I am reading a wonderful book, "Radical Education and the Common School" by Michael Fielding and Peter Moss, which acts as a healthy reminder that our focus--and particularly the focus of our politicians--should be on the "woods" and not the "trees". System-wide reform is the only way we can get genuinely sustainable education policy that serves our young people.
Our tendency is to home in on the almost daily policy announcements and disturbing news stories about individual cases of free schools and academy conversions. Though individuals are right to express concern over what is happening in their local areas--and the LSN website is a marvellous insight into the chaos that lives in our education system at the moment---it does also make me think that the Government has got us just where they want us.
Squabbling on the ground over individual school cases contributes to and swells the hysteria first generated under Thatcher, where we were taught that if you look after yourself and your own child and generally maximise opportunities, everything will be OK across the system. Thus competition and choice became the double mantra that still dominates our civic life.
This is, of course, a recipe guaranteed to create a sink school in every neighbourhood. How successive governments have continued to throw away human potential so cavalierly and get away with it is nothing short of scandalous, and it is up to us, ultimately, to hold them to account for having such narrow aims for education.
This Government is spending money like water on converting schools to academies or allowing free schools to emerge, when what is needed is whole system reform, such as has taken place in Alberta, Canada, and is being trialled in five states
in the USA .
We cannot be nostalgic about the old LEA-run system, as some schools failed then, and gave policy-makers such as Thatcher, Baker and Blair the ammunition to start to break the system apart and create a market in types of school.
What we need to emerge from Government is a convincing and on-going narrative that addresses system-wide reform that should be underpinned by the question "what is education for?", rather than structural reorganisations and political posturing.
Going back to the book I am reading, here is a wonderful quote from radical educationalist, Alex Bloom: "Perhaps what is needed.....is a larger faith in the natural fineness of the child and in his inner potential".
Michael Gove would do well to use this indisputable "natural fineness" to inform education policy, throwing away any initiatives that do not serve individual children, wherever they live and whatever their family's means.