A Peace Project for Education?

Alan Gurbutt's picture
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I am an advocate for comprehensive education but I am afraid I haven't made much progress in Lincolnshire convincing the powers that be that ending the high stakes 11+ school entrance test is a positive thing to do. 

Education is a fundamental building block of society and the individual but it still seems to be dog eat dog here. In fact, I was talking to a community practitioner the other day, and just when I thought I'd convinced them that segregation from friends at 10/11 years old is bad for children and communities they went and compared my comments to stopping children competing in sports days. So, here I am again thinking of new ways of tackling segregation, this time in the form of a peace project for education.

The idea is loosely based on Restorative Justice that helps to put victims first to help offenders see the error of their ways and to provide reparation for harm caused. I am not implying that anyone in education is a criminal, but RJ is already being used in schools, as an alternative to the behaviourist approach, such as in friendship circles. 

Intergenerational harm is being caused by policies that are failing to tackle issues such as the 11+. If a parent has had a poor experience themselves in the selective school system they are likely to want a better deal for their own children, but if schools are able to reject children at 11 years old the spiral of low expectations is likely to continue (not everyone will have the tenacity to go back to college at 48 to overcome their Dyslexia so that they can challenge the education system like I did, and there are plenty of other barriers that prevent parents from having a say).

There is snobbery over school choice that has led to false perceptions that naughty children should go to our secondary modern schools while well behaved children who "want to learn" belong in grammar schools. Segregation by behaviour into different types of school starts at primary school, which hardly fosters community cohesion.

More broadly, parliamentary cycles lead to drastic changes to education with every new government but the views of those participating in education are seldom heard. By the time changes are implemented the likelihood is your child will have passed through this state of flux and you will have been powerless to influence any of the changes.

I am wondering if there might be a way of linking politics in education more closely to people's expectations and experiences of education. A restorative approach might help to get people talking free from fear about the harm the system has caused them. The idea would be to start a narrative about education that encourages people to share their stories collated online using a website similar to Everyday Sexism. Once people's feelings are known, reparation through mindful inclusive policies could then take place from a wider evidence base.

A Peace Project for Education might:

- Build resilience: nurture inclusive and personal narratives about attitudes to, and experiences of, education across generations. Where did it go well? Where did it go wrong? How did education affect you and your expectations for your own children?

- Reciprocation: restoring peace in education at home and abroad; learning from each others' education systems, and what happens when they break down, for considerate and mindful policies informed by everyday people

- Lessons from history: peace for education and education for peace in every classroom. Breaking down barriers/boarders at home and abroad. Schools working in partnership and at the heart of their communities, building bridges, learning from the past, fostering empathy and protecting children from extremism

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