Tuesday, 3 May 2016

Education is a relationship between pupils, parents and teachers. The government should keep out.

So that's what it means...
Photo: BenLaParole (Own work)
 [CC BY 3.0 (http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by/3.0)],
via Wikimedia Commons

If you missed the days at school when you would have learned to identify a determiner, a modal verb or a subordinating conjunction (which I fear I must have), you will drop a lot of marks in the new “harder” KS 2 SATs that are causing such controversy. Fortunately, these are useless pieces of knowledge, of significance only if one treats education as a form of mass-production in which the absence or misplacing of any one pre-determined component is a total fail.

This, presumably, is where schools minister Nick Gibb is coming from when he says “it simply isn’t fair on children to deprive them of a day of their education.” Shadow education secretary Lucy Powell also does not “condone children being taken out of school”. In this way they encapsulate the politician's view of education as a rigid framework of inputs selected and provided by the state, for which parents should be silently grateful.

This view reflects the patrician origins of public education. As each generation was better educated, parents were marginalised on the assumption that they had nothing to offer. If that were ever true, which I doubt, it clearly is no longer. Today's highly-educated parents are well able to assess their children's best interests, and to suggest that a day out of school is a “deprivation” is an outrageous slur on the value of the parent-child relationship.

Teachers, also, should be treated with respect. For pupils arbitrarily to miss a carefully crafted lesson is impolite, at best. Education is a partnership between parents and teachers, designed to help children to flourish in their own, unique ways. It's a vital engagement upon which government is systematically trampling, kicking both parties with equal vehemence with its oversized boots.

For this reason today's “Kids Strike” has a much wider significance than the grotesque new SATs that have provoked it. It heralds a battle to wrest control of education out of the hands of government and to embed it where it truly belongs - in a creative relationship between children and their parents and teachers.

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