Choices only on paper

18th November 2005 at 00:00
Hang on. Be with you in a minute. Just adjusting myself from another "major educational shake-up". Allegedly this one is "pivotal". Better brace ourselves then.

I plough through the white paper, obsessed with how many times "teacher" is used compared with "parent" (too depressingly low to tell you) and trying to avoid word-blindness from the number of times "choice" appears.

What is this choice? I can choose to climb Everest but there is no chance I will actually make it. You can choose to send your child to a school, but there is nothing to say they will get in. Education authorities' new trusts will have the power to set their own admissions policies. Bang goes choice, in comes selective admissions policy.

Pupil: "Can I come in?"

Trust: "Sorry, no."

Pupil: "Why not?"

Trust: "You are not Christianpurplegood at languages," (delete as applicable).

The new trusts will have control over pay and conditions. Will that be based on results? Or on how well we discipline disruption? Are they going to give lessons on restraining? I do not want to do that, nor to have the power to do so.

I want someone to understand the reasons for the disruption happening in the first place, and to address the underlying social causes. Can you imagine the litigation nightmares? Lawyers must already be rubbing their hands in financial glee.

We must get Tony Blair's dreamed-of higher standards. Yet we cannot all be top of the tree, first in the queue. The obsession with higher education means a crisis in skilled apprenticeships. Perhaps Tony has not tried to get a plumber recently.

Ah, but every child is entitled to tuition tailored to their individual needs. Sorry, but I thought as postgraduate trained professionals we knew how to do this through differentiation in our classrooms?

But what about the pound;120 million for one-to-one tuition in maths and English? Come on, how much is that really per child? And what happens when that runs out?

Children need teachers with the freedom to go off-curriculum sometimes, to provide opportunities to astound, and to embrace creativity. Just because everyone has been to school does not suddenly turn them into education experts.

We must not be blinded by the relentless mantra of Mr Blair. My interactive whiteboard has a predictive text facility. I write with the pen, it turns it into type. Bizarrely, "shape" translates to "shit". Some things in education really are not what they seem.

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