Department of Education: The Potential to Limit Potential?

For all Gove’s reforms, is the Department of Education still doing more harm than good?

During the last few weeks four reports have been highlighted which have not been linked but are certainly connected, and will have a serious impact educationally, socially, economically and demographically in the future. For groups or individuals involved in education they should raise concerns regarding the future of the education system.

The publication of a report by OfSted which indicated there was concern regarding the provision of nursery education was alarming. The proposed course of action was to monitor the situation for four years, and action would be taken if OfSted were still concerned.

It is reasonable to assume OfSted do not yet have a plan to improve failing nurseries immediately in four years, which means the provision which falls below the standard will not be improved or replaced until there has been a detailed investigation of every nursery and a strategy has been agreed. This process could take several years, and any nursery owner who wishes to appeal against a decision to close their provision will become involved in a lengthy and detailed process, and will continue to provide poor quality provision until the appeals is heard, and hopefully, rejected.

A report has recently been published which demonstrates white students in rural England are achieving the poorest results. It has been suggested the money which has been spent on schools and the Surestart programme is now producing results, but we have failed to make a similar investment in the rural areas. This report will be discussed in detail and a strategy devised to improve the situation. It is hard to believe we have a situation in which students in urban areas are apparently regarded as more important than students in rural areas

Several television reports concerning the problem of schools which are not meeting the needs of the brightest students. It would seem to suggest all the money which has been spent on schools in urban areas may have been wasted. Teaching in mixed ability classes does not work for several reasons:

  • Bright students do not wish to appear to be working hard. It will damage their credibility with the other students and will attract bullying.
  • Students who are less able will not attempt to become involved in class activity, and will frequently be disruptive.
  • Teachers will spend more time attempting to maintain control than actually teaching.
  • The education of every student in the class is less effective.

This is well known  the people who systematically destroyed our education system and replaced it with something which was always going to be a disaster. It is completely unacceptable to hear headteachers, teachers, politicians and trade union leaders continue to defend a system which is fundamentally flawed and will continue to damage the educational opportunities of students until it is finally abandoned, which would make a very pleasant change from students being abandoned by successive governments which would not provide the education they knew was badly needed.

901134-school-studentsIt is completely unacceptable to be forced to work in the education system which does not fulfil the potential of students and was forced on teachers and students by a government which included cabinet members who had enjoyed all the benefits of a selective education system before systematically destroying it, and the educational opportunities of a generation of students.  It is disgraceful, and the students who have struggled as a result should feel annoyed and betrayed by a group of people who decided what was good enough for the politicians was clearly too good for the people who voted for them believing they would be better off. We have a generation of people who can say with absolute conviction it was a failure.

A new report states the number of students from poor backgrounds who are studying at elite universities is falling. It is not surprising. We deny very young children the start they deserve, fail to spend money on students in certain areas, teach students in other areas using unsuitable methods, and then we are surprised when they do not reach the educational standard required by our elite universities. However, our elite universities will not struggle to attract students from other countries where the education system works.

It is not unusual to complain about situations, and it is almost inevitable the person complaining has some idea of how to solve the problem they are complaining about. There is a course of action which could be taken by Michael Gove and his successors. It would not help to return to a situation in which we had grammar schools for certain students and other schools for the students who failed the test. It will not solve the problem. It will only remove ten percent of the students from the situation they are in. It would be much better to have a selective system which recognises academic ability, sporting ability and vocational skills. We can test every student to ensure that are attending a school which will allow each individual to fulfil their potential.

We already have the schools and the infrastructure required. We could test every student within months and identify their strengths. It would then be relatively simple to work with school management teams to prepare a curriculum and decide which students would benefit from attending specific schools. It would be a wonderful legacy for any politician to be able to say they gave young people a new start and the opportunity to have a future they would not otherwise have had. There must be one politician out there who can make it happen. This is a sincere request on behalf of very young person to make yourself known. It is the time for you to make your mark and go down in history.

Tom McManus has worked in education and training for over 25 years. During this time, he has taught in the prison service, universities, schools and colleges. He has also worked as an adviser on education and training to Members of the European Parliament.


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