Archive for the ‘Educational Excellence’ Category

Educational Excellence

mardi, janvier 11th, 2011

It seems that although only some 7% of all secondary school pupils in the UK are privately educated and around 14% sitting A-level examinations are from private/independent schools, these young people comprise 25% of all university entrants and over 40% for Oxford and Cambridge universities. Nicola Dandridge, Chief Executive of Universities UK, considers this more the result of the lower A-level attainment performance of state school pupils rather than accepting the position adopted by Simon Hughes, the Liberal Democrat deputy leader and also now the Coalition government advisor on access to higher education. Mr Hughes sees the universities as having failed to take more students from disadvantaged backgrounds and has suggested universities should aim to limit their privately-educated intake to the same (i.e. 7 or 14%) proportion of all (private plus state), secondary school pupils.
While still in opposition, the Conservatives pledged to transform these underperforming state schools through the creation of Free Schools, based on experience from such reforms in Sweden and the US. Now in Coalition government, it becomes necessary to bring their Liberal Democrat partners within a common Free School policy drive but which takes time. Considering the strong and seemingly inflexible union opposition already lined up against the practical implementation of the Free Schools policy, and the key importance to the UK of excellence in education for its young people, the challenge for David Cameron might then be seen by some as having a certain resonance with the situation Mrs Thatcher faced with the National Union of Miners. Those who disagree with this policy of Michael Gove, the Education Secretary, include the National Union of Teachers (NUT), another teaching union the NASUWT and the Anti-Academies Alliance (AAA), backed by others such as the RMT transport union and its general secretary Bob Crow, together with the Fire Brigades Union and the GMB.
Already in a letter to the Times last Sunday, Christine Blower, General Secretary of the NUT, is citing the decline in educational standards in Sweden and quoting Bertil Ostberg, the Swedish Education Minister, as having declared that their free schools (three-quarters of which are run by profit-making companies) had been a failure and warning the British government not to introduce them. Ms Blower also says that the NUT is not complacent about standards in schools but suggests a better example to follow in improving education would be Finland, top of all international educational comparison tables and with a truly comprehensive system.
It is good to learn that Michael Gove is already responding to the challenge and planning a high-profile promotion of Free Schools around the Country, to accelerate progress and counter the opposition of unions and hostile councils on the ground. In the meantime, Alasdair Smith, National Secretary of the AAA, accuses Labour of complacency, considering the scale of what he sees happening. There again, it was in the year 2000 that David Blunkett for Labour first announced the creation of City Academies, similar to Free Schools in being outside local council control and also campaigned against by the educational establishment. Tony Blair, Labour Prime Minister at the time, wanted these Academies to replace the (his) quote – Bog Standard – unquote Comprehensive Schools, which have resulted from nearly 50 years of decline in educational excellence in the UK.