Aspirations. We have been trying to raise them for the last decade, telling pupils they can be anything, anyone and education is the key to life long success. I am not sure how I feel about telling a pupil to work really hard, get your 5 A-Cs and work in a factory. It echos my English grandmother’s words when I told her I had got a Saturday job up town in Oxford Street, she told me ‘Jill, work hard and you could be the manager one day.’ Mmmmm, thanks Nan but I had already decided that I was going to be a TV presenter and it was hard work, the shop floor. I couldn’t think of anything worse, I was earning less than three quid an hour, dumped in the basement stock room counting ladies tights. I was destined for bigger things. I mentioned she was my English grandmother for a reason.
My mum is an immigrant, she worked hard, went to University when Access courses were first introduced, got a BA, MA and then a PGCE and lectured for a few years until ill health became her nemesis. She instilled a sense of educational pride, she said society would value us with a degree and she was right. I tend not to la-di-dah and say I am a teacher but when I have dropped it in a conversation with a doctor at A+E or another professional, attitudes do change. Suddenly I am afforded a right to speak my mind, to challenge a point of view.
I find it offensive that David Cameron wants pupils’ aspirations to be lowered into menial, unskilled work. (The Guardian, Mon 28th October). “Let’s get our education system right so we are producing young people out of our schools and colleges who are fully capable of doing those jobs.”
The education system is certainly cranking up the production line of factory fodder with its latest plans to axe ‘soft’ subjects such as Media, Drama and PE. The website, http://www.schoolsimprovement.net cites an exam board insider saying “Some subjects like PE and drama are more vocational and practical than academic. The question will be asked of each one: why is this a GCSE?”
Are we really asking why some pupils opt for these at GCSE level? It is because the subject interests them. Why is the Government intent on creating automatons for factories? What is the vision for the UK in 20 years time? As far as I can see, it is bleak.
But it isn’t just those three subjects, Gove is removing Literature from the core subjects. Pupils will tick box answer grammatical questions. There will be an implantation of facts but facts do not allow for creative thoughts or processes. Does Gove really expect Outstanding lessons when pupils are fed boredom? The Ofsted criteria says an Outstanding lesson will ‘demonstrate excellent concentration and are rarely off task even for extended periods without adult direction’. Did he meet 10R5?
I gloomily predict Gove’s policies will set the education system back 20 years. We will be in overcrowded classrooms because there will be a chronic shortage of teachers, back to poor pupil behaviour, parental disengagement and high levels of truancy because young people who do not fit the Gove-mould will find it very hard to engage in school and in life long education. Gove is taking away our children’s right to be creative, the right to voice and form their own opinions and above all else their right to aspirations.
I can imagine Carol from Willy Russell’s play, Our Day Out screaming at Gove: “Don’t lie, you! I know you hate me. I’ve seen you gin’ home in your car, passin’ us on the street. And the way y’ look at us. You hate all the kids.”
And she would be right, wouldn’t she?