“I always felt that a scientist owes the world only one thing, and that is the truth as he sees it. If the truth contradicts deeply held beliefs, that is too bad. Tact and diplomacy are fine in international relations, in politics, perhaps even in business; in science only one thing matters, and that is the facts.”
Eysenck. H – Rebel with a Cause (Transaction Publishers, 1997, ISBN 1-56000-938-1)
At the beginning of December 2014, two world renowned centres of academic excellence merged. The Institute of Education and University College London became one. Professor Chris Husbands, IoE director and Professor Michael Arthur, president and provost of UCL said of the merger:
There are several factors that we consider essential to make this merger one of the most successful that has ever occurred in UK higher education. The first is that UCL and IOE share similar values, with the principle of social justice, openness and a tendency to opt for the critical and radical approach, underpinning both organisations. The second is that it is a merger of two institutions that share similar levels of global ambition and that hold academic excellence, and the organisational autonomy necessary to create it, in very high esteem. The final factor is that we fully recognise that as we merge, the hard work is only just beginning.
Compulsory Schooling and the Urgent Need to Safeguard Children’s and Parents’ Rights
The Office of the Children’s Commissioner (OCC) has just concluded a public consultation on a rights-based approach to education. CEN welcomes and has responded to that consultation.
We very much welcome this intervention by the Children’s Commissioner, especially as it is a logical development following her inquiries into school exclusions and the widespread abuse of children’s rights that those inquiries uncovered.
Successive governments have handed unlimited powers to academies and free schools and those who run them, as chains or otherwise. They have no accountability in the public sphere and parents are truly bewildered at their lack of redress when things go wrong and when, typically, such schooling providers choose to do as they please, ignoring every law, every statutory guidance and abandoning any concept of natural justice. Continue reading
The Trojan Horse debacle has highlighted more than any other issue in recent memory just what kind of schooling and education system we have and how utterly inappropriate the in-built measures for assessing and guaranteeing quality actually are.
What is more, even in this democracy, the voices of criticism, let alone protest, about what is being done and projected as ‘normal’ in our name are so mellow, if not muted, that those doing the wrecking of our schooling and education system genuinely believe that there is consensual licence from the nation for what they are doing.
It is fast becoming clearer, in case anyone had any doubts, that the Trojan Horse fiasco and the government’s handling of it have implications for the entire nation and its schools and not just for the City of Birmingham. In the last couple weeks, schools in Tower Hamlets have come under the spotlight. Headteachers in Leicester, Rochdale, South and West Yorkshire are anticipating unannounced visits from Ofsted with results similar to those of inspections in Birmingham and Tower Hamlets. Continue reading
Former Shadow Attorney General Emily Thornberry and the image she tweeted from Rochester (PA)
There is something very instructive about the events that unfolded in Rochester last week. For me, the most disturbing and dangerous is the reaction to Emily Thornberry’s tweet. Disturbing, because of the assumptions that underlie the popular narrative. It was felt that Thornberry was sneering at the working class, Labour’s traditional voters for whom it was ‘normal’ to display their patriotism by flying the Union flag and the English flag. But no one seems to have paused to consider who and what constitutes that working class.
For decades, Labour has taken for granted the support of a growing section of that working class, the African and Asian Diaspora in Britain. They are patriotic, too, but do not adopt and unfurl those two flags because they see them as emblems of racial oppression, depicting Britain for what it is, a nation of complementary forces for evil and for good, emblems that have been appropriated by the Far Right (National Front, Column 88, BNP, Britain First, etc), even as they are used to demonstrate an inclusive Britishness. It is after all the flag with which all our great British African Olympians and national heroes such as Lewis Hamilton wrap themselves. Continue reading
This comment is in response to a request from the Royal Society of Arts to join a group of 20 ‘experts’ and advise on a new ‘investigation’ into Supplementary Schools.
To place my comments in context, let me summarise the extent of my involvement with the Supplementary Schools movement.
I was one of the co-founders of the first supplementary school in Oxford in 1965, based in a community hall along Cowley Road in East Oxford. I was then a friar at Blackfriars Priory in St Giles and a theological student there and at the university. I was also the education secretary and Chair of the Education Sub-committee of what would today be called the Oxford Race Equality Council, but was then named the Oxford Council for Racial Integration.
In 1968, I started the first Saturday/Supplementary School in Handsworth, Birmingham, with a group of colleagues, some of them African-Caribbean students at Birmingham University. A major issue for us then was teachers’ dismissive attitude towards and wrongful classification of the home languages of African-Caribbean students (something about which I have written extensively since; cf John 2006: Taking a Stand – Gus John Speaks on education, race, social action and civil unrest 1980-2005).
Those students were generally thought to be speaking ‘bad’ English, with the capacity neither to make themselves understood, nor to understand their students and white English peers. Teachers therefore tended to assume that such students were academically backward and incapable of high attainment. Continue reading