Quieten down in the classroom children

Quieten down in the classroom children

I was very much looking forward to attending the Conservative Party Conference this week, keen to hear what our government has planned for the country – and in particular schools and education.

But sadly, on day one, the headlines are dominated with Brexit, Boris Johnson and apparent fallings-out within the Cabinet.

With the Labour Party and the Liberal Democrats not offering up much in their conferences in terms of exciting policies that will affect real change within education, I was hoping the Conservatives would steal the march.

And there is still time for them to do this.

I would implore them to cease the petty squabbling over Brexit, which is overshadowing everything else.

For what is abundantly clear, if we’re going to compete as a stand-alone nation post-Brexit, is that we need to improve our education standing and offerings.

We need both the academically and technically gifted to shine if this great country of ours is to thrive.

The Labour Party and its ‘National Education Service’ (don’t we already have one of those?) seems to think throwing money at the system is the answer to all our problems.

While the Liberal Democrats just want to attack solutions rather than come up with their own.

No, what we need are real radical solutions that will fundamentally change our education system for the better.

A top priority must be overhauling the primary school curriculum.

For too long the teaching of our youngest children has been dominated by progressive teaching which, with its lack of rigour, is actually leading to regression.

Far too many 11-year-olds are starting secondary school without grasping the basics in numeracy and literacy. Until we get that right it doesn’t matter what changes are introduced at secondary and higher levels.

Whatever path we choose in life, we all need those basic skills that, frankly, are not being taught well in primary schools.

In addition to a more rigorous curriculum, I would like to see maths and English specialists teaching at primary level. If this requires paying them more then we should do this – you have to get education right from the start.

We also need to get away from a culture where all emphasis is placed on academia and the notion that everyone can go to university.

Not everyone can be academically bright – it’s a fact of genetics.

As children get older we need an education system that harnesses their particular talents.

So for the academically bright let’s have a grammar school system that they can join at 11 and older. Let’s target these in the poorer areas first as a genuine way of helping social mobility.

I’m very much in favour of the introduction of T-levels as a technical alternative to A-levels.

But I’d like to see the government go further.

Like Germany, we need far more specialist technical colleges in which students from the age of 14 can join.

These institutions could form links with industry and offer sponsorship and apprenticeships to students. To me this is key to surviving in a post Brexit era.

And finally, universities – we have reached saturation point.

We do not have the monies to meet the unrealistic demand that was put in place by Tony Blair all those years ago when he said 50% of us should be going to university.

This has led to the implosion of new, meaningless degree courses and, of course, the introduction of tuition fees.

We don’t want to create a generation of young people starting their lives heavily in debt.

No, we want all young people – whatever their talents – treated in the same high esteem so they don’t feel like they have to go to university to be respected or get a decent career.

Universities should be the bastions of the most academically able, providing the doctors, scientists, teachers and lawyers of the future.

But the technical colleges I would like to see formed should be treated in equally high esteem as they produce the equally-needed mechanics, software engineers, inventors and electricians of the world.

So let’s not squabble about the ins and outs of Brexit but get on with governing this country’s domestic affairs again, so we can compete more effectively on the international stage.

I wait with interest to hear what is said at the conference.