I'm increasingly worried about the homogeneity of discourses surrounding education and schooling.

Ruth McGinity's picture
I support LSN because I share the views of the network with regards to state education in England, that it should be public and democratic and not made available for sale to private interests at the behest of an ideologically driven Cobservative government. I had hoped before 7th May that in the event of a hung parliament the drive towards academisation and the privatisation of our education system would at least be slowed and open to debate and importantly scrutiny and evidence.

What is happening now and what will happen over the next 5 years and beyond concerns me deeply and so I want to be more active in the fight, both personally, by getting more involved in community activism and professionally, in the research I undertake and the teaching I do. These activities must be connected and I would be interested in becoming more involved with the work LSN do.
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Leah K Stewart's picture
Thu, 04/06/2015 - 08:33

Hi Ruth, great to see you here. I've the same concerns and I'm expressing them from a student perspective. Looking forward to your future research on this - I'm following you on twitter to find out more. People 'at the top' talk about democracy but (maybe?) don't realize that real 'democratic' power (i.e. voice and choice) is being held above student level, above teacher level, above school level and even above local community level when it comes to education... um, we still OK to call this democratic?

Janet Downs's picture
Thu, 04/06/2015 - 08:36

Ruth - your involvement with LSN has already begun - welcome. Please continue to contribute and comment on stories. Use the evidence (and articles are usually linked to evidence) to counter media stories, opinions etc which are misleading or untrue. This should be important in your research.

And if you have an interesting (and evidenced) story, then you can post your article on the site.

Michele -Lowe's picture
Thu, 04/06/2015 - 09:34

Power to your elbow. I live in Wales and we don't - yet - have academies and free schools. We do have an Assembly Govt which is very exercised by Wales' drop in the PISA leagues comparative to England, Scotland and N Ireland. This has led to a regime of testing, a narrowing of the curriculum and a loss of teaching time and energy to marking all of this.
However, I sit this side of Offa's Dyke watching developments in England and worry some political opportunist will argue for it here as 'a solution to all our problems'. I also have family in England - Essex - and my niece who attends an academy school has been told that she needs to gain 3 D's at AS level to continue onto A level. Leaving aside the questionable nature of such 'warnings', I think it's important to raise these things. As Janet says, well documented stories backed up with evidence are critical to questioning the prevailing political ideology. The more there are, the more attention we gain.

John Mountford's picture
Thu, 04/06/2015 - 18:19

Ruth, it’s my opinion that your sentiments are shared by a great many more people than ended up voting for this government. With just 36.9% of the ballot cast in their favour, after all the votes were in, I believe there is a moral if not legal right to challenge the outlandish policies in the pipeline for education which stands to be a major casualty of our undemocratic electoral system over the next five years. I said as much in a CPRT Blog a while ago.


The issue now is, what is the best way of mounting an assault on this government, which speaks so vociferously on behalf of just a minority of British voters?

Henry Stewart’s latest post here, http://www.localschoolsnetwork.org.uk/2015/06/an-education-policy-based-... exposes the same challenge, offering a detailed break-down of the background to the present situation. In my response, I took the liberty of suggesting to Henry that we actually need to consider a campaign and that of all the issues, the one about forced academisation is probably closest to the hearts of most ordinary families.

Maybe, there is headway to be made with a greater level of commitment and engagement on our part over a single issue. So much is fundamentally wrong with education reform in this country, it would be easy to spread the focus too wide and let the authorities off the hook. Forcing academies in the primary sector is, in my view likely to connect with the families with very young children if they know the programme is void of evidence and all about the ideological intentions of the government and that along the way, their democratic right to challenge has been removed in the process.

Leah K Stewart's picture
Sat, 06/06/2015 - 11:29

Hi John, love your energy. Here's what I'm thinking at the moment: teachers are not ready to take the reigns and lead education in the way that, I believe, it can be lead to the real benefit of students and communities and the teachers. If teachers were ready then it would already be happening. But, in pockets, it is already happening... this is when teachers leave school to teach as tutors or they set up their own studios, run workshops, write books etc.

Schools no longer hold the monopoly on being a teacher. Those who what to scratch the teaching-itch can do this in a million other ways than becoming a school teacher. Unfortunately, though, most students are stuck in school and teaching from people who are leading their own shows is only available outside of school time and at additional cost.

There's something about the blogosphere and the conversations that teachers, and the education community, are having there that makes me believe something is being built. Not consciously. To build something consciously right now requires agreements and legislation and so much other stuff. Inside the blogosphere teachers are reviewing their own practices, strengths, interests and values in public and with positive support from others. This is space for reflection, growth and connection of the teaching community. This is what I believe we need, so, I'm now helping teachers get into the blogopshere and have updated my website to say so: www.leahkstewart.com This is all for free right now. I'm making money drawing on my recruitment experiences by doing CV editing for people at cross-roads or who want to change industry. Interesting times ahead!

John Mountford's picture
Sat, 06/06/2015 - 14:16

Leah, I fully agree that teachers cannot lead the necessary reform to education. As your say, if they were positioned to do so, it would already be happening. However, it's interesting that you point to circumstances under which many of the changes we all want to see implemented are beginning. The interesting element is that all the examples you cite are of people who have found ways of stepping outside the restrictions of operating as a professional, bound by contractual obligations. I ask myself if I were still in headship, would I 'boldly go' and lead the school in a direction I knew to be more wholesome and effective but diametrically opposed to that decreed by law. I like to think I would, but I understand that there are many professionals who cannot act thus and who feel their only choice is to walk away.

Again, you are right to say, "Those who what to scratch the teaching-itch can do this in a million other ways than becoming a school teacher." and to recognise what would result if they chose to do so in significant numbers. There is a powerful conviction among most professionals that the public system of education, even with its faults, offers the best hope of offering a just and effective learning experience, free and available to all. This is why the solution must surely be to first repair the wounds that have been inflicted on the service, especially over the last three decades, by successive governments.

I believe that there are powerful changes taking place across the education landscape with the advent of developments like the bolgosphere. This all adds to the maturation and professional development of teachers/educators. How I wish there had been such resources available when I began my career, over 45 years ago!

BUT I have to say, until the legislation is changed to match this new landscape, therefore allowing professionals to develop their vast array of skills and their pedagogical prowess, our children will be subject to the post-code lottery that masquerades as choice in education. ALL children deserve only the best out of their school years. There can, however, be no room for education quick fixes, structural re-alignments and 'spiffing ideas' from 'well-meaning' career politicians. Without a robust public education service, this is what we will continue to experience.

Leah K Stewart's picture
Sat, 06/06/2015 - 15:01

All I wish for is a public education service that knows the difference between people being responsible, and taking responsibility away from people. I don't know much about legislation except that legislation usually catches up... and in this case legislation would catch up to calls from teachers who are connected, informed and with plans that they have proven on smaller scales but can't implement in school-time because of legislation. For legislation to budge it first needs to be in the way of the majority. If individuals feel alone in being limited by legislation they'll leave silently and try their best outside the system... which is where we are at right now.

John Mountford's picture
Sat, 06/06/2015 - 16:42

Leah, your point about the majority view influencing the direction of legislation is important. I wonder how close we are to a large enough majority to make this happen?

I've just picked up the following link from Nancy Bailey in response to my asking what it is like in the US in the fight there against Charter schools. It is amazing how much of this can be understood in the context of what is happening here. Let me know what you think. The comments offer a professional perspective that I think you will appreciate in that they look to the unions to stand behind teachers who decide to do it differently.


Roger Titcombe's picture
Mon, 08/06/2015 - 08:09

But Leah surely we need to be focussed onto the needs of children who (hopefully) attend their local schools. Those frustrated teachers that choose to 'try their best outside the system' will be out of reach to ordinary children. And this leaves aside the question as to whether this is or is not a good thing.

Leah K Stewart's picture
Mon, 08/06/2015 - 11:33

Hi Roger. When I'm talking about qualified teachers leaving school to teach their own way, and of 'would be' teachers never even going through our formal teacher training but finding other ways (of the many available ways) to teach, I'm not trying to say what I hope will happen, or what I think would be good... I'm just expressing what I see, now. This is what I'm seeing.

Of course I'm aware that I am looking for this because of my own confusion over schooling, and maybe I'm looking for examples like these because I didn't understand why a whole bunch of my teachers even bothered taking time from my friends and I, and I just want to know other option exist for them.

'Setting up shop' no longer means risking the house so people with little are able to do this now, and they're learning quickly. I could also be avoiding seeing these examples of teachers leaving or never entering schooling, in which case I'd naturally be angry at people who point to this because, if you ask me if I think this is a good thing? No, I don't think this is a good thing. I wish this wasn't happening. I wish demoralized teachers didn't feel trapped into taking students time and I wish those who are less demoralized didn't feel the need to leave school to live and work in their own way, reducing free access for ordinary children to gain from their services.

This is a crappy situation, no doubts, but I'm never going to ask a teacher to stay in school if they don't want to be there. This whole thing is far from ideal but bending peoples arms to patch it up is a road I hope we never go down.

Just quickly on your qualified doctors vs the rest of the healing community analogy: when I suddenly fell unconscious a few weeks ago a qualified official medical person came and looked after me correctly and gave me the right drugs to stop the vomiting on the way to the hospital for standard checks. Doctors help the vulnerable, the unconscious and those who need the right things done quickly to preserve life. They are heros and I couldn't be more grateful for their quick professional actions.

But, the one time I've taken myself to a qualified therapist she suggested I see a qualified doctor for anxiety pills to make me normal again, so I could complete my degree. I was concious in this instance and so I had a choice to accept this or not. I chose not to take the drugs, completed the degree, turned my back on what I thought the world expected of me (a 1st class hons prize winning science grad) and got a local job in sales to have time to read, learn and reflect on life and what I care about, and that was all I needed.

I've personally never been to any of the 'healer'-types you've listed, but I know people who do see them, and pay money for it, and they love it. I wouldn't deny their experience, if they believe in it. We have laws to stop people forcing money from others. We also have laws against thieves who don't provide the service they promise the person who paid. I'm personally not a fan of comparing schooling to hospitals dealing with 'unconscious' students who need teachers administering 'standard treatments' like doctors fixing a failing body. Schooling can be better than this because student's and teachers are not unconscious, and it's best for student welfare (in my personal experience) if they don't consider their education an emergency to prevent failure.

John: thanks for your link and talk about the unions. I'll be a cheer leader for your efforts in this but I'm wholly unqualified to approach unions myself as I don't know enough about them. We can all only do what we know. Good luck and keep me in the loop :D

Roger Titcombe's picture
Sun, 07/06/2015 - 17:20

Leah -

"Those who what to scratch the teaching-itch can do this in a million other ways than becoming a school teacher."

It is also true that those who want to scratch the, ' curing people's illnesses' itch (think faith healers, excorcists, homeopaths, crystal danglers, etc) can do this in a thousand ways other by going through medical training and becoming a doctor.

Are you really so sure that this is a good thing?

Janet Downs's picture
Mon, 08/06/2015 - 07:44

John - what is encouraging about the situation described in the link you gave is that voices opposing education 'reform' of the type being proposed in England (ie more testing, allowing unqualified teachers) are growing louder.

One such voice is the Badass Teachers Association which 'was created to give voice to every teacher who refuses to be blamed for the failure of our society to erase poverty and inequality through education. BAT members refuse to accept assessments, tests and evaluations created and imposed by corporate driven entities that have contempt for authentic teaching and learning.'

Its goals are:

1 'to reduce or eliminate the use of high stakes testing'.
2 'Increase teacher autonomy in the classroom and work'.
3 'Include teacher and family voices in legislative decision-making processes that affect students.'

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