There are plenty of views online already about the latest government announcement that could have a huge impact on the education of teenagers in the UK, decreasing further the need for teachers to hold a teaching qualification. I thought I would just put down my mixed feelings on the news.
Personally I am willing to accept there are problems with the current system. Some of the things that astound me about UK secondary education continue even when they have become high profile, for example the quality standards of school meals – many of which are surely worse than Subway? In this and other areas there seems to be a lack of forward planning and I suspect that kind of organization will only happen when, as a country, we have a more intelligent combination of local talent/views (led by head teachers but certainly not restricted to them) and central government. This may be some form of ‘Council of Education’ supported by powerful Local Education Authorities, it may be a democratic House of Lords with long serving head teachers and vice chancellors among their number, it may be one of many other models – the problem seems to be that changes take place which do not have consultation before hand. The government does itself no favours at all by releasing such stories hidden away under the Olympics coverage – which in itself is a somewhat old fashioned approach considering that, whilst you might not get a mention on the main TV broadcast, you will probably still get called upon by twenty-four hour news and you certainly will by those following their RSS and social media feeds
In terms of educational outcomes, some centralization towards Whitehall control might make sense. One thing that has always astounded me is that we can have a lengthy national curriculum but then expect teachers to waste time preparing resources or, and possibly even worse, individual schools and Local Educational Authorities licensing bits of content. There seems room for some centralization? The same can be said for educational technology purchases and other areas. Yet, where centralizing services do (or rather did) exist, such as shared library services, Local Education Authorities and the British Educational Communications and Technology Agency they have been the victims of policy decisions and budget cuts. I have commented elsewhere, including when chatting at events, my belief that we need to globalize education in this country, most likely through borrowing from examples of online schooling from other countries. If classroom education was designed for the Industrial Revolution how can we now build educational experiences that give students a global view? Online experiences could help children realise there is much more beyond their locale (which may or may not be where they decide to live once they are 16/18/21) and help the UK become fully integrated in the future world through collaborations with other education systems in the UK, EU and beyond. This is another confusing element of the current policy changes – the rhetoric often calls upon 1950s or 60s education as its examples when something very different is surely needed.
Fundamentally there seems a distinct lack of a link, currently at least, between possible improvement through centralization and the idea of ‘opening up’ education to more free market forces. Perhaps the idea is that everything can be centralized so it can be carved up/controlled/set free – the issue seems to be that there is not a clear policy road map. Or perhaps there is but if the main driving force is to find ways to bring down average teacher pay then said map is not going to shown to anyone any time soon.
There have been plenty of calls for debates on education and the latest policy change will only accelerate those. At least the previous government were clear in their opposing view, setting timescales for new teachers to be qualified beyond teacher qualifications and through to full masters level qualifications.
I would like to congratulate the current government for at least looking to transform education, the problem seems to be knowing exactly what it is they are trying to achieve and the fear that they may yet make some big mistakes.