This was Independent Thinking founder Ian Gilbert’s original response to the White Paper on the ‘Future’ of education from 2010. More relevant than ever we feel:

All we know is…

That this is a critical time for education in the UK in the 21st century

That our children deserve the best education we can possibly give them That the terms ‘education’ and ‘grades’ are linked but not interchangeable

That Michael Gove went to an independent school and Oxford University and is worth about £1,000,000 (one of the 23 millionaire cabinet members. Or is it 22 now that Lord ‘recession, what recession?’ Young has had to go?)

That Nick Gibb, is a Kent grammar school-educated chartered accountant

That Nick Clegg is, erm…

That there is no direct correlation between blazers and school achievement (except in the heads of Daily Mail-reading parents)

That there is no direct correlation between school achievement and success in life (‘success’ as in happiness, well-being, family stability, contribution to society, making a difference, raising great children, leading a good, moral life, not causing a worldwide recession out of pure greed…)

That there is a direct correlation between a nation’s educational scores in the worldwide league table and how good a government looks at any given time

That schools need great teachers but that knowing a lot about maths doesn’t make you a great teacher. It doesn’t preclude you, it’s just that it isn’t a de facto progression. (I wish I had been clever enough to understand at least two of the maths teacher who helped me fail maths at secondary school)

That schools need even greater leaders, leaders who are brave enough to wield their new-found autonomy well, who are there for the right reasons and who are ‘heart teachers’ as well as ‘head teachers’ (and aren’t just in it to build their own empires with an eye on a gong at the end of it).

That teachers and school leaders deserve access to the best educational training and development in the world

That teachers and school leaders have a professional, moral and ethical responsibility to make the most of this access to quality professional development to seek to improve their game constantly

That it is not the improvement in the training of teachers being advocated that we are wary of but the sort of training they are going to receive that leaves us tossing and turning at night.

That making teaching an ‘on-the-job’ apprenticeship is as devaluing as leaving it in the theoretical but inept hands of poor quality lecturers and out-of-touch universities

That allowing schools to choose where they source their training and development from (‘We will work with a growing number of providers to make it easier for head teachers and teachers to find out about improvement services on offer as well as making high quality research, good practice and free resources easily available’ – White Paper, 7.14) will help raise everyone’s game in the interests of young people in schools (as long as we don’t have to donate to party funds to get on the list)

That people who are not educationalists do not have inalienable right to interfere in education just because they did well at school and know what’s best because ‘it worked for them’

That the ability to marshal troops, load a machine gun or do thirty one-handed press-ups in a minute does not automatically mean you will have great discipline skills when it comes to a group of rowdy 14 year olds

That maybe the rowdy 14 year olds are like that because they do not see the point of memorising the kings and queens of England. Especially if they are from Somalia. Or Afghanistan (although they may already have met their ex-Forces teacher before)

That there are many ways of addressing behaviour in the classroom that are not linked to threats or force or coercive control

That often you get control by giving it away. Like respect. But not like integrity.

That boring lessons delivered in boring ways kill off motivation and attainment and can lead to poor behaviour and disengagement. (Ofsted identified that ‘teaching was often weak in schools where behaviour was poor’ – BBC online report on ‘dull and uninspiring lessons’)

That no lesson need be boring if it is made practical, relevant and engaging and that one of the ways that is proven to do this is to focus on the skills and competencies that are being developed whilst the ‘stuff’ is being learned

That the International Baccalaureate, done well, is actually a skills-based curriculum that encourages independent thinking and learning, creativity, service to the community and much more as well as the learning of ‘stuff’

That lumping together a range of subjects that went down well at grammar school does not a baccalaureate make

That millions of pounds a year have been spent for many, many years getting the majority of children to fail a modern foreign language and no one really minds, ‘because every one speak English anyway’

That employers want young people who can read and write and count but do much else besides and that it is the ‘much else besides’ bit that will separate this country’s economic success from the next

That some of the most outstanding work going on in schools is not reflected in league tables

That there is outstanding work going on in a school that is not directly linked to memorising the kings and queens of England

That A-Cs are a ‘passport’ to success but you need more than just your passport when you show up at the airport

That A-Cs are a passport to higher education but if you can’t afford the £9k to go to university you may feel more than a little peeved that you bothered at all

That getting 14 GCSEs at A*to C does not make you 14 times as useful, happy, successful or employable as someone with none. Or even twice as much as someone with seven

That there are primary schools (and we can point you to them) who have achieved miracles by doing it the way you believe in and not the way they were told to do it

That there are secondary schools who have achieved ‘Academy-style’ leaps in improvements without becoming a link in the sort of Academy ‘chain’ that the government is advocating (and again we can point you to them)

That while ‘sheep dip education’ (in the words of one teacher we met recently from a government-lauded Academy group with nice carpets) inarguably produces great improvements in raw results there is another way, one that allows for creativity and independent thought by both student and teacher alike and that genuinely serves to equip young people for 21st century life

That it is this version of education that Independent Thinkin
g has chosen – and always will chose to – believe in, advocate, develop, pioneer, promote and model around the world

That we will do all we can to support people like you – educationalists, school leaders and teachers – from being coerced into the ‘Dark Side’ and help you stay focused on the way that you know makes a genuine difference to young people’s lives

That the 1950s were OK but can we move on now please as the 2050s are not that far away and the world is moving very quickly

This, at the current time, is about all we know for sure…

Independent Thinking Ltd 24th November 2010

For more of the research and philosophy behind these views then please see Ian Gilbert’s recently published book Why Do I Need a Teacher When I’ve Got Google or call us so we can point you in the direction of teachers, school leaders and educationalists who have achieved amazing things but are wondering now why they bothered or, in the words of one of our inspirational headteacher friends, ‘Help I’m a caring, child-focused educationalist, get me out of here!’