It is well known that the UKIP education policy revolves around a central concept of parental choice and the creation, redesignation and promotion of grammar schools. How often do you hear that teachers are failing students or leadership is poor or schools are just not good enough? Even a cursory look at international job adverts would indicate the amount of schools in places as far apart as Lagos, Manila and Doha, who recruit British teachers. What is abundantly clear is that British expertise, British exam boards and the British curriculum are highly regarded throughout the world. This does not look like a poor or failing system, but it could be better.
164 Grammar schools still exist in England including in Essex and Kent with up to four pupils chasing every place. In Southend, where there are four grammars, almost 70% of students are not local and are frequently transported from homes up to 40 miles away. The solution is not to expand those schools of course, but to ask why Romford, Grays and Basildon do not have grammar schools. If that were the case more able pupils would have the opportunities of a grammar education opened up to them. It is not for everyone by any means and an academic curriculum will only suit some, who will only be successful with hard work and dedication to their studies. Let no one say that either a grammar or vocational education is better; it is not a question of comparing but of appropriateness for the child and parental right to choose. A system that devalues locality, devalues governors, devalues head teachers, devalues parents and ultimately damages the life chances of some pupils cannot be right. This needs to be urgently rethought.
The current system is veiled under a lie that all schools are very different and have considerable autonomy from central government. They do not. Schools have increasingly been changing their curriculum offer to more academic and less vocational subjects in the hope that this will increase their progress and pass rates. Too much Government driven data sets run schools, not people. A pupil centred system is a lie that the UKIP proposals expose and in doing so allow a fairer, transparent and genuine education system that gives parents real choice and allows all pupils to succeed.
The transformation of our schools proposed by UKIP is not dependant upon a massive injection of cash resources, the development of new teaching materials, new teaching methodologies or the use of expensive DfE advisors. Rather we need to tune the current, excellent and envied system. The following is key to that future success:
- Create new or ‘convertor’ Grammars
- Every school with a grammar stream and vocational pathway
- Increased opportunity for schools to develop bi-lateral admissions criteria
- A curriculum framework that needs to be no more than that, a framework.
- Redefine the role of a head teacher to be more autonomous but no less accountable
- Recognise that assessment is not teaching
UKIP supports this decentralised, deconcentrated new relationship with schools, which would no longer be caught up in the vortex of centralised dogma and diktat. A system that recognises and celebrates differences is truly inclusive and democratic. In the future we need to see pupils flourish not flounder, a government that delivers to parents, pupils and professionals and finally, an opportunity for schools to properly prepare our young people for life in modern Britain. Now that would be worth celebrating!
Photo by Sean MacEntee