Monday, September 12, 2016

My debt to grammar [selective] schools: Theresa May's very personal crusade to give 'every child a chance' as she attacks fee-paying schools for being 'divorced from reality'

Theresa May today vows to defy critics of her education revolution because of the debt she owes her grammar school past.

In an exclusive article for the Daily Mail, she says she will press ahead with new grammars until every child has the same ‘opportunities that I enjoyed’.

The Prime Minister writes that her educational experience made her the woman she is today. Her radical blueprint lifts a long-standing embargo on setting up selective schools.

Yesterday it provoked a barrage of criticism from union leaders, opposition MPs and Tory former education secretary Nicky Morgan.

But Mrs May says she is driven by a desire to fix the ‘manifest unfairness’ in the current system and wants to give parents a choice of every type of school.

‘I was incredibly lucky when I was a young girl growing up,’ she writes. ‘My education was varied: I went to a grammar school that became a comprehensive – and for a short time I attended a private school.

‘I know too that my teachers made me the woman I am today. I want every child to have the kind of opportunities that I enjoyed. I want every parent to have the peace of mind that comes with knowing their children will get the chance to go to a great school.

‘And I want every teacher and every school to have the resources and the capacity to deliver on those promises. I know these things will not just happen overnight. They require bold decisions and a lot of hard work, and no doubt there will be opposition to overcome.

‘But I am determined that we will build a school system that works for everyone. That is a hallmark of a truly meritocratic Britain.’

Her top-to-bottom shake-up of the education system, unveiled yesterday, includes:

Allowing children to gain admission into grammar schools aged 11,14 or 16 – removing the cliff-edge nature of the 11-plus;

Forcing private schools to open or sponsor a local state school or risk losing charity tax breaks worth £700million a year;

Letting new faith schools select wholly on the basis of religion;

A guaranteed £50million every year to fund grammar expansion across England.

Mrs May has stunned the education establishment – known as The Blob – with the scale of her reforms.

In a sign of the bitter battles that lie ahead, Mrs Morgan, who was sacked from the education brief in July, warned that increased selection by ability would be ‘at best a distraction from crucial reforms to raise standards and narrow the attainment gap’. In a sign that MPs close to David Cameron would revolt against the plans, ex-independent school pupil Mrs Morgan said the reforms ‘at worst risk actively undermining six years of progressive education reform’.

Ofsted’s chief inspector of schools, Sir Michael Wilshaw, said the idea that poor children would benefit from a return of grammar schools was ‘tosh’ and ‘nonsense’.

He said: ‘My fear is by moving to a grammar and secondary modern system – because, let’s face it, that’s what we’ll have if you divide at 11 –we will put the clock back, and the progress we have made over the past ten to 15 years will slow.’

But, in her first major policy speech since entering No 10, Mrs May batted away the criticism. She said: ‘I want Britain to be the world’s greatest meritocracy.’

In a direct appeal to the blue collar workers who put Margaret Thatcher in office, she added: ‘This Government’s priorities are those of ordinary working class people.’

She promised a range of measures to ensure the new selective secondary schools help the disadvantaged. New grammars or schools which convert will have to take a fixed proportion of poor pupils or run non-selective schools nearby, to serve those who do not get in.

Most significantly, she said there would be a new test – likely to be based more on IQ – that wealthy parents would not be able to pay tutors to help their children with.

And, in a major move, she said pupils would be able to enter the new grammars at ages 11, 14 and 16. A key criticism of the existing regime is that youngsters face a ‘cliff edge’ aged 11, with late developers being denied the chance to get a grammar school place.

In a separate announcement that infuriated some independent schools, she also said they had become ‘divorced from normal life’ – ordering them to help run state schools for the less privileged or lose charitable status worth £700million a year.

The Independent Schools Council hit back by saying they were already working to promote social mobility and they were part of the ‘solution not the problem’.

Labour leader Jeremy Corbyn said his party would try to block the proposals at every stage.


University offers segregated housing to shield black students from ‘microaggressions’

Segregated housing will now be available to black students at California State University Los Angeles as a means of combating “microaggressions” and “racially insensitive remarks.”

School officials have honored requests by CSLA's Black Student Union and will offer “housing space delegated for Black students” at the Halisi Scholars Black Living-Learning Community.

CSLA spokesman Robert Lopez told education watchdog the College Fix on Tuesday via email that its segregated housing will also focus on “academic excellence and learning experiences that are inclusive and non-discriminatory.”

Mr. Lopez declined to tell the website how much of CSLA’s 192-room residential complex were available for segregated housing. University officials, members of the Black Student Union, and other campus staffers also declined to comment for the website’s piece.

Some of the demands issued by CSLA's Black Student Union include a $30 million dollar scholarship endowment to assist black students, a new anti-discrimination policy and cultural competency course for faculty and students, the College Fix reported.


Finnish Education Fantasies
Steven Schwartz, writing from Australia

As a call to action, "Let's imitate Finland" is unlikely to stir many hearts. Yet, for some critics of Australian schooling, it's a rallying cry. To them, Finland is an educational nirvana with high paid teachers delivering excellent outcomes despite short school hours, an aversion to homework, the absence of external assessments and no annoying school league tables.

If Australia would only ditch NAPLAN (our external assessment program), erase the My School website (which contains information about school performance), shorten the school day and forget about homework (and pay teachers more, of course), we could become an educational powerhouse -- just like Finland.

Ironically, the reason that critics choose Finland as a model is because it performs well on external standardised tests. Specifically, Finland scored highly on tests conducted by the OECD's international Program for International Student Assessment, widely known as  PISA.

As Jennifer Buckingham notes, Finland is an unlikely model for Australia. Its entire population is not much larger than Sydney's. It has little cultural or racial diversity, few disadvantaged schools and a widely shared social consensus about what children should learn and how they should be taught. In other words, Finland is very different from Australia. In addition, its PISA status is slipping. In 2012 (the latest scores available), Finland did not make it into the top 10.

Today's top PISA performers are all Asian -- Shanghai, Singapore, Hong Kong, Taiwan, Korea, Macau, and Japan. Like Finland, these places are culturally homogenous, but this is where the similarity ends. In most other ways, their educational cultures are the opposite of Finland's. They have long school days, lots of homework, rigorous national assessments, public accountability and plenty of competition among schools.

Predictably, educators are now urging us to emulate Asia.  This is no more sensible than imitating Finland. We can learn from other places, but we cannot just impose their ways on our much more diverse population. Our students deserve an educational system designed specifically for Australian students, schools, and culture.


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