A Bungled Education System

Lancashire Hot Pot is a type of stew in which ‘everything but the kitchen sink’ goes in the pan, and this is probably the closest we will get to describing the British educational system at the moment.

Education is one of the cornerstone’s of any modern culture, and if you mess that up, you ruin not only people’s lives, but the future of the nation. So what has gone wrong in Britain?

Well, in a nutshell – politicians! If there is a way to mess up a perfectly good working system, politicians will find it!

Yea! Right!

Up to the beginning of the 60’s, we had a system of education that worked, and gave us many of the leading scientists, entrepreneurs and academics in the world. No one could touch us for sheer brilliance, not even the United States, who lured away most of our top scientists with promises of extravagant salaries (known as The Brain Drain).

In 1965,  Anthony Crosland, Secretary of State for Education for the then Labour government, introduced comprehensive schools. This was the catalyst for the de-fragmentation of UK education. From that moment on, we saw increased diversification into faith schools, technical schools, academies etc. etc. etc.

Each successive government since then has added its own few ingredients to the stew, and now today, we have a system of complete confusion, and on the verge of total collapse.

I Expected Better

I had hoped Cameron and Co. would have done something to fix the problem after 13 years of Labour meddling, but unfortunately, they have only succeeded in making the problem much worse by introducing ‘free’ schools, adding yet another variation to an already confused system. The kids don’t know where they belong, the parents don’t know which school is best for their child,  and the education staff are in complete disarray.

The evidence for this is everywhere you look. A youth that is semi-literate and unemployable, and teachers who don’t know what time of day it is! None of the ‘old style’subjects are taught properly anymore: history, geography, religious education, physical training, chemistry, and in many cases, physics.

A modern school: Teacher: “Right class! History is about the past, geography is where places are on the map, religion is about Jesus and all that stuff. – Karen, please pick up your pen dear! – Right, you can put it down now. – That was about all exercise which we call physical training. Next is chemistry, all about chemicals, and the last one is physics which concerns – errrr! Can anyone tell me what physics has to do with? – Jeremy? – Physical things? – Well I guess that is close enough. Right class, dismissed.”

Trying Hard But Getting Nowhere!

Sorry, just couldn’t resist it! It is indeed a sad indictment, when the education system of a country is so bad, that most of the pupils leaving it read and write like eight-year-olds. Sure, the figures look good when you see a 97% pass rate for GCSE, but when you consider that a twelve-year-old from 1955 could quite possibly have sailed through it, it doesn’t really mean much, especially in today’s hi-tech world.

Maybe we will have to wait for the next government (which will probably be Labour again so don’t hold your breath) for the UK education system to be kicked back into shape. But to be honest, I very much doubt if that will happen.

I reproduce a breakdown of the UK schools from the Independant newspaper which will probably surprise you:

Schools Graphic

3,446: There are 3,446 state secondary schools in England. The vast majority (about 2,950) are comprehensive in name. There are still 164 selective grammar schools in the country and the rest are either secondary modern schools or “high” schools (effectively secondary modern schools that choose to use a different name to describe themselves).

1,300: Within that 3,446 figure, there are 1,300 academies. The difference between these and those that remain maintained by the local authority is that they have the same freedoms as independent schools to set their own curriculum, hire non-qualified teachers and run their own affairs. There are, to complicate it further, two types of academies. There are those set up under the previous Labour government which have sponsors (education charities, private providers, independent schools and universities). There are 319 sponsored academies. Under the Coalition, existing state schools – firstly those described as “outstanding” by Ofsted – were allowed to transfer to academy status. There are 981 transferred academies.

10: A further complication is that virtually every state secondary school is a specialist school, specialising in one area or another of the curriculum. (There are at least 10 types of specialist schools including languages, science, maths, arts, sports, humanities and even rural studies.)

16,884: There are also 16,884 primary schools in England. Only a handful have decided to convert to academy status.

7,000: The picture is further complicated by the fact that about one in three English state schools (primary and secondary) are faith schools. There are just under 7,000 of these. They can either be voluntary aided or voluntary controlled. If they are voluntary controlled, the diocese or faith group has a far greater say over admissions. A breakdown of the faith schools reveals that there are 6,955 Christian state schools (mainly Church of England or Roman Catholic but with a handful of Methodist schools, too), 36 Jewish, six Muslim, two Sikh, one Hindu, one Greek Orthodox and one Seventh Day Adventist.

24: To this mixture can now be added the free schools: 24 of which have opened up for the first time this September. David Cameron has said he wants this figure to rise to the early hundreds in the next few years. Once it is set up, a free school has the same freedoms as an academy. The difference is that it is a new school started by a variety of parents’, teachers’ or faith groups (or education charity). It is also possible for a free school to be a faith school, but it must offer 50 per cent of its places to non-believers – a requirement not asked of mainstream faith schools.

2,415: To add to the mix, there are 2,415 independent schools: 1,625 primary and 790 secondary. These educate about 7 per cent of the school age population.

372: The picture elsewhere in the UK is simpler than in England. In Scotland there are 372 secondary schools, all comprehensive in intake. Of these, 53 are faith schools (all Catholic). There are 2,099 primary schools, 318 of which are denominational or faith schools, 314 Catholic, three episcopal and one Jewish.

1,435: In Wales, there are 1,435 primary schools and 222 secondary schools. All the secondary schools are fully comprehensive.

My thanks to the Independent.

From the above it is clear that some schools, e.g. acadamies, even have the power to hire unqualified teachers!!!

GCSE – A Worthless Piece Of Paper

The current mess has been criticised by no less than Professor Alan Smithers, a senior adviser to the Commons Education Select Committee, who said our education system is a ‘liquorice allsorts’ kind of system. He too argues that all children should have an equal opportunity for a good education. At the moment it is clear they do not.

There is but one way for education to go: One standard school system for the UK, and one curriculum for all. Once children have left school, they can go to acadamies to learn specialist subjects. GCSE’s should be hard so that only the most gifted are able to go to university.

Roy.

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