Tackling school exclusion

May 13, 2013 in Blog, Gus talks

Fenton Classroom, by Wolfram Burner (Flickr)

Fenton Classroom, by Wolfram Burner (Flickr)

Gus John, Chair of the Communities Empowerment Network (CEN) announces another annual report (2012/2013) and sets out the challenges facing this charitable, community-based organization that deals with almost 1,000 school exclusion cases each year:

The current education climate is such that CEN’s work and purpose become more crucial in the struggle to defend children’s fundamental rights and support the self-empowerment of parents/families as partners in their children’s schooling, education and personal development. Communities struggle perennially to encourage schools to see themselves as important spaces and places not only for their students but also for the communities to which those students belong.

Given the complexity of those communities and of the challenges students face as part of them, it is legitimate for parents and students to expect schools to have due regard to the community’s aspirations and the diverse needs of the student body, especially given the range of obstacles students must overcome if they are to set, believe in and realize their high ambitions. Read the rest of this entry →

The exclusion epidemic that won’t go away

March 25, 2013 in Gus in the Media, Print

Print screen from "The Voice" (http://bit.ly/XJ2Hbe)

The following article was published by “The Voice” on March 25th.

Black Caribbean boys are three times more likely to be excluded from state schools than their classmates, a study has found.

The Children’s Commission report, They Go The Extra Mile, published on March 20, established an “unacceptably high correlation” between exclusion and male pupils, those with special education needs and children on free school meals.

Four main ethnic groups – Roma gypsy travellers, travellers of Irish heritage, black Caribbean and mixed white/black Caribbean – were also deemed most at risk.

It means a Black Caribbean boy from a low-income family with mild special educational needs (SEN) is 168 times more likely to be excluded than a white girl from an affluent family. Read the rest of this entry →

Play the accordion with Sir Michael Wilshaw

February 28, 2013 in Blog

Sir Michael Wilshaw, head of Ofsted, is passionately committed to closing the gap between high performing schools and those struggling to deliver meaningful and saleable schooling outcomes to children. He rightly identifies school leadership as a key factor in this. But, he appears to want to widen an already existing and pernicious knowledge and skills gap within the membership of governing bodies in the very attempt to raise school standards and narrow the achievement gap. Clearly, one of his lesser known abilities is his prowess with the accordion.

Ofsted's channel on YouTube (http://www.youtube.com/Ofstednews)

Ofsted’s channel on YouTube (http://www.youtube.com/Ofstednews)

There is though a certain logic in Wilshaw’s position. If the nation’s schools are increasingly multimillion enterprises run by magnates or entities capable of putting up a couple million pounds of their own to be matched by 15 to 30 times that from the public purse while they retain control of the lot and are answerable to no one but themselves, then surely the composition of the corporate boardroom (the non-executive directors) must match up to the task of ensuring that the enterprise produces value for money and could beat off the competition.

The ordinary parent, shopkeeper, grassroots football coach or bus driver cannot be assumed to have the knowledge, understanding, skills or social and cultural capital to monitor or direct what the captains of that marketized schooling industry do, far less the temerity to hold them to account. Read the rest of this entry →

Repeating the lessons of History by failing to learn from them

January 11, 2013 in Blog

On Monday 29 December 2012, just as many in the nation were reflecting on the closing year and hoping that better would come in 2013, the Daily Mail published an article indicating that worse would continue and be compounded.

In that article, Jonathan Petre commented on ‘leaked drafts of the new history curriculum to be published in the New Year’ under the headline:

Screen capture from the Daily Mail (http://bit.ly/10n5A2j)

Screen capture from the Daily Mail (http://bit.ly/10n5A2j)

Highlights of the article included:

• Historic figures, including Winston Churchill, Oliver Cromwell and Lord Nelson will again feature in history lessons;
• The ‘back-to-basics’ shakeup will see overhaul of social reformers like Jamaican-born nurse Mary Seacole;
• Fears that the reforms, spearheaded by Education Secretary Michael Gove, could anger equality rights activists;

The Daily Mail was itself fuelling the ‘war with equality activists’ by singling out Mary Secole and Olaudah Equiano and making them and ‘politically correct’ teachers who teach about them in the history curriculum the thrust of its story.

‘The likes of Oliver Cromwell, Lord Nelson and Winston Churchill had been dropped from history lessons under the last Labour Government in a move critics said was driven by ‘political correctness. But under a new ‘back-to- basics’ shake-up, pupils will again have to study these traditional historic figures – and not social reformers such as Jamaican-born nurse Mary Seacole and former black slave Olaudah Equiano, who were introduced into the 2007 curriculum’.

Directly beneath this statement, however, are the images of Mary Secole, William Wilberforce, Amy Johnson, Olaudah Equiano and Florence Nightingale.

Commentary I have seen and heard about these proposed changes to the curriculum have rather missed the seriousness of what Michael Gove is seeking to do, i.e., to write out of history the evidence that we do not all subscribe to the narrative of history involving Britain that this nation and its schooling and higher education system has been ramming down our throats for generations. Read the rest of this entry →

David Cameron tries being ‘cruel to be kind’

October 25, 2012 in Blog

It was truly stomach churning to hear David Cameron on Monday 22 October 2012 unctuously setting out his government’s revised law and order agenda for dealing with the presence of knives and guns on our streets, punishing and rehabilitating offenders and giving private contractors outcomes related incentives for reducing offending.

This was the same David Cameron who in the wake of the massive civil disturbances in London and other cities in the summer of 2011 was encouraging and endorsing the practice of jailing those arrested and charged for their involvement in the disturbances by the hundreds, a majority of them for first and relatively minor offences.

One is often led to wonder whether politicians such as David Cameron, George Osborne and Michael Gove – and Tony Blair before them – inhabit the same planet as the rest of us. For one thing, they would have us believe that they suffer from a type of amnesia which kicks in with a vengeance when, in desperation, they reach for particular policies and make headline grabbing pronouncements. Read the rest of this entry →