I’d like to say a bit about Michael Gove’s recent announcement of the new education reforms, in the government’s new White Paper on schools. In some aspects it looks quite good. Mr Gove is absolutely right to blame the Labour Party for taking all the fun out of education and learning by turning the National Curriculum into a drain of all the creativity and enthusiasm of good teachers (not that there are many of them left in state schools, as understandably most of them have moved to private schools, where there is less paperwork and less rigidity in what they are supposed to teach). I’d actually quite like the National Curriculum to be scrapped entirely, and for most powers over education to be transferred to local authorities, but to “slim down the curriculum” is definitely a good idea.
However, I’m not quite so sure about how he wants to “make exams more rigorous”, and I am dismayed by how Tory politicians are talking about introducing reading tests for six-year-olds. Schoolchildren in this country are already the most tested in Europe as well as the most failing in Europe, so how he thinks that testing them even more is going to make things better is beyond me. I think this may take just as much fun out of learning as the National Curriculum does.
And still it seems no-one is discussing the idea of doing what is done in so many nations – Germany, the Scandinavian countries, Australia – that are far higher up the international league tables than we are, which is giving parents a choice as to when they send their child to school. Whether it’s better to send children to school early or late much depends on the individual child, and getting it wrong can mean the child continually falling behind, year after year. And bringing back grammar schools (but not bringing back the old pass/fail 7+ test) is another good idea that none of the main parties support.
But then, how much value does the government actually put into education, what with them putting off all the bright young minds of tomorrow going to university because they can’t afford the rises in tuition fees? I actually understand why tuition fees are there; it’s unfair for everyone to pay for university tuition when only a minority is actually taking advantage of it. But rising fees by up to £9,000 a year, relying on Lib Dem broken promises, is totally unacceptable. So whilst I’m sure that Mr Gove does believe (however wrongly) in his educational policy, it is questionable as to exactly how much value is put in the field of education by him and by the Con-Dem coalition in general.
I hope some of them actually respond properly to the demonstrations, and that the violence of a few complete morons doesn’t overshadow the entire debate.