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Education - a tool to deliver social policy or a way to control the masses?

It's now 23 years that I've been in education. In that time we've had a Conservative Government, a Labour Government and now a Coalition Government.

Education has moved forward and I firmly believe that kids get a better deal with better teachers now than then although the teacher I worked under on teaching practice proves that there were outstanding teachers back in 1986!

Jane Parkin put the children first, went the extra mile to make learning interesting and genuinely cared about the children. I think she was able to do this because even though Central Government had a voice, it was a benign and distant voice with no compulsion and recognised teachers as capable and professional.

How times have changed.

Maybe the world is more cynical and Government echoes this social change but since the introduction of the National Curriculum in my first year of teaching the constant conveyor belt of initiatives has been bewildering.

Those first days in Birmingham, teaching were filled with aspiration and hope for positively impacting the lives of so many children. We even had a small earth tremor which we all felt during a staff meeting. However the shockwaves of educational reform which began in 1987 were to be felt much further afield and create what I believe to be substantial damage to the education landscape.

Clearly at the time Governments of both red and blue felt that teachers and schools were incapable of delivering a quality education and decided to introduce strategies to show us how to teach maths and English. Since then we have had I believe over 80 different initiatives.

Don't get me wrong I believe some of what has been done has moved us forward but there has been wasted lateral movement as well.

Imagine you are a car trying to get from A to B as fast as you can. Compare that to trying to move children forward in their learning. You'd want to make great gains in learning asap.

However just like a car steering around a race course momentum is lost and so it has been with the last three Governments. All three Governments have been responsible for driving their own political agenda through education and in doing so staff have needed training and energy has been lost. Energy which could have been used to move children forward.

The latest moves with ICT are typical of this. Labour lead us towards an ICT across the curriculum approach (which I believe is right) and staff receive considerable training before they can make this work for the kids but then the next Govenment changes all of this and asks us to retrain, maybe in Latin?!

Community cohesion was a real biggy for the last administration but you feel sure that this will go when we eventually find out what Gove wants from education.

So how do we make sure that we spend our energies on children rather than delivering political manifestos?

It's simple really. Take education out of the political arena.

Will it happen? Not really. It's much too easy for the Governments to look like they are doing something with an education that they lead the nation to believe is wanting.

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