Education, like life, is full of paradoxes. Nowadays we have:
* better Sats scores, but more disaffected children at an ever younger age
* more and ever higher targets, but less achievement in the foundation subjects
* steadily improving standards of education in Wales, but no key stage 1 Sats
* the earliest school starting age, but the highest adult illiteracy rates
* seemingly more freedom for schools to experiment and innovate, but more pressure to conform to the target-setting agenda
* better school buildings, but fewer teachers
* many more initiatives, but more dissatisfaction
* more inclusion, but less tolerance
* more academic certificates, but not enough plumbers
* more strenuous efforts to involve parents, but more unreasonable expectations
* more sophisticated means of communication, but less understanding
* more inspection, but less education
* more behaviour strategies, but fewer well behaved children
* more promised teacher support, but less teacher satisfaction
* more advisers and consultants, but fewer experienced teachers actually teaching
* more exotic extra-curricular opportunities, but less freedom for children to roam
* more material wealth, but fewer contented children.
You may think these are cynical reactions to the painful changes necessary to achieve the holy grail of ever-rising standards. But why is it that progress can come only at the cost of a demoralised profession, a rising tide of low-level misbehaviour and even more teacher supervision?
Paraphrasing Churchill, perhaps the quest for real education is a riddle wrapped in an enigma concealed in a paradox, and there is no solution.
Philip Pullman seems to have the answer. He writes: "Teachers are not trusted to teach. They're nagged, they're controlled, they're harassed. Set them free. Trust them." (TES, April 4).
Trusted teachers? Now there's a real paradox.
Bob Aston is head of a junior school in Medway