High time the egotists left the fray

21st March 2008 at 00:00
Last week's issue of The TES was overflowing with reports that inexorably point towards the same conclusion: that any remaining case for the central state's direct involvement in the education sphere is now virtually threadbare.

Thus we read of the great majority of parents being against league tables ("Replace crude league tables", TES, March 14); of teachers lucidly challenging Professor Robert Slavin's arid positivist vision of educational research ("Schools should follow official research"); of the mal-effects of synthetic-phonic tyranny in early literacy ("Too much phonics is not good for you"); and Professor Jon Davison's magnificent demolition of the crass utilitarianism that is modern curriculum-driven education ("Why we shouldn't have it all off Pat").

Our current over-politicised system is a (now redundant) throwback: partly politicians clinging on to power bases; and partly a pervasive cultural anxiety which, when left unprocessed at the political level, generates the futile obsession with measuring the inherently unmeasurable - children's learning.

It's surely time for a root-and-branch reassessment of the place of central government in education, and the extent to which the chronic politicisation of children's schooling is now doing far more harm than good.

The careful setting-up of a relatively autonomous body to oversee the whole system would surely generate a massive surge of innovation and good practice, which the current bureaucratised system can never "deliver".

Turkeys rarely vote for an early Christmas, but one wonders just how bad the system has to get before even those intent on clinging on to their empires realise that only the withdrawal of overweening political egos holds any long-term hope for a healthy and effective school system.

Dr Richard House, Senior lecturer in psychotherapy and counselling, Research Centre for Therapeutic Education, Roehampton University.

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