School Wars – the road trip.

Over the last eight months, I have been taking the arguments in my book School Wars around the country, talking to parents, teachers, heads in maintained schools: local authority leaders; private, grammar, academy and faith school heads and staff; and many students. I have learned an enormous amount from these discussions about the strengths and divides of our current system and the impact that Coalition policy is having on our schools.

Last week the New Statesman published my edited diary style account of some of these discussions. There is so much I had to miss out…never mind. This gives readers a flavour….

4 Responses to School Wars – the road trip.

  1. I have just read your novel which I thoroughly enjoyed.Please could you send me your email address. I would very much like to correspond with you about the school which I and my children successfully attended and which has now been turned into an Academy and gone in to Special Measures.
    Many thanks.
    Sylvia Knight.

  2. Dear Melissa,

    Have read your piece for the NS and look forward to reading ‘School Wars’.

    Teachers have known for years that Government policy was barking mad. They could cite academic papers, attainment statistics, evidence from numerous research projects and draw from their own seasoned experience. The problem is no administration has been prepared to trust them. When Governments say they will listen to teachers, if fact they only listen to school ‘leaders’. The problem is these days to run a school you have had to have sold your gown for a business briefcase and calculator.

    Perhaps, Governments are right not to trust teachers. The decisive voting public are the old school; the vocal lot, ones who attended grammars . Most younger parents endured such a useless education, moulded by the stuffy National Curriculum that they want to think about school as little as possible. Their parents, (the ones mores likely to vote), don’t trust teachers, still thinking they’re all left-wing dossers. This crowd have set the agenda that what is needed is a new way to recreate the divisive schooling of the past – successful academies, free from LEAs, who can suck in the kids of aspirational middle class parents and provide rigour and culture, on the one hand, and on the other all the rest, some left in dodgy neighbourhoods, others left to dodgy Councils. The fact that even ‘successful’ schools in the UK are failing to prepare most young people to be diligent, thoughtful, self-motivated life-long learners in a global society (or market place) is lost on them.

    However, is the public right not to trust teachers? Well, probably yes. Because for at least 15 years, if not 20, most graduate teachers have not had to study Philosophy of Education or even Theories of Learning. Modern PGCEs are insipid, process orientated, heavily structured courses on do’s and don’ts. ‘Best practice’ is the new top down mantra, they all have to follow uncritically. Why school at all? Is it the best place for learning? Should students be active learners or should the focus be on curriculum knowledge building? Are tests good for stimulating study motivation or a hindrance? How should learning be measured? By whom? When? All these questions and many more are totally lost on the majority of less mature teachers. Instead of feeling the loss of these radical tensions in the staff room and those perennial debates about key educational ideas, what most teachers are concerned about are the mundane burdens of assessment regimes, how responsibilities will be remunerated and whether a 4 week or 6 week term is better.

    The lack of vision is endemic. I greatly welcome your work to stimulate a national debate and wish you continued success.

    Best wishes,
    Nigel Newton

  3. I wonder if there is another way to contact you? I too have just read School Wars and as an teacher and head of English who has worked in the US (for 13 years) and in the British grammar school system (5 years) who is soon to take up a position in an academy, I have much experiential knowledge to contribute.
    There were many aspects of the book that I agreed with in ideological terms, but as a pracitioner I dispute many of your sweeping generalisations.
    I am, like you, from a goos socialist familly. My father is Mike Harding, the folk musician, comedian, and BBC broadcaster. I was raised with to have the upmost respect for all people, disrespective of class or colour. I marched with the miners, and would so once more if there were such an industry.
    My issue with your book was the trap of left-wing generalisations you fell into and simply wish to offer clarification.
    Sarah Harding

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