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Sunday, 19 November 2006

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One assumes that you intend results to be published, with the intention that crap schools go bust due to parents sending their kids away from the school.

So the question is this: what is to stop a school from expelling its thick pupils before an exam in order to get its league table position higher?

Oh dear, oh dear, is that the best objection you can come up with, 'PS'?

Yes, I *do* hope that poor schools go bust instead of being propped up 'ad infinitum' to do their damage as they are under the present system. And expulsions will only be for specific disciplinary reasons.

And, incidentally, all such occurrences will be noted on pupils' school records along with their exam results year by year plus any positive activities they have participated in such as sports. Thus, on leaving school all youngsters will have a complete record (for good or ill) of their school activities and standards to show, or hide, from potential employers.

Well the idea that all someone's exam results from the entire school career and disciplinary actions taken against them should be available to all potential employers for life is frankly laughably authoritarian. After advocating that you can never again seriously argue against such things as ID cards. The idea that someone will be excluded potential employment based upon something they did when they were a child, even something as minor as a bad exam result, is absurd.

I was going to write my ideas on education in more detail in a few weeks, so forgive me if the most I am doing is nitpicking at the moment. But here are a few points:

1. Your list of subjects seems reasonable, but I’d add Physical Education and a subject I’d call “life skills”. This would be things like teaching kids how to apply for a job (don’t laugh – when I was in charge of recruitment for a company some of the applications we received were laughable).
2. One does hope that schools open to bidders won’t be sold to property developers eyeing up the prime land they are built on…
3. There seems to be a contradiction in your views as to whether the schools are to be run as businesses or co-operative charities.
4. You’ve assumed the consumer – parents – actually care enough about their children’s education to make rational consumer choices. This is of course correct for the vast majority, but who makes the decision for the kids whose parents don’t – as these are the kids likely to be most in need of education.
5. You’ve indicated that league tables will be published of exam results. But this assumes that exam results are the best way of judging a school. They say nothing about the type of intake a school has, the quality of the teaching (The best teachers are often those who teach deprived children who may not end up at university, but due to these teachers end up law abiding and decent people)

What's the logic behind excluding foreign langauages for the curriculum? I would suggest there is a good case for making Chinese a compulsory subject going forward.

I don't think it is unreasonable for tax-payers who have paid for the education to see the results if an individual seeks employment with them. There would be a common disciplinary code so that potential employers would be able to judge teh difference between being caught smoking behind the bicycle sheds and trying to get your leg over the Art mistress! And it has nothing to do with ID cards to which I object only because I know that within 6 months you will be able to buy fakes on teh black market.

Now, your points in order:
1: Your applicants were laughable because they had not had a grounding in the basics which under my regime they will so I suggest we leave Life to teach 'life skills'! Sports would be an extra-curricular activity which would have to be paid for by the parents as an extra.
2: No, school land would only be permitted to be sold for development if the school had closed and no-one else wanted it for a school. The sale price would revert to the government.
3: They should be run for profit with a sensible profit sharing scheme for the employees.
4: No-one should make decisions for parents, caring or otherwise unless they are physically maltreating their children. They are obliged by law to make sure their children attend school. The school will do its best to educate the child but there their responsibility ends.
5: The league tables will be exactly what I said, the exam results of that school for exams taken by every school in the country. They can be compared to previous years to show a school on the rise - or the slide! If you live in Hackney I suggest it would be a waste of time looking at Cheltenham results. However, you might look carefully at neighbouring boroughs.

Henk, I hesitated on the foreign languages, but only for a second. Like music or plumbing, it might be useful for some but certainly not for everyone. The private sector offers language training in all sorts of different packages. Schools, or groups of school could negotiate a bulk purchase if they think they can sell the idea to enough parents.

Surely the argument that it could prove useful to some people and not others applies to all the subjects you have listed also. A very basic level of Maths and English I'll accept as almost universally required (in the UK), but Chemistry?, Physics?, Computer Science?

Why not make the whole thing open market with schools teaching whatever they like based on demand if that's the way you want to play it?

Very inconsistent logic: D-

Not quite, Henk, because you see if the state is going to pay for education, and I think on the whole it should, then it is entitled to lay down the *basic* curriculum. It may be that after, say, 3 years of the normal syllabus, pupils could elect to drop 1 or 2 subjects provided they took lessons in the optional subjects like plumbing, or metal work or music or whatever other options the school offered.

I should add that I under my regime schools would not close at any particular hour. They would become centres of teaching and they would be free to teach anything else they liked outside the standard curriculum. If they can teach, say, languages or football or anything to anyone from anywhere and make a buck, good luck to them.

I'd be inclined to include Philosophy classes, too - or, if you prefer, classes where ideas could be openly pitched around. The reason for this is that if you don't have a specific time and place for discussing things like, say, ethics, or - to take a topical example - Intelligent Design, then someone is bound to try and shoehorn them into the Biology classes, and this could well end up happening, given enough parental pressure.

(I'm not wanting to start a discussion on Intelligent Design here, just wondering how one would go about teaching pupils how to think.)

We had something called R.E. which was a bit rubbish but better than nothing; American friends have told me their schools taught no philosophy at all, and look at the problems that parts of America are facing.

Hilary, I have decided to take up your point in a new post, up above.

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