Let's talk about education...

  Posted: 25.04.21 at 10:12 by Alastair McCraw

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I’ve always been very careful when approaching this subject. Not just because it can be very contentious, but as a fair number of close family members are, or have been, teachers. At the same time that’s given me the opportunity to observe, consider and think about the practical effects of decades of constant change.

For most of us, our opinions are largely going to be based on our personal experience in our own schools and colleges. That might be altered by the experiences we have had as parents of children, or even as grandparents. Those can be very anecdotal.

The education sector, as a whole, has probably been mucked about with to a greater extent than any other over the last 50 or 60 years. The educational structures, the funding arrangements, the curriculums, the buildings, the working conditions, the support given to individual needs; all of these have been chopped and changed to the point that the teachers, the professionals can have little certainty in carrying out their jobs or preparing for the future.

The tragedy of this is that much of this change has been imposed, and it is nearly always imposed, for ideological reasons. The thought is: ‘’This is how we think things should be done, regardless of any evidence’’. Then the changes are introduced, with any unforeseen consequences to be dealt with later. Another generation of pupils are subjected to the latest educational experiment for political purposes.

In recent years we have seen a move away from Local Education Authority control of the sector towards the creation of
Academy Trusts.

Now all Academy Trusts are not the same. Some are locally based, some more nationally, using their freedom to be more individual. They receive greater control over the resources available to them, but their funding is supplied centrally from the government. The locally elected control of LEA’s more or less disappears. With it goes much local oversight and accountability.

Technically, Academy Trusts operate as ‘not for profit’ charities, but the presence of venture capitalists in this marketplace suggests that there are opportunities for profit making in several areas, such as contracts. There is also no cap on the pay given to CEO’s of such trusts.

From very recent experience, we know that central government central oversight of contracts and the granting of them has been spotty at best, and non-existent at worse. Having the ear of the right person may be all that is required, and the consequences can always be avoided later.

To my mind, the jury is still out on Academy Trusts. Yes, if they fail, they can be passed on to another trust, not the LEA, intact. In effect, this is a one-way street. In what state will any failing one be though? What educational damage and waste of resources may have taken place by then?

I can’t claim to have the answers to these questions. As in anything, there is a lot to learn. I’m seeking to describe an approach here, not a policy paper. With schools about to return to something more normal, teachers and pupils need some stability for a while to come. If I’m ever asked to look at proposals for Education, I’m going to give a lot more weight to the evidence from professional educators, than educational theorists. And I’ll give the least weight to those with an ideological axe to grind.

Alastair McCraw. Prospective Independent Candidate for Peninsula Division, Suffolk County Council.
07812 564188
[email protected]
Promoted by, and on behalf of, Alastair McCraw, 20 School Lane, Brantham, CO11 1QE.

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