When the climate changed

Trevor Fisher's picture
The recent discussion of paradigms-Kuhnianism has run its course, to be taken up elsewhere. The point is that there are political attitudes which are resistant to evidence. LSN has the facts that show the current paradigm especially academies do not work, and if facts matter then LSN would be in #10 every week. But they do not. The climate changed 40 years from being benign to progressive thinkers (c1960 to c1979) to being an ice age.

The progressive period was the comprehensive period and famously Margaret Thatcher closed down more grammar schools than any minister before or since. Then the Black Papers (1969-77) took over and the ice formed. Grammar schools could not be brought back, but comprehensives became the alleged sink schools.... and academies were born. And so on...

This does not mean that C B Cox, Kingsley Amis and so on are the guidelines for today, even Rhodes Boyson when he died last year was a forgotten man. But two key propositions became embedded as the techtonic plates shifted (a) all state schools are inferior (compared to the private sector, neo liberalism in action) run by low grade progressives, aka The Blob (b) politicians must interfere all the time to combat the 'race to the bottom', imposed by trade unions and the Blob.

The assumptions lead to constant contradictions. and incoherence at the policy level, not that the media notice. For example, Performance Tables are essential to keep the teachers from slacking and to inform parents.... but as on January 29th the Performance Tables are interfered with on political grounds. And while Tristram Hunt wants to give all schools the freedom of academies, he doesn't know the data which Melissa and Janet have compiled, that academies don't work. The NAO report, OFSTED report and the Select Committee report all have passed him by.

As Kuhn would have said, he doesn't understand anomalies. He only knows the paradigm. Not that I would imagine he understands the black paper ideology or would accept it if he knew it. The paradigm has become unquestionable common sense. It is obvious that academies work, comprehensives don't. And politicians know without doing any research.

How this will change is imponderable, but Kuhn argues the weight of evidence is enough. Not I think in politics. Here brutal failures may need to happen. On this front, staffing shortages are building up. Teachers are fed up with being interfered with, and are voting with their feet. While I was told this week that a leading journalist has rejected the idea there are teacher shortages, like academies the evidence is stacking up. When it is obvious to parents, the paradigm may start to waver.

The facts are essential to start the process and we need more studies like that Melissa and Janet have produced. But ultimately its political campaigning that will be decisive. When schools do not have enough maths English and science teachers, the game may change.

What a way to run a system. But the paradigm is deeply resistant to rational debate. That is why we need to understand how paradigms work. Onwards and upwards!

Trevor FIsher
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Roger Titcombe's picture
Fri, 06/02/2015 - 18:25

Mao Zedong was right about one thing.

"If you don't hit it, it won't fall." - The little red book.

And the following saying is correct.

'Ultimately there will be a straw that breaks the camel's back.'

So like Trevor, we have to keep plugging away.

Janet Downs's picture
Sat, 07/02/2015 - 11:47

Roger - unfortunately the media is either complicit in spreading the misinformation or supine when it does find wrongdoing.

'Schools Week' says in its 'A week in Westminster' guide (not available on line) that Andrew Marr gave Morgan 'an easy ride' and 'almost apologised' for mentioning the statistics watchdog had said Morgan's illiteracy and innumeracy claims were 'a bit of a porky'.

She misled people - not once, but twice. And yet a TV presenter still grovels.

David Barry's picture
Fri, 06/02/2015 - 23:30

I think Aristotle had it right.

if you want to persuade people to your point of view you need to use all three of ethos, pathos and logos.

Ethos is appeal to your own credibility: I know what I am talking about because...
Pathos is appeal to the emotions
Logos is appeal to logic and evidence.

Rhetoric consists of all three. You need all three to convince.

What the Local Schools Network does is Logos. Someone has to do it. But its not complete in itself.

Janet Downs's picture
Sat, 07/02/2015 - 09:51

David - have you read Sam Leith's book, 'You Talkin' To Me?'?. It's a history of rhetoric and its power to persuade or bamboozle. Essential reading.

I'm wary of appealing to emotions. It smacks of manipulation. That said, some of the most famous speeches do just that. Churchill's 'We will never surrender' appeals to courage, resolve and fearlessness; Martin Luther King's "I have a dream...' speaks of hope, humanity and a future where people are judged not by the colour of their skin but by their character; John F Kennedy's 'Ich bin ein Berliner' also appealed to solidarity - the most powerful man in the world standing alongside the inhabitants of a divided city.

And then there's Shakespeare. Henry V's speech outside Harfleur would have me charging through the breach shouting, 'Cry God for Harry, England and Saint George!'

But perhaps I should take your advice and that of Sam Leith who says:

'Rhetoric's effectiveness is, in the final analysis, independent of its moral content or that of its users. This is one reason why the more the good guys get clued into how it works, the better of we will all be.'

(That's presuming I'm one of 'the good guys'...)

Roger Titcombe's picture
Sat, 07/02/2015 - 10:15

The fundamental problem is the fact that truth in all its forms is frequently both complicated and counter-intuitive.

Consider how hard it has always been to argue against Thatcher's massively popular policy of selling council houses to tenants. This has been utterly catastrophic, leading ironically to the present 'generation rent', but instead of have secure tenancies in low rent, good quality council houses, such tenants are paying astronomic rents to live in often run down properties with no security of tenure at all.

Another example is 'grammar schools'. The simplistic (false) argument in favour can be summarised in a sentence. The truth takes paragraphs or pages to explain.

The Reverend Ian Paisley called seductive but dangerous policies, 'the buttermilk of the devil'. The world of education is overflowing with such 'buttermilk'.

Janet Downs's picture
Sat, 07/02/2015 - 10:33

Roger - and Sam Leith, author of 'You talkin' to me?', describes Satan as the 'original silver-tongued devil'.

Andy V's picture
Sat, 07/02/2015 - 10:48

Alternatively, as A A Milne so cleverly mused in Winnie the Pooh, what has been sought for was 'honey' (an allusion to wisdom, truth, goodness) but despite all the efforts what was found was the 'wrong' type of honey.

Our politicians have sought and striven for what they have considered to be the right type of honey for our education system and policies but instead have imposed distorted and unbalanced party political ideological structures and policies, which no matter how beguiling and sweetly pervasively persuasive are false, divisive and destructive; the wrong type of honey.

Janet Downs's picture
Sat, 07/02/2015 - 11:10

Andy - the cure might be to inflict a bee sting like the one suffered by Pooh in his search for the honey.

Or several - from particularly ferocious bees.

Andy V's picture
Sat, 07/02/2015 - 11:20

The educational bee stings are already being inflicted and felt e.g. the failed educational panacea of academies and free schools, the significant cost to the taxpayer in a flawed and failed ideological approach. Sadly, the political hubris of all the major players is such that they are detached and effectively uncaring of and for the impact on previous and upcoming generations. The have highly developed rhino hides that inure them from the effect of the stings.

Janet Downs's picture
Sat, 07/02/2015 - 11:24

Andy - so true. My MP wrote a hymn of praise about academies in the local paper this week. Unfortunately for him, it coincided with my letter quoting the Ed Select Committee's injunction for the DfE to stop exaggerating about academy success.

Janet Downs's picture
Sat, 07/02/2015 - 12:53

Climate might grow a little chillier for the pro-academy conversion lobby when academy heads find their funding reduced. This is the head of Caister Grammar School in Lincolnshire:

“We were one of many schools who answered the call from Michael Gove to set off on our own as an Academy so that we would have better control over our resources. In the first few years, this worked very well. However in the last 18 months, the funding we receive to be an Academy has been sharply reduced.”

Sir Edward Leigh MP quoted this in a debate and added that he'd had similar letters from heads of grammars across the country.

agov's picture
Sat, 07/02/2015 - 16:11

"so that we would have better control over our resources"

More accurately, so that they would get additional temporary resources as an initial bribe to put them on the road to full privatisation. They may have got to construct some lovely new buildings with money they shouldn't have had but that seems more or less all they thought about.

"However in the last 18 months, the funding we receive to be an Academy has been sharply reduced.

As it was always going to sooner or later. Academy heads principals are effectively already running businesses. They may expect to be spending even more time doing that and even less time focusing on their students in future. If they fail they get taken over by a chain. If they succeed, it may be as a result of creating MATs and possibly attempting to help themselves to the resources of other schools.

Guest's picture
Sat, 07/02/2015 - 16:21

I wouldn't overly disagree with your analysis/perception but would stress that ignorance, naivety and a chunk of hubris played parts too; with some HTs not recognising the poisoned chalice that was offered then or the poisoned unspoken political agenda from the Conservatives against L(E)As to complete the unfulfilled Thatcherite project of the 80s and 90s.

Roger Titcombe's picture
Sat, 07/02/2015 - 16:38

Once again there there is no lack of accurate analysis on LSN but the more important issue is what is to be done about it; to bring us back to the subject of Trevor's thread.

John Mountford's picture
Sat, 07/02/2015 - 23:32

Trevor, there may be the germ of an idea in what you suggest may be a possible outcome of the failure of the existing paradigm: "brutal failures may need to happen. On this front, staffing shortages are building up. Teachers are fed up with being interfered with, and are voting with their feet. While I was told this week that a leading journalist has rejected the idea there are teacher shortages, like academies the evidence is stacking up. When it is obvious to parents, the paradigm may start to waver."

There already are parents and young people for whom the existing paradigm has failed and will continue to do so. When a school closes or examinations are discontinued without warning, (just two possible examples) for those caught up in the aftermath these are often experienced as 'brutal failures'. What if there was a way of a parent bringing an individual case forward? Alternatively, is there any way the professional bodies might undertake a challenge on behalf of students affected by the constant changes to the exam system? I am prepared to expose my ignorance of the possibilities of such action. I would be glad to be enlightened.

agov's picture
Sun, 08/02/2015 - 12:31

"the more important issue is what is to be done about it "

Possibly starting by considering that a degenerate misruling political class has little or no belief in anything other than getting themselves into power and more money into their personal bank accounts. That is their paradigm. (Both NuLab and Tories may have small contingents of true believers but effectively these are just another minor irritant for a ruling group to manipulate and ignore.) They have no interest or concern for evidence or the opinions of voters except for whatever transient wheeze helps get them elected.

Urging people to vote for them anyway in the hope that they might happen to do something you believe in is so last century.

Trevor Fisher's picture
Tue, 10/02/2015 - 18:50

john has a valid point we should consider in strategy. While I agree with Janet that using emotion is deeply unwise, the role of presentation is crucial. Most of the time people don't understand statistics, but do understand individual hard cases. So a propaganda war has to take on good examples which people can say.... that is someone like me being done down.

However it will not work unless the media are challenged. The quote about Marr is something I would like to have the source for the School week you mention Janet, and as a principle if its not on line can we always have the sources named please comrades?

I have already complained to The Director General of The BBC about the Marr interview. But to take up something else I have written, can we get the interview recorded? I am told its not possible to record off iplayer, but we can get the transcript.

But not for other programmes, and evidence is vital. Historians now have a real major problem, so much important stuff is never recorded but that's for the future.

Immediately the key point about the Marr programme is not so much his groveling, which comes as standard, but the timing. He interviewed her THE DAY BEFORE the Cameron statement and FIVE DAYs before her statement in the House on workload.

THe real complicity is doing the interview when Marr could not quiz her on the political statements. Why was this?

Overall, as before, we need to keep stating the facts. bUT we cannot shift the paradigm without a much more targeted strategy.

Trevor FIsher.

John Mountford's picture
Tue, 10/02/2015 - 21:15

Janet, I was quite nauseous by the time I'd finished reading About Sir Edward Leigh's pathetic comments via the link you provided.

It was disturbing enough to read your quote from the head of Caister Grammar. Such rank hypocricy!! So we are to believe that the prime motivation for setting off on their own as an academy was to "answer the call from Michael Gove." What a load of codswallop! I'm so glad it worked well for them in the first few years (it must be a real blast getting additional funding that should have gone into the general education pot). But, alas, now "the funding we receive has been sharply reduced."

Does this obviously intelligent individual really think the rest of us were unaware that inclusion in the academies programme in those days came with the promise of additional funding. So generous was the arrangement in fact, that the DfE is now in trouble with the National Audit Office because it can't account for where all the additional money has gone!

By the time I got to the Hansard entry you pointed us to, Janet, I was ready to barf and would have done so had I not been overwhelmed by the cheek of his 'good' lordship. I'm sure Roger would love to confront him face to face to educate him about the true history of the grammar schools. A productive starting point would be addressing his comment:
"The phasing out of grammar schools in most of the country was one of the greatest policy disasters of the post-war era."

In order to strengthen his plea for shoring up grammar school funding in Lincolnshire, Sir Edward offered us the raw data:
"The grammar school that he (Mr Allsop) heads was the least well funded school per pupil in the county. It receives £4,474 per pupil on average, while a similar sized comprehensive school in Lincolnshire receives £6,481 per pupil."

Then he proceeded to summarise his case as follows:
"If we are to promote educational excellence, it is not a good idea to give the best school in Lincolnshire, which everybody tries to get into, only £4,000 per pupil per year, while giving the worst performing comprehensive in Lincoln, which nobody wants to go to, £7,000 per head per year. That is a daft way to run our education system."

Others may notice what happened in rounding up these figures. Grammar school funding is rounded down (in accordance with mathematical conventions) to £4000 while funding for an apparently comparable comprehensive in Lincoln is rounded up to £7000 ( in contradiction of convention). I wonder why he chose to do this? Maybe he was the product of a not-too-good grammar school way back when?

To add insult to injury his comment about the comprehensive he had in mind was at least insensitive. It should help his constituents decide whether they really want to vote for him in May! ("... giving the worst performing comprehensive in Lincoln, which nobody wants to go to, £7,000 per head per year."

Surely, Roger, another invitation to educate his lordship. For good measure, you might mention a few other points (from your Learning Matters) to explain what a 'daft way to run an education system' actually looks like and feels like.

Trevor Fisher's picture
Tue, 10/02/2015 - 22:57

the most important thing about this statement is that Tony Blair agrees with it. Look at his autobiography - A journey - and the index will give you him saying the same thing in almost exactly the same words.

Always these people neglect to mention the Eleven Plus and the secondary moderns. Looking at the secondary moderns in the area would be an effective response

trevor fisher

Trevor Fisher's picture
Tue, 10/02/2015 - 22:59

sorry, this comment has gone into the wrong box. It should be in the grammar school box. trevor fisher.

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