The Campaign for State Education (CASE), in conjunction with six other organisations, including the Socialist Educational Association, held a meeting in Birmingham entitled Reclaiming Education – Priorities for the Next Government on Saturday 15th November. The main speakers were Tim Brighouse (until 2007, Schools Commissioner for London), Laura McInerney (Deputy Editor of Academies Week), Navin Kikabhai (senior lecturer at University of Bedfordshire), Richard Hatcher (professor of education at Birmingham City University) and Mary Bousted (General Secretary ATL).
Tim Brighouse spoke of the need for generally agreed notion of the aim of education to build a consensus on what needs to be done. He repudiated the mantra “standards not structures” and went on to propose structural changes required in the areas of governance, admissions, inspections, exams and lastly pay and conditions.
Listen to Tim Brighouse’s talk
Read a more extended summary of the talks.
Laura McInerny dealt with the problems of lack of transparency in the school sector. She gave examples of very basic questions where simple information was not available. She also dealt with the problems of place planning, handling of parental complaints, teacher workload and secretive curriculum design.
Listen to Laura McInderny’s talk
Navin Kikabhai spoke about inclusion and equal opportunities and showed multiple problems in current attitudes and institutional arrangements. He argued that the current medicalisation of disability and the emphasis on assumptions about what disabled cannot do leads to a situation in which policies regarding them tend towards containment and segregation. He argued for a policy of inclusion and equality throughout the whole education sector. A transcript of his talk is available.
Listen to Navin Kikabhai’s talk
Richard Hatcher started by discussing the Trojan Horse affair in Birmingham and said that it had harmed the city, the schools, the Muslim community and and the local authority. He went on to discuss the need for local democratic input into the school system and discussed the Labour Party policy document Education and Children which, he argued, failed to indicate how this would be achieved. Finally he considered initiatives such as Children’s Zones which he felt showed a way through some of our current problems.
Listen to Richard Hatcher’s talk
The full text of Richard Hatcher’s talk is available here.
Mary Bousted spoke about the need to win allies in unusual places if the campaign for better education is to gain traction. She pointed out that the CBI has many criticisms of current policies which coincide with criticisms from the unions and campaign groups. To win allies we need to present our ideas in tangible and concrete form so that people with different political philosophies can agree with each other. This applies to criticism of Ofsted, curriculum reform and the mess of our current exam system. All this is producing teacher overload which detracts from their role as teachers and if we do not change course then we will find ourselves sleep-walking to disaster.
Listen to Mary Bousted’s talk
Navin Kikabhai seems to suggest that only 100% integration of all disabled children into mainstream education is acceptable. Have I got this right? If I have then is a position than is it a view that can be supported on educational grounds?
Yes, to your first question. Yes, to your second question. Your follow-on question may be ‘how?’, unlike Warnock’s which would probably be more in line with asking the grande philosophical question: ‘Why?’
Thanks Navin, that certainly makes things clear as to your view of integration. I am not so sure about your interpretation of Warnock who rather than saying ‘why should we have 100% integration?” asks, in effect, “Is 100% integration always in the best interest of the children concerned and is it always what they prefer?” That seems to me to be rather different. The problem, as I see it, is not that a high level of integration is not desirable, everyone is agreed about that, including Warnock. The question is rather whether pushing this to the limit always servers the interests of disabled children. The advocates of 100% integration tend to treat this as a philosophical question whereas Warnock, on the contrary, treats it as an empirical one. I am not widely enough read in this area to have an overview of all the arguments and their nuances. On the other hand, my sense of things, is that, outside of a small number of advocates of 100% integration, there are few takers for this position. This does not, of course, prove it to be wrong, but it does mean that there is a need for a case to be made for the unconvinced. I wonder if you could recommend what you consider to be a document which makes that case.
Hi David, the use of ‘everyone’ is a generalisation which is not the case. If you consider the seven principles of SEA, ALLFIE’s principles and factor in the lived experiences of disabled people who have been ‘put away’ with little, if any, opportunity to pursue education at every level, factor in the corruption, neoptism, disablist, racist, sexist, homophobic and dishonest education system that we currently have to endure, we should come to some agreement about what we don’t want.
Thanks for the reply Navin. I don’t for a moment question that prejudice about what disabled people can and can’t do has blighted the education and lives of many. That, however, does not make the case for 100% integration. So I still wonder if you can recommend a document that you consider makes that case effectively.