12 October 2007

Taking The Educational Temperature

The Primary Review ... children, their world, their educationThe big news of the day is the report from The Primary Review, which notes that primary school children and their parents are suffering from "deep anxiety" about modern life, with primary schools engulfed by a wave of anti-social behaviour, materialism and the cult of celebrity.

In view of our plea last made only yesterday for an end to government interference in our public services and the devolution of power to local professionals, perhaps most striking is the following observation: "The report also records that gloom could turn to hope when witnesses felt able to act rather than merely comply, whether as children working on projects for sustainable development, teachers taking control of the curriculum, or schools using their entrepreneurial talent to enhance staffing and facilities. This finding is a timely corrective to the belief that for every educational challenge there should be a high-profile government initiative or national strategy."

At the end of the report, it lists 44 questions for the next stage of the review. Here's a "top three" for you to consider and let us know what you think:

  • If, as witnesses tell us, there has been a loss in recent years of social cohesion, community and concern for others, and a growth in selfishness and materialism, how might primary schools both help children to cope with the adverse consequences of these changes and play their part in redressing the balance?
  • Is it the case that the profile of identified special educational needs is changing, with a rise in the incidence of behavioural difficulties? Why is this? Are current SEN and inclusion policies able to meet these changes? Is SEN provision equitable, both geographically and in relation to the range of needs which are identified?
  • Is the day-to-day work of primary schools excessively controlled and constrained by central government, as witnesses claim? Will the ‘flexibility’ and ‘freedom’ offered by the Primary Strategy be sufficient to discount such claims or should the balance of national, local and school be radically reconfigured? Does the notion of a national strategy or agency defining the precise nature of school-level freedoms embody a certain contradiction?