Monday 17 February 2014

Green Party Education Policy offers a real alternative

I will be moving a motion revising the Green Party's Education Policy at our forthcoming Spring Conference. The revisions take account of recent developments in what has been termed GERM (the Global Education Reform Movement) and the various campaigns that have sprung up as a result of privatisation, forced academisation, test led curriculum and pedagogy and the attack on teachers; conditions of service.

The full briefing paper on the motion can be read HERE. This extract sets out the background:

Since the current Education Policy was written there has been much change in the direction of education both nationally and globally. What has become known as GERM (the Global Education Reform Movement) emphasises competition between schools and between countries, education’s contribution to global economic growth and competition, the provision of a ‘market’ in education with increasing involvement of private companies, a narrowing of the curriculum through a concentration on basic subjects that can be measured through standardised testing, and a convergence between the world of work and education. 

In England the three main parties, to varying degrees, support this movement, which has resulted in the promotion of free schools and academies, the increasing role of private companies not just in sponsoring such schools but also in the provision of curriculum and learning materials. Companies such as Pearson and Murdoch are poised to exploit this situation. Testing at the age of four is now being mooted as well as the existing Phonics Screening Test at six, Key Stage 1 SATs at 7 and Key Stage 2 SATS at 11. In the secondary sector there is a huge emphasis on examination results. Test results are used by Ofsted as the first measure for judging school performance and schools spend an enormous amount of time analysing and ‘interrogating’ the data. A blip in these results can lead to a local authority school being forced to convert to academy status.

The paradox is that increased centralisation and the granting of unprecedented powers to the Secretary of State for Education, in this government and any successor, have accompanied the rhetoric about setting schools free from local authority ‘control’ through academies and free schools. Currently the micro-management of schools by Michael Gove has extended to advocating particular policies on behaviour management. Peter Wilby has described the situation thus:

Michael Gove is on course to complete what Kenneth Baker began… the creation of a fully centralised school system in which the secretary of state for education has the powers of an elected dictator.

The agreement between the three main parties on this gives the Green Party the space to offer a completely different approach based on our underlying principles:

  • Our rejection of the economic growth agenda and the accompanying international economic competition enables us to have a broader interpretation of the aims and content of education.
  • This in turn enables us to reject the narrow curriculum, testing regimes and league tables associated with the GERM model and to put forward a child-centred approach taking account of child development, especially in the early years.
  • Our belief that decisions are best made at local level rather than by centralised diktat means that decisions about curriculum (apart from a broad entitlement) and pedagogy are made by teachers and the school community rather than the Secretary of State.
  • This enables diversity and creativity to take place within the state funded local authority school system, which will have the effect of empowering teachers and developing their professionalism rather than deskilling them.
  • Our belief in cooperation rather than competition means that we put forward collaborative models of school improvement including school to school support and a partnership role for an independent inspection service informed by educational research/
  •  Our support for increased democratic accountability at a local level involves improving the representation of parents and pupils within schools and democratic accountability through local authorities and removing the excessive powers of the Secretary of State.
  • Our commitment to social justice means that we put forward policies that support fair admissions and fair funding of schools and inclusion of children with special needs.

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