Traditionally, English governments have taken the view that education was a professional activity, like medicine, best advanced by the teachers and lecturers who had to make it work. It all changed when Mrs Thatcher embraced free-market economics, requiring institutions to compete with one another to implement centrally-determined policies. Professions must give way to market values. The policy culminated in the 1988 Education Act, which required schools to conform to government initiatives by means of performance management, policed by Ofsted. Under New Labour the orders came thick and fast, Mr Blair having decided that “eye-catching initiatives” demonstrated energetic government. This doctrine still prevails.
The following article appeared in a recent issue of the Yerbury School Newsletter – a single sheet produced by parents. The head teacher, Mary Gibson, has run this outstanding North London primary school – with a varied intake – for many years and retires this summer. Mrs Gibson is a supporter of slow education and has kindly given us permission to print it here:
I FOR INITIATIVES BY MARY GIBSON
Head, Yerbury Primary School, London
Reprinted with permission from the Yerbury Home School Association Newsletter, 14 February 2013.
And now for some refreshing reflections on school initiatives over the past couple of decades.
When our newsletter editor suggested I might like to write something for the newsletter about the education initiatives I’ve seen come and go, my first thought was, “You must be joking!” Where to start? Maybe the first letters of the alphabet would be a good place. We have had initiatives on:
Admissions, appeals, asset planning, asbestos, assemblies, accelerated learning, Artsmark, accountability
Behaviour, buildings, budgets, bullying, bidding, buddying
Child protection, community cohesion, complaints, Continuing Professional Development, conditions of service, curriculum, Common Assessment Frameworks, citizenship, catering, charging, consultants
Discipline, data protection, discrimination, disability
Early years profiles, equal opportunities, the Every Child Matters agenda, ethnicity, extended schools, employment rights, education welfare
Financial planning, freedom of information, funding, floor standards…
I could go on, but … I’ll stop to save your sanity and mine.
From a Headteacher’s point of view the crucial thing is the quality of the professional relationships in school and how they impact on the all-round development of each and every child.
Our school motto sums it up: “work hard, play well, learn lots, have fun.” It was appropriate 33 years ago, it will be appropriate in a further 33 years. The rest is subject to politics, fashion, and the blowing of the wind.