Educational 'class ceiling wastes taxpayers' money'

Peter Martin's picture
The Fair Education Alliance report, highlighted today on the BBC news website, reminds me of the excellent evening spent in Pasi Sahlberg's company, hosted by Lisa Nandy MP (Wigan), May 2012. Now we all know the answer is not 'emulate Finland': but we also know that to 'make equity the focus of our work with your people' sounds about right. My notes of the evening (for what they're worth) start ...

'Pasi is a very relaxed and entertaining raconteur. He came to England initially about 20yrs ago while the notion of national curriculum was in gestation here, and because, in Finland, England was seen as a hive of emergent good policy work, informed by a strong research/practitioner link. He has since taught and worked on Edn policy in Finland and is appointed their last 'Chief Inspector', at the time the inspection regime has all but been removed from Finnish teachers' perspective. [Some cheers here at the thought of Mr Wilshaw's imminent retirement!]

There's lots about the Finnish context with which to take issue if we are to regard Finland as a model of school systems thinking excellence, but the three salient points Pasi highlighted are that:

# Finland has not always been a high performer;
# Finland never set out to become a high performer
# Finland ranks highly on international comparators not just of education outcomes/standards, but also happiness, high tech/innovation, low corruption ...

How come Finnish schools are so well regarded by OECD? Is it because the Finns do what everyone else does, but better, or because the Finns do something altogether else? I've read the book (but sadly do not own a tee-shirt, yet ...). So, it's because they are very counter-orthodox.

3 policy drivers:


Enhance equity ...
Less is more ...
Teacher and Leader professionalism

and so on - I am prone to rambling!

Now the Finns were quick to make 'supply side' interventions and all but removed 'privatised' schooling at a stroke. We don't have the opportunity to make such sweeping supply-side change here (witness incessant debate about more grammars, better mingling of state: indy DNA etc. etc.). But what we can do is make outcome-based assessment of our maintained schools more them norm:

What are our young people equipped to go on and do as they leave their schooling? and

How do we improve those life chances?

... so that youngsters from the most modest backgrounds might share the uncapped aspirations and success of the privileged.
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