Review of new pamphlet from the Socialist Education Association

Robin Richardson

Image© Keith Edkins

‘We hold,’ say the Tories and Lib Dems with their actions, though not with their exact words unless behind closed doors, ‘this truth to be self-evident, that human beings are born unequal.’  They continue – again with deeds rather than with explicit policy discourse – along lines such as the following: ‘It is urgent that we should return the education system to the essential role which it always played in the past, which is to prepare children and their parents for inequality, and to accept and appreciate inequality. Those who deserve to prosper will do so, for our desire is simply to set people  free from state intervention and control. Those who do not deserve to prosper, due to their lack of intelligence, energy or aspirations, will be treated with compassion, in so far as resources permit. But basically we say to them, tough, that’s life. In these various ways we are making the world safe for capitalism in its neoliberal variety. Everyone will benefit, of course, even if some do not yet realise this.’ Read more of this post

EQUALITIES AND ACCOUNTABILITY – THE PUPIL PREMIUM

Bill Bolloten, Sameena Choudry and Robin Richardson 

Image © Chris Ensell

The pupil premium grant (PPG) is a flagship government scheme for schools. Next week it will be praised and celebrated at the 2013 pupil premium awards ceremony organised in partnership with the Department for Education (DfE).

An independent panel of experts has judged which schools have best used the PPG to make a real difference to the attainment of disadvantaged pupils.

However, almost two-thirds of the 48 schools that have been named as regional winners or commended for the awards ceremony have so far failed to comply fully with regulations relating to accountability. Also, about four-fifths of them appear to have ignored or misunderstood the regulations concerning accountability in the Equality Act 2010.

‘Take it and use it as you think fit. But …’ Read more of this post

Stories, schools and statues – the Tory view of history

Robin Richardson

copyright Simon Harriyott`s photostream

First, tweeted Michael Rosen recently, they came for Mary Seacole. He was echoing a famous poem about resistance to totalitarian rule. And, he continued, because I’m not a woman and I’m not black, I didn’t speak out.

Well actually, Rosen himself has spoken out with characteristic eloquence about Mary Seacole and her place in the national curriculum in England. And well over thirty thousand people, so far, have signed a petition urging that she should continue to feature explicitly in the teaching of history in schools. There was recently a letter from Jesse Jackson and 50 others about this in The Times, the Archbishop of York has weighed in with an article in the Sun, an early day motion is currently open for signature in parliament, and the issue appears to have split the coalition government wide open, with Nick Clegg pledging he will oppose the new plans for the history curriculum which, according to leaks, Michael Gove is shortly going to announce.

Adding to a widespread sense of outrage, there are rumours that Gove’s private office has blocked access by civil servants at the Department for Education to the website of a distinguished professor of education who has dared to criticise the plans. Next, Rosen’s pastiche might continue, they came for the academics. Read more of this post

Would you trust Michael Gove with your child?

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Image © Regional Cabinet

Mathew Hulbert

Other than national security and health, there is nothing more important than the education of our people.

It is the area of policy with which I care most about.

Why?

Because, at its best, a good education can open up a whole world of opportunities.

It can be the great leveller.

It can enable young people who, in terms of their background, have not had many chances or opportunities to shine and show that they are just as capable of great achievements as those born with rather more privilege, sometimes even more so.

That was the laudable aim of comprehensive education, when it was created under the excellent leadership of Shirley Williams (then Labour Secretary of State for Education, now, of course, a leading Liberal Democrat Peer).

So, why is this Government seemingly in favour of turning this all on its head?

Can that possibly be a good thing?

Is the future of our education system now only in the hands of the right-wing ideologue Michael Gove?

And where is the Lib Dem influence in it all?

Read more of this post

Lib Dems – idealists or realists?

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Image © Liberal Democrats

Laurel

Like many people I am not a member of a political party but did vote for the Lib Dems on the grounds of their opposition to the Iraq war and their promise to abolish tuition fees.

In an article (Times 14th) Daniel Finkelstein took time out to refer to the historic march against the Iraq invasion and said ‘Almost ten years ago, idealists young and old congregated in capital cities all over the world to protest against the forthcoming invasion of Iraq’. Well, sorry Mr Finkelstein, but events have shown that we weren’t the idealists, we were the realists. The idealists who took us to war have created a situation where, following the chaos created in Iraq, Iran fills the vacuum and threatens to become the dominant, nuclear armed, state in the region.

Many of those who marched were from the middle classes and many duly voted for the Lib Dems because of that party’s opposition to the war and because of the party’s promises to eliminate tuition fees.

Yes, tuition fees again, but this time the issue is what it did to the party.  Mr Clegg took those (middle class) votes and used them to gain his party a position where they could hold the balance between the Tories and Labour. But when it came to the crunch he used those same votes to turn his back on promises he had made over tuition fees. From that moment on he lost the support of thousands if not millions of middle class voters.

Read more of this post

Fair pay for interns: MPs should set an example

John Lucas

Image © Liberal Democrats

Campaigners won a partial victory this week after 100 leading companies said they will pay wages or expenses to young people on internships.   It is hoped the agreement will hasten the demise of the practice whereby children of well-connected, affluent types labour for free in return for possible paid jobs in the future.  Critics have long argued that anyone doing more than light duties on work experience should be paid and that existing customs leave many capable but less prosperous candidates unable to gain vital experience.  Deputy PM Nick Clegg apparently agrees, and welcomed the new deal.   But the group of employers most conspicuous by their absence from the agreement were MPs who, along with think-tanks, are some of the worst offenders when it comes to soliciting free labour.

Doing unpaid work for an MP is the traditional route into the world of Westminster politics, and even when controversy over this issue began in 2009 most MPs continued to advertise for unpaid interns.   Pressure group Intern Aware has been writing to MPs to warn them that under the Minimum Wage Act (1998) all employers must pay workers at least the minimum wage, whether they call them ‘interns’ or not.  But the adverts continue.      Read more of this post

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