“Schools Out” – Time to Ring the Bell on Osborne’s Education Reforms?

The education system has long been a topic of much contention. Recent proposals set out in Chancellor George Osborne’s budget have promoted a number of divisive policies. Osborne asserts that all schools will be academies by 2020 and schools will be encouraged to enforce longer hours.

Some teachers have supported the proposals. It has been argued that the transformation from school to academy would in fact allow for greater teacher autonomy.

Mr Osborne has said that “providing schooling is the single most important thing we can do to help children from a disadvantaged background to succeed.” However, this would appear to be no more than rhetoric. In fact, it is far more probable that these changes have been sparked by a desire to be seen to be ‘doing something.’

“Vulnerable individuals will fall through in the gaps made by the transition”

This universal ‘academisation’ brings uncertainty to the future of small schools which will be left without local authority support. Concerns have been voiced as to the impact these moves will have on children who have specific needs which local authority funding is designed to cater for. One of the greatest fears is that vulnerable individuals will fall through the gaps left by the transitions.

The anticipated changes could have dire consequences for teachers who already tolerate excessive working hours. Finland’s system is defined as one of the strongest globally and this has been linked to the high value placed on teachers. The last thing that these proposals prioritise is development and support of teaching staff. Perhaps we should take a leaf out of the Fins’ book.

Of even more importance is the potential harm which already burnt-out youngsters will be exposed to at the hand of longer days. The BBC asked children from around the country for their reactions to these government proposals. The greatest concerns amongst children have been the detrimental effect upon time spent with family. Development for children in the home environment is as important as their studies at school and this alone could have a damaging impact upon their ability to learn and grow.

“Development for children in the home environment is an important as their studies at school”

Furthermore, it is disputable as to whether extra hours will benefit learning even to a small degree. Children’s concentration levels will be even more depleted than usual and so it is unlikely that the extra time will benefit anyone.

The proposed extensions to school hours have been referred to as compulsory after school clubs, consisting of sports and arts subjects. The question arises as to why such subjects have been given relegated status below compulsory topics such as Literacy and Science. It seems these subjects are considered inferior to mainstream subjects, in the plight to give children the opportunity to build successful futures. There has also been talk of making studying Mathematics compulsory up until the age of 18. This, of course, fails to take into account the experience students with career paths in arts subjects may require.

“Let’s stop educating our children out of creativity”

Sir Ken Robinson gave an immensely influential TED talk in 2006 about the way schools systematically educate children out of their creativity. He argues the hierarchy of subjects comes from industrialisation and the government’s drive to educate children in subjects which will gear them towards profitable careers for the nation. One of his most interesting comments is his reference to the focus only on educating the brain and not the body. In light of recent concerns regarding the mental well being of children, this finding may seem contradictory. It seems counter intuitive to invest so much in training the brain and yet neglect to heal defects of the mind. And yet, this is how our destructive educative system is designed and how it will continue to function.

Let’s stop educating our children out of creativity. Let’s let children be healthy and happy. Let’s let kids be kids.

Beth Webb-Strong


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