Thursday, September 21, 2006

UKIP Education Policy

UKIP have just recently launched their paper on Education Policy (PDF). I think that it is eminently sensible I would recommend having a perusal, especially if you want references to the original research. However, I just want to highlight some of the salient points.

In essence, the two main planks of their policy are selection and funding by voucher, but they have taken on board the problems that these could cause. The first few pages illustrate the fact that our ediucation system is completely fucked (and long-time readers will know how absolutely livid this makes me). So, let us start by looking at what education is for.
The goal of Education is to bring out the best of the talents and abilities of each individual child. This involves parents and schools working together to pass on a body of knowledge, both factual and cultural, from one generation to the next. It should be done in a way that will lay the foundations for genuine independent thought. Suitably equipped, students can then go on to use the skills and knowledge they have acquired at school and university to master any training needed for future careers.

The UK Independence Party believes it is the responsibility of the state to ensure that a quality education is provided for all—regardless of income, age, aptitudes or ability - with a full and unashamed emphasis on the three R’s in the early years.

This seems to me to be fair enough; however, anyone could write this: how is it to be achieved?
We therefore believe that the National Curriculum must be reformed to become less prescriptive and that schools must be allowed a greater say over the subjects taught, although certain core subjects must remain. For instance, we consider it vital to ensure that children reach certain standards in reading, writing and arithmetic at the primary stage.

We also believe that the driving force behind the comprehensive system—equality of outcome, whereby there must be no élite and no losers—is dangerously mistaken, and in practice fails pupils of all abilities. Equality of opportunity, albeit tailored to the individual strengths of individual children, is the key to quality education. Children without an academic bent are frequently better served by a more practical curriculum.

This is also true, as I have long maintained. Some people are simply not academically minded and these often tend to be more practical. However, they are being driven either to piss-poor courses at second-rate "universities" (and thereby racking up thousands of pounds worth of debt for absolutely zero job-place advantage) or made to feel like failures because Extra Statistics is not their forté.

A corollory of this attitude is our shortage of skilled craftsmen—plumbers, joiners, electricians and their ilk—which is why these professions command such famously high prices (and long waiting times).
Education in Britain should prepare children for life as British citizens. It is therefore important that children know something of the history and culture of the nation in which they live, including an awareness of our great literature and heritage. As language is an essential component in a nation’s culture, we will also insist that all lessons be taught in English... [with some sensible exceptions].

For children arriving from other countries who cannot understand English sufficiently to be educated in that language, we will prioritise additional language teaching, so that they can take their place in an English-speaking educational system and integrate into British society as soon as possible.

All of this, again, seems rather sensible to me; long have I railed against the stupidity that allowed a woman of my acquaintance to live in Britain for forty years and be barely able to speak a word of English.
We believe that the teaching profession should be allowed to do its job with minimal exter-
nal government interference. We see no need, therefore, for Local Education Authorities
(LEAs) to control policy. Their powers will be given to the school governing body, with schools co-operating in the provision or facilitation of services in schools, such as cleaning, maintenance and school meals.

We will also initiate a review of the school inspection r&ecute;gime, bringing in new legislation whereby parents might require the school’s governing body to arrange for an inspection if 10% or more of parents were unhappy with the school’s performance.

More independence for schools for schools: excellent. Amongst other things, it will allow schools to source local materials from local providers and wholesalers, as illustrated recently by Jamie Oliver.

The abolition of the LEAs will end the farce whereby nearly one third of education funding is lost in administration. Hooray! More money for the kiddies!

And, there is a regulation mechanism that allows the parents to control, to an extent, what occurs in the school and to hold its standards to account.
The UK Independence Party would investigate the benefits of a ‘franchising’arrangement for schools. Franchising is the transfer of public assets to private sector organisations to manage for specified periods without ownership of the assets changing, and after which the franchise would be re-tendered. The franchisor in this case would be the local council who would manage a ‘bidding’process to franchisee companies. Many franchisees would be not-for-profit companies or charitable trusts, so for example, a company set up by Eton College or Bradford Grammar School could take on and turn round a failed comprehensive school by injecting their own ethos.

I am not sure about this at all, for a few reasons. Firstly, public bodies are not terribly good at choosing their private company partners and tend to have little skill in negotiating in an area in which, all too frequently, they have little or no expertise (as adequately demonstrated by the disaster that is PFI).

Secondly, if there is a good chance of losing a franchise, there is little incentive for the private body to invest in it. What is the point of raising capital and ploughing it into new facilities if there is to be no long-term gain? In fact, if you need a decent amount of capital to improve facilities (which, let's face it, in the current situation you really would) then the private body could end up making a loss. This will not encourage quality bidders but, instead, cowboys out to milk the contract for all that it is worth before buggering off into the sunset. Franchising has been spectacularly useless whilst attempting to run the railways, partly because the franchise contract lengths were stupidly short, leading to cuts in services and massive fare hikes.

Thirdly, how much will these companies have to spend to obtain the contract? Quite apart from the costs of preparing the bids, which can often run into the many tens of thousands of pounds (which must be recouped), will the franchisee have to pay the local Councils for the pleasure of running the franchise. One instance where this has backfired spectacularly is, ironically, with one of the best train operators, GNER as illustrated by Martin Vander Weyer in The Speccie.
Along with thousands of other regular travellers on the north-east main line, I am horrified at the prospect that GNER may hand back its franchise. The King’s-Cross-to-Scotland service is imperilled by a combination of rising power costs, disappointing passenger growth, a debt crisis in Sea Containers, GNER’s parent company, and a decision to license new competitors on the same route. It is apparent that GNER’s £1.3 billion bid last year to secure the franchise for another decade was far higher than it needed to be, and the bullish chief executive who made the bid, Christopher Garnett, has walked the plank, shortly to be followed by several other senior managers. There seems little hope of clawing back any cash from the government. Dr Mike Mitchell, director general of railways at the Department for Transport, has declared flatly that he does not renegotiate franchise agreements — and since he recently suffered the embarrassment of appearing at Peterborough magistrates’ court on a charge of assaulting a GNER dining-car steward, of which he was acquitted, he may be even less inclined to compromise.

I moaned here recently about the rate at which GNER’s fares have increased to pay for the new franchise deal. Garnett and his team have only themselves to blame for that, and deserve rather less passenger loyalty as a result. But in all other respects, GNER is Britain’s model railway. It is courteous, comfortable, well-catered and as reliable as it can be given its dependence on Network Rail to service the tracks and signals — four out of five GNER delays are not its own fault. Its staff give every impression of being genuinely interested in customer service. It has consistently outpointed other long-distance operators for passenger satisfaction, and the prospect that it might now be replaced by Virgin Cross Country, or something worse, fills us regulars with gloom. Of all the unintended consequences of the complete lash-up that was the Major government’s rail privatisation scheme, the demise of GNER would be the most bizarre.

Quite. These issues must be addressed and clarified before any firm commitment to this idea.

Primary School
Under the UK Independence Party’s proposals, there will be no nationwide testing of children until the age of 11 (Key Stage 2), when some assessment of ability is required in connection with the choice of a secondary school.

This test will be much more broadly based, covering not only English and Mathematics and academic skills, but also artistic and practical ability. The test will be more of a streaming exercise, thereby removing the pass/fail criteria of old, with the resulting social stigma.

You know, that social stigma that 11+ failures Polly Toynbee and Neil Harding still feel after all these years. But surely 11 is far too young to test pupils; and won't late developers be locked out of the grammar school system. Well, yes, were it not for a stunningly simple idea.
Children who do not obtain the required grades for grammar school entry would be able to sit similar exams during their secondary school career which would allow them to transfer to a grammar school if they reach the required standard.

Good, so there is no lock-out for able children who develop at a later stage. This seems fair.

The rest of the Primary School section is about the importance of children being taught—most specifically reading (using phonics), writing (with emphasis on correct grammar) and arithmatic (including doing calculations without a calculator; hardly a contentious issue, one would have thought)—rather than the misguided emphasis on "children being allowed to “discover” for themselves". Again, this seems to be eminently reasonable to me.

Secondary Education
Secondary school will form the final phase of some pupils’education, whereas others will continue to universities or colleges of further education. We are committed to offering equal opportunities to all pupils, but believe that in practical terms, securing a variety of different types of secondary school and tertiary institutions provides the best way of catering for the varied range of abilities and ambitions exhibited by secondary school children.

Good; the one-size fits all policy as I have said on many occasions, simply does not work.
We will invite teaching representatives from the universities and other academic institutions to design a replacement for the current National Curriculum. This will restore the prominent role played by the universities in determining the shape of secondary education before the National Curriculum was introduced.

Good, fine.
We will abolish compulsory Sex and Relationship education, compulsory Citizenship and Personal, Social and Health education immediately. There must be no behavioural conditioning in our schools.

Here is my one quibble; comprehensive sexual health must feature in the education system. Earlier in the paper, it is stated that UKIP will "scrap Sex and Relationships Education in schools completely for children under the age of 10, except in
the context of biology." Right, fine. But, but, but...

One can see what the thinking is here; it is part of legacy of UKIP's older members and Daily Mail readers, for whom sex is immoral and underage pregnancies are the greatest threat that our country has ever faced. These people must recognise that:
  1. Sex is only immoral if you are religious. Increasingly, the population of Britain are becoming far more secular; sex is and can be fun—provided that you don't end up with a disease or unwanted pregnancy.

  2. Comprehensive and realistic sex education is essential in combatting both of these factors. Ignorance should not be an excuse; although most STDs are treatable (although syphilis, for one, is becoming increasingly resistant to conventional drugs) they can be both painful and permanently damaging.

    And how many soap-operas and books have used the character device of the young girl who "didn't know that you could get pregnant the first time"? But then, this is hardly surprising when primary school teachers are compelled to teach sex education in schools but are not allowed to teach the children about contraception. This is absolutely fucking insane policy.

  3. The rates of teenage pregnancy have actually remained fairly static; further, a certain correlation has been shown between single mothers and the rates of benefits. I do not say "causation" but, according to the principle of economics that incentives matter, we may say that high levels of benefits may have an effect. And there is some anecdotal evidence from primary teacher friends of mine that the prospect of getting their own accommodation certainly is a consideration to those girls who get pregnant at a young age. If you pay people to have children, then have them they will.

  4. I'm sure that Bookdrunk would agree with me when I emphasise that good sex education does not automatically lead to people having sex at a younger age (feel like amplifying the evidence over at The Kitchen, BD?). Indeed, other countries in Europe have a rather lower age of consent than we do, but they do not have the same rate of teenage pregnancies (nor, again anecdotal evidence, do they have sex at a significantly younger age).

Still, let us move on with Secondary Education.
We believe that children should continue to be taught at least one science subject up to the age of 16. However, we are concerned that standards in maths and science at GCSE have dropped compared with examinations a generation ago, handicapping those who are seeking to pursue further study in the science disciplines.

Yes, I agree; but the standards of the science exams have also dropped. At Eton, for instance, we were set O-Level papers as practice for A Level exams. Further, in Chemistry A Level, we had to start from scratch concerning the motivations for atomic bonding as the GCSE was "so simplified that it is wrong".
We will make religious education optional, and allow schools liberty to teach it in accordance with their particular religious ethos, if they so desire.

Again, fine, as long as the religions' place in historical and political narratives is not deliberately removed. Many cultures and decisions cannot be understood outwith the religious framework of those who were involved and religion should not be air-brushed out in a mania of atheism or misplaced zeal to avoid indoctrination. The fundamental tenets of the major religions should be taught to all without fear or favour.
We will retain compulsory physical education and competitive games until the age of 16, and prevent any further sale of school playing fields and seek to create new ones.

As Timmy showed [I will find the precise link later], we actually consume less calories per day, on average, than we did in the '70s and yet we are currently worried about the obesity of our children.

As both Doc Crippen and I have pointed out, there is a very simple equation to all of this.
If you put more fuel, i.e. food, into your body than you consume then your body will convert it to fat and store it. Thus, if you eat more calories than you burn, you will become fat. That's not very difficult, is it?

So, our children eat fewer calories, and yet they are fatter than ever before; so, do you reduce the calory intake or increase the amount of fuel burned? So, as I wrote:
Oh, and one more word to the wise: if you want kids to burn more calories, then you could try bringing in at least 2 hours of compulsory sports sessions every day, do away with this school finishing at half past two crap.

Oh, yes, and STOP BUILDING ALL OVER THE PLAYING FIELDS, you fucking tossers.

Jesus fucking Christ, do I have to point out the fucking obvious all the time?

Well, it apears not, because UKIP appear to have realised this too. Plus, team sports build the kind of camaraderie that stand people in good stead for later life. Yes, being flogged out onto a muddy pitch to hack a pill around in the rain for an hour and a half can be fucking miserable but then that teaches an entirely separate and yet equally valuable life skill, i.e. you can't always do what you want and sometimes miserable things must be endured.
We will accord a more important role to English Language and Mathematics, recognising concerns from employers, university admission tutors and the Association of Graduate Recruiters about poor spelling, grammar and numeracy.

Don't I just know it (and I'm sure that The Longrider would agree)! You ought to see some of the copy that I get from clients; it's barely literate half the time. And thus they get charged more for me turning it into legible English so their lack of ability with spelling and grammar costs them money (quite apart from anything else).

(Oh, and speaking of which, as an aside to UKIP report writers: will you please read up on the difference between a hyphen, an en-dash and an em-dash?)

Selection by Ability
Schools have been given some freedom to specialise under recent government initiatives; but, without being able to select by suitability, these freedoms are meaningless. If parents are allowed to choose the most appropriate school for their children, it is only right that the schools should have a say as to which pupils they feel are most likely to benefit from their teaching.

This is fair enough up to a point; as long as those who are less academic do not find themselves shunted away into a shitheap because schools are overly concerned about their league table figures.
The UK Independence Party favours the introduction of a “voucher” scheme, whereby educational funds equivalent to the average cost of state schooling follow the child to the school of the family’s choice - including private schools, where if necessary the fees would be topped up by the parents. This will ease the burden on the growing number of parents with modest incomes who have nonetheless opted to send their children to private schools because of dissatisfaction with the state school(s) in their area. Where such schemes have been in operation, such as in Socialist Sweden, and in parts of Canada and the USA, they have resulted in pressures on less popular state schools to improve their standards.

This, too, is fair enough although the Lefties will no doubt shriek about how it is unfair that the rich should receive help as well as the poor. However, one should always remember that benefits-testing very probably consumes far more resources, including money, than it saves and thus, beyond a spurious and jealousy-motivated moral objection, there really is no reason not to help the rich as much as the poor.

The end result, one hopes, is that the "state" schools will become much better as they will, in effect, be competing for much of the same money as the established independents as well as competing amongst themselves.
We will also reintroduce the Assisted Places Scheme to provide more opportunities for children from underprivileged backgrounds, recognising how successful this scheme proved until its abolition in 1997.

So, as well as the leg up given by grammar schools, there will also be bursaries from the state (in addition to the bursaries that the schools award) in order to help the poor but clever to climb. All of this opens up social mobility.
Children learn better in groups of similar ability, interests and learning styles. We believe that grammar schools have a vital role to play in the education of academically more able children, and not only are we committed to the survival of existing grammar schools, but we will encourage the creation of new grammar and other specialist schools, aiming to restore a network of publicly-funded grammar schools across the country.

As I have consistently maintained, it is not class sizes per se that makes a difference.
The aim is always to group together people of roughly similar abilities in any given discipline. Although [some argue] that class sizes do have an impact, I would still maintain that the impact is negligible when compared to the size of the ability range.

I still believe this. And the range of abilities can be huge. Grammar Schools should not exist in order that everyone who does not make it in is left on the scrapheap but simply as another layer of coarse streaming; it is then within the school that the fine-grained streaming is done.
Grammar schools have demonstrated a consistent and enduring quality of edu-
cation that should be emulated, not destroyed.
We believe this would especially benefit bright children from poor families, as currently the presence of a successful state school often causes house price inflation in the catchment area, pricing poorer families out. In other words, at the moment, the process by which children end up in a given school can be something of a postcode lottery. Social and economic mobility has decreased over the last forty years, and we believe that the reintroduction of grammar schools with wider catchment areas will help reverse this trend.

Good, so do I.
We believe that greater specialisation, as outlined in this document, will improve the quality of secondary education for all, and that Ellen Wilkinson, minister for education in the post-war Labour Attlee Government, was speaking the truth when she remarked in 1946,
“There are differences in intelligence among children as well as among adults. There are distinctions of mind and these are imposed by nature. I am afraid that this is a fact which we cannot get over. Children will be different in bent, and in intellectual capacity. There is a purpose in education and that is to draw out and develop the best in every child. Because children differ in their intellectual makeup, it seems to me that different provisions must be made by the Ministry of Education.”

And I agree. So we are all happy then (apart from Polly, of course).
Finally, we will reverse the policy of closing special schools. We believe that children with major behavioural problems are in most cases better catered for outside the main educational system. We totally agree with the recent National Union of Teachers (NUT) report that the policy of including these children in ordinary state schools has failed.

This is a conclusion that has been realised and, indeed, anticipated by the parents of those children who have been enraged y the government's policy of closing these schools.

The next section deals with the degredation of the examination system and how marking needs to be reassessed, as does the existance of modular and coursework-based qualifications.
If the GCSE is worth retaining in anything like its present form, the grades need to be reassessed, being divided into different categories of “pass”, and the bottom grades being unambiguously called “fail”. We will initiate a study as to the feasibility of returning over time to the “O” level system alongside more practical NVQ-style examinations, which would offer a more realistic test of ability for less academic children.

Good, again we see the idea of tailoring education and qualifications to suit the needs of individual children.

Earlier Exit
Whilst we are committed to providing free secondary education up to Sixth Form level, we are prepared to consider alternative forms of education or training for 15-year olds who find school life alienating. Early leavers will have the option to return to mainstream state education after experiencing the world of work should they so desire. In this regard, we will replace classes based on age with classes based on attainment. We believe this will motivate those children wishing to leave full-time education as soon as possible, as in order to leave before the age of 16, they would have to pass examinations in basic English and Mathematics.

This change must be coupled with a major expansion in traditional apprenticeships of a high standard and trade skills training for these children who come into this category.

Again, this seems to be fair enough. Provide education for those who want it and provide work opportunities, but with a minimum level of attainment, for those who don't.

However, the next section brings us, once more, to the thorny topic of sex education.
Parents delegate to the school certain areas of their children’s education - principally the cognitive aspects. However, the introduction of Personal, Social Health and Citizenship education and Sex education has allowed the State, via the school, to intrude into areas which parents rightly feel belong to them and which in most cases they would manage better themselves.

Ageneration has grown up with the view that morality is a private matter, with there being no absolute rights or wrongs, and these erroneous views have been foisted on teenagers at school through “values clarification” - with parents being kept quite deliberately in the dark as to what is being taught. As for those who are aware, obtaining an opt-out for their children can be very difficult. As with primary schools, we will still want to offer sex education (along with drugs education) but on an optional basis.

The trouble is that it is this kind of thinking that has led to the Fucking Stupid Initiative in Scotland. There are certain minimums that pupils must know; if the parents are to decide what that minimum is, then why have schools or an education policy at all?
Although the objectives of current sex and drugs education are supposedly harm reduction and prevention, the result has been the opposite. Based on the assumption that children will experiment, they supposedly encourage them to do so safely. Pupils should be taught the value of self-respect, as they cannot respect others until they respect themselves.

OK, I agree with all of that up to a point. The trouble is, whilst I agree that encouraging children to experiment with drugs is probably a good thing, they are still illegal (although I would love to see mushrooms decriminalised and involved in Home economics classes: they would be as funny as fuck. A bit like the first Chemistry class that I had involving chloroform which, if sniffed in small enough doses, rather than knocking you out gets you really high and giggly. Until the headache hits. A life lesson there, i think...).

However, I would love to see a law that allowed boys of, say, 14 drink in pubs as long as they were accompanied by a parent or guardian (and had documentation to prove that this was the case). This would allow parents to introduce their children, not only to drinking alcohol, but also the the environment in which it is consumed. This would, hopefully, lead to more responsible, and at least better monitored, drinking.
We will insist that if contraceptives have been prescribed to under-age girls that schools and health professionals inform either the girl’s parents or a responsible family member in whom the school has confidence.

Which will, of course, not actually stop them having sex, but it will pretty much ensure that they will not bother using contraceptives. No, let them have contraceptives, but charge them, at the very least, a nominal fee. Yes, you can have your pleasur and we want you to act reponsibly but, like any other pleasure, you need to pay for it. If that means that you have to go without an extra chocolate bar at lunch, well, that'll help the obesity problem too.
We note the growing support for abstinence education in the United States in both the main political parties and among the public at large, and are interested in whether such an approach in Britain could help reduce the number of teenage pregnancies.

No, it doesn't really. Besides, you cannot encourage children to experiment and encourage prohibition at the same time; it makes absolutely no sense. What you can do is give them the information that they need, provide a good support framework and hope that they make the right choices.

Tertiary Education
We believe that those who really should be at university should be supported financially by the state
according to their need through to the completion of their bachelor’s degree. To make this possible,
we propose the following changes:-

Cutting back on the numberof universities ... A target of university education for 50% of school leavers is harmful for universities and students alike. It is a fallacy that a obtaining a degree will inevitably result in a successful career and guaranteed prosperity.

In 1962 there were only 250,000 university students. The current figure (2005) is just over 1,000,000 - some 43% of all 18-21-year olds. This percentage is only slightly less than the 47% of students who gained 5 or more GCSE grades A*-C (and it is possible to gain a grade C with a score of only 20%.) The only possible conclusion, even allowing for an increase in the population and in the popularity of university education, is that a significant number of students are being awarded degrees when their academic performance clearly does not merit it. This country simply does not need this over-supply of graduates.

True, for what you end up with is one million people a year leaving university with massive amounts of debt, and a system of inflation in which each degree is worth less and thus the earning power of the students is considerably depressed.
We will therefore review the Conservative Party’s “Comprehensivization” of higher education, which converted perfectly good polytechnics into third rate universities. The simple fact is that many jobs do not require qualification to degree level, and that degrees from some educational establishments are recognised by the students themselves as worse considerably less academically than those from the older universities such as the Russell Group. We will institute a nationwide review of higher education with the intention of distinguishing between those institutions that deserve the title of university and those that do not, and between those courses which merit degree status and those that do not.

We will encourage the redeployment of former university premises that no longer merit the title to technology and higher skills-based training.

In other words, bringing back the Polytechnics. Again, a good idea, I think.
Revising the Admissions policy ... Merit and academic ability must be the sole criteria when it comes to university places, especially if our most prestigious universities such as Oxford and Cambridge are to retain their world-wide reputation. A recent study by academics at Oxford has found a strong correlation between “A” level grades and the class of degree obtained at these universities, regardless of the type of school attended.

That seems fair enough too.
Restoration of Student Grants. The introduction of tuition fees and loans has been a retrogressive step. How many of those of us who benefited from a grant would have had second thoughts about further education if we had known we would be saddled with a large debt on leaving university? The UK Independence Party intends to restore student grants.

Our proposals will result in fewer students than at present spending so long in full-time education. Therefore extra funding will be available which, over a period of time, will enable the student loans scheme to be replaced by grants.

Well, that's the NUS onside then... Funding will come in part from the climming down of the DfES and by charging EU students the full overseas student fees not the discounted top-up rate (currently £3,000) that they currently pay. At current rates of study, UKIP estimate that savings of some £900 million can be recovered.
De-politicising Overseas Study ... we are unhappy with the ‘Bologna Process’, to which Britain is a signatory. This builds on the Sorbonne Process which commits its signatories to “harmonising the architecture of the European higher education system”. We strongly disagree with this, and oppose Bologna’s emphasis on there being a European dimension to higher education. If within the UK alone there is such diversity in the academic quality of courses at different universities, there is inevitably going to be an even greater diversity within the different nations of Europe with their different academic traditions. “Harmonisation”, as always, means dumbing down to the lowest common denominator, and accepting politicised EU models of university education.

I know little about this, but include it for the sake of completeness. Essentially, the step then taken is a withdrawal from all EU funded placement programmes and institute new ones which are unfunded by the EU and thus do not require an EU dimension to the learning programmes.
We strongly believe in opportunities for education in later life, and fully support adult learning, both through organisations such as the Open University, and through adult education classes. We therefore deplore the recent 4% funding cut for adult education, which is estimated to have reduced the number of places available on such courses by 500,000 and will seek to reverse this.

OK, seems fine. Again, not something that I know a great deal about but it's probably a good thing as long as it is well administered.
Finally, on the subject of higher education, we will initiate a complete review of teacher training, in order to eliminate any element of political indoctrination in the courses. Student teachers are free to espouse any political views they wish personally, but the ethos of colleges, PGCE courses and schools must be free of any politicisation.

That seems fine to me, although it must be stressed that a teacher should not be persecuted should they air their own views. Indeed, they should stimulate that debate on politics which is currently so obviously lacking.
We will also separate teacher training colleges from universities. Their role is to train teachers for their vocation. The desire for academic respectability - namely a degree at the end of a teacher training course - must not in any way allow the vocational element to be compromised. We nonetheless will insist on high academic standards for secondary teachers in particular.

This is the old attitude about going to teacher training college to actually teach rather than as an academic exercise. Whilst Dean of St George's Medical School, in about 1993, a man named Bill Ascher complained that too many trainee doctors were going into research rather than going to actually practise medicine in hospitals. Well, that's fair enough, but may I then suggest that you do not select candidates on the basis of academic results alone?

I shall reproduce the conclusion in full.
Conclusion

There is no argument for ignoring the widespread call for the reform of our failing education system. The reason for its survival in its present state is that it suits the dogmatic mindset of Westminster that the state must control everything and that everyone must be equal and think along certain politically-acceptable lines.

The damage that this approach has done over the years is incalculable. Besides the decline in standards of literacy and numeracy, the failure of education policy has contributed to the problems all too visible on our streets - drunkenness, drug abuse, soaring teenage pregnancy rates
and a general lack of respect for authority among young people.

The education system which Britain urgently needs should not be afraid of fostering independent thought and informed debate, and must acknowledge and respect the vital role that parents have in the transmission of culture and values to their children.

It must also acknowledge the innate differences in levels of ability between different pupils, with examinations restored to once again providing a realistic challenge for different ability groups. We believe that these proposals by the UK Independence Party will greatly improve standards
in schools and universities and significantly benefit our people and nation.

Generally speaking, I think that this manifesto is fairly sensible, although possibly not going far enough in solving the mangerial problems of central administration. However, it is a definite start.

For a bit more on how I felt about education a year ago, you might like to refer to DK's Manifesto. This was assembled with the help of DK's Blogger Cabinet, Education Policy being initially research and dealt with by David T.

Might this be my longest post ever...?

16 comments:

CityUnslicker said...

I do agree with a lot of what they say...however, de-regulating the national curriculum has an unintended consequence.

Most teachers and heads are total lefties who will proceed to abandon all proper methods of teaching as they did in the 70's. And they will mess withthe curriculum to suit their views.

We can change policy but we can't sack 'em all; the government needs some control here

Devil's Kitchen said...

City,

Sure; hence the restrictions on politicisation and teaching methods.

DK

Martin said...

DK,

Interesting post.

Franchising is a dud term for them to use - 'letting' would have been more appropriate.

Anonymous said...

"Might this be my longest post ever...?"

Whew! Might be blogdom's longest post ever...

But there's a lot of food for thought in this. One can only hope that their other manifestos are similar in nature. If so, then they are certainly shaping up to be a resonable alternative to 'Call me Dave' & his mob of Tories-in-name-only.

chris said...

Lefty nonsence teaching methods probably won't be that much of an issue, so long as there is consistent testing. Bad teaching will lead to bad results, hence the parents in attempting to get the best results for their children will choose not send them to schools with bad teaching.

Devil's Kitchen said...

Martin,

"Franchising is a dud term for them to use - 'letting' would have been more appropriate."

Either way, the problems outlined remain. Plus, it means that local councils still have far too much power over the provision of buildings, etc. This will, in turn, cost the state more money in terms of bureaucracy. The advantages of involving the private sector become dulled, and the cost benefits of abolishing the LEAs becomes a little less beneficial.

JuliaM,

"But there's a lot of food for thought in this. One can only hope that their other manifestos are similar in nature."

From what I have seen, yes, they are. The tax policy document -- which a certain Euronihilist blogger may or may not have hand in -- is looking even more interesting. It's only in draft at the moment, so I cannot publish details but suffice it to say that a high personal allowance and flat tax feature quite heavily. I believe that they are busy researching the Citizens' Basic Income at the moment as well.

UKIP are repositioning themselves -- not merely getting away from being a single issue party -- as the party of small-state, free-trade libertarianism (to sum it up in a nutshell). Hence my joy at finding that a party that I joined in a fit of drunken pique is actually a party that believes the things that I do.

I had a long chat with the guy -- the one who contacted me after my first post on their strategy -- yesterday, and they are definitely on the level and very determined to advance these ideas; the same ideas that those of us on this side of the blogosphere have been advocating for a long time.

Interesting times...

DK

Bag said...

Excellent post as usual. It was an interesting read.

Only thing that jumped out at me was the adult education figures. A 4% cut amounted to 500,000 places. That still leaves 96% or 12,000,000 places. I think that comes to a lot more adults than there is in further education as thats about 25% of the UK population, including the kids.

I do think the whole thing will need tuning but if we are prepared so sack rogue teachers and paper pushers then it has a good chance. It is an excellent first cut on a very difficult subject.

Devil's Kitchen said...

Bag,

"I do think the whole thing will need tuning but if we are prepared so sack rogue teachers and paper pushers then it has a good chance."

That, of course, is the point -- I hope, at least -- of getting private companies to actually run the schools. Waste and admin are cut and teachers can be hired and fired -- or rewarded -- precisely as they are in independent schools. OK, they won't get their final salary pensions, but they also will not have their pay fixed centrally; thus teachers have a market and can negotiate salaries appropriate to skills, experience and the area in which they live (i.e. it's ludicrous that you have "London weighting" of salaries, but otherwise a teacher in the wilds of North Yorkshire will get paid pretty much the same as a teacher in another (expensive) UK city.

The same principle, of course, should apply to nurses, etc. were the NHS to be properly privatised.

DK

Pogo said...

Only two things missing... Reintroduction of corporal punishment wouldn't be a bad idea, especially in the interim period of "readjustment" to the new regime. And I'd vote to appoint "Frank Chalk" as Minister for Education. :-)

Devil's Kitchen said...

Pogo,

Discipline appears on page 8 of the PDF, but essentially runs like this.

The UK Independence Party is committed to repealing the 1998 Human Rights Act and withdrawing from the European Convention on Human Rights.

The legislation these acts superseded was far more balanced in protecting the innocent whilst allowing for proper disciplinary measures to be taken against unruly pupils. We will implement the recommendation in the Steer Report (on learning behaviour) that legislation be passed establishing beyond doubt that schools have the right to discipline pupils when their behaviour is unacceptable.
...

Equally, where genuine cases of misconduct or incompetence are proven against teachers, we will not shrink from ensuring that head teachers have sufficient power to discipline individuals and to dismiss them if necessary.

Furthermore, we will allow head teachers the ultimate say in decisions regarding the exclusion of unruly pupils.


DK

Anonymous said...

Interesting stuff. And education seems like a good policy area for UKIP to raise its profile in local communities.

One useful source of information, from a similar general perspective, is the web site of the Campaign for Real Education:

http://www.cre.org.uk

Emily said...

The only thing I have a problem with is if you pay people to have children, they will. There are plenty of reasosn why teenages get pregnant at a young age and want to keep the baby. Children having children and wanting sanctuary is usually a result of trying to escape a desperate home life.

Watch a dealer beating up mum again? Watch your mum sell your bed for more drugs? Listen to your parents have a drunken row? Shut your eyes while your pissed up father gropes you some more?

Or have a baby and get a place away from them?

Anonymous said...

The policy sounds to me to be yearning for a supposed golden era in the past, and I'm sure that's how the media will present it. I doubt if most people are seeking a return to selection or grammar schools even though they recognise that a major problem needs solving.

That's not to say that I disagree with the CRE, however it has to be wrapped up in policies that appear to look to the future rather than the past.

It seems to me that the National Curriculum and the teaching establishment are different sides of the same monopolistic problem. The former is a producer led solution to a producer caused problem. Instead of demanding that we have a different National Curriculum or demanding the replacement of particular learning strategies (ie Phonics replaces Whole Book), we should encourage the establishment of a market in schools that supply a choice of teaching philosophies and moreover market themselves based upon those differences. We should allow the Swedish system whereby only two willing teachers are needed to set up a new school. We need not fear the entrenchment of “leftist” teaching methods - in such a system, there would initially be a majority of schools that implemented the failed educational strategies of the past, but over time (and it might take a generation) such schools would be superseded by more successful schools. Such a strategy divorces the need for the government to determine whether Whole Book reading really is inferior to Phonics. The natural demand of parents for their children to be able to read coupled with the ability to transfer their charges to different schools will identify the better method. Part of my desire for this is based upon the logical assessment that a teacher that believes in method A over method B is likely to achieve better results using the method they believe in, than one foisted upon them.

Whilst it might seem that central control will achieve beneficial results, this is unlikely to happen. Recall that Baker attempted to force schools to improve using the National Curriculum. After the proposals had passed through the civil service, the National Curriculum actually reinforced some of the more questionable practices. Baker wanted Phonics; the current Labour government wants phonics. Yet it does not happen. The only solution is to completely remove government from educational strategies and restore the link to the users.

To go further, we need to examine the efficacy of teacher training. It is there that teachers learn the methods that they will adopt when they go into practice. If the teaching institutions promulgate questionable teaching strategies, then we need a system that ensures that alternate strategies are available for teaching. For example, we might create a teacher training route that principally involved learning on the job and used college as a means to round out that education.

Emily said...

And I hope your teaching manifesto builds in for what teachers really have to deal with. Take my husband this week - a teacher and head of a dept. A 13 yo girl tried to hang herself on Weds and it still in intensive care and unlikely to make it. One of the over 30s teachers has been carted off by the police for a relationship with a pupil and the head's marriage has dissolved because she is shagging her assistant.

So that's suicide, paedophilia and a head to busy boffing to care about the slipping results (down for a third year in a row because she is off 4 days of the week teaching other heads how to be heads while she isn't fucking being a head of her own place).

Oh and his budget is so fucked he carries arround an eraser in his backpocket because it is the only one in the art dept and got to last until April.

Still, at least it isn't his last school in inner London where there were two buckets in the classroom collecting water from the leaking roofs and the kids all had coats and gloves on in winter.

He gets around the whole red tape of a school trip but not organising them because there is not enough time to do a recee and count the number of steps that would be taken (no shit). As for residential trips, he won't risk it (kids sneaking alcohol and ODing, getting pregnant or acting stupidly and putting their lives at risk).

Devil's Kitchen said...

JohnM,

"It seems to me that the National Curriculum and the teaching establishment are different sides of the same monopolistic problem. The former is a producer led solution to a producer caused problem. Instead of demanding that we have a different National Curriculum or demanding the replacement of particular learning strategies (ie Phonics replaces Whole Book), we should encourage the establishment of a market in schools that supply a choice of teaching philosophies and moreover market themselves based upon those differences."

If you read the policy document, this is, in effect, what it is advocating. As for reading methods, as long as it isn't fucking ITA, I don't mind. The important thing is that the children should be able to read by the age of, say, 6.

"We should allow the Swedish system whereby only two willing teachers are needed to set up a new school. We need not fear the entrenchment of “leftist” teaching methods - in such a system, there would initially be a majority of schools that implemented the failed educational strategies of the past, but over time (and it might take a generation) such schools would be superseded by more successful schools."

I agree and this is at the heart of my objections to the "franchising" idea. But, occasionally, you have to phase in radicalism rather than proclaim it. The thing that I like about UKIP is that it is a small, and very new, party. The direction that it is taking on domestic policies is even newer and I am getting a chance to provide input into those policies: this is a very attractive idea to me.

Emily,

The problem at the moment is that that head teacher is almost impossible to sack. Privatise the schools under a not-for-profit company and his job is toast. And a fucking good thing too.

DK

Emily said...

DK

His head teacher is fucking useless. USELESS. All she does is watch standards slide - as all the teachers buckle under the enormity of mindless paperwork - and then have a go at them each September. She is something else. He managed to get 18 of the 18 students into their first choice higher education and he heard her take the credit for it at an open evening. He wanted to stab her.

Steve Baker: still decent, still libertarian

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