Tuesday, 13 December 2005

Education funding

Bluefluff has flagged up Austin Mitchell's wonderful blog and one posting caught my eye. For those who don't know Mr Mitchell is the Labour MP for Grimsby who doesn't always follow the party line. Add to that his past career as a journalist and he's usually good value in print or interview.

Of course Austin has some views about the Education White Paper proposed by Ruth Kelly. Here is a flavour of it;
None of the assertions made about academies, specialisation, the benefits of business or any other involvement is based on accurate, tested research. There is no research to tell us what parents (all parents) really want and nothing at all to tell us what the poorest and the underprivileged want and need and how we can motivate them. So the White Paper is like the architect's sketch drawings for a new building: a beautiful unreality with idealised people sketched in.

The view of the White Paper is that empowering pushy parents, essentially middle-class ones, will improve the lot of the underprivileged and inadequate. It won't and can't.
Probably not what Mrs Kelly would want in her mailbox from a loyal member of her party. Grief, she'd probably not be overjoyed to get it from a member of the opposition party.
Mitchell's piece articulates many of the issues and does so from the perspective of someone with access to local schools and parents.
I doubt if our parents will man parent committees or play a dynamic role. A widespread lack of interest will give power to the prejudiced, the anal neurotic and the pushy. Our parents don't want to run schools. They are a changing group. Their involvement fluctuates. Schools want to work closely with parents but don't want to be ruled by them and the parents have no desire to do that. Unlike you, they trust the teachers.
He - probably correctly - suggests that schools with middle class, pushy, parents will reap benefits but others will suffer. He cites schools in North East Lincs which cannot attract good school governors.
The improvement in education so far is largely due to more money. There are no positive proposals for increasing this. More personalised tuition for literacy and English will bring in £250 and £335 (elsewhere cited as £350) million for two years. What is needed is a further increase in teacher numbers to provide personalised teaching. Can we really provide tailored education, working through smaller groups and one to one tuition without far more staff, more assistants, and much more money?
And so it goes. I'd love to see the reply.

1 careful considerations:

Bluefluff said...

I'm glad you blogged this, as I don't know enough about the ins & outs of educational funding policy to say anything particularly sensible.
What I do know is that whatever the government's doing, isn't working. Most of Alan's supply work over the last 2-3 years was done in the schools Austin writes about - a sufficiently demoralising experience to drive him into early retirement.