If you would like to add your support to the document and letter below, please go to http://www.thinking-about-education.co.uk/parents-petition/ It takes less than a minute.
Dear Mr. Gove,
OUR CHILDREN ARE NOT POLITICAL FOOTBALLS
We, as concerned parents, carers and citizens with an interest in young people, call upon the Secretary of State for Education to consider and respond to the following issues:-
1. To listen to experts who have given their entire careers over to exploring and researching the best ways to teach young people. These cognitive psychologists, neuroscientists and educational experts are not enemies of promise. We are dismayed that of the entire original panel asked to advise you on the structure of the new curriculum, only one remains. The experts in education all resigned as you both ignored and misrepresented their concerns. The only remaining panelist has no experience in the education of young children at all. The Cambridge Review of the Primary Curriculum; the most comprehensive and independent review of education for 60 years has been entirely ignored because it does not agree with your own opinions. www.primaryreview.org
2. To stop misrepresenting the research of others. Your claims that your policy is rooted in research is false. Your favourite cognitive psychologist Daniel Willingham himself clarifies in an email, that, while he does not intend to become embroiled in an argument about an education system that he has no knowledge or experience of:-
‘I certainly agree with the position that (1) the goal of education is not just to know stuff, but to know how to deploy that stuff to solve problems, be creative, etc. (2) knowing how to think in this way requires instruction and practice and won’t arise spontaneously if you know enough stuff; (3) thinking skills are largely subject-specific (i.e., good thinking in math is not the same as good thinking in history); (4) thinking skills require and are intertwined with domain knowledge’.
To suggest, as you do, that this equates to a simple fact based curriculum, is misleading for parents and an abuse of your position. There are further concerns about the way you, as a government minister, misrepresent information. Further information on this can be read at http://independentthinkingblog.wordpress.com/2013/04/14/educational-research-the-view-from-an-educational-researcher-part-i/
3. To put an end to the myth that the exam system is not robust. Oxford University’s recent report into the system casts doubt on your rationale for change. It can be read here http://oucea.education.ox.ac.uk/wordpress/wp-content/uploads/2013/04/WCQ-report-final.pdf Your proposed reforms to the GCSE do not take into account these findings. It is difficult to understand how children are benefitted by end assessed examinations which do not allow the full scope of their talents to be recognised and do not leave room for second chances.
4. Reconsider your decision to allow unqualified staff to teach our children in Academies and Free Schools. Children in all schools should be entitled to a well qualified teacher
5. We urge the Secretary of State to stop using inflammatory and derogatory language to describe children, parents and teachers, encouraging mistrust between people who should be working together to ensure a consistently good education for our young. We are heartily sick of the belittling of the efforts of our children in your assumption that it is too easy to pass GCSE and A Level examinations. In no other walk of life is increasing success seen as an indication of falling standards. We stand and applaud our Olympians as they break new records. We welcome new discoveries from our scientists. Stop undermining the successes of our young. Any parent who has supported their child through this incredibly stressful period, then feel their pride turn to dismay as you and others accuse them of having profited from falling standards, will know how hurtful you have been.
6. We challenge your refusal to accept that childhood is as much a place for happiness and curiosity, as it is for developing the important building blocks for reading and numeracy, and we suggest that your relentless focus on the teaching of facts and the constant high stakes testing they are subjected to, is potentially damaging to the health and future well being of our children. To add to this demands for children to work ever longer hours at school is to deny the reality of what happens in some of the best systems in the world, in countries such as Finland.
7. Finally we ask that our children are no longer used as political footballs to promote the careers of politicians keen to make their mark. It is not just their future at stake, but that of our nation and indeed our species. We need to have a sensible and open debate about the role of education in our society, which is free from party politics.
Yours very sincerely,
Debra Kidd, Mother of 3 boys, and the signatories of the attached petition.
You might find the following useful as background:
I have been a teacher for 20 years – almost as long as I have been a parent. My three boys, born seven years apart are in each sector – Primary, Secondary and Higher Education and the youngest two stand to lose most as a result of your proposals. The eldest would not have secured his place at Oxford University if your changes to the AS levels had been implemented. If I were not a teacher, I imagine that I would listen to you and agree with what you say. The need for rigour, standards and knowledge are indisputable rights for our children. But the assertion that in some way we are currently failing them is misleading. On April 10th I wrote a letter, expressing the dismay I felt as a teacher at the belittling and inflammatory language that you use to describe my profession. In the Daily Mail, you referred to us as being part of a sinister blob – ‘enemies of promise’. The response from teachers to my rebuttal of this was unprecedented. Heads of Independent schools joined forces with Heads from across the state sector and International sector to condemn your behaviour. You can read the original letter here:-
The letter was presented to members of the Education Select Committee in the House of Commons on Monday and received a positive response, as myself and other concerned professionals discussed with MPs the future of education. That morning, the teachers petition was head line news in The Independent. You can read it here:-
As a result of that article, I appeared on Channel 4 news to discuss with Nick Gibb, Former Minister for Schools, our professional concerns about government educational policy. You can see it here:-