The educational secretary Michael Gove is poised to parade his Education Bill before parliament this Friday. Andy Burnham shadow education secretary feels it is a “huge gamble.” The content is far reaching and will centralise power firmly in the lap of Michael Gove. Yet is this a negative move.
Obviously Andy Burnham has an axe to grind and unlikely to give the government his blessing, such is the way of politics. But the current regime where the national curriculum specifies what children are taught and how the teaching resources should be managed is hardly a shining success. The UK has slipped down the Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD) educational world league tables to be languishing around 25th position for most subjects – way behind China who has moved in the number one slot. Each year we slip further, and hear criticism of the exam results are too easy whilst employers and Universities complain that those children released into the job market have woefully inadequate schooling.
Children are routinely transferred form primary to secondary school without the requisite attainment in maths and literacy. Their life in secondary school destined to become a burden for child, teacher and school. Statistics reveal the significance of the drop off that occurs with many children aged 11 – 14 years. Children that fail to thrive occurs both in the struggling group as well as gifted children that fail to be pushed. Teachers are constantly chasing targets and if nothing else have become street wise in hitting the key performance indices leaving little room to expand their teaching prowess. Countless initiatives abound. The Department for Education is able to churn out a staggering number of new ideals that pass through the system and achieve nothing apart from creating a level of disruption in schools that beggar’s belief.
Educational career opportunities seem to stagnate at Headteacher level. Despite a competitive salary the role fails to meet the promotional aspirations of deputy heads. Thousands of headteacher’s jobs remain unfilled – some for several years.
Do we therefore need a new Educational Bill, a new English Baccalaureate, a new schooling system? Do we agree with Andy Burnham and the maxim “If it ain’t broke don’t fix it” and leave education alone? But the UK educational programme from Sure Start to university tuition fees is in dire need of being fixed. Let us therefore hope that Michael Gove has had the time to think things through strategically and not use the opportunity as a cost cutting charter. We cannot stay with a continuing failure in education. The Education Bill could be the turning point for the salvation of our schooling process. It is a truly massive undertaking and must address the cause rather than the symptoms. Will it work? Lets hope so because to achieve nothing is not an option.