I’m not a parent and I haven’t seen the inside of a school in over a decade. However I have long held views on our education system and believe that it needs a completely different approach. I wrote about it last year in a piece entitled, It is time for the Lib Dems to be truly radical on education and back in 2010, one of my very first articles on this here blog was on education – My rambles on education.
The long and short of it is I believe education is too rigid and too much a ‘one size fits all’ system and that isn’t right for many young people and their aspirations and goals in life. Not all young people want to get into academia. Our education system is geared strongly towards exams and progressing with certain academic skills. Also I find schools care about exam results first and foremost and that isn’t the be all and end all of a child’s time in our education system.
So I was heartened by Tristham Hunt’s comments in the Guardian today. Education is the poisoned chalice that no-one wants to really take on. People don’t like change let alone change for change sake. So being open and honest about a radical change in education policy is refreshing.
There is one quote that made me whoop and holler in delight:
‘It drives me mad when we see the school gates closing at 2.55pm when you have this amazing piece of the public realm in communities paid for by the taxes of the parents. The notion of a school as a fortress needs to be broken down, so as part of schooling 8am-6pm, I would love to see more cookery courses, dance clubs, competitive sports and chess clubs. Parents will have a right to have access to this kind of provision’.
Ding. Ding. Ding.
This is something that I’ve said for a long, long time. Schools are a great resource and I understand the need for academics as a big part of schooling but also these resources need to be used to allow children to express themselves and find non academic pursuits that they would enjoy. As Tristham says above cookery courses, dance clubs, competitive sports, chess clubs but of course there are so much more that young people would be interested in.
The time between leaving school and dinner is generally wasted time. I’m not proposing school kids have academic classic for ten hours a day but what I do think is schools should be open and used for a wide variety of extra-curricular activities. The formative years of schooling scope and mould us to a significant degree and we should be encouraging our young people to enjoy their school days and get as much from it as possible.
At the moment out of school clubs depend both on money and on teachers to staff them out of hours as it were. As far as I understand it, teaching staff do not get paid if say they oversee a cricket team and drive them to matches after school or umpire games or whatever. This is not right and relies on the goodness of teaching staff to believe that their job is not a job but more of a vocation. This is why the education system needs a complete rework to pay teachers a fair wage to oversee these extra activities. If the school day was longer then we as tax payers will have to pay for it but it is a great investment into the next generations.
On his point about a new single baccalaureate that will change our view point in the difference between academic and vocational qualifications, I am less convinced but certainly would want to hear more. Schools do care more about academic children because it makes them look better in exam league tables and we are trained to think that the more A*-C grades at GCSE a school has then the better the school is, the same is true of children, those with higher GCSE grades are considered smarter but that isn’t necessarily the case.
I know of parents who pushed kids into following more academic pursuits because they believed it would open up better doors for them, even if the child wasn’t academic and preferred to do other things. We have this view that those who sit down to work have it better than those who work with their hands. That isn’t completely true. With more people going into academia, trades are becoming more rare and therefore the rarer the trade then the more valuable it becomes. If you are a good plumber then you’ll live a good life, the same is true for many other trades because people give great word of mouth if they’ve found a good tradesman (or woman).
Education is a tough one and everyone has their views and many will say I shouldn’t be allowed one because my lions haven’t fertilised any eggs to produce a small person. I disagree but people are entitled to their opinions. Yet I think it is a conversation that needs to happen. Just because our schooling system has always been the way it has, it doesn’t mean it is the best way forward. Education needs to be flexible and have the scope to adjust to an individuals needs. At the moment education works more for one set of pupils than another and that isn’t right but even for the lucky ones – it could be so much more and that is a goal we should all aspire to.
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