A Desolation of Learning: Is This the Education our Children Deserve, is bang up to date and completely demolishes the establishment's cosy myth that everything in the educational garden is lovely. It isn't and the evidence is here.
After many years in the heart of the educational establishment, ranging from classroom teacher to Her Majesty's chief inspector of schools, Chris Woodhead knows what he is talking (and writing) about.
His honesty and determination to 'tell it as it is' have made him enemies in the establishment, especially among those who specialise in deceit – and use convoluted language to further that aim. But he has more friends and admirers than enemies, not least among parents and good teachers who see at first hand exactly what is going on.
Chapter headings include – 'Dumbing Down: The Proof'; 'The Myth of the Knowledge Economy and the Death of Liberal Education'; 'The National Curriculum: A Desolation of Learning'; 'The Flight from Knowledge: Sir Jim Rose's Interim Report on the Primary Curriculum'; 'The Thought World'; and 'The Failure to Re-Invent the Comprehensive School'.
Every important issue is covered from the system's failure to ensure reading is taught properly to Labour's massive waste of taxpayers' money on its unproven academies programme. Nor are Conservative policies ignored. Along with many others, the author struggles to see much difference between Labour and Conservative educational policies (or practices, especially at a local level).
Ofsted, which has now lost all pretence of political independence, is lambasted. So, of course, is Ed Ball's unbelievably dangerous Department for Children, Schools and Families. Also under fire are Labour's Children's Plan, the Training and Development Agency, the National College of School Leadership, and the Specialist Schools and Academies Trust.
The author laments the fact that state schools are failing too many bright children: 'one in seven pupils on the Government's Gifted and Talented programme last year failed to achieve five good GCSE grades.'
Also that 'excellence is threatened by politicians who do not understand the difference between social engineering and education.'
Those responsible for the National Curriculum 'are more interested in promulgating political views than they are in academic knowledge…' So the National Curriculum has become inherently 'anti-educational' and those who suffer most are the pupils condemned to failure.
Chris Woodhead believes in genuine choice. Hence his support for grammar schools. And his recommendation that, if the Conservatives are successfully to free-up the system, they must refrain from imposing socialist-inspired restrictions. So a voucher system like Sweden's should allow 'for-profit' providers, as in Sweden. And top-ups for parents who are able and willing to contribute to the cost of their child's education. (N.B. Even Alan Milburn is now promoting 'education credits'!)
Politicians are not exactly flavour of the month at present. Wouldn't it be marvellous if they (and their advisers) were all to read this book, so each and every one understands the dangerous subversion they have allowed to thrive? Then did something about it?