The state and future of the UK education system @BETT Show

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Live blogging 13:30 pm

Roundtable Discussion – The state and future of our education system

Participants: Russell Hobby, General Secretary NAHT, Mary Bousted, General Secretary, ATL, Martin Doel, ChieF Executive National Association of Colleges, Dale Basset, Research Director @Reform, Rachel Wolf, Founder, New Schools Network, Ian Budd, Chairman @ Association of Directors of Education in Wales

The discussion revolves around the need to qualify teachers and headteachers to effectively run schools (for example by joining MBA programs), and how institutions are accountable to the communities in an autonomous framework for education. The focus is therefore on giving responsibilities to individual institutions.

Concerns from councils are the performance of schools and whether there will be enough spaces for the pupils. In terms of accountability, Mary thinks that there is a need to make both parents and schools accountable for what happens in schools, as passing this responsability primarily to parents is no accountability at all. If the school is not performing well it is the role of local authorities to monitor it. Parents accountability must be only a part of it as it is not enough. She thinks that more autonomous schools will be harder to be monitored in relation to performance. In summary, she seems to be in favour of local authorities to perform this monitoring role.

Not all members in the panel agree with that, arguing that parents do care about the quality of education and would be able to report on bad schools quickly. Mary thinks parents may not know pedagogy well enough to perform the role of accountability solely. The panel suggested that accountability can also involve students, in college contexts, and that there should be in fact a network of accountability.

Bad performing schools are a main concern since local authorities do not seem to be doing their job well – the panel argues. The implementation of peer accountability (peer review) between institutions is a sytems suggested as a solution.

Vertical accountability versus horizontal accountability in terms of school performance seems to be what is necessary. They suggest that there needs to be a strong involvement with parents. There is no agreement in the panel however in relation to giving parents total freedom to choose the school for their children. It has been argued that choice needs to take place only when ‘informed choice’ is possible.

Question: What is the right balance between the autnomy of the teacher and the national curriculum?

The pane argues that research has shown that more flexibility in the curriculum is needed in some areas. It is important to think of motivation and progression when addressing this issue.

Comment from audience: The dept of education seems to be taking chaotic decisions and not to have a vision for education in Britain.

The panel feels there needs to be an open discussion about what the purpose of education is. A panel member thinks that there is inevitably some chaos in policy making, so schools need to be accountable for properly responding to what is requested of them. They also think the role of governing bodies remain essential.

Comment from audience: informal learning needs to taken into account in the discussion. Lots of learning have been done outside school, and the discussion in the panel revolved around curriculum and control. It has been argued that one of the schools’ role is to keep kids out of the street (Mary). The role of school goes beyond curriculum, she argues.

The session finished with an open question: why is it suggested that computer sciences studies is not for everyone? It could be argued that Romeo and Juliet is not either… (laughs).

One Response

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