I’m currently in the middle of attempting to write a reflection on the #onandup conference that I attended yesterday, where a wide range of inspiring practice was discussed, with a real ‘learner-centred’ feel. It was great to hear stories of truly progressive education.
However, I have, once again, been distracted by news of Michael Gove’s ridiculous, regressive plans for education, that are rightly causing outrage amongst many educators (evident from the #govemustgo backchannel on twitter).
Today, it all stems from this article about the government’s curriculum review and the idea of introducing a booklist for all primary schools, detailing the texts that should be read. For me, this signals a narrowing of the curriculum and heightens the awareness of dangerous governmental control. I recently wrote an assignment on my vision and values for education, where I began by deconstructing the model of schooling we have inherited from the industrial era, which, it can (and has) been argued, is based on systems of control and surveillance where economic state prosperity is valued over individual prosperity and, ultimately, over what I believe education should truly be for. It worries me that Gove seems to want to return to this.
A quick google search for ‘conservative education policy’ leads to the party’s schools policy page, which details how the conservatives are, apparently, ’empowering teachers’ by ‘cutting bureaucracy and guidance, allowing teachers to get on with the job’. Clearly, however, introducing a booklist and prescribing the texts available to primary schools is anything but empowering. As Michael Rosen highlights in the BBC article, this booklist reflects wider, ‘totalitarian’ issues, where the state dictate what children read. This article on Nazi book-burning was linked to in a post by @mosquitomax on twitter, and is a harrowing reminder of the extent of government control. If a child was to access a book outside of this list, what would the government like teachers to do? Punish? I will certainly not.
I feel this is getting a bit ‘full on’. Of course, I am not accusing the government of taking a Nazist approach, I am simply reflecting on the dangerous implications of controlled reading practice.
This article also discusses the curriculum review, which aims to create a “world-class curriculum that will help teachers, parents and children know what children should learn at what age”. Who defines what children should know at what age? How can this even be defined when all children are individuals?! And as for this whole (pseudo) free schools stuff. If a ‘free’ school must be approved by government and still meet government set targets, then how, exactly, is it free? There is a lot more that I would like to rant about. But I will restrain, as I want my blog to be more of a celebration of inspiring, progressive, engaging, effective practice, that a space to dwell on utter tosh.
I am genuinely concerned that this current government are going to get it wrong, and whilst I am incredibly excited about starting my first qualified teaching post in September, I am incredibly apprehensive about what the future may hold. Yesterday, @oliverquinlan reflected on the importance of stories and of the impact teachers have on shaping the stories of children we teach. I think Gove is writing the wrong story. A story that does not end well. A story that I do not want to be part of. It certainly isn’t going on my booklist.
The following tweet from @MrIanHickman is probably the most important thing I will take away from all this, as I enter my first year in teaching:
I am certainly going to be standing up for what is right for children and look forward to it!