The Future of Education

6th May 2005 at 01:00
THE FUTURE OF EDUCATION: Letters to the Prime Minister. Edited by Ted Wragg. The New Vision Group pound;8

"Education, education, education" is still, we are told, the priority. So how concerned is a newly elected prime minister going to be with the views of a dozen distinguished academics, all of them recent or current professors of education, and of a group of equally distinguished practitioners or erstwhile policy-makers? Pragmatically, the answer is almost certainly "not very". These letter-writers, after all, are merely the "producers" of education, not the "consumers", and it is the inimitable Ted Wragg, arch-satirist of educational folly, who introduces them.

It would be a pity, though, if a new government ignored them, partly because it is common ground that there have been invaluable achievements, particularly in the pre-school years. The new Children Act, too, is a demanding but hugely positive agenda for the immediate future.

But there is a powerful consensus here - with research-based evidence available to support it - that some elements of current policy are going very wrong. Too much of it - parental choice (in effect, it is usually schools who do the choosing), league tables and hierarchies of competing schools - runs counter to the principles of inclusion that the Government has promised. Much too much of it - a restrictive and outdated curriculum, an obsession with tests and examinations - turns disadvantaged children off school and confronts them remorselessly and regularly with the labels of failure. Over-centralisation diminishes teachers and learners, too.

And it's not just the usual suspects who level these charges. Robin Alexander, who makes an unarguable case for primary curriculum reform, was one of the Three Wise Men whose 1992 report was a watershed in primary education. He deserves to be listened to. So do the 15 other correspondents, all experts in their field. Will they make the in-tray at No 10? Read them, and wait and see.

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