Education. It’s a risky business!

May 29, 2009 at 3:09 pm 1 comment


The TES recently undertook a survey of over 2200 parents on the issue of the potential boycott of SATS by the NUT and NAHT which showed that the unions do not have the support of majority of parents over this issue. This is in strong contrast to the findings of research carried out by NAHT and the  Department for Children, Schools and Families which found that 85% of their survey of 10,400 parents wanted league tables and national testing scrapped.

Whoever you may choose to believe this does raise interesting issues about where parents do stand in relation to education system changes. In fact parents have very little influence but I am interested in what they think because if the education system is to change radically, and I believe it must, this must happen with the agreement and crucially, involvement, of parents. They must be on side.

And I think this is problematic because mostly parents do not want to take risks with their children’s education. And a reason we do not want to do this (I am a parent also) is that is we place such high emotional value on getting their education right. 3 Years ago my daughter was allocated a secondary school that we felt was wholly wrong for her and had not been one of our original choices. Although it was not our fault on hearing this news we felt we had badly let her down, kind of neglected her welfare somehow.

The next few weeks of preparing an appeal case took over our lives completely and felt like the most important thing we had ever done, literally. Thankfully we won the appeal and the relief and joy was equal in measure to the opposite feelings we had experienced.

I then continued at the forefront of the campaign that led to the establishment of the so called’ lottery’ (I prefer ballot) admissions system in Brighton which judging by the vilification of me and some of my colleagues in the local press was testament to the strength of feeling over these issues.

Whether or not getting our kids to the right secondary school should take on such an elevated sense of importance is another matter. The fact is it does. And as long as it does I wonder what it will take to persuade parents to do anything vaguely radical when it comes to their kid’s education.

I recently attended an event about the future of education at the British Academy in London at which a parent, who is also a teacher, told us that he had sent his young teenage daughter to study in France for a whole term in order to enhance her experience, broaden her outlook etc.. He told us that it had been a great success and that his daughter came back more fulfilled as a result.

He then made the following, very interesting point. He said that although he and his wife believed their actions would be of great benefit to their daughter, they couldn’t actually guarantee that. They were trying something out so there was an element of risk involved. He then said that whilst he felt it OK to take that risk in respect of his own daughter, he didn’t feel he could take the same risk in respect of the pupils he taught.

I get his point, and therein lays a particular problem in respect of the progress of the radical changes that we must undertake.


Entry filed under: Building Schools for the Future, Education, Parents, School admissions.

Ask the experts ?? Try leading by example!

1 Comment Add your own

  • 1. Pete Burden  |  June 7, 2009 at 9:05 pm


    Doesn’t this suggest that allowing choice (between, for example, a more pupil-centred and a less pupil-centred system) by both parents and kids is a good thing? Each parent or each child taking the risk and making their own choice?

    This might cost more of course. Presumably the cookie-cutter education system we seem to have is more cost-effective than allowing this choice? To support that we as parents and society in general would need to invest in education, education, education.

    Do we really have the nerve for that I wonder?


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Mick Landmann on education, digital technology, and the 21st century

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