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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!

Missyqueen Fri 21-Sep-12 11:52:56

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?

PlainBellySneetch Fri 21-Sep-12 11:55:37

Lord Adonis, why was it necessary to remove schools from local authority control?

I still don't follow how the conclusion was reached that the perceived failures of the comprehensive system were linked to local authority control. It seems so me that the failure was systemic, and that blame lies within the political and educational establishments. All that has been achieved now is that schools are no longer democratically accountable to the communities which they exist to serve, and that a huge chunk of the UK's public spending has been centralized.

lockitt Fri 21-Sep-12 11:58:26

Hello Lord Adonis,

My question is related to the recruitment process and opportunities for career changes and getting into teaching. Unfortunately I realised half way through my degree that I wanted to be a teacher but after leaving uni with debts, that it was too difficult for me to retrain and complete a PGCE.

I also felt that the whole process was complicated and fragmented with no clear path and too many confusing websites to visit to try and find education authorities & schools for each of the different routes

Do you think that academies could be more flexible and have a clearer route in order to attract and help experienced professionals get into teaching?

MrsMicawber Fri 21-Sep-12 11:59:14

Katemumsnet are those chocolate digestives you are arranging on a plate? Just put the whole packet out.

JustineMumsnet (MNHQ) Fri 21-Sep-12 12:05:28

Lord Adonis is in the building and will be posting momentarily.

AndrewAdonis Fri 21-Sep-12 12:06:16


Lord Adonis - I am a parent of 2 boys. My eldest goes to our local state primary school, around the corner from our house. It is an enormous school (700 students) from a wide and mixed catchment area in London. Despite this, it is a community school, highly supported by the parents and with superb pastoral care for the children (including place to be and assistance for refugee families). The academics were never great but the kids were happy and the pastoral care, children's sense of worth and identity in their community, was rated "outstanding". It was "satisfactory" according to Ofsted when he started. In the Ofsted inspection last year, it was labelled failing - and put into special measures and as a dierct result the head teacher, deputy head teacher and 25 other teachers have been sacked and the school, teachers, parents and children have been working desperately hard to pull up standards and bring it out of special measures.

The school have now been told by the Department of Education that they want it to turn into an academy which has angered and frustrated us all and thorougly demotivated what is left of the teaching and management body at the school. My child (who loved school from day 1) no

I'm sorry to hear about your concerns but the whole point of having an independent schools inspectorate is that it should make independent judgements. The worst thing would be for politicians to start substituting their opinions for those of professional inspectors. If you think OfSTED is wrong in labelling the school 'failing', then you should take this up with OfSTED itself. If, however, the school is indeed failing to offer a decent standard of education, then radical change is clearly needed. It is never easy carrying through such change but the experience of academies is that they almost always lead to significant improvements in results which, of course, is what parents and students want to see.

AndrewAdonis Fri 21-Sep-12 12:08:24

Great to be with MumsNet in their beautiful open plan office in a converted warehouse in Kentish Town. This is home from home for me, my dad lives half a mile away and as a student I spent all my holidays working in nearby Kentish Town unemployment Benefit Office as a Counter Clerk. Alas, that was in the early 1980s when unemployment was also sky-high like now. But Kentish Town hasn't changed much since then - except that the unemployment benefit office has now been converted into luxury flats!

AndrewAdonis Fri 21-Sep-12 12:11:06


Hi Andrew. If you were in charge of transport now, what would you do? Continue to press ahead with HS2 and fight for a third runway at Heathrow? The news yesterday said that some councils in London will hold their own referendums on airport expansion - what do you think about that?

Yes, I would certainly press ahead with HS2 which is a hugely important national infrastructure project to join up our major cities and provide green transport capacity for the next century. I'm glad an independent review has been set up into London's airports since this is the only way we can generate political consensus. It is obviously mad to have borough by borough referendums on this issue. What are you supposed to do when half the boroughs vote for an expansion to Heathrow and half the boroughs vote against? Boris needs to get real.

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


I would like to see a cross party agreement to STOP reforming the education system for at least 5 years.

All this change is highly corrosive to the education that can be delivered - damages staff morale, pupils/parents' understanding of and trust in the system and external perceptions of the qualifications themselves.

Would you support this halt to tinkering?

There is obviously good reform and bad reform. I support stopping bad reform but not just for 5 years but in perpetuity. But good reforms, like those set out in my book to make teaching the top profession in the country, can't happen soon enough. I hope you agree when you've read the book!

AndrewAdonis Fri 21-Sep-12 12:14:08


Do you feel you are more useful as a Lord than a journalist - I'm thinking most specifically in Education, which you were involved with for so long?

I've never thought of the House of Lords as particularly useful! Lloyd George once described it as '500 men chosen at random from among the ranks of the unemployed'! However, as a platform for a reformer, like me, it has provided opportunities which simply aren't available as a journalist - as much as I love the journalists' profession.

AndrewAdonis Fri 21-Sep-12 12:16:21


When my oldest daughter was 8 she moved from state to private and within 2 terms her writing had changed beyond recognition. Any time I entered her classroom, I saw copious writing on the blackboard which the girls would be asked to copy. Even if their creative brains did not function they still, everyday, got plenty of writing practice and had exercise books full of information they could look back on. My son is now 11 and in danger of entering secondary school with appalling writing skills. He's having a very jolly time in Yr 6 but in his first week he wrote at best 5 sentences. I am told that an Ofsted inspector marks down a teacher who asks pupils to copy from the blackboard. So schools spend vast sums on photocopies, ignore myriad opportunities to get children to write and the chasm grows between state and private education. They say you need 15,000 hours to master a musical instrument. Can't writing skills be taken as seriously? It is no excuse to say that pupils don't think when they copy. If children learn to copy accurately and swiftly from a blackboard, then a few years later they will be able to put their own coherent thoughts on an exam paper and literacy levels would improve. Is this beyond the wit of our education system?

I completely agree with you that primary schools need to teach writing in a systematic and serious way. However, this isn't a division between state and private schools but between good and bad schools. Good schools take this really seriously and that includes most state schools. We need them all to do so. I'm very concerned at what you say about your son writing only five sentences in one week. I can't conceive why the school permits this.

AndrewAdonis Fri 21-Sep-12 12:16:52




AndrewAdonis Fri 21-Sep-12 12:18:09


Dear Lord Adonis,

My daughter is in P2 in a Glasgow city council school, (6 year old), I have 3 older children and therefore know that her learning ability is at the level of an 8 year old child. I can not find a school that can excel her and can never be able to afford private. She is not motivated or challenged at school. I need help to find a school that would suit her and do not know who can help me with this dilemma. Head Teachers are not much help at all ! She has never had any tuition she is naturally bright. Is there any sort of scholarships available for such children. There is plenty of help given to the slow child is there nothing for the clever child ?

I'm really sorry to hear about your situation. Can I suggest you go to your local MP's surgery and tell him/her about this? Say that I suggested that you do so. I would hope they would be able to help you in terms of school choice.

AndrewAdonis Fri 21-Sep-12 12:19:09


I'd like to ask how Lord Adonis sees the role of School Clusters developing. In some areas Clusters are effectively becoming mini-LAs, with delegated SEN funding and the increased need for strong Cluster governance that goes with that. Does Lord Adonis see this as a good thing? Does he have any concerns?

I love your username - I feel hassled much of the time too! Clusters may have a useful role provided all the schools are participating by choice not because they are forced to do so. The critical test is that the schools are willing participants.

AndrewAdonis Fri 21-Sep-12 12:21:30


What is the difference between Labour and Conservative policy when it comes to academies? What do you think it should be?

As you may know, when I launched the academies policy it was focussed on replacing failing comprehensive schools with all ability academies offering a much higher standard of comprehensive education. That is still Labour's key priority unlike the Coalition which simply wants a very large number of academies to boast about - most of them schools converting with no big change in their governance - which to my mind is a much less important priority. I'm particularly concerned that many schools are simply converting to academy status in order to pocket £25,000 of government money.

AndrewAdonis Fri 21-Sep-12 12:23:36


How do you think home education should feature in any government policy on education?

In a free society parents should have the right to educate their children at home as is the case in England. The problem area concerns children who are being kept at home but not being educated - which, for example, has been a particular issue in the traveller community. Local Authorities rightly seek to ensure that children being home educated are indeed being educated but this can often involve very difficult conversations with parents and very difficult judgements about what constitutes an acceptable standard of education.

Frakiosaurus Fri 21-Sep-12 12:24:19

<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?

dinkystinky Fri 21-Sep-12 12:24:50

Thank you for answering my question Lord Adonis. A follow up, if I may - once a school becomes an academy, how accountable does the school and the sponsor remain to the parents and pupils (the real stakeholders in the school)?

AndrewAdonis Fri 21-Sep-12 12:26:42


Hi - I wonder what you think of the grammar school system. In the area where I live, there are a few very good grammar schools, one in particular in our town which has a fantastic reputation and is said to be on par with good private schools. As a result, there is a huge amount of tutoring done to get children into this school - even though some of out local state schools are also pretty good. I am torn - on the one hand, I do like the fact that we, who can't afford private education, have the chance to send our children to a very good school if we are prepared to pay for tutoring. But this system means that many children who should be getting in aren't because their parents can't afford a tutor. And some of those getting in shouldn't because they are just being trained to pass the tests.
How can we get round this? As almost all of our current cabinet are ex-private school, when are we going to see state-educated politicians again?

I'm glad to say that Ed Miliband was educated in a state comprehensive. Indeed it was only a mile or two from where I am now sitting and he lives around the corner! So a future Labour government would be led by a state educated Prime Minister. On grammar schools, as you know, Labour wants to see excellent all ability schools nationwide. However, where grammar schools still exist obviously the 11+ also continues and parents will, of course, seek to do what they can to help their children get through it. I wouldn't dream of criticising parents for doing the best thing by their children in these circumstances. All the very best as you make difficult decisions about the future education of your children.

nowit Fri 21-Sep-12 12:26:55

Hello Andrew,

what is your opinion on Gove's new EBacc plans?

AndrewAdonis Fri 21-Sep-12 12:29:20


Do you think Gove's plans to replace GCSE's with O levels are regressive? And do you think that children are doing as badly as Gove says are GCSE's really not fit for purpose or is Gove an elitist, ideologue?

It is vital that we don't return to the old O level and CSE system which divided teenagers into sheep and goats and wrote off most of them. Michael Gove's EBacc proposal is hard to fathom. He claims it's a fundamental change yet the only change he's announced so far is an end to modules in certain subjects and a move towards a single exam board per subject. However, everyone knows that the right-wing of the Conservative party likes the old O level and CSE system, so it's vital that all parents continue to keep up the pressure against any return to this. I promise you I will continue to do so.

BlimeyRiley Fri 21-Sep-12 12:29:41

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?

aliceb4 Fri 21-Sep-12 12:30:03

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?

AndrewAdonis Fri 21-Sep-12 12:31:54


Lord Adonis: what's your take on the new proposals for the English Bacc? As aparent (and teacher) I really like the IBacc as a wonderful opportunity for kids at 6th form to be encouraged to study more broadly before they have to specialise at University. Why can't we adopt the Ibacc for 6th form or make our own UK version of it? Would you and your party support such a move?

I've just said a lot about the EBacc. However, like you, I like the IB and I'm glad to say that schools have a choice to offer the IB. I particularly like the IB Diploma as an alternative to A levels since it includes more subjects and a 10,000 word project based on original research which is a great training for university. In my book, I propose the creation of what I call an ABacc which has a lot in common with the IB. However, this is not Labour Party policy since we are still consulting on policy options. If you like the idea, do write to Stephen Twigg the House of Commons to say so.

BlimeyRiley Fri 21-Sep-12 12:32:25

Also - what is your favourite biscuit?

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