Education at a critical crossroads

Education at a critical crossroads

August saw one of the education success stories of the year.

You may have read about the Michaela Free School in London and its inspirational headteacher Katharine Birbalsingh recording GCSE results any grammar school would be proud of.

Michaela, which is based in the deprived area of Brent, saw more than half (54%) of its students achieve grade 7s or higher in the school’s first-ever set of GCSE results; 18% also achieved the new top grade 9 (even higher than the old A*) compared with 4.5% nationally.

Katharine and her staff have achieved these staggering results through good old fashioned discipline and traditional teaching methods. She has proven that whatever social background you come from, success through education is achievable.

While Katharine is proving that firm discipline and structured learning achieves great results, our national education watchdog, Ofsted, is moving more to the progressive wing of education – the wing that has let down generations of children from deprived areas.

With its new framework, Ofsted appears to be bowing down to the complaints made by progressives on the importance of testing.

It has announced it will judge a school more on how it prepares children for tests rather than the test results themselves.

Inspectors will also now no longer examine how schools set homework or the type of homework that is set.

These changes are seeing Ofsted move towards more what cannot be measured rather than staying with what can be measured.

Even in the University sector, there appears to be a lowering of standards for those who are socially disadvantaged. Instead of this positive discrimination, more support should be given to students from deprived areas so they can meet the high standards – just like the Michaela Free School is achieving.

Measurable outcomes at SATs, GCSE, A-Level and degree should not be compromised but this is exactly what has been happening ever since the Blair government. We need to teach properly and measure properly and the latter means exams and stringent standards no matter how difficult it might be.

But while those in education are going towards the progressive wing we have in our new Prime Minister Boris Johnson a well-known advocate of more traditional approaches to education and a great supporter of grammar schools.

Schools, Ofsted and the government should all be singing from the same hymn sheet but sadly there is little cohesion.

Will the Boris Johnson government be able to escape the shackles of Brexit and lead a new era for education?

The recent government announcements for more funding to schools is promising as there have been far too many cuts.

However, it is crucial it is used well and not to support highly progressive experimental approaches that clearly don’t work.

Education finds itself at a critical crossroads. Will it go the same direction as Ofsted in moving towards the progressive teachings, which in my opinion, has failed generations of children, or will it follow the lead set by the Michaela Free School?

Teaching everyone to the same mediocrity will neither achieve equality or success – as the last five decades have proven.