Calling All Parents

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. http://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:-

www.debrakidd.wordpress.com/2013/04/08/calling-all-teachers

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:-

http://www.independent.co.uk/news/uk/politics/teachers-speak-out-against-michael-goves-lists-of-facts-curriculum-8572623.html

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:-

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Nw3eUxnPzE8&feature=youtube_gdata

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32 Comments

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32 responses to “Calling All Parents

  1. Will be sharing accross as many plarforms as I can Debra. Marvellous. Keep going – you are representing so many, so well.

  2. Chris Ridehalgh

    A refusal to listen is a basic fault of many politicians. It is the main reason for Margaret Thatcher’s eventual demise , and I say that as a big fan of hers . It is particularly unforgiveable and dangerous to appoint a panel of experts and then totally disregard their advice about a vital subject concerning which a minister has no personal expertise.

    • Thank you Chris – it’s interesting to have the view of a conservative in this respect. Members of the public from all spectrums of society value openess and honesty and it is reasonable to expect that we can make informed decisions. I appreciate your support.

  3. Thank you for this Debra, I have been watching this whole situation with great interest, as both a parent and a teacher. I can only thank you for standing up to this terrifying attack on both our profession and our children. I have signed your petition and will be forwarding the link to as many people as I can.

    I’m closely involved with running a preschool at the moment and there’s some scary stuff going on in early years as well, particularly the suggestion that lower ratios of staff to children are a good and flexible thing for early years ‘businesses’. (In the consultation response I pointed out that many early years providers are voluntary or state run, I also suggested that Gove might like to spend a day caring for 3 babies and see how much time he had to give them any kind of personalised care).

    What I really fail to understand is how all this conflict Gove is hell bent on creating can possibly be a good thing for education? Even after he does all he wants to do to the profession, the same people will still be there running and working in schools. We strive to avoid conflict in class; why is he striving to achieve it at the DfE? (Well, I think we all understand why, because he wants to downgrade the profession and force the unions onto the back foot.)

    • Thanks so much Sue, your support is really appreciated. I really just want parents to be fully informed Bout what evidence there is out there and how that could impact on a better system. If that we’re the case we would not be so easily hoodwinked.

  4. I heartily applaud your efforts, Debra, but when Gove’s default position is “yadda yadda” I fear that someone with his astonishing levels of ignorance and arrogance will not respond in way that promotes balanced debate. Perhaps we should try to show local Tory MPs and Cameron how toxic Gove is becoming to the party. Any teacher voting Conservative in 2015 is not worthy of the title.

  5. Sally mallison

    Hear, hear, I am totally dumbfounded regarding the educational path of destruction that our children have to travel along due to the politics of apparently educated grown ups. Where is the common sense in what they are doing? Do they have no morals? Education is something every single person should embrace and enjoy throughout life. I sincerely hope that politicians can find it within themselves to develop regarding a subject with such immense importance and impact on society to a point where they realise that politics has no place in education. “We do not inherit the earth from our ancestors; We simply borrow it from our children”
    I applaud you for impressively addressing this with intelligence and logic.
    You go girl.
    I will support and share with great passion.
    THANK YOU

  6. Shelley Atkinson

    Have shared.

  7. kathryn tovey

    I am fearful of the future our youngsters face. It seems to me, both as a parent of 2 primary aged children & as a teacher of children with SEN, that individuality of pupils and teachers, and child centred education are to be dismissed in favour of a more didactic approach. If this was as a result of your own experience I may respect your opinion despite finding it ludicrous, but neither experience nor evidence back you up – how irresponsibclass in a deprived area for several years you may be qualified to have an opinion- I challenge you to try it & still feel the same. Try representing the people instead of your own agenda!!!

  8. Matthew Farn

    Mr Gove has a questionable ideological framework within which he sits like a besieged general watching each new edict fail and yet he still insists on remaining blinkered and ignorant of the facts. A fool will always remain one unless he learns from his mistakes. I do not hold out much hope of this.

    I will most definitely share this. Please keep up the wonderful work you are doing

    From:
    a parent and teacher.

  9. Emma English

    Thank you! Have signed and shared! My daughter is in her last year and exams are fast approaching. On results day last year she had brilliant results after taking some exams at 14, she was incredibly disheartened to hear after all her hard work that she only did well because the ‘exams are too easy’. I couldn’t agree more with all the points you have raised.
    Thank you again!

  10. Julie Wymer

    Hear hear from me too. I am a teacher but not a parent. I will be encouraging as many of my parent friends and colleagues to sign up. Keep up the fantastic work Debra

  11. Pingback: Gove won’t listen to academics or teachers, what about parental demand? | Educating Brentwood

  12. Nigel Adcock

    Very well said.

  13. I have signed, and shared. Thank you!

  14. Delroy Dunkley

    keep this going Mr Gove needs to be stopped.

  15. Disgruntled

    This dispicable man is not fit to be in office. He is totally incompetant, selfish and has absoultly no care about his constituents or anybody lesser than himself. Why is it that the most cruel peole are put in charge of education? Margaret Thatcher, Flunket and now this piece of Poo?

  16. Louise Crawshaw

    As a grandparent of four children under 3, I am fearful for the standard of Education System they are going to enter. We all need to act together now!

  17. Mark Sheldrake

    You have said perfectly that which I have been trying to word in language which our current government might register. I only fear they will not listen.

  18. Kj

    Well done Debra. I taught in a secondary school and made teaching resources for many years ago.. I now volunteer in a primary and a secondary school so I spend a lot of time seeing how much government interference prevents teachers doing their best as they run around chasing various Education Secretaries’ pointless uninformed ‘ideas’.
    Teaching should be left to the governance of our best, most experienced and most unpolitically biased teachers. We have fabulous teachers but they spend far too much time on the blizzard of pointlessness that descends from MPs who seek to control that which they cannot comprehend.

  19. Yvonne Hardman

    Well done will pass on Debra.

  20. Mary Watson

    I so agree with so many comments here. Luckily, I am retired now after 28 years in a profession I loved and was able to invest all my creative and productive energies in.Sadly, my equally committed daughter has decided that after 15 years she can no longer be part of a system which has lost sight of the children it is meant to educate and leaves this summer to look for another career. Gove has no idea of the damage he is causing. He must be stopped.
    Mary

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