Friday, March 27, 2009

Lagacy Of Rubble

All that remains of state education

This government will surely go down as one of the worst we have ever had. It took a golden legacy and in little more than a decade, reduced it to a pile of rubble.

Destruction of the economy is total, and will take at least a decade to repair. But we sort of expect that from Labour- they are socialists, and destroying economies is what socialists do. If that's not what you want, you shouldn't elect them in the first place.

Their really shameful acts of destruction have been in our public services - the very things they promised to "save" from the heartless Tories. And nothing is more shameful than their systematic dumbing down of education.

We've blogged this many times before, and here's our depressing summary:

  • Pre-primary skills among five-year olds are unchanged despite a £21bn programme to improve them (see this blog)
  • 3Rs skills among seven-year olds are stalled, with eg 20% failing to reach the minimum expected standard in writing (see here)
  • 3Rs skills among eleven-year olds are stalled, with 60% failing to reach the minimum expected standard in reading, writing, and maths (see this blog and this)
  • Core attainment among fourteen-year olds is also stalled, with nearly 40% failing to reach the minimum expected standard in English, maths, and science (see here)
  • At GCSE 54% still fail to gain 5 A-C grades including both English and Maths (see excellent Chris Woodhead article here)
  • A Level results continue to soar, but we now know they are two whole grades easier than twenty years ago (see this blog)
And that's just our schools - beyond that, another bonkers target-driven programme has been dumbing down our unis as well.

The destruction of state education is now a painfully familiar story, and to be honest with you, it was making us so depressed and angry, we stopped blogging each fresh horror. But this week we've had a couple of items that really have to be clocked.

First, we had a proposal to scrap the teaching of history in primary schools in favour of lessons in Twittering. According to the Guardian:
"Children will no longer have to study the Victorians or the second world war under proposals to overhaul the primary school curriculum. However, the draft plans will require children to master Twitter and Wikipedia."

It's such an outrageous suggestion, you wonder if it's a deliberate wind-up aimed at people like us (as James Delingpole suggests here). But it isn't - it's a serious proposal drawn up by Sir Jim Rose, the former Ofsted chief (ie Mrs McNulty's predecessor).

One thing's for sure - the only children on whom this nonsense will be inflicted are those whose parents cannot afford private school fees. Paying customers would never accept it. Paying customers who have the freedom of making their own choices almost invariably choose what the state education commissars disparagingly refer to as "traditional education".

And then today, we have the exams standards quango Ofqual confirming what most of us already knew - that the standard of science GCSEs has fallen through the floor, and urgent action is required to repair the damage.

As it happens, the extent of the dumb-down in GCSE Science was vividly documented 18 months ago on Amused Cynicism. You should go and read the post - and the attached full scan of an actual Edexel GCSE Science paper on physics - but here's a quick taster:

Note how you don't need any knowledge of physics whatsoever to answer the questions - and that last one is taken from the supposedly "hard" section of the paper.

In the spot where state education once stood, Labour are leaving nothing but a huge crater.

But at least here, the Tories have a clear plan - the Swedish model of state funded independent schools and parental choice (aka education vouchers). And in Michael Gove they've got someone who sounds like he might actually deliver it. He needs to get started on Day One.

PS Gove has been telling the Economist about his plans (see article here). And in the audio version of the interview - well worth listening to - he quotes a truly shocking figure. It turns out that the Department for Children Schools and Families spends less than half its £64bn pa budget directly in our schools. Where does the rest go? He doesn't say, but we do know that an extraordinary £11bn pa goes on unfunded teachers pensions.

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