Nick Seaton of the Campaign for Real Education on the ideological roots behind the problems in our schools.
Just possibly – and it’s good to be hopeful – the Christmas holidays may give busy Conservatives time for a little reflection on socialist education policies. Too many politicians, it seems, neither recognise nor understand them.
They are encapsulated in a seminal book, The Challenge for the Comprehensive School: Culture, Curriculum and Community written about 25 years ago by Professor David Hargreaves. Hargreaves was formerly an ILEA chief inspector and professor of education at Cambridge University. In April 2000, he was appointed chief executive of the Qualifications and Curriculum Authority, though he soon resigned. Nevertheless, as an associate director of the Specialist Schools and Academies Trust, he is still influential.
‘…A change of emphasis’, he wrote, ‘was essential from academic to social subjects, and from the learning of information to the acquisition of skills…We must refuse to confine secondary education to the culture of individualism and design a secondary education with more self-conscious social and political objectives.’
By ‘the culture of individualism’, Hargreaves means individual effort
and achievement. And what he wrote then more or less encapsulates what
ministers and their officials have been doing since this government
Hargreaves’ words are not a bit of wishful thinking, written decades
ago. They are current government/Department for Children, School and
Families (DCSF) policy, which is firmly based on ‘progressive’ ideology.
For more than a decade, the establishment has been hard at work
removing or undermining practically all the subjects the Conservatives
worked so hard to specify in the 1988 Education Reform Act.
Geography, history, serious science, honest religious education have
almost disappeared in a mish-mash of value-changing, politically
correct non-subjects such as citizenship and personal, social and
health education. These non-subjects are all pointers to the ‘social
and political objectives’ suggested by Hargreaves.
The frightening thing is that many leading Conservatives either haven’t
noticed, or don’t care – remember Lenin’s ‘useful idiots’?
Hargreaves also advocated that: ‘All the sixteeen plus examinations
must be abolished. The comprehensive school curriculum can then be
reconstructed or revised…My objection to the sixteen-plus
examinations is…that they have become occupational qualifications and
thus an instrument of social injustice.’
DCSF strategists knew they couldn’t abolish examinations without
causing a major uproar. So they dumbed them down until they became
impossible to fail.
The new diplomas are a further attempt to undermine and destroy what
little remains of an honest school-level qualification system. For
Labour, diplomas have another advantage: because they are so
complicated and an unfortunate mixture of academic and vocational
content, it’s easy to persuade schools they must merge to deliver them.
(Always level-down, not up.)
Having thrown secondary education into chaos, Sir Jim Rose’s recent
review of the primary curriculum is the next stage of this destructive
If the school system was working properly and we had honest measuring
of standards with honest school league tables, would there be a need
for ministers to regulate, or waste taxpayers’ money, compelling
universities to accept sub-standard applicants from sub-standard schools? Yet this is socialist joined-up government.
Ideology is not dead. We have just been led to believe it is. Do you recognise, or even look for, something that doesn’t exist?
Meanwhile, perhaps, the most sensible course of action for local
Conservatives (and MPs) is to resist and delay damaging changes in the
hope of better times to come.
Happy Christmas and happy thoughts!