So I think a good lesson in life is to remember the rule that if you stop doing something, you will get rusty. So here I am back in Nero at T3 trying to remember how to write a blog post around a cohesive thought. Perhaps there have been too many late nights recently, or too many things to think about, but my brain is resisting.
Maybe a cat photo will help?
Actually it has helped, I’ve been mainly pondering grammar schools recently, unsurprising given the news in the UK that the government is open to the idea of more. And I’m off to Helsinki, with an education system talked about in hushed reverential terms. My question for Finland is whether the ‘informal’ sector plays a role in this achievement of excellence or whether credit is due entirely to the schools. My guess is that culture will be at the centre which then involves any area of learning, but that’s to be researched over the next few days.
When I hear about grammar schools I feel like we are trying to fix a difficult problem by fixing on a narrow bypass pipe for a small proportion. Imagine if all the effort spent on considering grammars had gone into framing the central issue with our schools; why do we feel they aren’t working? Where are we seeing success (London – not a tricky question)? And what are the factors leading to that success? It may even need some time to define success, because as simple as that sounds, do we all agree what a successful education looks like? For me its helping people to become good citizens, independent thinkers, problem solvers, perpetual learners and equals.
A curriculum can often feel stifling, a removal of agency as someone else tells you what you need to know. But does it have to be this way? I hear about child-led circle time at the nursery, where children choose the subject matter and staff guide the conversation to elicit questions and share knowledge. I see the questions generated by my daughters class, where they have asked the children what topics they would like to study and then what questions they have around the topic.That’s how I want to learn! And are we guilty of removing choice in science centres, do we create content only around what is fundable or of interest to us – yes, despite Nina Simon exhorting us to do better. Especially where science is the core content, it feels like we need to get back to those early natural philosophers where everything about this world was questioned, considered and experimented with. But I don’t mean throw away knowledge, because it’s important to have access to prior learnings; trying to absorb a new language with no dictionary would be tricky.
So, sorry Theresa, it’s a no from me for grammar schools, I think you look at the evidence, apply resources to pre-school, think about different types of school that cater for different ambitions – university, technical apprenticeships and whatever else becomes possible – without any one being considered ‘better’. Value neutral. I realise my opinion probably doesn’t carry much weight in the crumbling walls of Westminster, but I’m being a good citizen and expressing it anyway. And so as not to be a hypocrite, i shall continue to figure out how we avoid this ‘streaming’ within informal learning.
Now, which way is Helsinki? Should have concentrated in Geography…