NEWSLETTER

Spring 2002

 

CLASS WAR CONTINUES…

 

Chris Woodhead’s new book, Class War, (Little, Brown, 2002) is particularly significant because, until recently, the author was a key figure within the educational establishment. He knows how the system operates and  how it has deteriorated (not improved,  as many believe) since 1997. 

 

This book exposes and demolishes much of the ‘progressive’  nonsense currently in vogue in state education, especially in a chapter on  ‘The Lunacy of Learnacy’. The Campaign for Learning, a registered charity supported by ministers,  is heavily criticised. 

 

Influential educationists named and quoted for  their ‘progressive’ ideology  include:  Professor Michael Barber, now at 10 Downing Street;  Professor Tim Brighouse, in charge of Birmingham LEA; Professor David Hargreaves, until recently chief executive of the Qualifications and Curriculum Authority (QCA);  John MacBeath, now professor of education  at  Cambridge University; and Valerie Bayliss of the Royal Society of Arts.

 

Mainly for parents, Class War reached ninth position among hardback bestsellers within days of its launch. Highly recommended, it costs £14.99. 

 

…AND SPREADS

 

Education for the 21st Century: Report by the Post Primary Review Body was published in October 2001 at the behest of Martin McGuinness,  Northern Ireland’s education minister. Known colloquially as the Burns Report, it  advocates  abolishing Northern Ireland's grammar and secondary (modern) schools and setting up a  new 'collegial system' of comprehensive schools without any concern for standards.

 

Our latest pamphlet, Comprehensive Ideology: Burns and the Betrayal of Two Communities by Fred Naylor was written in response, though it  is also relevant to the rest of the UK. 

 

The authors of the Burns Report have failed to grasp that comprehensivisation has reduced educational opportunities on the mainland.  Ever since 1972, when research  by  the National Foundation for Educational Research  showed that comprehensivisation  was a handicap to raising  standards, the destruction of selective schools has been pursued for ideological, not educational, reasons.  

 

The Burns Report  is riddled with incoherences and omissions, not least the remarkable achievements of secondary (modern) schools.  Fred Naylor uses quotations from  supporters of comprehensivisation to show how illiberal they are and how they are undermining the Human Rights of parents. His analysis demonstrates that the 'comprehensive principle' is designed, not to protect and preserve different cultures, but to destroy them.

 

Comprehensive Ideology costs £4.00 including postage (£2.00 to paid-up supporters) from 18 Westlands Grove, York YO31 1EF.

 

VALUES CLARIFICATION ISWORKING

 

‘Foreign teachers recruited to cover the staffing crisis in British schools are so appalled by pupils’ behaviour that they are quitting within days…They say the violence and abuse they suffer at the hands of unruly pupils is far worse than in the Third World. Many go home within two weeks. A third fail to stay to the end of term.’ So reported the Daily Express on its front page on 29 March.  Meanwhile, juvenile street-crime is endemic and illegal drug use is too widespread for police to act against it.    

 

In the year 2000, under-16  pregnancies increased to  8,111 (though under-18 pregnancies reduced slightly to  41,339).  An excellent leaflet, Young People and the ‘Morning-After Pill’  (£2.50 for 10  from Family Education Trust, The Mezzanine, Elizabeth House, York Road, London SE1 7NQ) reports that, between 1995 and 2000, cases of  gonorrhoea among girls under 16 increased by 74%  and diagnosed cases of chlamydia increased by 107%  in England, Wales and Northern Ireland.  

 

Clearly, thousands of young people are now making ‘informed choices’ about their behaviour  as required by the National Curriculum. 

 

Compulsory  Personal Social and Health Education (PSHE) is  based on ‘values clarification’.  Instead of teaching what is right and wrong, ‘values clarification’ teaches youngsters  to make moral choices from a range of  supposedly equally valid options,  according to the situation in which they find themselves. ‘Is it right for me?’ is all that matters. In 1960s California, where ‘values clarification’ originated, its inventors noticed  dangerous  consequences and documented them.  Forty years on, the mixed messages and inherent contradictions are producing similar results for our policy-makers. So why is no-one in authority asking questions or calling anyone to account?    

 

STANDARDS UPDATE

 

A report on last year’s national test results for 14 year-olds from the Qualification and Curriculum Authority (QCA), Standards at Key Stage 3: English, 2001,   says that: ‘The use of full stops and capital letters is not sufficiently secure, and there is some evidence of a decline in the accurate use of sentence boundary markers.’  Last  year’s 11 and 14 year-olds also made more spelling errors than their counterparts the year before, even after 4 years of the National Literacy Strategy. 

 

An article in The Oberver (10 March) by Geraldine Bedell asks why ministers accept  that  1 in 5 primary pupils will not reach the required standard  for literacy – ‘especially when a handful of schools produce results way above this year after year’. ‘Perhaps’, she suggests, ‘it’s because, awkwardly for the government, these schools are, on the whole, not following the National Literacy Strategy?’

 

A survey for Encyclopaedia Britannica found that 6 out of 10 Britons think  the Globe Theatre is in Stratford-upon-Avon and 14 per cent think Everest is Britain’s highest mountain. Another questionnaire  found that 1 in 15 youngsters thinks that the United States are in the European Union. 

 

On 29 March, the TES reported a study by     Queen’s University, Belfast, which compared the mathematical knowledge of  new students over several  years. All those tested had good grades in GCSE maths. Yet the independent  tests showed declining standards since 1995. University staff  are reported to  resent the time spent teaching basic maths which should have been learnt at school. 

 

There’s no need to worry though.  Estelle Morris, the  education secretary, knows  that this year’s  national test scores will be boosted:  ‘This autumn we will see the first evidence of real gains in improved national curriculum test results’ (TES, 22 March).  This, it should be noted, before the 2002 tests have even been taken!

 

A CLEVER PLOY?

 

Stung by  media reports about falling standards,  in December 2000, the QCA appointed three  international experts to consider  A levels – still  regarded as the ‘gold standard’. They were  Professor Eva Baker, University of California and co-director of  the US National Center for Research on Evaluation, Standards and Student Testing, Dr Barry McCaw, deputy director for education with  the OECD, and Lord Sutherland, principal and vice-chancellor of Edinburgh University.

 

But  the experts were not asked to consider  A level standards as such, merely the QCA’s ‘quality assurance system’ for maintaining standards. When they reported in January this year,  they  gave the QCA process for monitoring standards  ‘a clean bill of health’ and advised that ‘parents and employers should be reassured by the overall thrust of our findings.’ 

 

In addition,   the QCA has appointed Professor Ron Carter of Nottingham University to lead research into how better to teach spoken English in schools.  Those with long memories will remember that a decade ago,  education ministers found it necessary to block official publication of the ‘LINC professional development materials’ produced by Professor Carter.  These ‘materials’, which cost taxpayers millions of pounds, were intended for use in the training of teachers. But their ‘progressive’ slant against rigorous grammar and Standard English, coupled with their  failure to  take full  account of research findings, meant they could not officially be sanctioned. Now, it seems, Professor  Carter  is back in favour.

 

PRE-SCHOOL POLICIES QUESTIONED

 

Government policy on under-fives is called into question in a new pamphlet, Comparing Pre-school Standards.  This suggests that schools are ‘no place for pupils as young as 3 and may be unsuitable for 4 year-olds’.  After studying pre-school provision in many countries, Professor Sig Prais, Dr Caroline St John Brooks and Chris Woodhead found nowhere else where tiny children are herded together for pre-school education as they are in the UK.  Edited by Dr Sheila Lawlor, Comparing Pre-school Standards costs £10 from Politeia, 22 Charing Cross Road, London WC2H OQP.

 

GREEN PAPER PACKED WITH SPIN

 

Claiming they have sorted out the primary sector, and having promised to raise standards among 11 to 14 year-olds, education ministers have now set out their plans for youngsters over 14  in a Green Paper, 14-19: extending opportunities, raising standards.   

 

In the foreword,  Estelle Morris writes:  ‘Our first challenge is to build an education system in which every young person and every parent has confidence’ and ‘ensure that no young person is denied the chance of a decent education.’ One of her proposals is to provide  ‘education with character.’ It is also intended to allow young people to drop (or seek ‘disapplication’ from) National Curriculum subjects such as history, geography and foreign languages after the age of 14. But  citizenship, careers education and sex education will remain compulsory, as  they are considered ‘essential for personal development’.

 

‘Higher levels of participation’ and ‘a commitment lifelong learning’ will be enhanced by more vocational options and new qualifications, though these seem pointless without improving standards. To end  ‘exam snobbery’,  new A-levels in subjects such as leisure and tourism, and health and social care will be available from 2004.

 

Meanwhile, the National Audit Office has  reported  that 30,000 students drop out of university every year, because they cannot cope. The annual cost to taxpayers is £150m. 

 

NEW CITIZENSHIP GUIDANCE

 

A new teachers’ guide with schemes of work for citizenship lessons for 14 to 16 year-olds has  now been published by the Department for Education and Skills (DfES) and the QCA.

 

PSHE can help pupils with ‘moral reasoning, clarifying   their opinions  and attitudes’, it says.  Activities ‘should be active and participatory…and develop the skills needed to make choices.’  Pupils should ‘take part in a debate on an issue  such as the decriminalisation of cannabis or the impact of the euro on the UK economy.’ They should  ‘recognise that media coverage of the euro may not present all the facts’,   though  no such warning is given about  information from the government or the European Commission.

 

Pupils should ‘make real choices… develop relationships; consider social and moral dilemmas; and  prepare for change.’  They should also ‘record their personal views on each issue in their citizenship portfolio’ and ‘evaluate   whether/how their views have changed’. 

 

With Big Brother now in the classroom, no wonder teaching is losing its appeal.

 

SCHOOL FUNDING ISN’T WORKING

 

Three years after the introduction of David Blunkett’s ‘Fair Funding’ arrangements for schools,  several LEAs have formed a pressure group to lobby for a better system. They have a point:  in different LEAs, annual  primary funding varies by more than £1,250 per pupil and  annual secondary funding varies by more than £1,500 per pupil. 

 

But that’s only part of the story.  In 2001-02,  England’s 150 LEAs between them creamed off   £6,520m for central expenditure  before any money was delegated directly to school budgets, out of which teachers are paid.

 

Now is the time of year  when LEAs are finalising their Section 52 budgets for 2002-03.  Part 1 of these budgets shows the amounts spent centrally by the LEA and how much it delegates to all its schools.  We strongly recommend that all parents, teachers and school governors get a copy and calculate  the proportions of available cash delegated to various services, especially mainstream schools. Please e-mail or phone us  if any difficulties – we always welcome feedback. 

 

LOCAL NEWS

 

Derbyshire:  Thirty years ago, when Ted Heath was prime minister, Abercrombie Primary School  in Chesterfield was told that its buildings were too dilapidated to repair and should be demolished.   In 1972, the LEA bought land for a new school,  but it is still unused and is  now  wasteland.  The Yorkshire Post  (1 March)  reports that despite a £20m handout from central government, the LEA is unlikely to provide a new school before  2006 or 2007.  Until then,  pupils will have to put up with a crumbling roof and falling tiles.  

 

East Sussex:  Teachers in East Sussex LEA have been told not to invite the Challenge Team, a  theatre group of young Canadians who advocate sexual abstinence, into their schools.  If any proof were needed that the sex education lobby and the government-funded Sex Education Forum do not have the best  interests  of children and young people at heart, this is it.   If  the sex education lobby finds the idea  of  abstinence among school-children so frightening, it is they, not the Challenge Team, who should be banned from schools.  (The Challenge Team regularly visit the UK and Ireland, and can be contacted by e-mail at challengeteam@comnet.ca)

 

Hull: Parents have sent us an interesting article from The Univerity of Hull Bulletin (December-January 2001/2102) written by Professor Ekkehard Kopp, the university’s pro-vice-chancellor.   Entitled ‘On academic standards and social class’,  it recommends that the University ‘must have regard to local and national trends in student demography if it wishes to expand its student numbers’.  Since the local school population  ‘lags behind national norms’  (Hull is always near the bottom of exam league tables),  entry requirements should be reduced. ‘Mean A-level scores would no doubt decline, but lowering the drawbridge need not imply a lowering of standards.’   Surely,  the answer is not to reduce university entry requirements,  but to improve local schools?  

 

North Somerset: A disturbing BBC television programme on  13 January featured Banwell Primary School in North Somerset.  The  programme showed 10 and 11 year-old primary children trying to demonstrate their  ‘sexual awareness’ in order to comply with  the expectations of their  sex education programme.   Despite their obvious reservations,  the children were encouraged to think and behave exactly like adults,  whilst their  parents and teachers seemed oblivious to what was happening.  On the day prior to the programme, Melanie Phillips, who had already seen it,  wrote an excellent  article in the Daily Mail asking,  ‘Why are we destroying childhood?’  Why, indeed?

 

Sheffield:  On 10 February, The Observer  reported  that shortly before the last general election, David Blunkett, who was then education secretary,   intervened personally to persuade the Timeplan  teaching agency to  transfer  a ‘very good’  Australian teacher from a school in Manchester to fill a gap in a Sheffield school. Without his intervention, staff shortages at Mansell Primary School in Mr  Blunkett’s constituency would  have compelled the head to introduce a four-day week.  Depriving a school in Manchester of a much-needed teacher, it appears, took second place to avoiding embarrassment for a high profile education minister.

 

RECOMMENDED PUBLICATIONS

 

Step by Step by Mona McNee was one of the first handbooks explaining  how to teach reading  using successful  systematic phonics-first. It has now been renamed c-a-t = CAT and published on the internet for free downloading (www.users.rapid.net.uk/catphonics). Free advice is also available from  mcnee@rapid.co.uk

 

The website of Jolly Phonics Ltd, publishers of  proven  materials for teaching reading, now includes important research-based information on the most effective methods:  www.jollyphonics.co.uk

 

Learning from Europe: the Dutch and Danish school systems by Mogens Kamp Justeson is packed with    information about the organisation of continental schools and how much more choice parents have there. £10 from the Adam Smith Institute,  23 Great Smith Street, London  SW1P 3BL, or free at www.adamsmith.org

 

Standards and Spending: dispelling the spending orthodoxy by Dr John Marks examines international research which shows there is no strong correlation between spending and results. According to data from the Audit Commission, children in high spending LEAs with smaller class sizes generally do worse at primary and secondary level.  £7.50 from the  Centre for Policy Studies, 57 Tufton Street, London SW1P 3QL.  

 

SNIPPETS

 

In fact,  the situation is so bad that some boroughs such as Southwark…are giving literacy tests to applicants for social work posts. It beggars belief.  Social workers regard themselves as ‘professionals’ on a par with teachers or lawyers.  But can you imagine asking your solicitor to prove he can read and write? Jo-Ann Goodwin, The Daily Mail, 16 February 2002.

 

Key learning outcomes…develop a shared understanding of working together for change…  The whole assignment is focussed on reflection – this means that if the participant shows no obvious evidence of reflection…then they cannot pass...What is your own personal value system and how does that affect how you relate to people and how it fits in with Connexions?    Understanding Connexions Programme, www.dfes.gov.uk

 

New Age educators are developing and testing curriculum [materials] at a feverish pace in hopes of gaining acceptance in school districts across the country. In order to be approved, these materials are cleverly packaged as ‘scientific techniques’ to develop creativity, enhance learning capacity and enable children to manage stress, solve problems and improve self-esteem.   From a review on the internet of   The Seduction of Our Children by Neil T. Anderson and Steve Russo, Harvest House Publishers,  available from www.amazon.com

 

The Green Paper invites suggestions on how GCSE should evolve. My hope is that GSCE will become more modular with a stronger element of teacher assessment, which could be achieved without damaging standards…Higher education will be the hardest to win over. Admissions tutors in universities often ignored the new key skills qualifications and so damaged them in their infancy. David Hargreaves, TES, 15 February 2002.

 

AND FINALLY...

 

THANKS TO ALL OUR SUPPORTERS

 

We are immensely grateful to everyone who sent us a donation in response to our last newsletter –  and especially to those who were exceptionally generous and those who regularly help to fund us  year after year.

 

Without the Campaign for Real Education,  things would be much worse. For example,  on 15 March, the front page of the TES  reported that the QCA was hoping to reduce the time allowed for  national tests on Shakespeare. Traditionalists, including us, were reported to be angry. Headlines  in The Times the following day described the proposals as dumbing down.  Within hours, the plans were abandoned and the following week, the TES noted ‘the swiftness of Ms Morris’s response’ which demonstrated ‘government sensitivity to accusations of dumbing down and criticism from traditionalists’.  

 

Unfortunately, the government isn’t sensitive enough, but ministers do get nervous about  media coverage and public opinion.  So please keep us informed. The more information we have, the more effective we can be.  

 

/Campaign for Real Education, April 2002

 

 

Chairman: Chris McGovern.  Tel: 01435 830109 or 07757 715145.  Email: mcgovernchris@hotmail.com
Vice Chairmen: Jennifer Chew OBE, Jacqui Davies, Katie Ivens
Treasurer: Dr WAD Freeman, Ashgate, Halland, East Sussex, BN8 6PW.  Tel: 01825 840831.  Email: anthony831freeman@gmail.com
Secretary: Priya Dutta, 75 Truro Road, London N22 8DH.  Tel: 07701 088720.  Email: priyadutta@hotmail.com