Sunday 24 April 2016

10 points for you to use or discuss for a meeting on education

If you're doing a meeting on education, here are some points you might want to make as part of the meeting.

1. When schools become academies, that means that they stop being directly in public control. They go onto 125 year leases. We have already seen that this means that the management of the school can use the school for all kinds of shady financial goings-on, the salaries of management can go through the roof.  Here's one example:

2. The government say that becoming an academy gives a school autonomy and improves schools.

Autonomy: this can't be said for schools in academy chains - in 'MATs'. These are run and controlled by a management outside of the school. This is a new bureaucracy that has no direct accountability to parents or the public.

Improvement: there is no evidence for this. In other words, this is not about bringing in something that the government and educationists know will make schools and education for all better. It's being done because the government wants to end public control of education.

3. The academy system as a whole is not responsible for the education of every single child. Children excluded or not admitted to academies are the responsibility of the local authority. But local authorities are being starved of cash and have hardly any educationists left in them. Local authorities are becoming unfit for educating excluded children.  This is putting thousands of children into danger.

4. It is becoming clear that children ARE being excluded from academies for what one report that looked at how 160 schools 'turned round being failing schools' , described as being 'poor quality students'. This is the new attitude to vulnerable and challenging children. This is a huge danger to children of many kinds including children with special needs. The White Paper says that it will be the job of the local authorities to ensure that academies take children, but the local authorities have no legal authority over academies. They can't force academies to take on children. They can only ask. And academies can refuse. One statistic: it's becoming clear that academies exclude at a far greater rate than local authority schools.

5. The test system that has come in is doing several jobs. Its first main job in primary schools is to measure teachers and schools. Our children are being used as the 'test material' for this job. They take the stress and the upset. In order to 'measure' the teachers and schools, they have come up with tests that are supposedly made up of 'right and wrong answers'. But this isn't true. The grammar, spelling and punctuation test is full of questions that have various possible and correct answers. What's more a good deal of what the children have to learn for this test is not agreed on by expert linguists, there are useless categories that neither children or adults need - like 'fronted adverbial', 'expanded noun phrase', and 'subjunctive'. Even worse, these categories are being used as a measure of what makes 'good writing'. This is nonsense. Good writing is what amazes or moves or intrigues or excites us. Teaching that good writing is writing with 'fronted adverbials', 'expanded noun phrases' and 'embedded relative clauses' is a nonsense.

Its other job is to replace the national curriculum. The curriculum will become the testing. If it all goes through, we can expect this government to impose even more testing on the system so that they can control the curriculum that way. But...

6. ...the test system is narrowing education. Children are spending far too much time just doing tests and rehearsals for the tests. And we should remember that the tests can only test the testable. Whole areas of experience and learning are not included in what an 'education for the test' covers. Think of investigation, invention (creativity), interpretation (coming up with various conclusions for things), discussion, co-operation, compassion. These vital ways of learning are getting squeezed out of the curriculum.

And remember - at the end of the day, the tests are not there to help our children. They are there to test whether the teachers have taught the stuff that's in the test - some of which is useless anyway.

7. Full academisation means the end of the National Curriculum. This will, in effect, be replaced by the test-regime. The tests will determine what is taught and how it is taught, as teachers are forced to teach to the test in order to get good marks in the tests.

8. Academies do not have to employ qualified teachers. No matter how good an individual might be, this increases the possibility of academies hiring cheap and incompetent teachers. It's probably going to be a way of forcing down teachers' salaries. This is not good for teachers or children.

9. If academisation goes through, we lose our schools to charities and sponsors. We put schools even more under the control of the test-regime.

10. The government is in big trouble with all this: they've had to cancel baseline testing for 4 year olds, they've had to cancel this year's Key Stage 1 SATs because of incompetence and unreliability. Many of their own supporters including MPs, and local councils are opposed to the White Paper on academies for all. We need to unite and fight against the tests and the White Paper.

Some people are already organising protests in advance of the tests on May 3. People are resisting forced academisations.

(You may want to get speakers from these campaigns to  your meeting)