Free school head without any teaching qualifications plans to ignore curriculum

(313 Posts)
mrz Sun 10-Mar-13 11:52:06
mrz Mon 08-Apr-13 15:29:30
mrz Mon 08-Apr-13 15:30:32
beezmum Mon 08-Apr-13 15:45:22

Yes Mrz it is a fair point I guess my point was that she did not 'write the curriculum'. I would prefer to see more on the ground experience. However, because I am very impressed with the Curriculum Centre and agree strongly with its goals, strangely enough it doesn't offend me so much. They certainly claim to be very much trialling what they develop reflectively. Given the endless untrialled tosh that is continually dumped on schools their approach is very professional, with a focus on what actually works in practice. It also has much more evidence of effectiveness in America than most of the novel ideas teachers end up having to implement.
The bottom line is that due to the sponsorship of the Nash pair, Pimlico and a the handful of other Future schools have a group of very dedicated and committed staff whose sole job is develop an effective curriculum and resources for these schools. That is actually pretty cool for Pimlico. Good luck to them and well done to the Nashes for actually caring enough about some of the terrible inner city schools to use their own money and manage to make such a difference. For all this quibbling many more kids at Pimlico Academy now attend a school where they have a chance of learning and getting some qualifications than previously. There are plenty of issues to debate but this context seems lost as if these people are some axis of evil instead of a group of sincere and dedicated people that want to make a difference to kids and spent their own money to make it happen at Pimlico.

mrz Mon 08-Apr-13 15:53:49

My bottom line is that I don't believe people whose only qualification is that they once went to school should be shaping the curriculum

beezmum Mon 08-Apr-13 16:12:26

That is not their only qualification, some of them are genuinely very well informed about curriculum development as that is their job. It is not just teachers that should be consulted on curriculum change (although that is crucial). The area of curriculum development and comparative study of different national curriculums is led by academics, not teachers and subject expertise is also crucial. You are criticising the Curriculum Centre as if it is responsible for the current proposals and in charge of national curriculum development. Sure it is influential but clearly wasn't influential enough to get the curriculum it would endorse drafted. Given that Gove wants a curriculum that is built on the assumption that skills need knowledge (there is no generic 'applying skill') it is quite right that he should consult those that have been successfully implementing such a curriculum successfully in a challenging inner city school. It would be odd not to consult them.
I don't know if you have time to say MRZ but in a nutshell what are your biggest problems with the proposed primary curriculum? I only ask because it strikes me that it wouldn't mean you changing your practice very much (as per my impression of it from Mumsnet) at KS1?

LoveSewingBee Mon 08-Apr-13 16:12:33

There is lots to object.

I thought Britain aimed to be a meritocracy ....

These are a handful of rich individuals with the right connections in Government who have decided that they want to change education for all and impose it on all.

They no nothing about education - just read the tosh on the Curriculum Centre's website.

It is an utter disgrace, that as long as you have money and the right friends you are allowed to experiment with the future of the majority of the nation's children.

Shame, shame, shame on you Gove, Cameron, Nash and their little friends.

LoveSewingBee Mon 08-Apr-13 16:13:04

typo - know nothing

mrz Mon 08-Apr-13 16:30:39

Firstly the initial review was rushed and the views of "experts" were ignored. The linear nature of the curriculum was seen as a major flaw.
It is overstuffed making it effectively unworkable. It seems as if a committee got together and couldn't agree what should be included so they decided to include everything and then looked around to see if they left anything out. It's difficult to fit everything into the school day now it will be worse if the draft becomes statutory. Will some subjects become sidelined
It shows little or no understanding of child development or how young children learn.

CountingClouds Mon 08-Apr-13 16:47:51

muminlondon, you are starting to sound like you are just trying to justify your own opinion. Where is the big picture? Quite simply there isn't enough money for every school in the country to be rebuilt. We also need more school places and our education system needs improved. So its a matter of how you distribute it to get the best results all around, there will always be 'winners and losers'. When labour were in power they threw money (and debt) at schools and yet there are still 'crumbling' schools, there is no magic solution.

Now I suppose you could force children into the failing under-subscribed PFI debt ridden schools that Brown created or you could try something a bit more courageous. Like allowing parents and others to create better schools. State schools built under Labour typically cost £21m-£50m so even when you add in 'extra' start up costs the Free schools are still better value for money.

Now I understand many don't like Free Schools but that doesn't prove anything other than money is being spent on schools differently than before.

Examples like that head in Bristol are classic. Parents don't want to send their kids to her school, they all seemed to go out of county rather than her school. I am not surprised she objected to a successful Free school opening up, and becoming oversubscribed. Why is that and what happened to the threat of a judicial review? Parents won't be forced to send their children to failing schools. The solution is to create inclusive schools than parents want to go to, and then you wouldn't have spare places. Money saved.

Does anyone actually have real evidence of anything untoward? Unless you compare money spent on free schools against money (& debt) spent on state schools in the past you have prove nothing other than your own opinion.

CountingClouds Mon 08-Apr-13 16:51:31

You dont need money to shape children future, all you need is support from other parents and you can set up you own school. Gove is dragging our education system into the 21st century.

Feenie Mon 08-Apr-13 16:55:20

Now I suppose you could force children into the failing under-subscribed PFI debt ridden schools that Brown created

Where are they, then? My own school is PFI, not at all debt-ridden, certainly not failing, and very much over-subscribed.

mrz Mon 08-Apr-13 16:59:05

Gove is dragging our education system into the 19th Century

ipadquietly Mon 08-Apr-13 17:09:27

In all the articles I've read over the last few weeks about the 'continuous' curriculum, no-one has ever mentioned what happens to children with SEN.

muminlondon Mon 08-Apr-13 17:48:18

'Where is the big picture?'

Good question - I have no vested interest apart from a child at school but what I do see is:

1. A real mxture of motives for opening up free schools but parent-led ones seem to be in the minority. I've seen some advertised as if they were already approved by profit-making companies looking for parents to express interest. The British Humanist Association estimates the majority of applications are from faith designated or 'faith ethos' schools - this suggests organisations not parents are behind schools, yet an additional VA route for churches also exists. At the same time Faith schools do lead to more segregation in society yet the OECD says that the most successful education systems are the least divided.

2. Many other free schools are run by private school chains such as CfBT, Harris and ARK. As Harris is picking up all the forced primary academies this blurs the distinction between sponsored academies and free schools. But the Academies Commission has pointed out the lack of proper tendering in the sponsored academy process, the 'beauty parade'.

3. We are in a recession and resources are tight. This is a minority Conservative government. It is my legitimate and democratic right to expect politicians to be accountable and transparent but the DfE has been under 'special monitoring' by the Information Commssioner and has refused to publish impact assessments on the effect on neighbouring schools.

'We also need more school places'

The NAO report suggests that out of 256,000 needed school places, free schools could only supply up to 10% of them. They cannot be directed to expand or take on bulge classes so LAs cannot rely on them but the law makes them the only route for new schools (aside from VA schools). As they are meant to be providing choice they cannot also meet shortages - I personally would not want to send my child to a faith school, or one without outside space or qualified teachers.

'our education system needs improved'

There are effective ways of doing that - the London Challenge transformed London from the worst performing area to the one with the best performing schools between 2003-2010. The evidence shows that LA maintained schools performed even better than academies. It was also a cheaper programme.

'Does anyone actually have real evidence of anything untoward?'

It's early days. There is increasingly evidence that (a) many free schools are undersubscribed, (b) some are not complying with statutory regulations regarding admissions policies or entering pupils for exams, (c) some have published misleading claims in advertising. I'd look up the Maharishi school on all counts.

There are popular flagship free schools that may indeed be successful. But there are popular and oversubscribed community schools too - yet no more of these can be set up until the law is changed. Ths is the biggest flaw in the policy.

beezmum Mon 08-Apr-13 17:52:40

Lovesewingbee. The children of our country have been experimented on rather continually for quite some time. Initiatives are continually rolled out with little or no evidence to back them and most are supported or proposed by teachers.
I think I do agree that it seems wrong that those that have the money can take over a school but I would be more offended if just as much experimentation wasn't going on in mainstream education and in this case it is relevant that these people have done a really good job at Pimlico.
However, what is tosh is your suggestion that the Curriculum Centre don't know anything about education. That is total tosh. Just because you don't agree with their conclusions doesn't mean they are ill informed. Anyway it is not them, it is elected politicians who are 'experimenting' with the education of our children. The people at the Curriculum Centre have been developing a curriculum for a handful of schools and our elected politicians who have the legitimate right to propose policy, like their ideas and so are talking to them (and then appointing one of them...) none of this is shocking - you just don't agree with what they are doing. That is different.
Thanks MRZ, will it mean many changes for you personally?

mrz Mon 08-Apr-13 17:55:59

yes beezmum it will mean changes for me and every teacher in state maintained schools

ipadquietly Mon 08-Apr-13 18:05:01

The thing that strikes me about the Curriculum Centre is that people who have had little experience in a classroom (e.g. Annaliese Briggs, Daisy what's-her-face, et al), are now labelling themselves as 'experts' in phonics, maths, literacy, etc.

How can you be an 'expert' in phonics (so expert that you will be sharing your 'good practice' with other teachers) if you've only taught in a Saturday school and done a course for a fast track headship? How will you be able to say with conviction, that your ideas will work in a classroom? Their 'experience' must have come from what they've read rather than what they've done..

Whether you agree with them or not, at least educators like Ros Wilson and Ruth Miskin have worked for many, many years at the chalk face, and have devised literacy and maths schemes based on those years of experience.

muminlondon Mon 08-Apr-13 18:07:10

'The children of our country have been experimented on rather continually for quite some time'

Yes, I agree. It's interesting that free school proposals are particularly popular where the alternative is an underperforming sponsored academy in a chain or a faith school with restrictive admissions. No reason to make faith schools and free schools (which end up as sponsored academies) the only route for parents though.

But that's enough about structures.

beezmum Mon 08-Apr-13 18:14:58

I'm not a primary teacher so defer to those on the ground(!) but agree that the new curriculum is in some ways overstuffed - especially in history where that is an under statement. The problem comes from the fact that education has been moving in one direction ideologically for so long that the education establishment has many presumptions about what education should be like that it holds as truths but could be legitimately questioned. This is from looking at research and also from looking at more successful education systems. Gove is asking those questions and of course he will neither get support from the establishment nor would consultation be especially constructive given that he is working from different first principles. I think he doesn't see much point taking the establishment with him (i disagree) but the way he is portayed as the devil incarnate is just tedious and small minded. When I see teachers actually countering the arguments in favour of what he is doing rather that putting forward a series of knee jerk reactions with no knowledge of the rationale behind change, then I am interested in the debate. There is a lot of good reason for having a curriculum based on the principles Gove is in favour of. That doesn't mean the proposed curriculum is that good. That is why I like what the Curriculum Centre is trying to do as they really want to keep fining till they get something that really works.
Gove seems to manage change by putting forward a set of highly controversial proposals and then not care that it looks like a climb down when he adjusts these as he gets most of what he wants anyway. This was the case with EBAC/EBC where he walked away with virtually everything he wanted. I think the history curriculum is another example of this. I'd bet a lot that he had the next set of proposals already done in outline and will get away with them when proposed because they will seem like a climb down - just as with EBC. I don't like the contempt this shows for those that have to take the initiql proposals seriously but it may work again...

mrz Mon 08-Apr-13 18:21:34

Gove has made u turns on almost every major announcement will the proposed curriculum be yet another

beezmum Mon 08-Apr-13 19:04:02

Mrz - i'm not dim (not very anyway) it just struck me that there would not be real fundamental change for some teachers at KS1, depending on their current approach but I wasn't presuming which was why I asked.

beezmum Mon 08-Apr-13 19:06:26

I think so - but that is how he likes to operate. The point is they aren't often real U turns.

beezmum Mon 08-Apr-13 20:14:45

Regarding the experience of the Curriculum Centre employees. I think the idea is that they have curriculum theory expertise and work with the teachers on the ground. There are very few teachers around that have real expertise in curriculum development and even fewer that are know much about Hirsch and the progress made in cognitive psychology explaining the interplay between skills and knowledge.

StoickTheVast Mon 08-Apr-13 21:51:42

I have forgotten more about fucking education than this lot will ever know.

I have been teaching for nearly 20 years and I'm not an expert. How the bloody hell can they be?

beezmum Tue 09-Apr-13 08:19:08

From reading their literature there is no reason to think they do think they are experts in the sense that you mean. They have expertise in curriculum development because they know much more about it than most. They will only be successful if they work with teachers.
Despite my support for the Curriculum Centre I think I agree with the general disgust that a 27 year old with so little experience has been made a head. I think the idea is that her role is not so much about day to day management and more about being a public face for Pimlico's new curriculum but in such a small school she will have to do day on day stuff and however capable, she will make too many mistakes. Her appt actually goes right against what the Curriculum Centre do believe - that skills come from knowledge and proficiency comes from practice to mastery.

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