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Our education system is broken - let’s try to fix it

Clare Flintoff.  Picture: SARAH LUCY BROWN

Clare Flintoff. Picture: SARAH LUCY BROWN

In this column, CLARE FLINTOFF - chief executive of ASSET Education, a group of 10 Suffolk primary schools - believes there is much wrong with our education system. However, she has a vision of how to fix it.

Clare Flintoff, chief executive of ASSET Education, said the current education system is broken. Picture: GETTY IMAGES / ISTOCKPHOTOClare Flintoff, chief executive of ASSET Education, said the current education system is broken. Picture: GETTY IMAGES / ISTOCKPHOTO

We live in divided, fractured and scary times.

The political landscape is bleak, we have lost sight of any sort of vision for our country that is centred around life being better for people or values such as compassion, care, tolerance, collaboration or equity.

Our country’s vision and current purpose is aimed at bringing about separation, division and the belief that isolation and independence is the preferred future of the majority.

And we are not alone in the world, with many of the major world powers echoing this type of thinking. This is profoundly depressing.

It is interesting to observe how our education system often mirrors society - from the austere, punishing Victorian classrooms, with industrialisation and the training of the young to form a skilled but obedient, compliant, disciplined workforce through to the more liberal thinking of the 1960s and 1970s and the lack of rigour, relaxing of rules but often innovative, maverick approaches with almost no accountability.

Today the system is centrally driven with high accountability and high pressure.

We are experiencing a market forces educational economy, where parent choice is supposed to be the dictator of whether a school does well or a school fails.

But many parents don’t in reality have that choice.

Market values have created the potential for success or failure and schools are being run as businesses in competition with each other.

Society prefers us to be divided, to separate ourselves into exclusive groups or clubs and assumes that our motivation to improve will be increased because we have been set up to operate multi-academy trust (MAT) against MAT, business against business.

Within a system that is designed in this way, some schools will inevitably fail and it is the vulnerable in the system who will suffer.

The BBC2 Tuesday evening series School has, over the last few weeks, exemplified the current state of education. The pressures are immense and it is a profoundly sad situation.

What shines through is that, despite the enormous pressures around them, teachers are the ‘last people standing’ in not wanting to lose sight of the reason and purpose of their role in nurturing individual students.

But for how much longer? Watching this series, it is hard to come to any other conclusion than that the system is broken. What is certain is that it is not going to be fixed any time soon by central government.

Damian Hinds, secretary of state for education, clearly has no remit to bring in any controversial or time-consuming educational change at present. The government has other things on its mind.

Academisation of the whole system and the expansion of the grammar schools have been dropped and in their place there is an attempt to improve teacher recruitment and retention - which no-one will argue with.

Perhaps this is an opportunity for us to take back control and create the sort of educational system that we think meets the needs of our young people rather than matches the current perceived needs of our society?

Educational leaders with influence across the land should be standing together - we have a window of an opportunity during the mess of Brexit while our politicians are focused elsewhere - to take control and drive ahead with confidence and conviction to create the type of education and the type of society that we want for our children and grandchildren.

Let’s join, MAT with MAT, school with school, to show that we value collaboration more than competition, that we want our most vulnerable young people to succeed, that children wherever they live and whatever their background deserve the very best education and that no child or school should be left behind or allowed to fail.

This is a rally call to all those who believe that healing our divided and fractured education system is within our control and just needs us to step up and say that we want to work together to do something about it.

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