It’s just into the new year and I have tried to stay away from writing about this sort of this for most of last year but I need somewhere to let this stuff out and you are the people who I tell. I’ve mentioned before, many times, that this is a place for me to form my ideas and arguments. I’m not very good at that. I know what I think and I am quite convicted with those ideals, however I will change my mind once I see evidence that means I should. I don’t want to say I’m right about everything, I know I’m not, but I try to see things from a “do no harm” point of view. Right, disclaimers completed so here we go.
There is a lot of talk this morning about children’s education being affected by school closures. I want to consider that first. Yes, during the last national lockdown a lot of children struggled to keep up with the school work and a lot of children suffered mental health issues. If we look at the keeping up with the school work issue first there seems to be this idea that we have a fixed amount of things to teach pupils in schools. That’s not true. The reason people think like that is that they consider taking examinations, which by definition have a fixed content, to be the measure of schooling. This is bullshit. I can teach as much or as little as is required. We should look at the qualifications and change those. If we have teacher assessed grades for the next two years then it doesn’t matter if I fail to teach geometrical applications of vectors to my class. If an employed accepts someone who has a grade 8 in mathematics does the employer use that as a measure of that person’s ability to prove geometrical results using vectors or solving quadratic equations by completing the square? No, they do not. Employers use examination grades to give a measure of ability overall. Is that person good at mathematics? A teacher or centre assessed grade will still give that measure to employers, college or university.
STOP thinking that education is 200 things that pupils have to know before they leave school and start thinking about education as a process. Missing school for a few months doesn’t make kids any more stupid. It protects those in society from getting a dangerous virus that is KILLING 500 people a fucking day in this country.
Right, so I’ve fixed this concept of a fixed amount of education and we can use teachers to give grades so that society has a measure of the pupils we released to the wild. The next issue spoken about is that pupils need to be in school. The best place for young people is in school and I have some things to say about this.
Firstly, being in a supportive social environment is incredibly important to young people and mixing with others around their age is important. But the issue at stake here is that schools are where we force the rules of society onto people. It’s where we create the lifelong rules that people follow so that they fit into this current society. Late for school? Get punished. Mess around? Get punished. Swear at a teacher? Get punished. This societal requirement for school means that teachers and school staff do far more than educate children in the academic requirements of the world. We support the growth of young people and allow them to see different views and practice arguing and learning about how the world works. Schools are more than examination factories, we are places for creating future society because we don’t trust other people or families to do that well.
The mental health of our young people is incredibly important and schools form a massive part of giving meaning and a belonging to young people. Schools give structure to lives and help people develop. Having faced episodes of mental health issues in my life I am fully aware of how important good mental health and a supportive structure is to an individual. Rather than forcing society to rely on schools as a place of mental health support there should be much more of a support structure outside of school. The government admitting that we need pupils in schools for mental health reasons means that we have failed as a society to support our young people. If we require schools to do all these things then we are doing the bare minimum as a country. Pupils struggle without the support of school and I know children in supportive families who are having problems. The issue isn’t that schools are closed. The real issue is a lack of funding for support services outside of school and constant cuts over the last twelve years or more.
What sort of society do we live in where we are at the point of forcing schools to be open to support the economic activity of parents? Another reason being spouted for schools staying open is that parents can’t work if their kids are home. What sort of society have we created where the “family” unit can’t operate as a family and has to rely on state sponsored childcare? This is the government admitting that without teachers and schools taking your children off your hands for six hours a day then we can’t run economically as a country and that horrifies me. It would be nice to have the recognition that these are the things that schools perform for society. But recognition rarely comes.
So, to turn things around we need to do the following:
- Change how our qualifications work to support real learning in schools rather than examination results being the result of children need to know these 200 things.
- Pump money into bespoke services to look after the mental health of all people.
- Pump money into creating a society that can cope economically without aspects of education always being open.
Now you can see the issues. Everything I have said, except removing public examination, will cost money. It’s a political choice.
Oh, by the way. I’m angry and have been for four years. But it’s getting worse. I’ve been shrugging all governmental responses off over the last year or so but I’m going through a phase of not being able to do that.