Back to the 1970s? I’ll vote for that

A personal comment by Dr Terry Wrigley, Visiting Professor, Northumbria University

A few days ago the Daily Mail threatened that a Labour victory in the General Election would mean a return to the 1970s. That set me thinking.

I started teaching in 1971. I was the first in my family to go to university and graduated without a penny of debt. I entered teaching with a proper one-year qualification – two terms at university, one term on school placement. Nowadays many new teachers are thrown in at the deep end, with a few weeks initial training if they’re lucky, and then it’s “learn on the job”.

I worked in various schools situated on council estates. Not every pupil was enthusiastic, you had to win their interest, but they had the confidence of knowing that they would get proper jobs when they left, and many would get apprenticeships or go to university.

It was an exciting time to start teaching, a period of innovation. The school leaving age was raised to 16, so that all pupils could leave with a qualification. This was a big challenge and we met it well. Continue reading

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School cuts or taxing the rich?

The school cuts of around £3 billion are being presented as a necessary saving because of the need for ‘Austerity’. The School Cuts website, which has information for every school, shows that 99% of schools will have a per-pupil cut, an average of 8% from 2015/16 to 2019/20.

Some areas are hit harder than others. Among major cities, Birmingham and Liverpool faces cuts of 12%, Nottingham and Inner London 13%, and Bristol and Manchester 14%.

There is likely to be a massive reduction in the number of teachers and teaching assistants. The cut is the equivalent of nearly 3000 teachers in Birmingham, 1200 in Bradford, 1000 in Leeds, 1400 in Manchester, and over 2000 in Essex, Hertfordshire, Kent, and Lancashire.

Corbyn is being cast as irresponsible for promising to overturn the cut and repair the NHS. Doesn’t he understand Austerity?

It is becoming increasingly obvious that Austerity is code for vast increases in the wealth of the superrich, at the expense of the rest of us. The Sunday Times ‘Rich List’ traces the wealth of the richest 1000 people in Britain from year to year. This year their combined wealth rose by £82 billion, over 25 times the £3 billion schools cut. Continue reading

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The crisis in secondary schools: where is it leading?

All kinds of schools in England are facing damaging budget cuts. Large meetings are being held all over the country where parents and teachers together are showing their opposition to Government cuts. Every concerned teacher or parent should join the Fair Funding for All Schools campaign, the front line in the growing campaign to save public education.

However it is important to understand the compound crisis affecting secondary schools. Continue reading

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Yorkshire conference – More Than A Score

Park Inn, North St, York YO1 6JF

This conference will bring together parents and teachers across the region to discuss the crisis facing our schools and how this is affecting children and young people.

It will provide an opportunity to discuss alternative visions for the future:

  • how do children learn best?
  • how can we combine high standards with creativity?
  • what is the purpose of education in the 21st Century?

Book your free ticket through Eventbrite

More Than A Score is a national coalition of professional organisations set up to campaign against tests which are undermining good primary education and causing high levels of stress to children. Read the Call to Action, and listen to what teachers and heads are saying about the tests on this video.  

For more information on the testing crisis, check the Reclaiming Schools blog.

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Little change promised on primary tests

The Government were clearly rattled by opposition to last year’s tests, including the parents’ protest last May and hundreds of responses to the Select Committee of MPs. Unfortunately, they are very slow to learn.

After many delays, the new proposals amount to very little:

  • Key Stage 1 tests will no longer be required – from 2022
  • Baseline tests in Reception to be reintroduced
  • The impossibly difficult KS2 tests will remain
  • The useless Phonics Check will stay
  • A new Multiplications Table test is to be introduced.

The tests at age 11 are a complete mess. They resulted in half of children moving on to secondary schools with a failure label round their necks in Reading, Writing or Maths.

This was particularly damaging to children growing up in poverty. Over half of children on free meals were failed in Maths alone. Continue reading

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Who will vote for secondary moderns?

The elephant in the room of Theresa May’s plan to open more grammar schools is – secondary modern schools.

Selecting a minority of children at age 11 for grammar schools means an inferior kind of school for those who failed. This is what happened from 1945 to the 1970s across most of the country: around 20% passed the 11 plus exam and got a place in a grammar school, whilst the vast majority went to secondary moderns. This still happens in some parts of England, even though the secondary moderns in places like Kent are euphemistically labelled “comprehensive”.

Very few children from the poorest families get into grammar schools: around 1 in 20 from the poorest fifth of the population. 94% go to secondary moderns. Continue reading

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Harold Rosen: an inspiration for teachers today

announcing an inspiring new book
Harold Rosen: Writings on life, language and learning 1958-2008

Harold Rosen was one of the great reformers of English teaching. His work has just been republished, providing a challenge to the deadening practices of the National Curriculum – its obsession with grammatical terms, its neglect of modern texts, children writing to formula to get through tests, and the constant threat of failure. He believed in respect for working-class children’s languages and lives. The editor John Richmond explains the significance for today’s teachers. 

Continue reading

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