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January 30, 2013 / mrespiers

The Universal Panacea? The number one shift in UK education I wish to see in my lifetime.

Kenneth Baker’s Spitting Image puppet. Photograph: ITV/Rex Features

As other more distinguished and articulate contributors have already pointed out, a panacea is fantasy.

It is sound bite material from the mouths of politicians.

A cure-all does not exist.

But reading these posts has been engaging and inspiring and I never tire of hearing or reading somebody in full flow, passionate about their subject. So I have read with enthusiasm and share many of the items on the collective wish list (especially @teachertoolkit ‘s on building in time for CPD). I have also cast my mind back over the last couple of decades to the various pretenders to the crown of panacea and one thing comes up time and time again. Choice.

Choice (or the appearance of choice) was a central and essential element of Thatcherism and therefore the 1988 Education Reform Act. Without choice you couldn’t have competition and without competition you wouldn’t raise standards or so we were led to believe.

Choice brought us city technology colleges and grant maintained schools and more recently specialist schools, academies, free schools and studio schools.

Choice brought us a plethora of qualifications, exam boards and degree courses.

Choice brought us league tables.

My intention here is not to dissect the various arguments for and against these developments but to suggest that the system is still flawed. We still have much to do. Choice has not been the cure-all.

We were told it was what parents wanted but, all the parents I have ever spoken to about it say they just want their local school to be good. Which brings me to my own sound bite. The education system needs to change and the system we need should be ‘of the teachers, by the teachers, for the students’.

The number one shift in UK education I wish to see in my lifetime? A system set free of political point scoring, led with vision by an independent body of education professionals and based on evidence.

In answer to@kennypieper – the thing that I’m afraid of is that politicians are making massive changes that have long lasting effects without any real consultation and based largely on ideology as opposed to evidence.

I agree wholeheartedly with @aflpie that a key part of this (or any panacea for education) should involve a real discussion about what we want our education system to do. Some time ago I was fortunate to take part in a SSAT Leaders for Tomorrow programme and we spent time articulating our vision for 2020. The SSAT have continued with this good work and it is from organisations and campaigns like Redesigning Schooling, The Headteachers’ Roundtable and Purpos/ed that we can take inspiration.

I love working in education and I think there is so much to be positive about. It is such a shame that so much time and energy is wasted on negativity created by using education as a political football.

We need to build trust and collegiality in our profession so that we can remove fear and develop leaders who will take us forward.

Get started here by checking out the other blogsync posts.

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