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Education Is Changing 2013-2015

Overview

In recent years secretary for education Michael Gove has made some drastic changes to the way the educational sector is run within England. He has said that State school should operate 10-hour days to boost standards so they are indistinguishable from private schools; he has also said that children should sit common entrance exams at the age of 13 to make sure that they are “on track for later success”.

This begs the question how on earth someone like Michael Gove thinks he is qualified enough to decide what makes someone successful or not. Although his early education took place in a normal comprehensive school he has spent most of his life behind the white walls of an Oxbridge education, without any knowledge of what children do and do not like.

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I want British schools to be the best in the world

—Michael Gove


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MATHS & SCIENCE Gove was quoted saying that he wanted the countries schools to be ‘the best in the world’ which sounds reasonable, after all what kind of country wouldn’t want to have the very best education for its youth.

Children in England will be required to cover subjects up to two years earlier than their peers in top-performing nations. Gove has recently used international comparisons to justify bringing forward topics such as fractions and decimals in math’s, despite how some academics are advising him that cramming children with complex concepts too soon will not achieve what he wants and raise standards. The new curriculum will be introduced to primary education this year with the model being compared with the requirements in top European performer Finland and high-ranking Singapore. Despite how both countries introduce their children to levels of math’s and science one to two years later than here in England; which begs the question, why is the government trying to compete at the same level by attempting something that is proven not to work?

Photo of Robin Alexander, the man who headed the most comprehensive inquiry into primary education for at least four decades

There has been speculation that due to the continuation of conservative policy being implemented within British schools that a two tier system would be created with math’s and English being favored at the expense of arts and humanities. Robin Alexander, the man who headed the most comprehensive inquiry into primary education for at least four decades has dismissed the government’s new national curriculum as “Neo Victorian” and “educationally inappropriate” for the 21st Century.


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Obviously you could argue I may be slightly biased here seeing as I personally have an educational background that consists almost entirely of subjects within the humanities due to how I had almost no ability within maths and science. However this also takes us back to a question I raised earlier, What is success? I have managed to enrich my life with culture as well as creativity and have managed to obtain, 13 GCSE’s, 4 AS and 2 A Levels, along with a Foundation diploma in art and design and a BA honors degree in graphic design.

Teacher and pupils at a school within Singapore.

Now if I was to list this off to Mr. Gove without giving details into what courses I took he would no doubt call it a triumph towards British education, however as soon as I mention that almost all of my subjects were related to a creative field I also have few doubts he would be quick to dismiss them as perhaps not pointless but definitely not as relevant as other subjects. However because I was allowed and had the option to follow a path I enjoyed without being made to study something I had no real interest in, I would like to think I have succeeded inside and outside of the classroom. I have always found success to be unique and individual to each person and nobody has the right to say you’re not successful if you feel that you are. It’s all a matter of opinion. What I have personally taken away from this is that within our primary education, a two tier system will effectively be implemented putting an elevated standing on Maths, English and Science or the three R’s while the arts and humanities will be left in the shadows. Alongside this further testing will be brought in alongside a potential 8-10 hour school day while children are made to learn complex mathematical and scientific terms far sooner than the top educational establishments around the world that the government is so set to compete with.

These countries do not achieve high standards by cramming young children. This is the Pied Pier curriculum: it abolishes childhood. — Prof Terry Wrigley, Nottingham University

In summary eductation will involve a lot more work, a lot less interactive, hands on learning and diversity within certain subjects, along with children potentially having to endure longer school days and this is all happening because one man thinks he knows what is best for the children within England.

Children Lining up at a British Grammer school in Coventry.

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ALL HEAD & NO HEART There have been new measures proposed for secondary education as well. We are quickly adapting to an educational system that could potentially create children that have a vast amount of knowledge but no passion, in other words someone who is all head and no heart.

There have also been numerous claims that Mr Gove is attempting to surround himself with ‘Yes men’ and tory sympathisers after a number of MP’s were not asked to return to assist with education due to their different mindset. I would argue that questions do need to be raised when you have the secretary of education sacking people for disagreeing with his policies. This almost feels like a child who doesn’t get his own way. In January, MPs warned he was “trying to do too much too quickly”. Although the education secretary gave a little ground to his critics, plans for a new regime at both A-level and GCSE, to start in 2015 with the first exams in 2017, stayed firmly in place. GCSE would have a new grading structure based on numbers rather than letters. There would also be fewer re-sits, fewer tiered papers for pupils of different abilities and no more “bite-sized modules”. In other words, traditional written exams, externally marked outside of the establishments, were back, as though the past 50 years in English schools had never happened. One of Gove’s few concessions were to permit that school-based assessment would still be allowed, though “kept to a minimum”. This is again something have a number of reservations about. While I completely believe in allowing for the supposed ‘50 percent’ of the forgotten youth within England to be allowed to have and achieve aspirations for the future, I am also aware that by separating people out into two drastically different academic routes the social divide it could potentially unleash would be massive and could create a two tier system of people. The technically skilled, the majority of whom will be trained through internships or placement schemes, and the academically educated. This is perhaps not the correct terminology but you can imagine the scenario and certainly gives a clear idea what is being portrayed. Critics have argued that the policy will benefit only middle class parents with the time to set up free schools and that they will divert money away from existing schools. Supporters of free schools say that they will benefit children from all backgrounds.

Pupils from a British secondary school sitting their GCSE exams


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Secretary for Education, Michael Gove

Some union leaders will have a go whoever the education secretary is – if the Arch Angel Gabriel were the education secretary, they would probably say his raiment is to shiny! — Michael Gove

Year 9 SAT exams before they were removed by the Labour Government. Michael Gove has spoken about reintroducing these back into secondadary schools

Birdeye view of Oxford university, the establishment Michael Gove attended for university


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Mossbourne community academy situated in London, established in 2004.


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In 2010, Peter Wilby, writing in The Guardian, predicted that free schools would be run by private companies rather than parents, teachers or voluntary groups. A free school is a school in England funded by taxpayers, which is free to attend, but which is not controlled by a local authority. Meaning they have a lot more freedom within the confines of the school regulation. Free schools were introduced by Labour towards the end of their final term in office and then continued to be introduced by the Conservative-Liberal Democrat coalition following the 2010 general election. This allowed it to be possible for parents, teachers, charities and businesses to set up their own schools. Free schools are an extension of the existing Academies Programme. The Department for Education says that free schools have been popular with parents. Figures released in 2013 showed that 90% of free schools were over-subscribed with an average of three pupils competing for each place. Critics pointed out that more than half of free schools opening in 2012 opened with 60% or less of the student numbers predicted by the impact assessment documents of each institution, leaving more than 10% spare places. Depending on what view you take of the free school and academy initiative you have to find it amusing that a system that Gove has spent the majority of his time in office defending appears to be failing. However the blame for this particular fall is not entirely on Gove himself. It was Labour who originally brought in the idea and began to put it into practise very shortly before being voted out of office. Again confirming that it is the failure of both governments within education that have led us to this point. Essentially some 40 per cent of secondary schools in England are now academies funded by private conpanies and the educational system, as we know it, faces the reality of being completely privatised within three years. This is a vision inspired by a group of individuals all from the same educational background, with the same mind set, who have almost zero idea what it is like to grow up and teach within a normal state comprehensive school. This is something I feel everyone should be aware of before any further policy is put into place, do we really want the fate of England’s education to be decided by someone who clearly is clueless about what the word means.


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RAINBOWS & BLOOD The changes within university education are not as direct however it is the proposed changes that have been made to A-levels, teacher training and other areas that have been introduced have cause a signifciant backlash.

Student fees were the obvious first drastic change to be made almost instantly after the Con-Dem coalition took office, met with furious protest from both student and teaching staff alike. During the various changes being made teachers and teacher training has also taken significant damage from the policies being implemented. Welcome trends for student teachers to spend more time in schools has massively accelerated with the introduction of the coalition’s School Direct scheme. Prior to this, most student numbers were allocated to universities, though student teachers spent almost two-thirds of their time in schools. Under this new arrangement, training places are allocated direct to schools, and schools take charge of the recruitment process.

Three problems are emerging. There is no obligation on schools to recruit the number of new places they have been allocated by the goverment. Although they should play a key role in training teachers, it is not their core business and so, unlike universities, they cannot be penalised if they under-recruit. It looks as though many of them will do just that. An image from the latest strikes, 2014, held by the teachers union NASUWT in London. Members are currently protesting a series of policies that will affect their pay, work enviroment and other aspects to their jobs.

School Direct places are not evenly allocated, either geographically or by subject, leaving some regions without access to this teacher-training route. University teacher-training provision is being destabilised. As their numbers are cut, with no information about future allocations, departments’ ability to plan strategically is undermined. Even if universities are working with School Direct providers, they need more of a guarantee than can be offered. As it becomes uneconomic to retain experienced staff without greater certainty that there will be a job for them to do, universities are considering whether they can afford to continue offering teacher training. Bath University is already consulting on closure of its “outstanding” PGCE course and this is a trend that could grow.


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According to Dominic Cummings a large majority of people shouldn’t even attempt to apply or go to university as it simply would be a waste of their time and waste of the tax payers time. This is almost like giving a giant kick in the teeth to anyone who has ambitions that strive beyond taking a work placement and almost reveals the pretentious and elitist attitude within the conservative party. Last week Labour’s Shadow Education Secretary Tristram Hunt said Mr Gove’s free schools programme had become an “out of control ideological experiment”. Mike Griffiths, head of Northampton School for Boys and former president of the Association of School and College Leaders, went on to say that the Government’s proposals were “a solution in search of a problem”. Meanwhile, his association, ASCL, expressed “anger and frustration” over the Government’s decision to rule that only pupils’ first attempt at a GCSE exam could count towards league table rankings. A scene from the ttudent protests over the rise in tuition fees that occured shortly after the formation of the Con-Dem coalition in 2010.

“We need big changes to schools, universities and other institutions to help us limit harm done by those who pursue dreams of military glory, ‘that attractive rainbow that rises in showers of blood.” - Dominic Cummings

So now we’ve addressed what is happening with education, you have to decide whether you agree with it. You could argue I have given a biased account as throughout I have shown my own opinion. However policy doesn’t lie. These measures are being implemented now and it’s now up to you to decide for yourself or for your children. Is this what I want to be a part of, what I want to support and if it isn’t.... Photo of Dominic Cummings, Educational advisor and seen as “the man behind Michael Gove” by many.


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