Independent: Generation of pupils being put off school, report says

Indpendent. By Richard Garner, Education Editor. Friday, 16 October 2009

Teachers should be free from state interference, the report says

A devastating attack on what is taught in primary schools is delivered today by the biggest inquiry into the sector for more than 40 years.

Too much stress is being placed on the three Rs, imposing a curriculum on primary school pupils that is “even narrower than that of the Victorian elementary schools”, it says. The inquiry is recommending sweeping changes to stop children being left disenchanted by schooling at an early age.

Children should not start formal schooling until the age of six – in line with other European countries – the 600-page report on the future of primary education recommends. It was produced by a team directed by Robin Alexander of Cambridge University…..

…. “The Stalinist overtones of a ‘state theory of learning’ enforced by ‘the machinery of surveillance and accountability’ – league tables, testing targets – are as unattractive as they are serious,”….

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Notwithstanding this report falls within an unquestioned schooling model Robin Alexander’s team have at least produced a breath of fresh air to those with any thoughts of reforming it. It stands in stark contrast to the findings of Jim Rose and will undoubtedly get a cold shoulder from the major political parties. Indeed the government have quickly moved to say no to any delayed start to formal schooling.The report does much to echo the findings of Professor Clive Harber’s latest book  Toxic Schooling – How Schools Became Worse (Educational Heretics Press)…. a great pity a phenomenal research budget was required to come to those conclusions!

The comments and associated news to this report show how the the spectrum is polarising and two antagonistic factions will continue to fight over the nation’s children. Those of Alexander’s mind will promote a more child focussed, nurturing approach and the others will want more of the same, more basics, more testing, more control. The reality is of course Alexander’s approach is a softer, fluffier version of the latter – less perverse, more attractive and heartwarming but still the same compulsory school model of age-stage based teaching. The report ended – “teaching should be taken out of the political arena and given back to teachers”. If Prof Alexander believed it ever was in the teacher’s arena he is so clearly wrong, niaive or both.  And, at any rate what we should be concerned with is learning and learning is always in the domain of the learner… our learning systems need to be built around this.

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