The year has ended on a high note for local schools. Despite the bashing that they have received at the hands of this Coalition government and a hysterical press, the British people have other thoughts. The recently published British Attitude Survey
reveals that 73% of people thought secondary schools were doing a good job of teaching the basics of reading and writing. This chimes with Ofsted surveys on the subject, which reveal high rates of satisfaction in schools amongst parents. It also ties in with my own personal experience as a teacher: most parents I’ve encountered are very pleased with the job schools are doing.
Most fascinating of all, the survey shows that there has been a big increase in the number of parents who think that “good practical skills and training” give more opportunities in life than “good academic results” – up from 38% in 2002 to 60% in 2009. This again ties in my own experience: increasing numbers of parents and pupils are seeing that subjects like Personal, Social, Health Education (PSHE), practical qualifications like diplomas, and vocational GCSEs and A Levels are vital in today’s changing world. The British people are aware better than our current government that it’s “life skills” that are vital to foster in our children and that many of our academic qualifications – based on out-moded Victorian models of learning – simply do not provide this. As has been mentioned in this site before, a subject like Media Studies enables pupils to understand the media-saturated world we live in and provides them with great practical skills in making their own media; increasingly important skills in today’s context.
The report says:
“The public is in favour of schools developing a broad range of qualities in children. The qualities most widely viewed as being “essential” ones to develop are skills and knowledge to get a job (48%), understanding about drugs and alcohol (45%) and being a good citizen (39%). “Gaining qualifications or certificates of achievement” is less widely viewed as essential – with under one quarter thinking this is the case (24%).
• Nearly three quarters (72%) say schools should be judged on how well they teach children skills for life, even if this means that less emphasis is placed on academic subjects.”
Bravo to this! Let’s hope that Michael Gove pays attention to this important survey and take heed of what the public wants. His nonsensical English Baccalaureate is woefully back-looking, encouraging antiquated subjects like Latin, Biblical Hebrew and Classical Greek, at the expense of subjects that will actually teach our children useful skills they will need for the future. It’s time that our establishment lost its silly snobbery against practical subjects and embraced them in the way that our public want them to.
(To read an interesting American blog about the UK public versus the establishment, click here