Winter's Final Blast!
A week of extremes, Monday wintry again and snow. Thursday (today) and we have torrential rain, flooding in places and 10C temperatures. Daily commute for the last few weeks to Harlow over and done with. an interesting experience from an educational point of view if not from the other side of the car windscreen as I travelled down a major M-way.
Academies are increasingly at the fore front of UK education. They are the natural extension of Locally Managed Schools (LMS) and Grant Maintained Schools that were introduced as part of the 1988 Education Act. This apparently formed the basis of the American Act of 2001 "No Child Left Behind". The chief legacy of the English Act has been to remove schools as Academies from the control of the Local Authorities to a centralised funding model. In other words the Department of Education now sets the funding level directly and stipulates what has to be taught.
In the wake of the launch of the new curriculum (as mentioned in last weeks blog) a period of change has been heralded again. The National Curriculum for England and Wales was again a product of the 1988 Education Act. Over the period since 1988 the complexity of the curriculum and the documentation has increased and decreased depending on the political wind blowing at the time.
Teachers have had to wade through documentation and teaching resources with names such as National Frameworks and guidelines. In the pursuit of standardisation that can be measured we have expended a lot of time and effort in the UK that other more "successful" OECD countries involved in PISA test have not. We do talk a lot about the UK's ability to compete in a global market based upon these tests.
In the 25 years since the introduction of the National Curriculum is it possible for us to have one defining document that states what we need to teach? More importantly is it possible for us to come up with a measure of success that is understood with clarity in terms of Ofsted inspections? Human cognitive processes have not evolved radically in 25 years. The systems we are using to teach this generation compared to the last 25 years ago have changed.
We could argue that the systems being used today are at fault when we become whimsical about a past educational success. The comparisons being made are not like for like. In 1988 it was only just coming into force that pupils had to stay until after their the 16+ exams (even this was muted as a title of that exam before GCSE emerged from the GCE and CSE qualifications). Today we are talking again of pupils moving on from secondary school based education to UTC (University Technical Colleges) at the age of 14. "School leaving age" or compulsory education and training is gradually rising to 18 in the next two years. Having a National Curriculum to age 14 makes sense. What happens after is still controversial in that GCSEs are being "reformed". Whether this will lead to improvement in competence as opposed to league table positions is the big question. We need to have more of a pass or fail test of competence in key skills such as Maths and English for the majority of pupils. The academic requirements of A, B grades for college entry are a different arguement possibly from a certification of competence in skills that can be used in the workplace. Should we even be considering that a measure at age 16 should dictate life pathways?
As you have probably gathered from this blog I am having difficulty understanding which way the UK Education is going. The key question is if the current stirring of the educational cauldron will achieve the goal of providing UK's (or those in England and Wales) young adults and therefore future decision makers with the skills to make informed choices? Or are we again becoming embroiled with how complex can we make the dream machine? Or do we need to go back and sit under a tree and just listen and converse? Did it work for the Ancient Greeks? We do not know as they were not PISA tested against other countries, but we do know that their legacy of literature is still used. Will we say that about the 1988 Education Act in a similar vein of contemplation?