Pursuing natural health & thinking beyond the superficial. Deconstructing Culture.

I’ve been impressed by some of the things the new PM Theresa May has been saying (including not letting people live in run down caravans [and sidenote – the use of Fuscia on prominent females]) but the news regarding grammar schools is surprising. Earlier this year I wrote a bit about this HERE

The issue is defintely a wide ranging one that has considerably surpassed the levels of desperation parents and wannabe social achievers once had encompassing the need/requirement to live in the right area, possibly working outside of that area or the mother/children there and the father working elsewhere, childcare, school starting/finishing times etc.

The problem with the social pyramid is the pretentious tokenism regarding the bottom and apparently wanting ‘them’ to cohesively work their way up with the blatant lie of meritocracy. Social reform isn’t about putting a plaster on a wound, blast the damned pyramid it’s about changing the shape altogether. Look at Cuba for an ‘extreme’ example; decaying, dilapidated memories of grandeur but still beautiful and the people realizing they needed grass roots action to provide for themselves and each other if they’re going to get anywhere. I’m talking about agriculture and better managment of public spaces/gardens here but that in turn led people to appreciate what they had/have and didn’t/don’t have, and helps educate about what they actually need in day to day living.

If you want educational reform look at places that have people so disenchanted with the efficiency that they drop out of society/systems altogether and modify that model. Japan for example; their catchement and local government system handles education very differently to the UK:

1. They rotate teachers from school to school, area to area depending on where they’re needed and that keeps their skills both in their subject(s) and communication/delivery fresh. Students and teachers need different personalities and methods of interaction.
2. Students have responsibility and I think this is a key factor. We have the prefect/class captain(s) system but its weak, there aren’t enough roles and challenges nor clubs (social, leisure, interest, academic). There students have access to school early and leave late depending on how much they partake in what’s on offer, they take shifts cleaning the school, they have gardening duties, they have cultural festivals that include the local community and school council (student representation) actually means something.

Mutual respect is a major problem, we’ve gone from too much discipline to ‘I’m not going to respect you unless you earn it’. That’s not appropriate, the student and teacher archetype should have some respect for each other by default; I’ve always been of the ‘don’t touch my precious student’ persuasion and not pitting them against each other in personal grudge matches but we’re not talking about ideals anymore. It’s a symbiotic relationship, this much we know nowadays not a master/slave[servant] domination but teachers have too much to do as it is with class planning, grading, keeping up to date, targets, keeping students attention etc. This is where teaching assistants come into play, they have to assist with the differing needs of students within a class. I think parents/guardians need to be more involved in home schooling as well if possible (it’s not something that can be enforced without detriment to the child), children/teens who are taught at home or have interested parents (at home and not interfering [too much] at school) are brighter with keener perception in my opinion. Pushy parents who think achievement and ability is all about grades and expecting too much are a nuisance so education has to be presented and maintained as a multi-approach experience.

The counter balance to students from deprived/poorer backgrounds have seen some ‘positive discrimination’ e.g. universities offering lower grade acceptances/places for some but for every place offered there are too many falling by the wayside. We can’t exactly go the China route and introduce birth control to their extent (though we have plenty of weak and sickly in the population given the rubbish we consume) but if parents perhaps realized the personal cost in having just one child (approximate totals over a lifetime rather than drip feeding ‘we’ll manage’ budgets which people can just about cope with if they let life goals and passion slip away) and what it takes to really educate just one person to anywhere their near full potential they’d perhaps worry more about bringing children into this world.

Then there’s the teaching/learning environment – beautiful old Victorian mansions/buildings were once the main setting for a school and now we have… Also the static classroom isn’t inspiring or conducive to consistent focus. How many times does our attention drift, do we day dream, fall asleep or generally just wonder why we are here in class? Seriously get rid of flourescent tube lighting (which are even more headache inducing when bouncing off a whiteboard) and sterile looking decors. We can do better than this. Make the schools comfortable and bring the outside in some more, hold more sessions outside, schedule more classes together e.g. you have 4 form classes in 1 year of the same age range, you can’t change the form classes frequently so mix them up by holding some subject classes together. Instead of teaching one form class together all the time, hold joint classes for some subjects so they can get to know students outside of their form class and work on projects with different people. Teachers and students need change and stimulation.

Cirriculum content is a hot one – what is actually relevant, how far do you go, how can you balance between specialized and classical education? Librarians (both paper/digital) are not considered important in schooling and I don’t see how that makes any sense.

Business sponsorship has been hit and miss, local business sponsorship sounds better than corporate sponsorship because the bigger the company the more we get the problems of copyright (student ideas/work being the property of the school) and the recent apprenticeship boost which to my mind is harping back to the days of owning the apprentice, it takes advantage of young people contracting them for too long. It’s always an issue of caring, unless the people involved care and unless society as a whole cares… But that’s not the point, one step at a time. Then there’s the issue of polytechnics.

Oh and btw – even though I went to a girls school I feel like I was totally robbed of a prom. (Let’s not talk of US schools and their ridiculous notions of sex education and school spirit but still, one dance a year or every couple of years is too much to ask? I’m actually a tiny bit envious of the uptake in proms here.)


PM Says She Supports Grammar School Revival
Sky News 3 hrs ago

© Other
A document about grammar schools was revealed by an education official. Pic: @PoliticalPics/PA

Theresa May has told Conservative backbenchers she supports lifting the ban on grammar schools so every child can have “access to opportunity”.

Two MPs who attended a meeting of the 1922 Committee on Wednesday night confirmed to Sky News that the Prime Minister argued for an overhaul of England’s school system.

She told the gathering of backbench MPs that the best state schools have become the preserve of Britain’s elite, effectively shutting out the majority of children from the best education.

The sources confirmed she said, to cheers in the room: “We already have selection, haven’t we? It’s called selection by house price.”

It is thought many of the free schools announced by her predecessor David Cameron could become grammar schools under the changes.

The Government’s support for grammar schools was confirmed when a photographer snapped a Department for Education official carrying a briefing paper which outlined that a consultation document would recommend the change.

New grammars were banned by Tony Blair’s government in 1998, amid concerns selective schools and the 11-plus exam favoured children who had attended private prep schools.

In the two decades since the ban, successive Conservative leaders have been nervous about opening the debate, despite the popularity of grammar schools among grassroots Tories.

But there is still concern among legislators and advisors – as well as deep opposition from the Labour and Liberal Democrat benches.

Angela Rayner, Labour’s shadow education secretary, said Mrs May’s policy could be summed up as “shambolic”.

She added: “The Prime Minister talks about social inclusion while at the same time advocating social segregation through grammar school selection.

“No child’s life chances should be defined by a test they sit at the age of 11.”

Alan Milburn, chairman of the Government’s Social Mobility Commission, is quoted in The Guardian newspaper as saying the move would be a “disaster”.

The former Labour cabinet minister argued that poorer children fall below the national average in exam performance in areas where there are more selective schools.

Meanwhile, Lib Dem education spokesperson John Pugh said: “There is no such thing as inclusive grammar schools. By their very nature they exclude children who don’t pass a test aged 11.

“We want every child to succeed, not just the few.”

Mrs May has said improving life chances for the struggling majority is one of the priorities for her government.

Both the Prime Minister and her chief of staff Nick Timothy attended grammar schools.

A consultation document on the proposal is expected to be launched next week, with a green paper to follow.

When the photograph of the briefing paper emerged, a Department for Education spokesperson said: “The Prime Minister has been clear that we need to build a country that works for everyone, not just the privileged few.

“We are looking at a range of options to allow more children to access a school that lets them rise as far as their talents will take them.

“Policies on education will be set out in due course.”

Same old stagnant arguments, nothing changes:


Grammar schools expansion would be a disaster, says social mobility tsar
The Guardian 8 hrs ago Anushka Asthana Political editor

© The Guardian
Alan Milburn is chair of the government’s social mobility commission.

The government’s social mobility tsar has warned that expanding the current grammar school system would be a disaster, a day after it emerged Theresa May was considering the idea.

Alan Milburn, the former Labour cabinet minister who chairs the government’s social mobility commission, said ending the ban on building new selective schools risked creating an “us and them divide” within the education system.

He said pupils at England’s remaining 163 selective state schools were four or five times more likely to have come from independent prep schools than from the most disadvantaged backgrounds.

“This is not selection educationally, it is selection socially. If [more of] that is what is being talked about, it will not provide a social mobility dividend, it will be a social mobility disaster,” said Milburn, although he said the government could be planning for a different form of selective school that focused more heavily on the disadvantaged.

His comments came as the prime minister defended the plans to roll out more selective schools to cheers from Conservative backbenchers. “We have already got selection, haven’t we – it’s called ‘selection by house price’,” May told her MPs, according to people who were at the meeting of the 1922 Committee. She told her colleagues that she wanted these schools to be “inclusive” grammars.

Milburn said earlier that social selection did stretch beyond grammar schools, with parents paying steep prices for homes in catchment areas or piling money into private tuition. But he argued that “two wrongs don’t make a right” and said areas with large numbers of selective schools saw poor pupils perform below the national average.

On Tuesday, an official document indicating that the government was planning to end the moratorium was photographed in the hands of a civil servant outside Downing Street.

In a wide-ranging interview with the Guardian, Milburn called on May to take urgent action to close the gap between the wealthiest and the poorest, and warned of an overwhelming and “festering sense of social resentment” across Britain.

“The history of our continent tells us when a majority feel their ambitions being thwarted and that a minority are forging ahead, things can turn ugly,” he said, arguing that the scale of the Brexit vote underlined the challenge.

Milburn pointed out that of the 65 areas of the country highlighted by his commission as the worst for education and employment prospects, only three voted to remain in the EU.

He warned of a growing geographical divide, suggesting ministers had to act quickly to avoid a “tsunami of people moving from the north to the south”. That would result in “whole tracts of the country that don’t just feel left behind – they are left behind,” he said.

The former health secretary urged the prime minister to publish a 10-year plan for social reform that set out “big levers” to tackle inequalities in education, career progression and the north-south divide.

He recommended a series of policies, including:
A significant pay premium and discounted housing for teachers who move to disadvantaged areas and remain there for a number of years.
A Ucas-style system to shake up the vocational education system, which Milburn said was in “chaos”.
Intervening to improve parenting skills, which he described as the “last taboo in public policy”, by funding a drive through successful websites such as Mumsnet or others.

Milburn argued that those – including many Conservative politicians – who claimed grammar schools were the best path out of poverty for bright, disadvantaged children were wrong.

He said the problem could be seen in Kent, the county with the highest proportion of selective education. “It is in the bottom 20% for free school meals children in the country,” he said. “Only 27% of kids in Kent schools on free school meals get five good GCSEs. The national average is 33% and in London, where most areas are purely comprehensive, it is 45%.”

The memo accidentally revealed on Tuesday, written by the Department for Education’s permanent secretary, Jonathan Slater, said a policy for new selective schools would be presented as one option in a consultation paper, which is expected within weeks.

However, Slater added that Justine Greening, the education secretary, wanted to see “various conditions” put in place for expansion and for it to be pursued only once existing grammars had been reformed in ways that avoided disadvantaging those who fail to get in.

This month, Sir Michael Wilshaw, the chief inspector of schools, also warned that the idea that poor children would benefit from a return of grammar schools was “tosh” and “nonsense”. He cited figures showing the under-representation of poor pupils in selective schools such as in Bexley, south-east London, where they take in 9% of children on free school meals, compared with 28% in non-selective schools. In he London borough of Sutton, the figures were 7% in grammars and 25% elsewhere.

Milburn said his criticism was of expanding the existing system, but said government plans had not yet been unveiled and seemed likely to focus on helping the poorest pupils, a move that would amount to a different policy and, as such, mitigate concerns.

“So we would want to take a look at that but, frankly, I still remain sceptical about the social mobility dividend,” he said, adding that such reform would reach only a minority of people.

Milburn argued that governments had for too long focused on the bottom and top 5% of society, and the EU referendum had revealed that whole sections of society felt their ambitions were being thwarted.

He welcomed comments from May on social mobility, including pledges to avoid creating an “us and them society” and to improve community cohesion.

He said policy had to aim at a majority of people, taking in what he called “treadmill families” who were working hard but standing still and whose social prospects were “frankly going nowhere”. Their children were often not in struggling schools but coasting ones, he said.

Milburn was born in 1958, which he said academics had called the peak year for social mobility. “Bingo,” he said, arguing that people like him had risen from council estates because of the dramatic policies of the post-war Labour government, such as the welfare state.

“It wasn’t micro – a little pilot here or there,” he said. They used “big macro levers”. Milburn said that while there had been social policy successes in recent years, including record numbers of working class children achieving good GCSEs and entering university, there were still huge problems.

“It would take 30 years before the attainment gap in schools between the poorer kids and their better-off classmates even halved. It would take 50 years before you close the gap between those parts of the country that send most kids to university and those that send the least. We’ve got to get out of the slow lane. This is the time to move up a gear.”

He said a social reform plan ought to aim to halve the attainment gap in schools between the poorest children and better-off classmates and halve the number of workers living in poverty within 10 years.

On schooling, Milburn said the most important factor was teacher quality.

“The difference between a good teacher and a bad teacher for a disadvantaged child is one year’s worth of education,” he said, arguing that the current system lacked planning about where teachers ended up, with many drawn to London.

He called for teachers to be offered financial incentives to move into disadvantaged areas and proposed a “right to buy” scheme for the profession. “They would be given financial help by the state to buy a home, and in exchange give a commitment that they remained in that area for a period of years,” he said.

Milburn said he was angry that the school system “consistently failed the poorest children”, who faced a “triple whammy of disadvantage”, slipping behind at ages five, 11 and 16.

He called on May to take radical steps on career progression, arguing that German retailers were much better at placing staff on a career path by offering them different opportunities to boost their skills.

He said big employers were ready to talk to the government about such reforms, but in return they wanted action on what “we laughingly call the vocational educational system”.

“We don’t have a system, we have chaos,” he said.

Milburn said the numbers of pupils applying for sports and recreation courses were six times higher than those applying for construction and three times engineering. “Where are the shortages? Not in bloody sports and recreation but construction and engineering,” he said.

He has advised Downing Street to introduce a Ucas-style system for further education. “It is a bizarre irony that for what we regard as the most able students we make life incredibly simple – you fill in one Ucas form and you are in the higher education system.

“For those who we regard – wrongly in my view – as the least able kids going into further education, there is no system, there is no form or transparency on employment outcomes,” he said, claiming there were 1,100 providers.

Milburn said parenting was the more “fundamental thing” that influenced a child’s life far more than any government minister or even teacher. He said four out of five better-off parents regularly read to their children, while only two in five less well-off ones did.

“We can’t just stand back and say that is OK because we know that reading leads to language and cognitive development and that has a massive influence on [a child’s] starting point in life and in education,” he said.

Responding to May’s comments to the 1922 Committee, Angela Rayner, the shadow education secretary, said: “Tory education policy can be summed up in one word – shambolic.

“The prime minister talks about social inclusion while at the same time advocating social segregation through grammar school selection.

“No child’s life chances should be defined by a test they sit at the age of 11. The priority for our education system should be investment to raise standards not investment to create social exclusion.”


P.S – MSN I appreciate the Angela Lansbury post after I was writing privately about Samson and Delilah yesterday and mentioned that well bred lady/family and the interesting comments I got for liking Murder She Wrote. Akin to the Dolly Parton and celeb post about on and off again relationships after the Will/Jeff posts, the tiger posts, the submarine mass posts after Full Metal Panic elsewhere (not blog), the guns (El Cazador De La Bruja) and basically something after everything. The irrelevent non-current events/newsworthy posts chosen as front page news are ‘funny’ like the Indonesian singer who died via snake bite.

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