Welcome to the blog. All the opinion on this blog is my own or as attributed. Thank you for reading - I hope you enjoy.

Saturday, 22 January 2011

The Importance of Teaching - but only what we tell you to teach

In December 2010 the Department for Education released its White Paper – ‘The Importance of Teaching’. Part of the Executive Summary states: “In England, what is needed most of all is decisive action to free our teachers from constraint ……. rather than ceaselessly directing them to follow centralised Government initiatives.” Amongst other things, the White Paper goes on to discuss how the coalition wants to ‘de-bureaucratise’ the system and to get away from schools becoming good at achieving government targets at the expense of being able to do what is best for the pupils

Michael Gove’s method to ‘de-bureaucratise and allow teachers to do what is best for the pupils’ is to constrain teachers in what subjects they can offer children by forcing them to follow a centralised Government initiative – the English Baccalaureate.

The English Baccalaureate will be a new qualification, achieved by obtaining a GSCE grade A to C in English, Maths, a science, a modern language and a humanity.

Schools are going to be caught between a rock and a hard place. On the one hand the Government is telling them they will be free to teach in a way best suited to accommodate individual pupils’ requirements. However, schools are now going to be judged not on how well they teach the core subjects but also on subjects which some pupils might not even take.

Governors across the country will be facing hard decisions. They may be forced to decide to reduce the range of options available to pupils and insist that they complete subjects that will add up to an English Baccalaureate. Schools where less than 35% gain the new qualification will be placed into special measures and branded as failing.

It will be a brave school indeed that decides to look holistically at individual children’s needs to allow them to take subjects that they are best suited to. The risk for the school is that not enough children will even take all five of the subjects required for the Ebacc and that will mean that, despite generally all round excellent results, the school will be labelled as a failure and be placed in special measures.

The English Baccalaureate also highlights the dichotomy between academic and vocational qualifications. Through this legislation the Government is placing a far greater emphasis on academic qualifications and achievement. However, this means that if the Ebacc takes off then those children who study vocational subjects could be stigmatised because of their ‘lack of academic prowess’.

Monday, 17 January 2011

People Power

Tonight I was proud to attend a meeting of the Paynters Lane End Residents Association. This is a fledgling association that has been going for a couple of months. The estate, which is a mixture of tenants and owners, has decided to come together to build a stronger sense of community through working together with Coastline to address the issues which face them.

The reason that I am particularly happy to see this association up and running is because I was able to play a small part in helping to facilitate its creation. During my election campaign I went round the parish to identify the issues that people thought were important to them. At Paynters lane End one gentleman was very eloquent in describing some of the problems that faced the residents and he said that politicians were prone to saying that they wanted to get things done but then never followed through (especially after the election). I make it a point to never make any promise that I may not be able to keep but I do always promise to do the best that I can to help wherever I might be able to. The gentleman asked if I ‘had the **lls to get something done’. I said that I never made promises but I would do what I could.

To cut the story short I contacted Coastline and after several emails the residents association began to take shape. I can’t and I don’t want to make out that I am responsible for making Paynters Lane End Estate into some sort of utopian society, clearly I’m not. However, I am proud that I have helped to make a small positive difference to people’s lives.

The association is now dealing with all sorts of issues including car parking, traffic calming and consultations. This is real people power in action – people working together and helping each other to achieve more from life for themselves and their children.

Monday, 3 January 2011

Cornish Children are only worth half as much as those from London

In December figures for the ‘Guaranteed Units of Funding’ (GUF) for 2011-2012 were published by the Department for Education. While children in the City of London will receive £9373 per pupil, Cornish children will have to make do with £4663. Cornwall is 136th on the list of 151 local authorities, in terms of educational funding, with each pupil receiving over £400 less than the average child in England.

Last July, Mebyon Kernow leader, Dick Cole, proposed that Cornwall Council called on the new coalition government to set up a commission to investigate fairer funding of Cornwall’s public services. The resolution was passed despite attempts by the Conservative leader of the Council, Alec Robertson, to stop it.

While Clegg and Cameron shuffle funding around the system and call it a pupil premium, Mebyon Kernow call on Cornwall’s politicians to demand fairer funding for Cornwall’s children.

Cornwall’s rural setting and culture of smaller, less centralised communities means that we face challenges that schools in London simply don’t have. Transport, recruitment and the cost of supply staff are particular problems.

It’s time that our politicians recognised Cornwall’s needs and acted to put Cornwall first rather than grandstand for the press and then blithely carry on following their London based party political policies.