July 07, 2004

What Education, Education, Education?

Tony Blair is presenting Labour's vision of the future of schooling today. He will argue for more specialisation, selection and money for the best schools. It's a fast track to the class-system affirming, two-track education system that the Tories always craved. Blue Agent Tory Blair strikes again!

I went to a state school that had no special status and was run by the LEA. According to current Labour thinking, I should be a failure, living in a crack-den on a council estate (with smoking my only pleasure of course) and be sponging off the state. That I am not and do not must be a complete anathema to Labour's policy-makers.

Tony Blair was elected in '97 on a platform of education. He promised us a world-class system; what we got was red-tape, overworked teachers and mounds of meaningless targets. Today he will probably announce an extension of schools that can opt-out of local authority funding (Maggie would be proud) and have a greater say in curriculum development. Tony says that the country will not return to a system of "selection of the few and rejection of the many" - but that is exactly what is happening. Schools may not be selecting their pupils but by altering funding, placing schools in artificial competition and publishing misleading league tables, divisions between social class and geographical areas are being reinforced.

The likely end is more funding for the best schools, with the best pupils in best areas and less for the 'failing' schools with the blame placed at the door of teachers and not the government. It is already happening - schools are being 'failed', a government "Superhead" (aka: super well paid) is brought in and then the school is deemed a success with little or no real change.

When will Blair learn that the future of education isn't in the market - it's in the money. More money for better facilities, smaller classes and less overworked teachers will bring improvements. Competition between schools will mean the best get better - but the worst will get worse. What we need is a system with equal access for all and Tony Blair isn't going bring us that with this set of policies. Arguments about choice are a distraction - the real argument should be about quality, so let's get back to it.

Instead of preaching his Tory policies, perhaps Blair could actually try teaching for a week - it might give him some perspective. Now that would be a radical change!