Education needs to be removed from the political arena

Carole Newton's picture
I am an ex-English teacher, a governor of many years and the parent of three children in local state schools, one of which has unfortunately become an academy. I feel passionately that while politicians, with their personal agendas, squabble over education we will never educate our children properly to meet the needs of the future.
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Janet Downs's picture
Wed, 16/11/2011 - 18:05

Carole - I share your concerns. Many politicians who profess to care about education have little knowledge of it and introduce policies which they think will forward their own careers and promote their own ideologies even if contradicted by the views of professionals, international evidence and even their own Education Select Committee.

Mr Cameron's recent Telegraph article (repeated three times in slightly different forms in case readers didn't get it) is a case in point - full of tough-sounding rhetoric. And Mr Gove's description given to the Conservative Conference of the so-called "advantages" of academy status was not upheld by the evidence. And you are correct about the consequences - our pupils will not be educated properly for the future.

JimC's picture
Wed, 16/11/2011 - 21:10

Does the LSN endorse the Labour party Janet?

Ben Taylor's picture
Wed, 16/11/2011 - 22:12

To some extent this is what central government is doing - letting schools run themselves as much as possible, although there are also some measures which are centralising.

Allan Beavis's picture
Thu, 17/11/2011 - 00:14

Odd question JimC, particularly since Local Schools Network is not a think tank nor a political body and invites contributions from anyone who cares to offer an opinion. On the other hand, The New Schools Network, under its guise of being a sort of impartial charity offering the zealous advice on how to set up a Free School, is really a Conservative party propaganda machine dedicated to pumping out the party line on education, no matter how baseless some of their claims are. I would wager that LSN endorses great educational opportunities for all and fair access to good schools for all. The NSN endorses the Conservative party, JimC.

Allan Beavis's picture
Thu, 17/11/2011 - 00:23

Really Ben? You think so? Interesting

jimc's picture
Thu, 17/11/2011 - 07:39

You think so Allan? Just look through the post history - you must be able to see that many of them are attacks on coalition ministers? Even this post about political interference is turned into a rant against David Cameron in the comments section. I think the LSN is selling itself short and in the interests of balance some critique of other political parties wouldn't go amiss.

Allan Beavis's picture
Thu, 17/11/2011 - 08:29

Nonsense. It's free country. And I think, as always, you make overstatements - I don't see any 'rants' here, not even your own modest contribution. How can you say that LSN is selling itself short when it is a public forum open to anyone who wishes to post and make comments? It would be selling itself short by either not allowing comments or censoring them. LSN does neither. Plenty of critiques in any case from contributors on the LibDems and Labour - perhaps they get fewer because the latter aren't actually implementing policy and the former aren't really registering in the coalition are they? If you feel so strongly about poor old Cam and his chums coming under criticism here, I suggest you tune into PMQs one day - he even gets ad hominem attacks!!!! As for balance, why don't you then offer some evidence backed comments in support, rather than sniping from the sidelines?

JimC's picture
Thu, 17/11/2011 - 08:51

Fine be that way but education needs some voices of reason and you'll get nowhere if you refuse to tone down the political rhetoric. You'd have a far better crack at convincing Conservatives if you offered a reasoned alternative instead of attacking their policy and slandering their motives.

Allan Beavis's picture
Thu, 17/11/2011 - 09:00

Plenty of voices of reasons here JimC - you just don't want to hear them. As far as schools are concerned, it would have helped the Conservatives if they actually engaged and listened to teachers. Instead, they surrounded themselves with a coteries of advisers and policy makers who little or no experience of actually teaching and dismissed any concerns that teachers raised with respect to the government's self styled radical reforms. One small point - you can't slander by writing and you can't libel the government.

Janet Downs's picture
Thu, 17/11/2011 - 10:15

JimC - the attacks on government ministers are because these ministers are in a position to implement policy. Opposition politicians are not. This government is hell-bent on dismantling English state education (Mr Gove has said as much) so it is to be expected that it will receive more attacks than the opposition.

It doesn't follow that because someone attacks the present Government that they necessarily supported the education policies of the last one. It was Labour that started the Academy programme, for example, and pushed the view that these were the saviours of the education system, particularly for disadvantaged pupils. It was Labour who picked up John Major's flawed idea about PFI. It was Labour who supported league tables, fiddled about with the National Curriculum and Ofsted, burbled on about "benchmarks" and so on. But it was also Labour than initiated the London Challenge, which is attributed to raising standards in the capital.

In fact, in the last twenty-five years, teachers have become punch-drunk with interference from above. Initiative has been piled upon initiative without enough thought - on another thread you mentioned the SEAL programme, which has had mixed results; an earlier programme was the Technical and Vocational Education Initiative (TVEI) about which I was very enthusiastic but in some schools the teaching materials were put at the back of a cupboard and ignored.

When a Government tries to pursue its own agenda (in this case, a libertarian one), and this is based on data which has been found to be flawed, and is criticised by a Parliamentary Select Committee, when it uses propaganda and spin to hype up the achievements of one type of school (even though some of them have only been in operation since September) and denegrates the rest, then it can be expected to face criticism.

JimC's picture
Fri, 18/11/2011 - 10:30

Blaming the Conservatives for the lack of communication isn't going to solve any problems. Sensible representatives from my profession need to discourse with the government and going in all guns blazing with the politics is only going to get everyones back up. Rightly or wrongly many Conservatives think that teachers are militant left wingers - I think this impression needs to be dealt with.

Allan Beavis's picture
Fri, 18/11/2011 - 11:01

I agree. The Conservatives need to deal with it and stop alternately pining for the glory Thatcher years and feeling guilty for kicking her out. It was under Thatcher that the Conservatives developed a taste for silencing opposition to their ideologies - war against the unions, clause 28 -; under Thatcher that we had the narrative of those in opposition to her were violent rioters and trade unionists; under Thatcher that fast and profound change to society has left us today with the legacy of corporate and personal irresponsibility and greed; under Thatcher that the first amputations to public services were performed, in order for private companies to profit from them and under Thatcher that the division between rich and poor opened into a chasm.

Teacher meetings with Gove's department were not all guns blazing political meetings. Teachers wanted the sensible representation you speak of. It appears to me that Gove would rather not engage with the teaching profession because much of what they say does not adhere to the Conservative plan of free markets and privatisation.

You are speaking as if great efforts at communication with the government has not been tried. It has. It is the government that does not want to engage. Striking is the last resort. But, true to form, the Tories will recall the glory days and spin the Thatcher narrative of militants and rioters to deflect attention away from their own poor leadership and inability to get a grip on the economy.

jimc's picture
Sat, 19/11/2011 - 18:29

You are blaming the Conservatives again and the unions are hardly best placed to negoiate with the government as they can barely agree with each other.

Allan Beavis's picture
Sat, 19/11/2011 - 23:23

The alleged inability of unions to agree with each other has no bearing on the coalition government's reluctance to engage with the teaching profession via their union representatives. Gove chose instead in take advice from political advisers who had little practical experience of teaching or from Americans such as Joel Klein, ex Chancellor of Schools for New York who handed out school contracts to friends before leaving to join Murdoch's News Corp as their "CEO of Education" and before it was discovered that under his leadership, standardized tests in New York were made easier to pass with higher grades, allegedly in an effort to inflate attainment in New York City to justify both his schools policies and to claim that the Charter School programme he implemented was a success.

It is getting tiresome having to point out again and again to Conservatives and their sympathisers that the teaching unions got very short shrift from Gove and his cronies who did their utmost to conceal what their plans were, as recent allegations of secret emails suggested. Add to this the refusal of Dominic Cummings to allow FoI requests on Free Schools to be processed. And step forward again Mr. Cummings, who ensured that another Gove policy adviser, Rachel Wolf, got her grant to set up the New Schools Network. Such activity may not have been illegal or even in breach of parliamentary rules but they nevertheless reveal a shocking arrogance in the government's determination to see or hear nothing that challenges their ideology.

Just as unemployment was declining under the previous government, so it is increasing under Tory rule, to currently £2.7m, rising at its fastest rate for 17 years. And school standards rose under Labour, with the achievement gap between rich and poor narrowing; yet under the Tories, the flagship Free School policy, of which one of the key aims was to help the poor (although JimC himself was either blithely ignorant of this or trying to pull the wool over people’s eyes) has now been shown to be doing little for the disadvantaged.

Blame the Tories? Well education under the Tories last time round was dire. Blame the Tories? Well, they are the government in office for the moment, conjuring up and implementing these confused policies, so it would be difficult to criticise the opposition when they are not in office.

I sympathise hugely with Carole Newton. But education is political because governments set policy. Unfortunately, this government is rushing through policies which are insidiously laying down the foundations for profit making companies to suck the blood out of state education. The taxpayer is the largest shareholder and it will be the tax payer who will find themselves betrayed by these policies, just as they were betrayed by the banks after their money was thrown at the irresponsible banking industry to prop them up and to pay out further bonuses to bankers.

It isn’t political squabbling that is squandering our young people’s futures – it is the coalition government. The Office for National Statistics recently revealed some dire figures – 1 million between the ages of 16 and 24 unemployed; the long terms jobless rate for the same age group stands at 30%. Add to this the savage cuts to public services, which are a lifeline to the poor, together with amputations to the education budget that will effect vulnerable children the most and it is no wonder that people are doubting the “Compassionate Conservatives” when it is the already advantaged who stand to gain the most.

jimc's picture
Sun, 20/11/2011 - 09:23

We know you blame the Conservatives - why do you keep repeating all this stuff? On a more interesting note are you the moderator for this forum or are you aware who the moderator is?

Davis Lewis's picture
Mon, 21/11/2011 - 17:18

The professional bodies should have been more robust about about taking teaching and learning out of the hands of the politicians rather than rolling over and allowing the profession to be taken over by the politicians of all hues.
There is no British vision of education as the main parties have been allowed to use education as a political football and the vision changes with each change of government and the professional bodies have failed to provide guidance and leadership. One of the main culprits in this is Chris Woodhead - he is by no means the only one.

I am of Jamaican origin and I can say that for all of the problems Jamaica has had with its extreme political partisanship it has never affected education, both parties have Jamaican vision for education and there is therefore continuity in the way education in Jamaica has been developed regardless of the change of government. I suspect Britain is in a minority in respect of the way education is politicised and hence deprofessionised.

Davis Lewis's picture
Mon, 21/11/2011 - 17:23

The teaching profession needs to reclaim teaching from the politicians, Balls, Gove, Blunkett, Baker, Josephs, Kelly and so many more have vandalised education by using our children - but not their own children- as the sacrificial lambs for their own egos and sadly we have let them get away with this.

Jane Eades's picture
Thu, 24/11/2011 - 13:39

Political rhetoric is in the eye of the beholder.

Jane Eades's picture
Thu, 24/11/2011 - 13:46

I think this chain of comments proves the original point. Whether Labour or Conservative or Coalition, vast amounts of government funding has been spent on tinkering with education with no real evaluation of what really does improve standards and what doesn't. The one thing we do know is that changing the form of governance doesn't work, hence the academies programme, including 'free' schools, will be another expensive experiment.

Just to add political balance: all major parties are guilty of presenting a gloss on the academies programme which does not stack up once you start digging around. To paraphrase: "politicians, leave those schools alone"!

JimC's picture
Fri, 25/11/2011 - 08:44

Whilst I can see that beauty is in the eye of the beholder I can't fathom how political rhetoric can be considered as such by one person and not another - perhaps an example would help here.

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