A libertarian inclined blog for teachers and learners of all ages. Comments, emails and links to other educational stuff welcome.

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Next entry: Clarkson on school discipline
Previous entry: It's not the Sun wot done it
Wednesday December 05 2007

As I said in my very first posting here, I blog to learn, and I’m only now picking up the threads of the row that seems to have been raging for ever about whether exam results in Britain are getting better, or worse, or what.  All of which is a pre-amble to me admitting that I’ve only just read this piece by Chris Woodhead in the Times.  Quote:

We all, even the minister, agree that maths and English matter. He proclaimed at his press conference: “English and mathematics are the foundation of a good education.” So why the euphoria when the statistics that have been released show 37.8% of candidates have failed to get at least a C grade in English, 44.8% maths.

Pass rates in these subjects have risen this year by 0.6% and 0.9% respectively. But so what? Given the scale of the failure, these are pathetic increases. Thousands of 16-year-olds are leaving school with no real competence in the subjects that matter most. The employers are right to express, once again, their concerns.

Yes, all these claims that exam results are improving don’t at all fit with the stories linked to in my previous posting here.

Woodhead goes on to report something else very interesting:

Equally interesting proposals from the Qualifications and Curriculum authority, the exams watchdog, are on the table for the curriculum. Schools will be given greater freedom over how and what they teach. The so-called key stage 3 national strategy, which for years dictated in minute detail what should be taught and how in the first three years of secondary school is, presumably, to be abandoned. You could not have a more dramatic policy U-turn.

Much of public life and public policy making is determined by the answers to the questions: Who do you trust?  Who do you not trust?  And just lately, the present crop of politicians have become deeply mistrusted, not least because of their relentlessly fatuous optimism about standards of literacy and maths in schools, but for lots of other reasons besides of the sort you can read about every day at places like this.  This means that they are not, just to take a for-instance, trusted to micro-manage how schools go about their business.  It’s not that schools are trusted completely, merely more than the politicians in London.  Hence, I surmise, this switch.

But alas, the problem with democracy - and I quite appreciate that this is not a sufficient reason for getting rid of democracy, I’m just saying that what follows is a problem - is that as soon as one bunch of politicians get to be mistrusted, they are swept away by another lot who are trusted, and the logic of manic over-centralisation reasserts itself.