Conservative victory means England’s school system will look like few others in the world

Chris Husbands  

No-one foresaw the scale of the Conservative victory – it exceeded even the limits of the party’s own expectations. Now, a majority Conservative government comes to power – unexpectedly and with sufficient lead over a divided and, for Labour and the Liberal Democrats, demoralised opposition. What will this newly confident government mean for education in general and schools in particular?

The Conservative education manifesto was long on aspiration. It promised that England would lead the world in mathematics and science; that there would be a place in a ‘good’ primary school for every child; that every ‘failing’ or coasting school would be turned into an academy to drive up standards; that universities would remain ‘world-leading’; and that further education would ‘improve’. But translating these – rightly aspirational – goals into policies will bring some difficult challenges. Read more ›

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Posted in Education policy, Further higher and lifelong education, Schools

Why should we be worried about profit-making in schools?

Stephen J Ball  

This post originally appeared on the BERA blog

On September 26th 2014 Secretary of State Nicky Morgan told The Financial Times: “I don’t think that there is a place for the profit element in education”. Ms Morgan seems not to have noticed that for-profit activity already plays a huge role in public education in England.

Both the New Labour and Coalition governments have contributed to a legal and administrative infrastructure which enables profit making. There has been a proliferation of new opportunities for profit-making as schools, colleges, universities, local authorities and central government award service contracts or buy services from private providers – services that in many cases were previously provided by local authorities or the need for which has been created by policy changes. Most supply teachers are now employed by private agencies. Most school examinations and tests are run by Read more ›

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Posted in Education policy, Research matters

Election manifestos: a multi-coloured swap shop?

Chris Husbands 

Blue, red, yellow, green, purple: they are bright colours. There is a reason why political parties choose them – to stand out, to be unmistakable. So too, do the election manifestos provide us with the parties’ views of education in a sort of heightened sense – the world of Mary Poppins after Mary and the Banks children jump into the pavement.

As one might expect, the Conservatives offer more of the same: academies, free schools and university technical colleges (all, we hope, better directed to areas in need of places), more focus on literacy and numeracy standards, more EBacc, more parachuting in of new school leadership.

The Conservatives have appropriated the Pupil Premium policy that the Lib Dems claim as their own, and promise more of that. Read more ›

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Posted in Education policy

Muslim education: should teachers be storm troopers or facilitators of debate and intercultural understanding?

Farah Ahmed

Delegates to this year’s NUT conference raised concerns about the new requirement for teachers to ‘counter extremism’ and ‘actively promote British Values’. This policy was characterised as requiring teachers to act as ‘storm troopers’ – expected to spy on young people and report them to the authorities, or face emergency inspections from Ofsted if schools have failed to ‘safeguard’ pupils from extremist influences. The Independent reports one case where “A female pupil asked her teacher whether she should go on a demonstration to protest about the Israeli bombing of Gaza. Under the Prevent guidelines to combat extremism, her teacher feared he should have reported her to the police.”

Unsurprisingly, many teachers report that this is stifling debate in schools and that children and young people are afraid to express opinions. This is certainly true in my experience as a Muslim educator. Increasingly, I hear young people talking about Read more ›

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Posted in Education policy, Teaching

Re-sitting the SATs: would this narrow the gap or just measure it?

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Val Hindmarsh and Helen Morris

If the Conservatives form the next government, Nicky Morgan proposes to make 11-year-olds who don’t reach the expected standard in the Key Stage 2 SATs re-sit the tests in Year 7 in a bid for 100% success. The Conservative manifesto pledge says 100,000 students would be affected.

This ignores the age-old adage that measuring the goose doesn’t fatten it. While no one would wish to argue with the Tory leadership’s wish for every child to get ‘the best start in life’, simply following a regime of test and re-test offers no guarantee of increased attainment. In fact it may turn out to be harmful to young students already under pressure from having spent the last Read more ›

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Posted in curriculum & assessment, Special educational needs and psychology
This blog is written by academics at the UCL Institute of Education.

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