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Reflections on a Good Week for Democracy in Education

February 10, 2013

Well… it’s been quite a week, hasn’t it?

It began with yet more prescription about what “had” to be taught in a new knowledge-centric national curriculum, but concluded with the EBCs being consigned to the recycling yard (I choose this destination rather than landfill or incinerator, because they may return as “more rigorous” GCSEs!).

The press went bonkers:  “Gove U-turn on GCSEs: the moment cabinet’s golden boy dropped the ball” gloated the Guardian; “GCSEs u-turn: Wales welcomes “foolish and unhelpful” Gove as the “repentant sinner”” chortled left wingers in The Principality; “Michael Gove’s ‘U-turn’ on GCSEs is a necessary tactical retreat if he’s to win the education war” said Toby Young in The Telegraph… the Daily Mail predictably blamed the Lib-Dems.

But what we have actually witnessed is the power of affirmative action, and the advantages of living in a democracy (although, at times over the past two years in education, it hasn’t seemed like it!).

Two excellent Twitter bloggers sum up my sentiments perfectly:

Ros McMullen ‏@RosMcM When the entire system asks the SoS to listen and think again, and he does, it is not helpful to call it a ‘humiliating climbdown’.
Paul Waugh ‏@paulwaugh: Education Select Cttee chrman Graham Stuart: “Great news Govt has listened to concerns.This is exactly the way good public policy gets made”
We are halfway through a parliamentary term of office. Rather than despair, we should be hugely energised by the collective power of persuasion. So what is to be done?
If you are concerned about more competition between schools, then become more collaborative
Organisations such as SSAT, Light Up Learning are institution agnostic, welcoming all and sundry to embrace school improvement and positive change
If you worry about a narrow, prescriptive and overly academic curriculum, embrace and accredit a whole education experience
The Whole Education movement, Modern Baccalaureate, ASDAN Education stand for these principles, and thinker/practitioners like Tom Sherrington are pushing for the accreditation of a wider curriculum
If you are in despair about blinkered elitism, drive hard for inclusive practice in every element of school, curriculum and system provision
Many were so disheartened and angered when SEND learners and low achievers were to be consigned to “Statements of Non-achievement” with the introduction of  EBCs- we have to re-education education policy makers about how vibrant and alive tru inclusive education can be
If you deeply oppose the privatisation of the state education system, and the imposition of “free market triumphalism” on public services, then aggressively  affiliate and co-operate
It is not by accident that by far the biggest and quickest growing “chain” of academies and trusts is the Co-operative School NetworkASDAN Education is proud and privileged to be working in partnership with them- there is a vibrant alternative to forced Academy status!
Above all, we must take every opportunity to ensure that our voices are heard, and exert all the pressure we can, through every channel we can, for alternative views to be heard, and to challenge the body politic to listen, take note and change.
Headteachers’ Round Table is a case in point. What started as a Twitter phenomenon has now grown into a respected voice of the front-line school leader. Politicians can sometimes rail on the professional associations, like ASCL and NAHT, however considered and measured their responses and comments; much harder to be critical directly of leaders with a track record of success, high achievement, and a reform agenda based on solid evidence.
HeadsRoundtable have also developed five principles to underpin future curriculum reform:
  1. The pace of educational change should not be affected by party politics;
  2. Schools must be able to offer all their students the chance to succeed;
  3. Educational change should begin by identifying the desired outcomes for children;
  4. Prioritising high quality teaching & learning and the curriculum will lead to world class assessment and accountability;
  5. The teaching profession should be centrally involved in developing future education policy.
Hard to argue with this!
There is much to fight for, and so much to influence as the sparring begins prior to the General Election.
As Ian Gilbert pointed out on Twitter:
Ian Gilbert ‏@ThatIanGilbert What Gove is really about. Leaked memo ‘showing he is considering outright privatisation of academies & free schools’http://www.independent.co.uk/news/education/education-news/secret-memo-shows-michael-goves-plan-for-privatisation-of-academies-8488552.html …
We need courage, energy and hope. This week in education has given me huge dollops of all three!
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