2015 – The Ins and Outs of the switchover

It’s been a while since the last post we had on here and a lot has changed since. So, as we begin the first steps of our journey into 2015 it only seems necessary to take a quick look at the system of academics underway here in the UK and perhaps briefly reflect on a past that presently may entice a formidable future.

Following recent curriculum changes designed to ‘promote British values’ of respect and tolerance – a momentous case being that of the oft-neglected subject of Religious Education(RE)’s transformation into the more compulsorily strategizedReligious Studies RS – it seems safe to say that indeed politics and world matters are still having a significant effect on the way children are being educated. Obviously not all changes have been ethically motivated – those that have affected A-levels and Primary school curriculums are defined by academic alterations in terms of subject matter and key competencies. However, it seems that the notion of ethics serves to be just as important to knowledge and epistemology as its less questionable cousin academia.

Think about this for a second. Despite all the diversity and factions of beliefs or ‘non-beliefs’ that exist within our world, when it comes down to the fundamentals you either believe that the universe we live in has an ultimately determined cause or it has just come about as an ultimately random effect; two-sides of the same coin. If you look at it this way it’s not a surprise then that notions of respect and tolerance have always been  a crucial phenomenon, not only for co-existence in a world full of contradictory views but for thriving and prospering also.

But it’s a shame that only after ‘big’ incidents such as Birmingham’s ‘Trojan Horse’ incident and the Tower Hamlets scare that we begin to notice a certain spanner in the works. A DfE spokeswoman was in her full right last month when stating that no matter what religion or faith we hold dear to ourselves, this is English soil and we all must adhere to English law. But this has nothing to do with, for example, ‘Islamist Extremism’; as even before this became a national/global phenomenon – at least from my experiences – nobody in school cared about RE or PSHE classes anyway. So why only now has Nicky Morgan announced that we are to be ‘Global Leaders’ in teaching ‘character’? Why only now has it been acknowledged that ‘the abilities and traits that help young people persevere with setbacks, confidently engage in debates, and contribute to the wider community have been recognised… as “equally important” to young people as securing good grades.’?

The point with this ‘neo-ethical’ academic approach is that we’re not forgetting about ‘British values’ simply because of external influences but even more so because of internal unawareness. In other words it’s not what’s happening in the world that affects us predominantly it’s what’s happening at home. A clear example is that other recruitment agencies are turning to the Irish Republic, Australia and North America to find suitable teachers for today’s classrooms, as seemingly our very own home-grown educators are falling by the wayside. The scarcity of the situation is horrific and yet frankly rather ironic; ask a school, an agency or a Borough pool to find you a half-decent English teacher and you’ll see exactly what I mean. Why are we then looking out to others to teach and ignoring what we already have here?
Thankfully, as you’d hopefully already know, the DfE did mention that by the end of last year the amount of first-class university students that are looking to become teachers has in fact increased. So if we are to promote and exalt British values then who better to pass the torch on to then our very own born and bred. And forget about laws or religions for a moment; we are essentially talking about democratic values that revolve around notions of human rights and equal opportunity. Thus, we also need to understand that the fundamentals of these values are not solely that of the British people’s, though indeed they are British values. Ontologically these are values that depict a natural human instinct that revolves around survival and cohabitation, one that has existed since before we even showed up on this planet. For this reason, I would never suggest that overseas teachers are in the slightest bit inferior to home-grown teachers either nor are they obstructive; all I’m saying is that when taking into account the particular drive we want for our education it becomes clear that the main focusshould be on finding and funding British teachers.

Nonetheless, the government has indeed acted brilliantly by offering bursaries and scholarships of just fewer than thirty grand to help students and hopefuls who are looking to be our next heroes of education – not to forget the £3.5 million grant scheme for ‘character education projects’ either.
But with the EIS claiming that ‘cuts in staff are making it harder to deal with bad behaviour in schools’, however, once again we begin to wonder whether words and promises are once again nothing short of empty. I mean LAO ‘Cosla’ are right in stating that EIS instinctively focus on bad behaviour whilst forgetting about the good, but when it gets to the point where a child who has special needs is not facilitated properly because of mere financial assumptions and political indifferences it is no wonder the EIS are now bursting to be heard.

Whilst living in a capitalist society you can’t deny that it is indeed the money that makes the world of education go round as many cases have proved before (please see previous blogs), so why don’t we simply spend more on what’s needed rather than use the tax payer’s money for things that won’t benefit us at all? I’m not going to go off on a tangent and start talking about government funding, costs and cuts – as I’ve made clear before this blog is not about politics at all – but it’s quite obvious from the example publicized by London’s King Soloman Academy, for example, that investing a bit of time and money into ‘rewarding good character’ (in this case, with Shakespeare plays) can indeed go a long way. Furthermore, just take a look at the 2015 pupil premium awards; the fantastic exam results clearly ‘showed that they [the primary schools involved] have made or continue to make impressive improvements in the attainment of their disadvantaged pupils’. Metaphorically speaking and to sum up, if a car has run out of petrol you won’t solve the problem by dwelling on petrol prices and focusing on who’s to blame. You solve it by filling up the tank.

In this light, I am glad to announce that a paradoxically rhetorical and yet provocative question is not how I will be ending the article this time round. Its 2015, a new year with a new face, let’s kick off by focusing on the good things. It is evident that our cries for change have been heard, or at least listened to, as the government is beginning to prioritize a few things correctly. It’s indeed my pleasure to announce that ‘the Department for Education has announced it will invest a further £31.7 million in 2015 to 2016 to help local authorities in England continue to meet the costs of implementing the special educational needs and disabilities (SEND) reforms.’ But I must stress that if we are to teach and reiterate the values of respect and tolerance to our children, then those values must be put into practice as an example to follow. Respect for teachers will amplify from the children’s side if it is augmented from the government’s side – no more slandering our heroes and making them ‘take oaths’ for example.

Conclusively, I end this particular blog by addressing the members of EIS and stating that -though your concern regarding staff cuts is nonetheless very serious and clearly needs to be properly addressed – do not become guilty of what Cosla have suggested and forget about the good which our government has remembered. As for the government, as the old saying goes, if you truly wish for change then you must be it.


Bring on the New Year!