Ed vs Blue: education
|February 7, 2011||Posted by E. Hitchon under national|
My former school, Archbishop Holgate’s, like all “outstanding” schools, has recently been “invited” to join the new Academy Schools system set up by the wonderful Michael Gove. What an offer he puts forward, more funding and more freedom, freedom from a constricting curriculum, incidentally introduced by the blue team last time round. Excellent!
The academy status will allow more money to be diverted to Archbishop’s and other similar schools; this is without a doubt a good thing for the pupils of these schools. Unfortunately education funding is finite; you can’t give to one without taking from another. Archbishop’s is an outstanding school thanks to the hard work and dedication of staff, and a “good,” mostly middle class, catchment area. By diverting funds to these already well off institutions, schools who (broadly speaking) currently suffer because of poorer catchment areas leading to greater rates of disruption and thus less dedicated or permanent teaching staff will lose out on funding they desperately need. This is where economic and social inequalities begin. Equality in education should be sacred but here, once again, it is under attack. Schools in poorer areas suffer cutbacks whilst affluent schools stride ahead. Children from deprived areas, where generally parents don’t, or can’t, give them the support they need are left at the bottom whilst pupils from wealthier areas are pushed further ahead. And the terrible thing is that it goes on, generation after generation, further widening the gap between rich and poor. It is already the case that in our elite universities only 2.7% of undergraduates are from underprivileged backgrounds (a group that nationally makes up 10% of the population).
So, how then does the coalition propose to remedy this? Honestly, I don’t think it does. Gove’s education revolution is going the wrong way from the start. It is true that the national curriculum fails children from an early age, not in the sense that it doesn’t do enough, but in that it earmarks the bright and able and those less so from a stunningly early age: continuous written tests and assessments make young children who are less able (especially young boys) feel they are unable to engage in academia because they are “stupid”. This damaging attitude is allowed to flourish from the age of five and often completely destroys self-confidence. Conversely, all too frequently able young people are picked out for being better by less able pupils and branded as geeks, again destroying confidence and in some areas causing less able pupils to hide their talents. But rather than addressing these fundamental flaws in the system our glorious leaders are once again turning their backs. Furthering the potential inequality, holding academy status will allow schools to select a proportion of their pupils on academic capabilities, potentially allowing the few academies in poorer areas to turn away those who most need the extra help offered in favour of those able to afford tutoring. Few things are more damaging to society than dividing education at 11 and whilst you may get assurances that this right will not be implemented, if it is there, it is a threat. The Academy system is ill thought out and harks back to previous conservative education policies which have damaged, and continue to damage, society and our attitudes to education in general.
Only when policy is shaped by the teachers, rather than the Eton Old Boys, will we have progress. A man can dream.