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Back to the Future – Education in the UK

Written By: - Date published: 4:20 pm, July 8th, 2010 - 16 comments
Categories: education, International, uk politics - Tags: ,

God knows what the National Standards are designed to do – it can’t be to lift achievement. Even the Minister says that is not the case. It can’t be to identify those behind – schools already do that. Anyway there is no money or extra resources to ‘fix’ them.

Maybe there is a bigger plan – like following the UK who introduced McDonalds like prescriptive teaching even for under fives. In the UK, Labour’s 69 must-haves for four year olds has lead to a tick box culture and a curriculum that

…does not stretch higher achievers and restricts parental choice as to how they educate their children.

…children must hit 69 targets before they start full-time education.

This includes counting up to 10, reciting the alphabet, writing their own name and simple words and forming sentences using basic punctuation.

This is frightening and amazing as many of our children don’t even bring these skills to school as five year olds (no wonder they won’t meet the National Standard).

But there is some good news according to the biggest review of primary schools for 40 years, and after the disaster that has been England’s National Standards system, children should start formal education at the age of six. Now what was that about being at Green Reading Level by the end of Year One Mrs Tolley?

There was a time when NZ were world leaders in Education. Amazingly for the spend we still feature near the top of the OECD. Do we really have to subject everyone to the balls up that is Education in the UK?

16 comments on “Back to the Future – Education in the UK ”

  1. toad 1

    There was a time when NZ were world leaders in Education.

    Yep, I think that time ended shortly after Merv Wellington (who was probably the only Minister ever who could have a claim to being thicker than Tolley) became the Minister of Education in 1978.

    That was when the Tories realised that having an educated working class was detrimental to their born-to-rule ideology because it threatened to give working class people a political analysis and threatened to create wage demands from working people beyond what the Tories’ captains of capital could tolerate.

    So they had to dumb the working class kids down. And it has happened ever since, under both National and Labour. Russell Marshall was dumped as Labour’s Education Minister after the 1987 election because he was a real socialist who tried to stop the trend and ensure quality education wasn’t just the preserve of the kids of the wealthy.

  2. ianmac 2

    I think that in England the starting age has always been 6 but their preschool system covers the age up to 6.
    In NZ the kids must start at 6 too but schools allow kids to start at 5.
    I do know a doctor who did not write anything as a 5 to 9 year old but got cracking in due course. Many kids start at different ages, plateau at different times and surge at different times. Be great if they were all the same. Be easy to teach! But they are not.

    • Carol 2.1

      I think that in England the starting age has always been 6 but their preschool system covers the age up to 6.

      Um, no. The complusory age is 5, or the beginning of the term after the 5th birthday. But they often get in before they are 5. I’ve taught in primary schools in London. They do have a strong pre-school system, with “nurseries” for 3-5year olds incorporated into many primary schools. It’s seen as a way of easing children into the school system, so most parents want their children to get into the nurseries.

  3. ianmac 3

    Sorry Carol you are right. 5 for the Brits.
    I rather think that in NZ 5 is too young but like the post “they” are so keen to rush childhood. All that play and fun and learning at a good individual pace, and socialising seems to be sacrified in the name of what?

    • Carol 3.1

      Yes, I tend to agree on rushing things from too early an age. But early childhood education, when I was working with that age, was focussed a lot on the kind of play experiences and practicial activities that would promote the desired learning. It is important to monitor children’s progress, and pick up as early as possible when there is a problem. But I thought the current curriculum was already doing that.

      It is important that children are taught some basic skills. But, as you say, ianmac, play and fun are important elements of learning. When I began teaching young children, way back, that was considered to be a very important element of learning. If children aren’t enjoying it, if they feel too pressured, if they aren’t motivated, focussing on teaching skills to jump some hurdles is not going to be that successful.

      I think there may be some elements of wanting to control teachers, and to have them teaching to a narrow range of skills in order to keep the masses under control and to produce a docile workforce.

      But, mostly I think the new right just uses a business model for education. They have the same short-term focus that they have for the economy. They want instant measurable outcomes. But real learning often takes place over a long period. Seeds that are sown early on, may not “flower” until a much later time. Maybe this happens after a range of experiences, when you start to join up the dots, and suddenly something clicks.

      But, IMO the best thing you can do for children is to show them that learning can be fun and satisying. It means placing the learning of skills in an enoyable context. You probably know if you’re motivated, and if you know that you can use the skills for something REALLY satisfying/fun, you’ll stick at learning boring and/or difficult skills.

      • Fabregas4 3.1.1

        Carol, are you available to be the next Minister of Education?

        I agree with you about the business model for education, and they are trying to dumb teaching down. All this stuff about learning intentions etc is all very well but it means that teachers become robots. The job becomes less of the art that it is and more of a task or series of tasks. Team Solutions have been brainwashed into little schematics and rubrics which are reasonable guides for teachers but sadly miss the crucial stuff – the interaction between teacher and student, the relationship, the mutual understanding, the delight in learning and teaching.

        Irony is too that in their ‘evidence based’ world of ‘Best Synthesis’ little or no recognition is given to these important elements of teaching.

  4. Steiner and Finland use an age of 7 and both systems produce a really good result. We should not have huge expectations of our young at such an early age.

  5. This is one of the biggest problems with Nationals Standards. That judging begins after just one year at school. Failed at Six! A lot of work on brain development suggests that children are not programmed to read until they reach 7. Of course many do – rather successfully – but in my experience many, especially boys, need this developmental time.

    Maybe if we saw education as more a fundamental right and part of life as opposed to developing the skills for the workplace we could see sense and let the kids be kids – there is plenty of time and more important things than contributing to the economy.

  6. prism 6

    National Standards are a program by the Minister that gives her kudos amongst her peers in govt as doing something large, which forces change and causes her profile to be recognised by the public. It doesn’t matter that it won’t fix anything, or that she doesn’t know, and is not interested in learning about, the sort of education that will help young people through an increasingly complex and fast-changing society. It’s chewing up already limited govt finances, but no matter, it’s just a hat peg to hang Tolley’s tiara on.

  7. ianmac 7

    In my sisters class she had a 7 year old girl enter after having been at a Steiner School (I think) and she loved books but wasn’t actually reading. About 3 months later she had painlessly caught up to her class mates.
    A visting Educationalist who came to NZ to find out abot Reading Recovery, remarked that perhaps you would not need Reading Recovery at 6 if you didn’t start reading so soon..

    • Fabregas4 7.1

      How mental that Reading Recovery happens before the brain develops enough for many kids to read.

      • ianmac 7.1.1

        Specially boys. The greatest pity is not so much that these kids are slow to learn to read, its the huge sense of failure that blights their future prospects!

  8. Jum 8

    Don’t worry; as long as they can read the instructions on the machinery…

  9. Jum 9

    Had to put this in for the teachers in NZ

    Captcha: ‘DEDICATED’!

  10. Maggie 10

    In one corner you have Anne Tolley whose only direct involvement in education was the three years she spent in Primer Two. In the other, most of our primary teachers and principals who, collectively, must have thousands of years experience standing up in front of classes.

    My bet is Key will get spooked and the National Standrads will be put on hold. Tolley will be quietly shunted into a new position, perhaps Deputy Minister of Total Idiocy under Gerry Brownlie.

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