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Lord Adonis: live webchat about education, Friday 21 September, 12noon to 1pm

(80 Posts)
RachelMumsnet (MNHQ) Wed 19-Sep-12 13:51:12

Lord Adonis is joining us this Friday, 21 Sept, at noon until 1pm to answer your questions and discuss his latest book Education, Education, Education, Reforming England's Schools.

Tony Blair said his three priorities were Education, Education, Education. Andrew Adonis played a decisive role in turning this slogan into a reform programme. His book describes his quest to transform England's schools, and his ambition to make English education world class.

Andrew Adonis was an architect of education reform under Tony Blair, serving in the No. 10 Policy Unit and then as Minister for Schools from 1998 until 2008. He went on to become Transport Secretary under Gordon Brown.

Join the discussion on Friday 21 September at midday or post a question to Lord Adonis in advance of the webchat here.

Also, don't forget to have a look at Lord Adonis' guest blog over on the Bloggers Network, where he explains why he thinks academies can raise aspiration and achievement in some of our most deprived areas.

Mumsnetters can grab a copy of the book for the special price of £7.99, by clicking here and entering the promo code 'mumsneteducation' in the box on the bottom right. If you'd like Lord Adonis to sign it with a personalised inscription, email holly.smith@bitebackpublishing.com!

Themumsnot Fri 21-Sep-12 12:36:22

You say
I'm particularly concerned that many schools are simply converting to academy status in order to pocket £25,000 of government money.

I think that is way too simplistic. The funding issue is very complex and the huge regional inequalities and the inconsistent and simply unfair way that many local authorities have dealt with schools mean that many schools feel that taking finances under their own control has been a lifeline in terms of being able to spend their allocated money in the best interests of pupils. lMy question is do you think funding reform is necessary and how should it work?

AndrewAdonis Fri 21-Sep-12 12:38:45

MrsMicawber

Lord Adonis - what do you think about the vol aided sector of faith schools who accept bundles of government funding and then pretty much pick and choose their parent student body? This is a particular problem with Jewish schools in Barnet/NW London where there are not enough school places to go round. The result is influential families receive state aided places leaving young struggling families to make do with ad hoc, inequipped independant schools.

I also question what is being done to police these independant faith schools to ensure that their students graduate with satisfactory skills. I have six nephews in two different faith schools in Hackney who have one hour of secular studies a day. At 14 this will be cut to nothing as they devote their time to religious studies.

I know there are really strong feelings on the issue of faith schools. I know that many parents would like to see them abolished. However, there are lots of parents for whom an education in a faith culture is absolutely central to their concept of how to bring up their children. So there is no easy way forward which commands general consensus. Please let me make two points. First, in countries where the state does not fund faith schools, there are usually huge numbers of faith schools in the private sector, like the Catholic parochial school in the United States. In my view, it is better for such schools to be directly regulated and inspected by the state, because they then provide more safeguards for parents, but I know some people take a different view. Secondly, if there are going to be faith schools then the faith communities which promote them should rightly be allowed to give preference to members of their faith community. This is a very sensitive subject and, as you know, there have been legal cases about the criteria for admission to JFS in North London. A key change made by the last Labour government was to require faith schools to fill all their places and not to keep places empty because there are insufficient applicants of the faith of the school in question. I also sought to encourage faith promoters to take a large proportion of pupils from the local community, irrespective of faith background. The Church of England is moving in this direction and most of its academies are now largely or wholly community based in their admissions with no faith requirements. But other faith promoters have been less willing to follow suit.

AndrewAdonis Fri 21-Sep-12 12:39:33

BlimeyRiley

Also - what is your favourite biscuit?

Jaffa Cakes (if you'll allow me to call that a biscuit)!!

Hamsterswheel Fri 21-Sep-12 12:39:39

Lord Adonis - How far do you think Tony Blair achieved his plans to reform education? Do you look back now and see things he/you should have done differently?

AndrewAdonis Fri 21-Sep-12 12:40:15

aliceb4

Hi Lord Adonis,
How do you think Ed Milliband is doing? Labour seem to be getting more popular but everyone still has doubts about Ed - do you think he needs to take a few more risks to raise his profile? Seems to me that he's relying on the government's unpopularity to give him victory by default?
ps were you a David or an Ed supporter?

Ed Miliband is doing great. Just look at that 15% poll lead in yesterday's papers.

AndrewAdonis Fri 21-Sep-12 12:42:01

Since answering about my favourite biscuit. The wonderful staff at MumsNet have presented me with a packet of very superior Spanish jaffa cakes. Something about 'premium 70% chocolate' but I can't read the rest. Languages not being my strong point!

MrsMicawber Fri 21-Sep-12 12:42:34

Lord Adonis - thank you for replying. However, I am talking about vol aided state schools discriminating between Jewish parents for Jewish places, choosing to give places to children of likely donors - not choosing Jewish students over none Jewish students.

Please also respond to my point about the lack of a secular education in many private faith schools, particularly in Hackney and Haringey, particlularly within the Ultra Orthodox sector.

champagnesupernova Fri 21-Sep-12 12:43:53

My DS is just starting his education journey -he has been in reception for a fortnight.
What would be your advice for me to ensure that he gets the best out of it, given it looks like the next few years are going to be full of change ?

AndrewAdonis Fri 21-Sep-12 12:44:29

BlimeyRiley

Hi Andrew - nice to e-meet you! My question is what are the plans for the future education curriculum and how should they be delivered to an ever increasing diverse society? Or how can education preserve English heritage and allow the new generation to explore their full potential?

Nice to e-meet you too. That's a big question you've asked, which is why I wrote a whole book trying to answer it! But I agree with you, what we need is to preserve the best of the past while embracing the best of the future. I'm a historian so I love studying the past and I'm really proud of the fact that Britain does such a good job preserving its heritage. The National Trust is one of the best heritage organisations in the world - not just those stately homes but the brilliant job it does maintaining so much of Britain's coastline and wild places. I'm glad that so many children get to see these on school trips which is a great way for them to learn about the past.

AndrewAdonis Fri 21-Sep-12 12:46:28

MrsMicawber

Lord Adonis - thank you for replying. However, I am talking about vol aided state schools discriminating between Jewish parents for Jewish places, choosing to give places to children of likely donors - not choosing Jewish students over none Jewish students.

Please also respond to my point about the lack of a secular education in many private faith schools, particularly in Hackney and Haringey, particlularly within the Ultra Orthodox sector.

I'm really concerned about what you have just said. It is absolutely against the law for a state school - including a voluntary aided school - to give preference to parents on the basis of financial contributions. Indeed, they are not allowed to make financial contributions of any kind a condition of entry. If you have reason to think that this is happening at a school, then you should write to your MP and to the Education Secretary, Michael Gove immediately.

AndrewAdonis Fri 21-Sep-12 12:47:38

Hamsterswheel

Lord Adonis - How far do you think Tony Blair achieved his plans to reform education? Do you look back now and see things he/you should have done differently?

I think almost everyone accepts that education in England is better now than it was 15 years ago. But could we have done more? Yes, of course. We all look back on the past and think about how much more we could have done if we could have our time again but at least we moved decisively in the right direction for the country.

Asmywhimsytakesme Fri 21-Sep-12 12:47:44

Thank you for answering my question and I may well read the book smile

Ex Kentish Town myself too!

I do think teaching needs to become a top profession, but I still think even good fiddling can be damaging because it implies the education system is irretrievably broken and leads to instability.

Themumsnot Fri 21-Sep-12 12:48:36

Ahem!

strangerwithmyface Fri 21-Sep-12 12:48:57

With the growing ubiquity of breakfast clubs and after school clubs are schools being used as a babysitting service for a society that has no time to raise its children?

Also, you've said you want to make teaching the foremost profession in the country. Do you think the best and brightest graduates are put off teaching by the negative narrative around teachers? We're told we are slipping behind other countries when it comes to education because of poor schools and poor teaching with little mention made of poor / constantly shifting educational policy and problems in the home lives of UK school children that can't be fixed by teaching alone.

Asmywhimsytakesme Fri 21-Sep-12 12:49:02

Another question, do you think children in the uk start school too early? Mine will be 4.2 when he starts confused

AndrewAdonis Fri 21-Sep-12 12:49:37

Frakiosaurus

<rushes on late>

How do you think the education system can give young people life skills such as managing money, basic employment rights, creating and sustaining relationships etc?

There is a subject in schools called PSHE (Personal, Social and Health Education), which covers all these areas. But it's not always well done. For example, too many school leavers don't have much idea about how to manage money or even how to open a bank account. There is no excuse for schools not to be teaching these basic skills.

MrsMicawber Fri 21-Sep-12 12:51:37

Thank you for your suggestions LA. I am still hoping for a response on the second point I raised <greedy>

AndrewAdonis Fri 21-Sep-12 12:53:03

cm22v077

What's a typical day for a Lord?!

You probably think that we get up in the morning and don the ermine robes and coronets as a prelude to dining on quail's eggs and champagne. But, alas, I suspect my day is pretty similar to yours. I get up, have a very rushed breakfast, see that the kids get off to school in one piece (preferably with their homework and sports kit) and then fight my way into the overcrowded tube to get into my office.

The rest of the day isn't much more exciting either! Although the chamber of the House of Lords itself is immensely beautiful with lots of elaborate carvings, paintings and statues. It's like being in the V & A and is straight out of the middle ages. It has a hugely calming influence!

Frakiosaurus Fri 21-Sep-12 12:55:09

If you have time to respond - do you think PHSE is sufficient up teach those skills or should they be integrated across the curriculum?

AndrewAdonis Fri 21-Sep-12 12:55:22

strangerwithmyface

With the growing ubiquity of breakfast clubs and after school clubs are schools being used as a babysitting service for a society that has no time to raise its children?

Also, you've said you want to make teaching the foremost profession in the country. Do you think the best and brightest graduates are put off teaching by the negative narrative around teachers? We're told we are slipping behind other countries when it comes to education because of poor schools and poor teaching with little mention made of poor / constantly shifting educational policy and problems in the home lives of UK school children that can't be fixed by teaching alone.

This is really difficult one. How do you get the balance right between work and home? The reason why all those breakfast clubs and after school clubs are there is because working parents can't suddenly leave work at 3.30 or arrive late in the mornings. But equally schools can't be expected to take on a large part of the parents' role beyond the school day. I think this is made easier by the fact that children often enjoy breakfast clubs and after school activities and don't see it simply as childminding.

AndrewAdonis Fri 21-Sep-12 12:56:02

Frakiosaurus

If you have time to respond - do you think PHSE is sufficient up teach those skills or should they be integrated across the curriculum?

Yes I do think they should be integrated across the curriculum. For example, financial skills should be taught as part of maths.

AndrewAdonis Fri 21-Sep-12 12:59:45

Missyqueen

Hi,
My daughter just graduated from LSE with a politics degree. She's always been a fan of your work and used your research in her dissertation.

I would like to know are there opportunities for young graduates to shadow you or intern. If so how do they go about doing so?

Congratulations to your daughter on graduating from the LSE, one of England's best universities. She is clearly a very wise person if she's a fan of mine wink! As it happens, I'm sitting here with my brilliant new (paid) intern, Adam - he is typing this with some embarrassment blush - and he also graduated this year. Alas, I can only take one intern at a time but why not contact other MPs or Lords who you like the idea of helping and see if they've got any opportunities. MumsNet tell me they also take on interns - even better, they pay them! Good luck! p.s. What was your daughter's dissertation on? If she'd like me to read it, I'd be glad to do so.

AndrewAdonis Fri 21-Sep-12 13:02:53

strangerwithmyface

With the growing ubiquity of breakfast clubs and after school clubs are schools being used as a babysitting service for a society that has no time to raise its children?

Also, you've said you want to make teaching the foremost profession in the country. Do you think the best and brightest graduates are put off teaching by the negative narrative around teachers? We're told we are slipping behind other countries when it comes to education because of poor schools and poor teaching with little mention made of poor / constantly shifting educational policy and problems in the home lives of UK school children that can't be fixed by teaching alone.

I think the image of teaching is steadily improving which is great. There are far more applicants for teacher training places than there were 20 years ago and the quality of teaching in schools is going up and up. But I'm sure we both agree there is more that could be done to raise the popularity of teaching further still. In my book I set out some proposals for this including paying new maths and science teachers higher starting salaries, because these are particularly hard subjects in which to recruit given the competition for graduates in these areas. Teach First is also great and I'd like to see that expand too.

AndrewAdonis Fri 21-Sep-12 13:04:17

LindsayWagner

Thanks for coming on Lord Adonis.

What do you say to those who allege that academies are 'selection by the back door?', and that the main reason that academies are doing well is because pushy middle class parents are making sure they get their children into one?

Academies are not allowed to select unfairly by the back door or the front door. They are required to have all ability admissions. If you've got any evidence that the rules are being broken then let me know!

AndrewAdonis Fri 21-Sep-12 13:07:51

LindsayWagner

And - if I can have one more - do you agree with the argument that the education system in this country will never be equitable until private schooling is abolished? Why has Labour never adopted this as policy?

If we were starting form scratch, I obviously wouldn't want to see a separate system of private schools. But abolishing private schools is completely incompatible with a free society so we have to do our best to build partnerships between private and state schools. I have a whole chapter about this in my book, including the proposal that successful private school should sponsor academies in the state sector so that they become state-private federations and don't just educate children who can afford expensive fees. My office, in Westminster is around the corner from Westminster School which calls itself a charity but does little more than educate boys whose parents can afford to pay £31,500 per year. It is high time Westminster School, and other schools like it, took seriously their responsibilities to wider society including supporting local state schools in more than tokenistic ways. I have said this fairly bluntly to the headmaster... sad

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