’.

‘Stop Start’ has five key recommendations, one of which is

Children’s centres should reconnect with their original purpose. Shifting the balance too far towards referred children and families, away from open access, and merging children’s centres into preventative teams working with a very much wider age group, serves a very different function and requires very different skills. It does not seem to fit well under the label of a local ‘children’s centre’. A good mix of children is important for social mobility and children’s social development.

This report follows on last year’s paper Closing Gaps Early, which analysed the role of early years policy in promoting social mobility. As the party who introduced free school meals, the pupil premium and shared parental leave, we understand that children need a good start in life. Equalising opportunity is key in fighting societal inequalities. The Closing Gaps Early report states:

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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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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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