Rumblings of discontent about education policy in England are developing into a roar. And it’s not from the usual suspects known collectively as ‘the Blob’.
The rumblings are coming from parents.
1 No forced academisation;
2 End excessive testing;
3 Protect school funding;
4 Ensure a good school place for every child with a properly qualified teacher;
5 Defend parents’ democratic rights in schools.
Speaker after speaker stood up to express their increasing horror about what is being forced on children in English schools. Michael Rosen, poet and education campaigner, expressed deep anger at the test-crazy system. It sucks the joy out of language learning and replaces it with nit-picking analysis. Picking over the entrails of language kills enchantment – in children’s minds English becomes dull dissection instead of delight.
Mary Bousted, ATL, agreed. When speaking to Nick Gibb, she told him naming of parts was no way to nurture competent readers and writers. Children learnt by modelling language not chopping it into bits. Gibb’s reply was, ‘I don’t believe you.’
Government education policy was becoming so ridiculous that everyone (even some Tories) was realising it, she said. She cited the National Audit Office report which slammed Department for Education accounts; critical remarks from Neil Carmichael, Tory chair of the Education Select Committee; the debacle of the Key Stage 1 spelling test which was withdrawn after the words had appeared on line.
Rosen and Bousted can, of course, be dismissed by ministers as being the usual suspects. But parental voices cannot be so brushed aside. Nicky Morgan’s guest post defending mass academization received a bruising response from Mumsnet two weeks ago. Yesterday parental concerns fell thick and fast:
1 Teaching to the test damaged the curriculum;
2 Excessive emphasis on tests caused stress for children and their parents;
3 Parents felt no-one was listening;
4 Full academization would affect pupils with special needs – LAs can’t require academies to take them;
5 Schools could become less inclusive as so-called ‘poor quality’ children were not admitted;
But they didn’t just express anger. They put forward suggestions:
1 Bring back a curriculum full of joy and wonder;
2 Cease treating children as robots in an exam testing factory;
3 Parents disturbed about education in England should join together under one banner ‘Rescue Our Schools’.
4 Parents speak louder when they speak with one voice.
5 Join the hundreds of parents who have pledged to keep their children off school on 3 May for a fun day of activities as a protest against SATs.
The Government won’t listen to teachers; it won’t listen to academics or the unions (the Blob); it’s wobbling a bit because some Tories are beginning to bristle. But if parents who’ve had enough of their children’s education being blighted by tests; who see the alleged benefits of academy conversion aren’t materialising; who believe parents are being brushed aside; who are concerned academy trustees will siphon money intended for education into the pockets of highly-paid executive principals or companies connected with trustees; who worry their child will end up being taught by unqualified ‘teachers’; who think education will become increasingly underfunded; who are shocked when children are described as ‘poor quality’ – if these parents band together to object, then the Government will have to listen.
Petition from parents supporting the Key Stage 2 SAT boycott is here.
Michael Rosen’s ’10 points’ to use at local meetings about education are here.
To try your knowledge on ‘past progressive’, the ‘adverbial’ (especially when ‘fronted’) and ‘determiners’, see the sample Key Stage 2 GPS (aka SPAG) materials here.
UPDATE 29 April 14.52: Schools Week reports that while 'heads can't condone SAT boycott', fining parents who keep their child away from school on 3 May in protest against SATs is unlikely.