Comprehensive schools can pay a part in ending social division.

Rob Smith's picture
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I believe the current marketisation of education is wrong.  I believe it increases social division in our society.  I also believe that education should be a key resource in promoting democratic values. Both my parents were grammar school educated but chose comprehensive education for their four sons.  I am fortunate to live in Birmingham and for my children to be able to attend a good, local comprehensive school.  Many of my friends have opted for the 11+ and grammar school entry. While resources seem to be better in these schools, I dislike the darwinist/elitist attitudes that seem to be communicated within these settings.

As someone who experienced the introduction of the National Curriculum while teaching English in a Comprehensive school in Brimingham, I have witnessed the gradual erosion of LA power, the mounting distrust of teachers, devolved budgets and the consequent inception of the cult of educational 'leadership' in the secondary sector.  Moving into FE, I then experienced incorporation and the turmoil that caused in Birmingham colleges.

I am now an educational researcher and teacher educator of FE teachers.  FE seems to have piloted a model of marketisation that academisation will bring about for schools.  The prospects are truly frightening. The current target and funding-led nature of FE colleges distorts educational experiences into a ritual of accreditation that serves the financial interests of coleges as much or more than the interests of students. The information produced by colleges for Ofsted and funding purposes through so-called quality assurance procedures are often crude and reductive exercises that seem more congruent with input/output measuring in a sausage factory than an educational setting.

The 'legibility' that these processes are designed to bring about facilitates centralised control.  For me, this is the opposite of the comprehensive ideal. I do not believe it is appropriate for Whitehall to be micro-managing what is taking place in our classrooms.  I do not believe that Gove and/or his advisors know more or better aboout the needs of Birmingham children.

Beneath the current market fundamentalist ideology, I am deeply concerned about the policy assumption that there is a clear and unequivocal connection between the education pathway chosen and eventual employment.  While education is important for the personal development of individuals, I believe there are many other factors that contribute to the career path that they take.

For me, the comprehensive ideal offers a rounded, socially situated and local model of educational experience for our children.
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