David Cameron singled out Education in his speech today as the first firestorm in his Bonfire of the Quangos. BECTA and the QCDA were actually named, which was astonishing in itself, but the intent is clear. In their first 100 days educational quangos will be decimated. To be fair the whole sector has become Byzantine with dozens and dozens of organisations overlapping, checking on each other. It's become a massive mess that is confusing for industry and learners. Rather than being sensible in culling organisations they've been allowed to multiply out of control. The danger is that the good get mixed up with the bad in the clear out.
Cameron's speech - education bit
To build a responsible society we need to teach our children properly. I come at education as a parent, not a politician.
When I watch my daughter skip across the playground to start her first term in year one, I want to know that every penny of the education budget is following her and the other children into that school and that classroom.
So when I see Ed Balls blow hundreds of millions on so-called "curriculum development" on consultancies, on quangos like the QCDA and BECTA like every other parent with a child at a state school I want to say: This is my child, it's my money, give it to my headteacher instead of wasting it in Whitehall.
But it's not just about money. It's about values. We know that discipline is vital but we overrule head teachers when they exclude a disruptive pupil.
We know that every child has different abilities and different needs but too often we put them all in the same class so the brightest aren't stretched and those who are struggling fall behind.
We know that competitive sport is important but we've had minister after minister promising it and nothing ever happens.
Discipline. Setting by ability. Regular sport.
These are all things you find in a private school. Not because the government tells them to do it, but because it's what parents want. Why can't parents in state schools always get what they want?
With us, they will, because our reforms will create more good schools and more school places. Yes, our plans will increase competition – and no, that is not a dirty word. It means that when a good new school opens down the road, the other ones around it will want to improve. Big government has totally failed in state education and with Michael Gove we will get the radical change we need.
I don't care what complexion the government is, I don't think they can keep their noses out. They want results to improve year on year so they implement systems to make sure schools deliver them.
I wouldn't be surprised to see a team of inspectors whose job it is to go around checking that schools are acting independently. Never mind inspectors, a whole Ministry.
One thing we can be sure about, Labour or Conservative, they'll be a lot less money following children around playgrounds in the next few years.
I agree there needs to be quango rationalisation as there is an awful lot of duplication,overlap and turf wars....still cannot believe BECTA beat JISC to top the cull list?
But some work will have to be done within the government departments.
My worry if we give it all to headteachers it will end up in reserves in the banks!
Cutting back on bureaucracy is welcome and overdue. But this is hardly radical, just common sense which really shouldn't take an economic crisis to force into action.
But where are the more radical reviews of how education is structured and administered that would dramatically improve learning effectiveness while dramatically reducing cost of delivery?
Where is the new thinking that will deliver relevant skills that will be valued in the workplace and in wider society?
The private educational model may well work for the few who can afford it but it doesn't necessarily scale well and isn't tackling the fundamental change that would deliver real, long lasting benefits to wider society.
I'm biased (as are you Donald) towards harnessing technology and fast developing understanding of cognitive science to not simply "re-boot" education (which is what Cameron is sort of advocating) but to re-design the whole learning experience.
It's a big ask, but one that is long overdue. It seems we'll have to wait some while longer for a political party to grasp that nettle.
Discipline. Setting by ability. Regular sport.
David Cameron's reference to Setting by ability made me go to "John Hattie's Visible Learning - A synthesis of over 800 meta-analyses relating to achievement" - ISBN978-0-415-47618-8. (The reviews here are worth reading.)
"The meta-analysis studies have summarized more than 300 studies of tracking (the term Hattie uses for setting by ability), covering a wide variety of schooling cultures and experiences, in most curriculum subjects, across all age ranges, and across most major educational outcomes. The average effect is small [d=0.11]. The results show that tracking has minimal effects in learning outcomes and profound negative equity effects."
Sure, this begs the questions as to whether with excellent teaching in lower sets, lower ability learners would benefit from setting. But in the English state system, where the tendency is for more able teachers to gravitate or be pushed towards higher sets, not to mention to "better " schools, the effect of setting is likely to worsen the chances of weaker/poorer/disadvantaged learners.
Here's a good reason to put Becta on top of the bonfire with Stephen Crowne in place of Guy Fawkes:
What a load of old cobnuts...
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