It seems that pretty much on a weekly basis another report is issued which in some way divides the educational sector, divides the country or vilifies some young people. It can be that those reports are politically motivated and are posted as almost (pseudo) academic studies, by which think tanks pursue a particular political agenda. That agenda may not be obvious but some digging can often reveal that there is much more to the group, body or pseudo academic study than first meets the eye. We might get right-wing leaning disruptors or left-wing agitators endeavouring to push their very narrow political positioning through a ‘report’. The media may well then pick up this paper and report, often without challenge, the content as being significant, meaningful and unchallengeable.
It is relatively easy for those who work in education to become extremely frustrated with how interested parties project onto, and comment about, education today. I guess it’s ever been thus, but with social media and 24 hour rolling news there may well be a great appetite for seemingly significant stories which are pitched, commented upon and then forgotten. The residual impact, the debris, is then often left for schools, colleges and the wider communities to pick up.
This week it has been the turn of the Education Select committee. This group of politicians, chaired by Conservative MP Robert Halfon, have published what they might suggest is a definitive document on why white working-class children do so badly in schools. I could go on and on about how divisive, unnecessary, inaccurate and irresponsible this was; not only the headline content of the report but the shoddy media interrogation of that report. However, the profession, schools and college do have friends. Thank you Michael Rosen.
‘Important principles when looking at people who ‘fail’ at school:
1. Blame lefty teachers.
2. Blame families.
3. Blame kids.
4. Pretend the system is fair.
5. Never admit that one third fail because you have designed the system that way as if one third of the world are failures.
6. Chop up the ‘failures’ into categories that you invent (like ‘white working class’) so that the ‘failures’ can argue amongst themselves and leave the system intact.
7. Rely on the media to not question any of this.’
And also this week, we’ve had a ‘Thank a Teacher Day’. That really did make an enormous difference to all of our lives – didn’t it? Sorry, at the risk of being overly cynical… it really is a load of codswallop. There are many, many children and parents who will take the opportunity, day in and day out, to thank their teachers for what they do, what they offer and the contribution they make. But, this cheesy American import will not do. The Secretary of State for Education sent out a message thanking teachers on behalf of children and their parents; “your welcome! – thank you very much”. However, it does not and cannot replace an honest and fair look at the educational system we’ve got at this time.
The Education Select Committee report and the Thank a Teacher day ‘ events’ might give the impression that we, within this country, really do not value the state educational system. I really do hope that is way off the mark and that there is a genuine belief that at the heart of our community education is a force for good, can truly make a difference to children’s lives and that all who work in schools and colleges, whatever their role, are valuable and valued.
‘Education is the most powerful weapon which you can use to change the world’. Nelson Mandela
We know that our community looks to us all for support, guidance and a genuinely decent educational provision for their children and young people. We thank them for that and we thank them for their continued support. We stand together, within the schools, college, and Trust as a force for good within this community. We will not be drawn into distracting discussions about particular cohorts. We will not provide the fuel to vilify. We’ll just do the very best we can for our children, young people and the wider community.