Forty years ago, Prime Minister James Callaghan gave a speech on education at Ruskin College. It was a landmark statement which changed political attitudes to schooling. Previously politicians had not commented on what happened inside schools. Since the speech they have hardly stopped doing so.
On 17th November a seminar in the House of Lords will explore the speech and its significance. Was this the turning point towards the regime of hyper-accountability and performance tables we now see dominating English education?
Speakers will be Lord Bernard Donoughue, Head of the Number 10 Policy Unit in 1976, Lord David Blunkett, Secretary of State for Education 1997-2001, and Fiona Millar, journalist and broadcaster. Chair Professor Richard Pring, University of Oxford.
The event will run from 1600 to 1800 hours. Full details and booking form and be obtained from www.soss.org.uk – click on the Eventbrite box to book a FREE TICKET.
Kevin Courtney, NUT General Secretary, is joining a high class line up for this year’s Reclaiming Education conference at NUT HQ, Hamilton House in Central London.
He will be joining Professor Anne West from the LSE, Melissa Benn, SEA Vice President, Roy Perry, Leader of Hampshire County Council, Richy Thompson from the British Humanists Association and the Fair Admissions campaign and Jo Bartley from the Kent anti-selection campaign.
This year’s lecture will be delivered by Professor Danny Dorling. The theme will be“The Education Shuffle: What will the next two steps forward be?” It will explore the impact of comprehensive education, the ways in which that progress has been compromised and what the next steps forward need to be.
It will be held on at 6.00 pm Tuesday 15th November in Committee Room 10 at the House of Commons.
When Professor Dorling’s book “Injustice: Why Social Inequality Persists” was published, the Guardian wrote “Dorling is that rare university professor: expert, politically engaged and able to explain simply why his subject matters. He describes modern Britain as the most unequal society since Dickens’s times, and picks apart the orthodoxies that allow such unfairness. “I’m hardly saying, we want a revolution, we want a utopia,” he recently told this paper. “I’m just saying, can we be slightly less stupid, and we’ll all be better off for it.”
The SEA delegate to Labour Conference 2016, Sarah Williams, proposed an historic motion earlier today calling for the establishment of comprehensive education throughout the secondary education system and an end to selection and segregation. The motion passed today at conference is as follows:
Conference abhors the Government proposal to encourage the creation of more Grammar Schools in England. Conference believes education is a collective good that benefits, not just individual pupils/students but society as a whole. Conference views the recent proposals set forth by Justine Greening MP for Putney to expand grammar schools and to remove the cap on faith-based admissions as divisive. Conference believes that the best interests of all children, and the country, would be better served by providing adequate resources for all schools to match the highest achieving ones. Conference notes that grammar schools fail the poorest students “less than 3% of their students are eligible for free school meals (FSM), whereas the average proportion in selective areas is 18%” and that grammar schools encourage inequality. Since there is no evidence that grammar schools improve social mobility or educational outcomes conference condemns this proposal as a retrograde step. Conference recognises that the purpose of education should be to provide all children, irrespective of background or specific needs, with the skills, knowledge enthusiasm an understanding necessary to lead a rewarding and fulfilling life. Conference therefore commits the Labour Party to opposing any expansion to selective education and also to the establishment in all areas of a genuinely comprehensive and inclusive secondary education system that provides for all children according to their needs as well as ensuring a greater voice for councillors, parents and professionals.
You can watch Sarah giving her speech here or listen to a recording of it here:
On Tuesday SEA’s delegate, Sarah Williams, will move the resolution on selective schooling at the Labour Conference. The resolution, if passed, will represent a significant moment in the long struggle against selection. It not only asks the party to oppose the current government proposals but also makes the case for the phasing out of all remaining selective education. The full text is in the previous post on this page.
The latest issue of the SEA journal, Education Politics, addresses the issues around selection in detail. It contains an analysis of the arguments by Melissa Benn as well as a number of personal testimonies to the value of comprehensive schooling. It can be accessed here: education-politics-september-2016.
Defeating the government’s proposals won’t be easy. Ending selection everywhere will be even harder. So we would encourage all Labour members and supporters who want to be part of that campaign to join the SEA – just follow the tab on the top of this page.
John Bolt, SEA Secretary, has called on SEA members and others attending Labour Party conference to support our motion on grammar schools in the ballot this coming Sunday.
John says, ‘ This is a critical issue. We need to take every opportunity to make the case against this appalling proposal. It is also an opportunity to make the case for taking action to phase out all selection wherever it remains.’ He added, ‘I would like to ask all SEA members to do what they can to persuade their conference delegates to vote for this resolution in the priorities ballot on Sunday. A number of CLPs have submitted similar motions but we need to maximise support for it so that it reaches the conference agenda.’
regrets that a selective system continues in force in parts of the country;
is aware that research evidence, both in England and internationally, shows that that selective schools do not promote social mobility or contribute to the raising of standards.
recognises that the purpose of education should be to provide all children, irrespective of background or specific needs, with the skills, knowledge, enthusiasm and understanding necessary to lead a rewarding and fulfilling life. Labelling children as failures before education has given them the chance to develop, which is what selection does, is one of the prime causes of division and unfairness in our society.
therefore commits the party to opposing any expansion to selective education and also to the ending of educational selection in all state funded schools through the establishment in all areas of a genuinely comprehensive and inclusive secondary education system that provides for all children according to their needs.’
The next SEA Members’ Meeting will take place from 2.00 to 4.00 pm on Saturday 17th September in Rooms 1 and 2 at Leeds Civic Hall, Calverley St, Leeds LS1 1UR (booked in the name of Councillor Alex Sobel)
There will be two discussion items:
Comprehensive Education and Social Justice: the forward march of progress halted?
Professor Howard Stevenson will discuss this theme which is of course of very particular relevance in the light of current government proposals.
Howard Stevenson is Professor of Educational Leadership and Policy Studies at Nottingham University and among other roles is co-Editor of the journal Forum that was originally founded by Professor Brian Simon over 50 years ago. The journal continues to challenge the (re-emerging) orthodoxy of fixed ability thinking and practice, whilst also making the case for the democratic control of education and education as a public good.
Phasing out Elitist Education
The following resolution was passed by the SEA Annual Conference in June and was referred to the Executive for more detailed debate:
This meeting believes that privately educated alumni’s disproportionate occupation of positions of power and influence across key professions and political institutions undermines both the spirit and practice of democracy in the UK and it instructs the NEC to report back on how the influence of private education might be reduced or possibly abolished.
The SEA Executive will meet in the same location from 12.15 to 1.30. All SEA members are welcome at both these meetings.
The SEA was very saddened to learn that Ken Purchase, Labour MP 1992-2010 and Vice President of SEA died yesterday.
John Bolt, SEA General Secretary, said, ‘Ken was a very active supporter of SEA and was instrumental in setting up the parliamentary branch and enhancing our relationships in Parliament. He will be a huge loss to SEA and to many of us who know him and hugely enjoyed his company.’
The news links below are provided by SEA members. Each entry in the section below has two parts: (1) a brief description; (2) a link. Clicking on (1) takes you to our news item blog. Clicking on (2) takes you to the source of the news item.
Angela Raynor is Labour's Secretary of State for Education
A recent Guardian article introduced her as follows.
"After a tumultuous couple of weeks for Labour, which saw two of her predecessors – Lucy Powell and Pat Glass – resign, she was announced as the party’s new shadow education secretary on Friday afternoon.
"She is combining the brief with a role as the equalities spokesperson ...
"Another one of these Oxbridge types then? Not at all, before being elected as the MP for Ashton-under-Lyne in the 2015 general election, Rayner was a care worker for Stockport council. She became a trade union rep for Unison and was then promoted to senior steward.
"In May 2016, she spoke out against the government’s plans laid out in the Queen’s Speech. Although Labour lost the vote, she won plaudits from commentators and education professionals for her speech, where she outlined how grinding poverty and deprivation had affected her experience of school, saying:
“I was a NEET – not in education, employment or training – and I had no GCSEs at grade A to C; and, as I said, I had a baby at 16. School, for me, was not a place where you went to be educated, but a place where you got away from your parents for a couple of hours while they got some respite from you, and where you were able to see your mates..."
On 23rd September Angela wrote an article for Politics Home in which she said
"I will fight any plans to bring back the selective grammar schools, which branded children as ‘failures’ at the tender age of 11, and which only increase class divisions in Britain.
"I want to see more young girls studying the so-called STEM subjects – science, technology, engineering and maths – and taking their place at the top of these professions.
"I want to see academies made more accountable to local people by giving local councils a say and empowering parent governors. There have been shocking abuses of public money in some academies, with bosses feathering their own nests through huge salaries or paying themselves massive ‘consultancy fees’. ...
"At the heart of my approach will be a belief that every child has potential – Labour’s task is to help unleash it."