Monday, 10 June 2013

Education: The battle of the Michaels about control, curriculum and creativity

Michael Gove's ideas on education and schooling have been taken on by two other Michaels this weekend. Michael Rosen's You Tube interview goes to the heart of the issues around competition and curriculum while Scottish Education Secretary, Michael Russel, demonstrates the dialogue with teachers that is entirely missing in England. LINK

SCOTLAND'S Education Secretary Michael Russell  has accused his Westminster counterpart of running a school system in England so centralised that it rivals the control of teachers during the Cultural Revolution in China.
Scottish Education Secretary Michael Russell addressing the AGM of the EIS teaching union in Perth yesterday Photograph: Alan Richardson
Russell's comments, during a speech to the annual general meeting of the Educational Institute of Scotland (EIS) teaching union, follow an attack by Westminster Education Secretary Michael Gove on the Scottish school system.

Gove, who was schooled in Scotland, accused the new Curriculum for Excellence (CfE) reforms of lacking rigour and urged Russell to remove the "Nationalist blinkers", and learn from what he described as an international trend in education towards more testing.

Describing the attack as a "badge of honour", Russell said criticising the CfE was tantamount to attacking everybody in Scottish education who had been working so hard to deliver it over the past decade.
"His definition of the word 'rigour' is essentially systematised rote learning in which you politically decide the content of the curriculum and apply what one might describe as 19th-century teaching methods to it. That is not where we are going in Scotland and it doesn't work," he said.

"A lot of his approach is based on a misunderstanding and he doesn't even know how the Scottish system works. It has changed quite a lot since he was in Aberdeen."

Russell said the approach to CfE in Scotland was collaborative, which he contrasted with the top-down model in England where there has been continual conflict with teaching unions.

"Conflict doesn't work and we know that too clearly from looking south of the Border. Two weeks ago my counterpart condemned the English teaching unions as Marxist because they opposed his education reforms, but I fear even the most ideologically driven education system in the world – that is probably in the Cultural Revolution in China – involved less prescription."

The row with Gove came as Russell became the first education minister to address the EIS annual general meeting for 167 years.

This week, EIS delegates backed strike action before the end of the year to protest over their growing workload associated with the roll-out of CfE, and Russell was attacked in a number of speeches.
However, he was greeted with respectful applause when he stood up to deliver his landmark speech and only a small minority of members briefly heckled him on the issue of workload, with one shouting "rubbish" when he told them support materials were in schools.

Russell, who said later that he did not think strikes were helpful, went on to promise that "needless red tape" would be stripped from teachers' workload.

He also told the meeting in Perth that the Scottish Government would work closely with the EIS and other key players as part of a new group to identify the key issues and come up with ways to reduce "needless workload and bureaucracy".

"My ambition and the ambition of the Scottish Government is to allow teachers the flexibility to plan and deliver high-quality learning and teaching," he said.

"The Curriculum for Excellence is about freeing up teachers to deliver the best-quality education to help young people succeed in the global workplace and assisting in the development of skills. It is not about burdensome paperwork."

EIS general secretary Larry Flanagan welcomed the commitment, saying: "Much of what he had to say was well received by teachers and lecturers in the hall and we welcome his comments on bureaucracy and pension negotiations.

"Overall, although delegates clearly did not agree with everything that the Cabinet Secretary had to say, it is positive that he was willing to speak to teachers and lecturers directly and also to listen to their concerns about education in Scotland."

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