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John Simkin

Advice for New Education Secretary

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Ruth Kelly has just been appointed as Education Secretary. What should she do? Here are a few suggestions:

1. Remove league tables.

2. Bring an end to City Academies, SATs, and Ofsted.

3. Make all schools “specialist” schools with equal funding.

4. Accept in full the Tomlinson Report.

5. Fund further education via the taxation system. Abolish tuition fees.

6. End the corrupt e-learning credits scheme and use this money to fund teachers to produce free online materials.

7. Bring an end to publicly funded church schools.

8. Force those few remaining LEAs to abolish the 11+.

9. Increase the number of special schools.

10. Equalize the teacher pension scheme.

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First, set schools free from the suffocating hand of government. I once said to David Blunkett that the government was burying schools under silly prescriptions. He replied: "That's only what gets through. You should see the stuff I stop." Why does the government tell schools they must introduce a house system? Why does the 2002 Education Act require schools to write to you, the minister (and fill in a stupid form), if they want to innovate? What an insult.

Second, Blairite or not, brass-neck it and tell the prime minister's policy unit to go and boil its head. Some of the barmiest schemes on the planet have emerged from its maw, like the attempt to introduce a third A-level, the Advanced Extension exam, when pupils and teachers were reeling under the impact of A- and AS-levels. Tickets for a long holiday in Albania are called for. To adapt the mantra of your mentor: tough on crap, tough on the causes of crap.

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Crap is engulfing the world. If you want educational crap of the highest order, come to Australia. Dr Nelson our esteemed federal education minister has recently decreed:

. all schools must have a flag pole and fly the Australian flag every day

. federal funding will be tied to benchmarks and increased testing

. wealthy private schools which are attended by a whopping 30% will continue to get more money

. a mandated (by the govt) set of values will be taught in all schools

. league tables will be introduced

. an expensive and totally unnecessary inquiry in to the teaching of reading when we already know that a mixture of methods works best

Now, that should really put us in the forefront of education.

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a mandated (by the govt) set of values will be taught in all schools

All of this sounds awful and deeply philistine Jean - I wish you good luck standing up to this fool in the name of real education.

I would be particularly interested to know what values your government are pushing to be taught in schools.

I am of the belief that any attempt to transmit 'values' in school is a fundamentally anti educational act. Children should not be seen as empty vessels into which bigoted nonsense can be poured into wholesale- unless of course you are Bernhard Rust!

Real education empowers students to challenge the half baked nonsense of their elders.

What should Ruth Kelly do to improve education in Britain?

Hand teacher training back to the Universities wholesale

Strengthen the entry requirement to any TT course to a minimum of a good 2:1

Abolish the National Curriculum and its associated mad tests

Abolish performance related pay for teachers

Abolish all forms of selection

Abolish specialist school status

Ban all forms of religious instruction from all schools

Remove all tiers of management from all schools

Empower and fund LEAs to administer, advise and monitor education in their areas

I would also like it all done by next Tuesday if that is possible :)

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Here tis:

On one of his media releases he also mentioned a sense of hu,our should be taught!! And the best of British luck!

MEDIA RELEASE

$34.6 MILLION FOR VALUES, CIVICS AND CITIZENSHIP EDUCATION

11 May 2004 MINBUD 12/04

Australian parents more than ever are expecting schools to foster values such as tolerance, trust, mutual respect, courage, compassion, honesty, courtesy and doing one’s best.

Every Australian child needs to have an understanding of values as part of their schooling. Schools can support our democratic way of life by helping students to be active and informed citizens. A values-free education risks producing values-free adults.

To this end the Australian Government is providing $29.7 million to support values education in Australian schools and $4.9 million for civics and citizenship education over four years.

The Values Education Study, published by the Australian Government in November 2003, showed that, while many schools in all sectors are doing good work in this area, comprehensive values education is still at an early stage in Australian schools.

The Government’s values education initiative will help make values a core part of Australian schooling by providing funding for:

values education forums in every school in Australia involving parents and the whole school community;

champion schools to showcase best practice approaches in line with a national framework on values education;

drug education forums in every school in Australia informing students about drugs, drawing on the experiences of students themselves. This is in addition to the $14.9 million which the Government is providing over the next four years for school drug education through the continuation of the National School Drug Education Strategy;

curriculum and assessment resources for all schools to teach values; and

national activities such as partnership projects with national parent, teacher, school principal and teacher educator organisations.

Continued funding for civics and citizenship education will build on the Discovering Democracy programme which concludes in June. Funding will be provided for:

curriculum resources through a continuing civics and citizenship education website; and

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The Tomlinson report gives you an opportunity to focus again on what goes on in the classroom. Don't fudge it in the forthcoming white paper by keeping A-levels and GCSEs.

Make school choice fairer for all parents by finally ending selection at 11 and introducing the model set of admission criteria which Charles Clarke hinted at in his response to the education select committee.

Remind your friend the chancellor that we are still not spending enough of the nation's wealth on education. Schools need more money, especially those that are dealing with children with impoverished, challenging home lives. They can't all go to city academies - indeed, there is evidence that some of them are being thrown out of your flagships in alarming numbers.

You have to walk the tightrope between ideologues in No 10, the public and your party, many of whose members are actively involved as parents, governors and teachers in trying to drag up standards in state schools. I know it's unfashionable in New Labour circles but we see our schools at the heart of our communities, vehicles for social cohesion as well as social mobility. We know what works and what doesn't work. I hope you will listen to us.

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Just one piece of advice:

Bring England into line with our European neighbours and abandon the policy of allowing schools to stop teaching modern foreign languages to children aged over 14.

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Bring England into line with our European neighbours and abandon the policy of allowing schools to stop teaching modern foreign languages to children aged over 14.

... and bring England into line with her European neighbours by starting teaching modern foreign languages to children all through their school-age through those foreign languages.

A modern foreign language is not the translation of English into that modern foreign language.

It is a modern foreign language in its own right, with an equally valid culture to go with it.

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One piece of advice I would like to give Ruth Kelly is that “Faith Schools” should be gradually phased out. However, as a supporter of Roman Catholic schools she is unlikely to take kindly to this suggestion.

Apparently Kelly’s views on issues such as abortion and contraception made it impossible for her to serve as a health or international development minister.

Yesterday Kelly admitted that she received "spiritual support" from the controversial Roman Catholic Opus Dei movement. There is speculation that Blair is also a member of this group.

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I am of the belief that any attempt to transmit 'values' in school is a fundamentally anti educational act. Children should not be seen as empty vessels into which bigoted nonsense can be poured into wholesale.

But Andy, isn't that exactly what you yourself proposed when you said on another thread that as educators we had a duty to inculcate tolerance of alternative sexual life choices? I think we sometimes have a tendency to make a distinction between those values of which we disapprove -- which shouldn't be transmitted -- and those of which we approve -- which should be! I have no problem with making such distinctions, but I don't think you can "have it both ways"!

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Yesterday Kelly admitted that she received "spiritual support" from the controversial Roman Catholic Opus Dei movement. There is speculation that Blair is also a member of this group.

And your point is? Why shouldn't either of them belong to any group they wish? If I were to receive "spiritual support" from the Dalai Lama, or even from Ken Livingstone, would this somehow disqualify me from something?

There's been a long thread on the TES forum about this, and some very intolerant things have been said to the effect that no member of OD should have any role in public life because it was "secret" and "right wing".

I suppose my position is that what people do or believe in their private lives is just that -- private. As long as no one can demonstrate that membership of OD in some way affects the way she does her job, so what?

With regard to the wider issue of religious education, I think it would be a shame to abandon it altogether. I don't think children should be subjected to any sort of attempt to prosletyze in school, but, on the other hand, there is a religious element to our history and culture which it is difficult fully to appreciate without any background knowledge about the religion itself.

I teach in an American school, and, as you know, there is a constitutional bar on any sort of religion in school. This has been taken to such extremes in recent years that publishers and educational administrators seem almost to have purged any mention of religion from social studies programs. I think it's more difficult for my students to appreciate Renaissance art, for example, if they know nothing about the bible stories so often depicted in them....

By all means, lets get rid of narrow sectarianism in education, but, at the same time, let's not eradicate teaching about religion... Its a question of "cultural literacy"...

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And your point is? Why shouldn't either of them belong to any group they wish? If I were to receive "spiritual support" from the Dalai Lama, or even from Ken Livingstone, would this somehow disqualify me from something?

There's been a long thread on the TES forum about this, and some very intolerant things have been said to the effect that no member of OD should have any role in public life because it was "secret" and "right wing".

I suppose my position is that what people do or believe in their private lives is just that - private. As long as no one can demonstrate that membership of OD in some way affects the way she does her job, so what?

There has been a great deal in the newspapers about Ruth Kelly’s membership of Opus Dei movement (she in fact refuses to answer questions about if she is a member or not – that in itself provides the answer).

Why should liberals newspapers like the Guardian and the Independent be interested in Ruth Kelly’s membership of Opus Dei. Surely, in a democracy, everyone has the right to be a member of whatever group you like? Yes, but in a democracy it is also important for the electorate to know what organization a member belongs to. People obviously become suspicious when the politician refuses to answer this question.

Democracies are wary of “secret organizations”. For example, in the past Masons have made use of its secret membership to win political and legal favours.

Electors are particularly concerned about Roman Catholic organizations. The reasons for this is the belief in the infallibility of the pope. The fear is that the politician will secretly promote the views of the pope in government. This is why Kelly was not allowed to become a minister in the health department. It is believed that she is an opponent of abortion and artificial birth control. She probably holds these views because she is following the teachings of the pope. These views are in direct contrast to the policy of the Labour Party. If her loyalties are first of all to the pope, she is considered to be a poor choice as a minister in the health department.

My point was that if she is indeed a believer in the Opus Dei doctrine, she is a poor choice as education minister. Will she be trying to implement the pope’s views on “faith schools”? If so, the electorate needs to know.

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My point was that if she is indeed a believer in the Opus Dei doctrine, she is a poor choice as education minister. Will she be trying to implement the pope’s views on “faith schools”? If so, the electorate needs to know.

And mine is that it is not her beliefs, or, indeed, her membership of an organization which should "make her a poor choice", but her actions...

I had a similar argument on the TES forum some time ago about whether BNP members should be allowed to teach. I think they should, as long as they do nothing racist... Once we start disqualifying people from jobs because we don't like their views, we're on a very slippery slope. It's OK when we make these decisions, because we're wise and tolerant. But would we feel as comfortable if it were Michael Howard and his ilk deciding?

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I had a similar argument on the TES forum some time ago about whether BNP members should be allowed to teach. I think they should, as long as they do nothing racist... Once we start disqualifying people from jobs because we don't like their views, we're on a very slippery slope. It's OK when we  make these decisions, because we're wise and tolerant. But would we feel as comfortable if it were Michael Howard and his ilk deciding?

I agree that members of the BNP should be allowed to teach our children. I believe that members of Opus Dei should have the same right. However, I do not think it is acceptable for a member of the government should be a secret member of the BNP or Opus Dei. If there is nothing wrong with the organization, why cannot they admit membership? What have they to hide?

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