Saturday 14 December 2013

Green Euro candidate hits out at industrialisation of schools

A leading Green Party politician has condemned Government league tables that show nearly half the areas with primary schools not meeting new nationally set targets are in Yorkshire.

Cllr Andrew Cooper, who is lead Green candidate for Yorkshire & the Humber in the European elections next year, said he was at least as concerned about the process of league tables as he was about the findings. Greens would abolish league tables as they are currently devised and used.

Many areas badly affected by Government austerity
“These targets are nationally set and take no account of local issues," said Cllr Cooper . "It is telling that many of the schools identified are in areas of social deprivation which have been especially badly affected by the Government’s austerity drive.

League tables a crude mechanism
"Using league tables, which by default rank schools above or below others, is a crude mechanism for determining real educational needs and outcomes. It is not helpful and simply stigmatises schools where teachers, parents and pupils are often working incredibly hard in spite of frequently lacking resources or having to keep adjusting to changing diktats from central Government.”

Cllr Cooper went on to say, ”This comes in the same week we have heard that the Coalition’s flagship policy on free schools is running two times over budget and failing to meet need in areas with oversubscribed places. It is dreadful for the Government to now compound this assault on education by using a one dimensional process to assess our primary schools.”

Cllr Cooper added, “Greens want a very different approach to education. We support a model where needs are determined more locally but on a community basis rather than in the way free schools are allowed to operate, and in particular we want the education process to be one that is geared to individual children’s needs rather than Michael Gove’s latest idea.”

He said that Greens support primary children starting academic schooling at 6 rather than 5, which would be in line with successful education systems such as those in several European countries. Prior to that, building on the Surestart programme, a system of free nursery education should be available with an emphasis on learning through play. Greens would also adopt the Scandinavian model of “all through schools” where pupils would remain in the same school throughout their education but the schools themselves would become more local in their nature and smaller than some of the super-sized establishments found across the UK today.

“We want schools that are linked to the local community, not Whitehall, and that are central to the local area and focus on the varying needs of children,” said Cllr Cooper. “The Government has a two-faced approach of encouraging elitist free schools which drift off in their own direction but then imposes a one-size-fits-all assessment which simply tarnishes the reputation of less well resouced schools and even their local area."

Cllr Cooper concluded, ”Like any parent, I want my children to have an education that meets their needs, not some national target. Schools should not be exam factories; pupils are children, not widgets.”

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