Cameron: Isn’t the most socialist education system in the OECD brilliant!


by Unity    
10:00 am - January 19th 2010

      Share on Tumblr

It’s always a sure sign that the Tory faithful are happy when Tory bloggers start posting long extracts from one of Cameron’s policy speeches.

We’re going to begin at source – at recruitment – and make sure we get the best people into the profession. At the moment, not enough of our brightest people consider going into teaching, especially those in the subjects we need – like maths, and in the schools that would benefit most from their knowledge – tough inner-city ones…

We can get round this problem – we just need to learn from abroad. Finland, Singapore and South Korea have the most highly qualified teachers, and also some of the best education systems in the world, because they have deliberately made teaching a high prestige profession.

They are brazenly elitist – making sure only the top graduates can apply. They have turned it into the career path if you’ve got a good degree…

So we will end the current system where people with third class degrees can get taxpayers’ money to enter postgraduate teacher training. With our plans, if you want to become a teacher – and get funding for it – you need a 2:2 or higher.

But can you be sure that any of these high-flying graduates you want to attract can actually teach?

It’s also interesting to see Dave picking on Finland as one of the three countries cited as having an excellent education system.

There’s a little more to Finland’s success than restricting access to the teaching profession to graduates with 2:2 or better, and some of what makes the Finnish system so successful will have the Tory faithful chewing the carpet in a state of blind rage rather than applauding Cameron from the wings.

Cameron omits to mention, for example, that:

1. Finland has a wholly comprehensive education system. There are no grammar schools or other selective institutions, to speak of. Finland’s comprehensive schools are expected to take in pupils, irrespective of their personal background and the skills, abilities and aptitudes they possess on entry, and adapt to each individual pupils’ needs.

2. Teacher training courses are massively oversubscribed and, typically, accept only 10% of applicants. Studies looking at the positive outcomes generated by of the Finnish system invariably pay little or no attention to the quality of applicants for teacher training courses. What they focus on is the quality of Finnish teachers on leaving university to enter the education system.

3. All Finnish teachers are required to complete a Master’s degree in either education or a teaching-related subject and all are treated as pedagogical experts.

4. On taking up a teaching post, Finnish teachers are afforded a significantly greater degree of latitude and pedagogical autonomy than their counterparts in the UK.

5. Finnish teachers are expected to teach and, for the most part, are left alone to get on with the job of teaching with little or no outside interference from the state, politicians or even parents.

6. Finland does have a national curriculum, but unlike the UK, their curriculum covers only the general subject matter to be taught, not how it should be taught or how long should be spent on each topic, and teachers have a considerable say over the content of the curriculum.

7. The Finnish system does not make use of national tests or examinations – teachers are trusted to assess pupils’ performance throughout the system based on the individual student’s classwork, projects, portfolios and teacher-generated examinations.

8. Finland does not make use of school league tables, nor could it given the lack of national tests and examinations. School outcomes are measured, but only using data drawn from sample-based surveys and this is only published at system level

9. School exclusions are also unheard of in Finland because they’re not permitted by law – once a pupil enters a school, it’s the school’s responsibility to educate that child whether they (the school) likes it or not.

10. As you might imagine, in a system of that kind, non-teachers (i.e. school governors and local education authorities) have far less authority over schools than is the case in any other OECD country.

It is just about everything else in the system is pretty much as socialist as anyone on the left could ever wish for. It’s not a state-socialist system, which is just about the only kind of socialism that most Tories are capable of recognising, but it is a socialist education system none the less.

Funny how that observation – that it’s only the teachers who’re ‘elitist’ in the Finnish system, and nothing else – failed to make it into Cameron’s speech.

    Share on Tumblr   submit to reddit  


About the author
'Unity' is a regular contributor to Liberal Conspiracy. He also blogs at Ministry of Truth.
· Other posts by


Story Filed Under: Blog ,Conservative Party ,Education ,Westminster

Sorry, the comment form is closed at this time.


Reader comments


1. John Meredith

“7. The Finnish system does not make use of national tests or examinations – teachers are trusted to assess pupils’ performance throughout the system based on the individual student’s classwork, projects, portfolios and teacher-generated examinations.”

It does. All pupils sit for the School Leaving Certificate at 16, as far as I know. I think your performance on this certificate dictates whether you get to proceed into Upper Secondary or Vocational Upper Secondary (try that one on in the UK!).

It is just about everything else in the system is pretty much as socialist as anyone on the left could ever wish for.

I have to say that freedom from state interference, coupled with stringent requirements on qualifications and a concentration on school autonomy sounds distinctly more like Conservative policy than it does Labour.

As you might imagine, in a system of that kind, non-teachers (i.e. school governors and local education authorities) have far less authority over schools than is the case in any other OECD country.

Really? If so many decisions are left to the school to decide, and schools are ultimately run by the governors, surely that gives governors more power? I understand that government, central and local, is cut out, but that devolves power onto the schools. Unless everything is decided at classroom level, which would seem a bit dicy.

Unity, how are you using the word “socialist” here? for example, why is not using school league tables “socialist”? Doesn’t Tim J have a point that many right wingers would also advocate less state interference and more teacher autonomy? I don’t understand your point 2 either … what’s the significance of the italicized bit? It does sound to me like the Finnish system is quite elitist, in the sense of selecting only the top 10% of applicants.

If we can’t attract enough graduates into teaching now, how is placing further restriction upon entry going to help?
I think the criteria for entry into teacher training was changed in the 1960s in order to attract more people into teaching and this was identified as the reason for an influx into poor quality teachers,
Unity hits the nail on the head – ” But can you be sure that any of these high-flying graduates you want to attract can teach?”

“I have to say that freedom from state interference, coupled with stringent requirements on qualifications and a concentration on school autonomy sounds distinctly more like Conservative policy than it does Labour.”

I imagine virtually 100% of Labour Party members would be willing to “concede” all that in return for a fully comprehensive system with strong state interference making it difficult for private schools to exist.

Finland has a wholly comprehensive education system. There are no grammar schools or other selective institutions, to speak of. Finland’s comprehensive schools are expected to take in pupils, irrespective of their personal background and the skills, abilities and aptitudes they possess on entry, and adapt to each individual pupils’ needs

How does this square with TFOAW?

Education after primary school is divided into vocational and academic systems, according to the old German model. Traditionally, the systems do not interoperate, although some of the de jure restrictions have recently been lifted. In particular, an important difference compared other systems is that there is no common “youth school” — ages 15–19 are spent either in a trade school, or in an academic-oriented upper secondary school. Trade school graduates may enter the workforce directly after graduation. Upper secondary school graduates are taught no vocational skills and are expected to continue to tertiary education.

After the age of 15 that sounds like an even more selective system than the old grammar school one here.

Yes, all school leavers in Finland are required to undertake examinations for a school leaving certificate (Abitur), but…

The ‘examination’ consists of four components, only one of which is mandatory and which tests their command of their ‘mother tongue’. In most cases this is Finnish but in some part of the country it may be Swedish or Saami.

School leavers can then choose to be examined on any three of the following:

- A second domestic language – Swedish for Finnish speakers or Finnish for Swedish speakers,

- A foreign language,

- Mathematics (ordinary or advanced), which includes 15 assignments, 10 of which must be completed, or

- Reaali, in which the school leaver can tackle up to two essay questions on subjects chosen well in advance of the exam from a list of:

Religion (Lutheran or Orthodox)
Education on ethics or moral history
Philosophy
Psychology
History
Civics
Natural Sciences (Physics, Chemistry and Biology)
Geography
Health Education

In short, the Finnish ‘exam’ system looks almost entirely unlike our own system.

Unity #7 yes but what’s socialist about that? far as I can see, it’s not located anywhere in particular on a left/right dimension.

“Doesn’t Tim J have a point that many right wingers would also advocate less state interference and more teacher autonomy?”

The Finnish system looks quite a lot like the wishlist of the National Union of Teachers.

Right wingers might like the theory of less state interference and more autonomy for professionals, but they don’t tend to like the actual consequences in the classroom, hence the National Curriculum etc.

I have to say that freedom from state interference, coupled with stringent requirements on qualifications and a concentration on school autonomy sounds distinctly more like Conservative policy than it does Labour.

It does – but I didn’t call it a Labour system, I called it a socialist system, which it is.

To move on to Luis Enrique’s question about using the word ‘socialist’ here, the character of the system is not, to my mind, defined by the positions adopted by modern political parties but by its underlying philosophy, which embodies a form of pre-Marxist socialism the existence of which is too often forgotten but which harks, philosophically to JS Mill, the Chartists and beyond that to the Diggers and even the Putney Debates.

Its socialism, in terms of the commitment to universal, comprehensive education within a system that all enter on an equal footing, its just not state socialism, which is what most people assume is being talked about when the term socialism is used today.

11. Luis Enrique

OK, but I don’t think that you can identify “commitment to universal, comprehensive education within a system that all enter on an equal footing” from whether league tables are used, how much autonomy teachers are given, or what form the school leaver exams take.

If the school leaver exams, in whatever form, do then determine the level of entry in to the next stage of education, then I don’t think you can talk about a system in which all enter on an equal footing.

[A if a modern political party labeled "The Conservative Party" adopts a policy that is socialist according to its underlying philosophy, shouldn't you be praising them and maybe voting Tory? That is, if you believed them]

#6

But that means compulsory education of some form or other until the age of 19 – and Tories have opposed compulsory education until 18!

The division at 15 seems a bit starker than I’d like, but better to divide at 15 than at 11. Also, “trade school” and “academic school” are clearly two different kinds of education for people with different talents, not different tiers of education where one is better than the other.

After the age of 15 that sounds like an even more selective system than the old grammar school one here.

Perhaps, but then the problem with the old Grammar school wasn’t so much that it was selective but that it was

a) inextricably tied to the class system, and

b) it sorted children at too early an age and worked against the interests of those whose abilities didn’t manifest themselves until they were in their teens.

My oldest, dearest friend, who I’ve known since I was four, would not have had a prayer of passing the 11+ (I did, and then turned down a place at a grammar school).

At fourteen, he was streamed into the ‘O’ level set at school but was expected to be only an average student, which for that school at the time would have meant 3-4 ‘O’ level passes at grade C. In fact he got six, including B’s in physics and biology and went on to a sixth form college.

Today, he’s a university lecturer and hold a doctorate in marine biology.

At some point, a degree of selectivity needs to be applied within the education system. What matters is applying that selectivity at a point at which young people have been given a fair opportunity to demonstrate their ability and aptitude.

4. steveb. Good point . A work colleague told me that in the 60′s , the education establishment approached clerks ( local government officers ) in local government to become teachers . Those with 5 O Levels were sent on a 2 yrs Cert. Ed course and became teachers. The B.Ed was basically extending the Cert.Ed from 2 to 3 years.

One aspect which is ignored is the culture of education, perhaps the attitude of the educations system, the teachers, the parents and the pupils. Two relevant sayings are
1. The tree of knowledeg must be pruned and watered to bear fruit.
2. One can take a horse to water , but one cannot make it drink.

A former headteacher said to me ” If 25% of a class and/or a school are trouble makers, one is not involved in education but riot control”.

Therefore , governments must address the issue of poor discipline caused by parents and pupils who are contemptuous of school and provide good quality vocational education for those, largely working class pupils( from unskilled backgrounds) who have little interest in academic subjects. The problem is that many working class pupils from unskilled/semi-skilled ( this does not usually apply to children of highly skilled craftsmen) see no relevance to studying academic subjects to their future life and consider that often teachers are middle class wimps who have never lived in the real world, as they have often never left school.

If we had good quality vocational teaching at school such that some pupils could start apprenticeships at 14 combined with evening and day release courses at the local colleges , then the education and training standards of the UK could be greatly improved. Keeping teenagers in full time education until the age of 18 , beight taught subjects they have no interest in, by teachers they despise because they lack worldly experience, does not sound like it will be successful. Putting a 14 or 16 year old under the supervision of a tough and experienced foreman combined with compulsory night school produced the Industrial Revolution and engineers such as RJ Mitchell( The Spitfire) ,Chadwick ( The Lancaster and Vulcan ) and Barnes Wallis ( Wellington Bomber , Bouncing Bomb, swept wing planes). Manufacturing requires engineering which involves considering the practical and theoretical aspects of performance, construction and operation of equipment. If a pupil is taught the mathematics, physics and chemistry which is directly relevant to the trade they are being trained in, then they are far more likely to appreciate the importance.

15. Luis Enrique

“Also, “trade school” and “academic school” are clearly two different kinds of education for people with different talents, not different tiers of education where one is better than the other.”

Blimey, would you swallow that if it was said about secondary moderns and grammars?

Also, “trade school” and “academic school” are clearly two different kinds of education for people with different talents, not different tiers of education where one is better than the other.

That’s an important point and underlines what I personally consider to be perhaps the biggest policy failure of all in education in the last 30, maybe even 50 years – the failure to establish a comprehensive system of vocational education in which qualifications stand, and are valued, on their merit and not by making reference to their alleged ‘equivalence’ to academic qualifications.

Academic and vocational qualifications are different things and there is only limited crossover between the two, with the exception of some technical subjects (largely engineering).

The fact that we still benchmark vocational education by reference to its claimed equivalence to academic education is both a nonsense and another vestige of the class system that we could well do without.

The value of qualifications depends entirely on the context in which they’re applied – a degree in English Literature is, for example, entirely worthless if your central heating breaks down and what you need a is gas engineer.

tim f

But that means compulsory education of some form or other until the age of 19 – and Tories have opposed compulsory education until 18!

No it doesn’t – school attendance in Finland is compulsory only until the division at 15.

Also, “trade school” and “academic school” are clearly two different kinds of education for people with different talents, not different tiers of education where one is better than the other.

That was precisely the explanation of the grammar/secondary modern/technical college split. As we know, that didn’t work out quite that way here.

Unity

At some point, a degree of selectivity needs to be applied within the education system.

Which is surely incompatible with a “wholly comprehensive system” without any “selective institutions”.

Ultimately there are a lot of reasons why we are not going to be able to pull in the Finnish educational system wholesale. The municipal system of government for example, which administers the school system, is without parallel in the UK. The rigid academic selection at 15 is something that would be very hard to create here – in fact the division of schools into primary schools of 7-15 would be hard enough. But that doesn’t mean that there aren’t elements within this system that we could look to adopting. And one of these could well be the high educational achievement, and social status, of teachers.

You really ought to stop presenting every Tory policy as either hopelessly flawed from concept to execution or preternaturally wicked, designed to eat babies and use the flayed skins of the poor as umbrellas. There is a reputational price paid by ex-Governments that do nothing but snipe and carp. Is the Republican Party something you’re trying to emulate?

Sorting out the education system is a mammoth task. First thing to do is close down The Dept for Education (or whatever it’s called now) and all the LEAs.

Forget about what the Finns, French , Germans et al do. We’re more than capable of organising a good education system for ourselves as long as we keep the moronic bureaucrats and politicians out of it.

19. John Meredith

“Academic and vocational qualifications are different things and there is only limited crossover between the two”

That’s true. But how many Finnish doctors (say) go through the ‘vocational’ route, do you suppose? My guess is that plumbing (working class) is considered vocational by doctoring (middle class) not. I think you are being naive if you don’t see that as selection with a social class basis. If it was introduced in the UK I am sure you would quickly cry foul.

#17

What is inaccurate about saying Tories have opposed compulsory education until 18?

#14

No-one is talking about forcing people to stay in school until 18 (at least, Labour isn’t, anyway). Education includes apprenticeships and vocational qualifications (yes, with work experience or day-release to go to a job, etc).

#15

No, because it wasn’t true. Secondary moderns and grammars were the same kind of education, just where one was superior to the other. It perpetuated the class system and instilled low confidence (often for life) in people who were told they had failed, and weren’t as good as other people, early in life. I want a system where people have the time and space to find out what they’re good at, and then pursue it, whether that be academic, vocational or some combination or both. I want a system where academia is not viewed as better than vocational, to the extent where if you’re very good at something that’s more vocational, but good at academic stuff too, you automatically continue with academia. I don’t know if the Finnish system delivers that (and the fact that the division is so sharp suggests that perhaps it doesn’t), but on the surface – which is all we’re really talking about so far – it appears that it might. No selection at 11 and laws which militate against private schooling are certainly steps in the right direction.

20 – eh? I was responding to your point that the Finnish system “means compulsory education of some form or other until the age of 19″. It doesn’t, education is compulsory only up to 15. What this has to do with Tory policies on compulsory education for 17 and 18 year olds is beyond me.

22. Luis Enrique

tim f,

I agree with what you say about improving vocational education, and regarding it more as a different choice as opposed to an inferior one, but really I find it hard to imagine any actually existing system that offers academic and vocational streams in which the vocational isn’t mainly somewhere that people who fail to get into the academic stream go. Put it this way, can you envisage a system where people mostly apply first to go vocational, and then get put into the academic stream if they fail?

Ultimately there are a lot of reasons why we are not going to be able to pull in the Finnish educational system wholesale.

Of course – the point here is not to suggest that we should implement the system wholesale, its to rib Cameron for his choice of such a markedly socialist system as an exemplar when launching an education policy.

The municipal system of government for example, which administers the school system, is without parallel in the UK.

It is today, although arguably we had had something approaching that system, in terms of the power it wielded, during the mid-Victorian period when most of our major cities were controlled by municipal corporations.

Our problem, historically, that the ruling class – which changes over time, so landowners and merchants in the 17th/18th C, industrialists in the 19th and, today, a professional class of career politicians, lawyer, etc. – is marked by a deep-seated distrust of democracy and the devolution of political and economic power to the people.

In Britain, every concession ever won in terms of creating and expanding democratic institutions has been matched by the removal of genuine power and authority from those institutions, either by loading those institutions down with regulations from above or by tightening central control of the public purse.

The rigid academic selection at 15 is something that would be very hard to create here – in fact the division of schools into primary schools of 7-15 would be hard enough.

I’m not so sure that it would – in fact I’ve a suspicion that creating an open market in post-16 education would do a lot of the work for us.

Our education system does need some fairly radical re-thinking – in fact we really do need to rethink our entire concept of what constitutes a school and move away from battery farming young people in large scale institutions, i.e. secondary schools with 2000+ pupils towards much smaller scale schools (150-200 pupils) operating within comprehensive and flexible local networks.

The comprehensive schools that we have are, I think, a necessary step along that road inasmuch as to get to where we should be going we first need to destroy every vestige of the old class-ridden education system. Tony Crosland was right to want to ‘destroy every last fucking grammar school’, not as end in itself, but as a means to an end, a system in which all young people are given a high quality basic education in a system that fans out to provide much more specialist advanced education according to an individuals interests, ability and aptitudes.

But that doesn’t mean that there aren’t elements within this system that we could look to adopting. And one of these could well be the high educational achievement, and social status, of teachers.

Well its better than nothing, but a long way short of what we need.

You really ought to stop presenting every Tory policy as either hopelessly flawed from concept to execution or preternaturally wicked, designed to eat babies and use the flayed skins of the poor as umbrellas.

What hopelessly flawed here is the piecemeal approach adopted by the Tories, which leads to a wholesale lack of coherence in policy – although, to be fair, that’s not a flaw confined only to your end of the political spectrum, in fact its more or less endemic in today’s political culture and stems from a general culture in which a majority of the electorate are not engaged in politics at anything other than a wholly superficial level.

We have a political system/culture that far too regularly encourages, if not drives, politicians to prioritise being popular, by pandering to widespread but typically ill-informed prejudices, over being right and making an effort to persuade people round to their position and arguments.

24. John Meredith

“but really I find it hard to imagine any actually existing system that offers academic and vocational streams in which the vocational isn’t mainly somewhere that people who fail to get into the academic stream go.”

I don’t think that is beyond imagination, but vocational ‘education’ (‘training is the more accurate word) will always be considered inferior to academic education because it is. The point is learning not to care. My father did not go to uni, he learned on the job after the age of 16 and earned more than I ever will. It would strike him as obvious that his education was inferior to a university professor’s, that he is less educated, but he doesn’t care. Why do people care so much?

25. Luis Enrique

JM,

well again, I sort of agree … there are more ways to lead a good life than just by getting academic-type qualifications and academic-type jobs. But perhaps people care because of the difference in expected earnings between the two paths? People do tend to care about income, never mind status (and people care a lot about status).

“If a modern political party labeled “The Conservative Party” adopts a policy that is socialist according to its underlying philosophy, shouldn’t you be praising them and maybe voting Tory? That is, if you believed them”

That’s not what is happening here, though.

The Tories are suggesting that their policy is based on the world class education system in Finland. But they support one minor aspect of the Finnish education system, and are directly opposed to its main features.

If you consider key aspects of the Finnish system – teachers should be paid more and left alone by government to teach what they thought best, selective education should be abolished, league tables and the national curriculum should be opposed, exclusions are a bad thing – they are all policies which the Labour Party supported in the 1980s and which the Tories opposed and still oppose.

27. Luis Enrique

donpanski

you are quite right, that was misplaced facetiousness on my part

#21

I was under the impression that everyone either went to trade school or upper secondary school at 15. If I’m wrong then I apologise for leading people astray.

#22

Yes, it’s hard to envisage how we would get to a situation like that. This is now pie-in-the-sky thinking as it’d require massive upheaval and is totally uncosted, but do you think it could improve things if the state was to offer free accommodation in similar sites for academic/vocational students, who would live amongst each other while learning in totally different ways? There may be a social benefit to something like that. I know I benefited at university from associating with students who were studying completely different areas of academic education.

29. Luis Enrique

tim f, that sounds like an attractive idea

But can you be sure that any of these high-flying graduates you want to attract can actually teach?

It’s hard to imagine they could do a worse job than the current crop of teachers.

We have a situation where 20% of the population is functionally illiterate. 30,000 pupils leave England’s schools each year with no qualifications at all. And 60,000 leave with no qualification in maths.

Also, you appear to be taking Cameron’s 2.2 threshold as being the totality of his education reforms, rather than just the headline.

Finnish teachers are expected to teach and, for the most part, are left alone to get on with the job of teaching with little or no outside interference from the state, politicians or even parents.

Conservative policy is to remove interference from the state and politicians but allow parents to remain closely engaged with the running of schools.

Finland does have a national curriculum, but unlike the UK, their curriculum covers only the general subject matter to be taught, not how it should be taught ..

Cameron/Gove propose a new, slimmer curriculum roughly along these lines.

Finland has a wholly comprehensive education system. There are no grammar schools or other selective institutions…

er….not quite, as Tim J explains above. The academic/vocational distinction effectively makes it a selective system.

In any case, what conceivable advantage could be conferred by a school being comprehensive? The experience of this country is that comprehensive schools are crap.

More boys obtain 3 A grades at A level at Eton than do boys eligible for free school meals at all the comps in the country put together. What’s more, a high proportion of those geting 3 As at Eton are not rich kids but pupils who got there on competittive academic scholarships.

Independent schools (which take only 7% of pupils) have more pupils getting 3 As at A-level than all the comps in the country.

Since 3 A grades are now more or less obligatory for gaining admission to the top ten universities…. society is being made more rather than less socially unequal by Labour’s policies.

Comps are also noticeably LESS effective at promoting social mixing/integration. Kids from diverse backgrounds at selective school integrate much better than kids at comps who split into socially exclusive gangs or cliques like inmates in a US federal prison.

Face it: old religion socialist education, like old religion socialist economics has failed.

Instead of re-cycling tired, worn-out ideological rubbish, Labour needs some fresh ideas and approaches. Otherwise the Tories really will be the ‘true progressives.’

The comps fail the poorer kids in every conceivable way. 40% of those on free school meals fail even to get a single grade C at GCSE.

but vocational ‘education’ (’training is the more accurate word) will always be considered inferior to academic education because it is

I disagree.

The value that people attach to certain things is not a fixed commodity, it varies according to circumstances and individual/collective perceptions.

Take football, for example.

Football ‘supporters’ can be broken down in to two main types – there are glory chasers and true fans.

Glory chasers care for the most part only about the big teams and the big name players – they’re the twats swanning round South London in Man United shirts with Rooney on the back. Even if your local team has attracted a proportion of glory chasers, they’re the ones who only turn up for the big games and buy a season ticket only if their club makes the Premiership.

After the game they only want to talk about how the star player(s) performed during the game and not any of the other players. This time of the year they’re the ones that are most likely to be found on football forums moaning to buggery that their team hasn’t spent half its annual budget on a new star striker.

Then there’s true supporters – most support their local team or a team they latched on to as a child and have stuck with into adulthood. They buy season tickets or, if not, turn up to even the least glamorous matches because they want to see a game of football.

They care about the team, and that means the whole team and appreciate a good performance no matter who puts in it.

This time of year, with the transfer window open, they’re the people on the footie forums who’re saying things like ‘A new striker would be nice, but what the team really needs is someone in the middle of the park who’ll put in a shift, win the ball and work his bollocks off for the other players’.

If an opponent scores a good goal, the glory chaser will shout abuse at them for daring to score against their team, the true fan will be disappointed to see the ball go in the back of the net but, if its a really good goal, acknowledge the skill shown by the scorer with a bit of applause.

It the same game, but that two types of supporter have very different perceptions of what is and isn’t of value.

“In any case, what conceivable advantage could be conferred by a school being comprehensive? The experience of this country is that comprehensive schools are crap. ”

That’s nonsense. There are some excellent comprehensive schools. Generalisations about comprehensives are crap, especially no there’s no regard to the huges differences between different structures of comprehensive schooling – such as the popular structure of 11-16 + 6th form colleges, all through 11-18 comprehensives or the Leicestershire Plan of 11-14 junior high schools and 11-18 senior high schools. Btw Leicestershire CC, at the time a high Tory council, was a pioneer of compehensive schooling, approving the policy in 1957.

33. Stuart White

One thing I’d like to know about the Finnish system: how does the basic rate of pay for teachers compare to, say, doctors or lawyers? Presumably, it compares well, and this helps explain why teacher training is oversubscribed and why the teaching quality is so high?

Not really, Stuart…

Average monthly gross for a GP in Finland (2004) is around 5100 Euros.

For a teacher it was 2654 Euros and only 150 euros a month above the average for a fully qualified nurse.

For teachers, both the average salary and the pay gap between teachers and doctors are higher in the UK than in Finland and there’s a significantly larger gap between teachers and nurses in this country.

http://www.worldsalaries.org/finland.shtml

http://www.worldsalaries.org/uk.shtml

35. John Meredith

“It the same game, but that two types of supporter have very different perceptions of what is and isn’t of value.”

They disagree on some values but they will agree that manchester United is a more successful (in this sense ‘superior’) team than Queen’s Park Rangers (say).

As an aside, I am always a bit suprised by the ‘true fan’ category, which seesm to me to be an empty one. We don’t run into this concept in other sphres. Nobody (or hardly anuybody) thinks a music fan is not a ‘real’ music fan if they only listen to good bands or bands or on-form bands. A true sports fan will, obviously, drop a team when they stop playing sport satisfyingly and go somehwree where the sport is better. The other kind are just herding.

Actually – believe it or not – the median gross salary of the wood grinder in Finland is higher than that of a teacher.

Different priorities and sense of values, I guess…

#35

No, I come across the concept regularly in music. In metal there is actually a sub-genre called “true metal”! So too, glam rock fans were derided by thrash fans, who said they were into the music whereas glam rock fans were into the culture. They were “really” into the music whereas hair metal was more about image. I’m not sure the football example is any different. The “true” fan would argue that it’s not the quality of football that attracts glory supporters; it’s the success. They value success not football.

Unity is right. Vocational education isn’t intrinsically inferior to academic education. I can envisage a society that functions without management consultants. I can’t envisage one without a whole plethora of jobs that involve vocational training. What’s more, I reckon it takes more skill to be, say, a nurse than it does to work for, say, a hedge fund. If you’re happy to assume I genuinely hold those opinions (whether you disagree with them or not), couldn’t you say that I value vocational education higher than academic education?

38. Flowerpower

@ Stuart White 33

One thing I’d like to know about the Finnish system: how does the basic rate of pay for teachers compare …

They are not particularly highly paid. They stand in comparability tables in more or less the same position as they do here.They enjoy, however, significantly higher prestige within local communities. Not money; respect.

@ Bob B 32

That’s nonsense. There are some excellent comprehensive schools.

Excellent is a term used somewhat too freely in this context. There are some comps that do quite well – but nearly all of them are voluntary aided faith schools, so hardly an advertisement for ‘socialist education’.

Those comps that do perform strongly in challenging inner city environments tend to be those which have been allowed to free themselves of local authority control.

The kind of secular, local authority-run comps that many here would want to foist on another generation of our children are crap.

#36

I’ll bet they only allow people who’ve got university degrees to be wood grinders too, because that’s how you make a job attractive and attach value to it, right?

I don’t get it, according to you the Finnish system;

Gives more autonomy to teachers – The left have systematically reduced teachers autonomy, and continue to reduce it (e.g Ed Balls recently announcing that pupils would have the “right” to say what was taught)

Only admits graduates. The academic ability of teachers has been in long decline since the left removed the requirement for teachers to have degrees in the subjects that they taught, and then removed the requirement for them to have degrees at all. In UK state schools you can currently teach for exams that you haven’t yourself passed, or even studied

No state intereference in their professional practice (ahem another left wing “reform” of education ayone)

How on earth could any of that be described as socialist – they are all things that “conservatives” (or what I would call parents who think that schools should actually teach kids something usefull) would support

And before you cream your pants over the “lack of selection” has it occured to you that rich Finns send their kids abroad to be educated (Eton, Oxford et al) so the system fails your utopian vision of comprehensive, or that Finland doesn’t have the huge numbers of single parents and their violent, disruptive offspring to deal with that we do, or schools in which the majority do not seak english, so they don’t need selection to maintain high standards as there simply arent’t that many people dragging them down in the first place.

Football, for the most part, for more deeply rooted in local culture and local communities than popular music. If you’re a season ticket holder then you go to the game with your mates, you sit in the same place every game with the same people and, for the most part, they’re people who are part of your local community, even if you don’t know them personally.

It makes a hell of difference.

Man U, for example, has become a victim of its own success – too many people go to Old Trafford out of a love of success not a love of the game and that makes for a lousy atmosphere.

Go to Anfield and things are completely different. If you’re born in Liverpool then you’re either a red or a blue and that stays with you for life. For all its success during the 70′s and 80′s, Liverpool stayed a family club and on that has long had a deserved reputation for having some of the most knowledgeable and appreciate fans anywhere in the game. It a completely different atmosphere there to what it is at Old Trafford.

Tim is right, to a certain extent, in suggesting that some forms of popular music can engender a sense of community that’s similar to that found in football, especially when it comes to music that lies outside the commercial mainstream.

What’s interesting – and different – about the rock music scene is that tribal rivalries and loyalities tend to be quite short-lived. Thrashers took against the ‘hair metal’ of the late 80′s largely because for a time it did cross over into the commercial mainstream and become corporate.

Once it had its commercial day in the sun, however, the glammies were fully accepted back into what often tends to be called the ‘alternative nation’, a loose collective of musical subcultures which find common ground in the fact that they are outside the corporate mainstream.

Ultimately, its not the music that brings people together but attitudes and a certain set of social and cultural values that extend beyond particular musical genres.

Within that subculture you can put The Prodigy on the bill at the annual Download Festival and they’ll go down a storm with the rock crowd – as they have the last two times they’ve played the festival – and you can put Ice-T on at Reading in the middle of the ‘rock/punk’ day and he’ll draw a fantastic reaction even if he does a pure hip-hop set rather than a rock set with Bodycount. if fact, a few years back, he did exactly that and he was brilliant.

Put Jay-Z on at Glasto, however, and people who’d usually go every year, no show the gig. He’s too mainstream and too corporate, although, oddly enough, the same would not be true for Eminem, despite his commercial success, because he’s perceived to have a distinctly non-mainstream attitude even if he does shift CD’s by the bucket load.

Bob32. There was often a large difference between a comprehensive which was former grammar school and one which was a former secondary school. The former secondary school comprehensive often lacked the teachers with the ability
to get pupils into the top universities .

The problem for many comprehensives is that many are too large and there are few reform schools. Consequently violent and disruptive pupils are often difficult to expel and ruin the education of many. Unless we accept there are sufficient violent and unruly pupils to disrupt the education of many pupils at comprehensives , there will be little improvement. Many comprehensives have continuous problems with violent and unruly pupils and often parents .

We should bring back reform schools where teachers are selected and trained to teach violent and unruly pupils and the social services and police can be involved where required. Mentoring the parents of violent and unruly pupils will probably be needed. If half of a teaching period is spent trying to keep order by the teacher , then only half of the teaching can take place. Many teachers are ill or leave the service because of violent and disruptive pupils.

There has to be a change of attitude by 10-30% of parents and pupils; violent and unruly behavious at school is unacceptable and such behaviour should be punished. People should not have the freedom to ruin the education of others.

Alan Hill: “Forget about what the Finns, French , Germans et al do.”

In other words don’t bother seeing how other countries do things and learning from them. Supidest post of the year so far.

JM: “Nobody (or hardly anuybody) thinks a music fan is not a ‘real’ music fan”

You obviously haven’t experienced debates on some music forums then – those who only get into bands once they receive radio airplay or magazine coverage and thus become popular are always ribbed by those who don’t care about such things and explore music for themselves.

Ah, we get to the kernel of it. It’s all the single mothers and immigrants’ fault. That’s why we need an elitist system, to protect middle-class kids from having to associate with foreigners and the thuggish children of the morally lax.

#44 was aimed at #40 if it wasn’t obvious. I did try to interpret his remarks in any other way, but it was impossible.

Oh, and Unity, Download isn’t a proper metal festival anymore – it’s gone the way of Leeds/Reading before it. For proper metal you need to go to Bloodstock ;p

Tim F – Download was never a proper metal festival – it was full of nu-metallers who would shit themselves at a gorgoroth gig ;-)

Actually even these days Bloodstock is attracting the metal hammer readers too much. These days Damnation is where its at. Along with the smaller european fests like Metal Camp in Slovenia.

There are some comps that do quite well – but nearly all of them are voluntary aided faith schools, so hardly an advertisement for ’socialist education’.

Those comps that do perform strongly in challenging inner city environments tend to be those which have been allowed to free themselves of local authority control.

In other words, they are to some degree selective schools not open comprehensives – there’s at least one study I know that shows that faith schools that control their own admissions are 10 ten time more likely to demographically unrepresentative of the local community in which they’re situated than a faith school where admissions are handled by their local authority. For other schools in the state sector than control their own admissions, its six times.

A couple of things are going on here.

First, the demographic characteristics of religious belief and, particularly, formal religious observance, skews the school population in Christian faith schools in favour of the middle and upper middle classes. IIRC, 34% of people who attend church on a monthly basis fall into the AB social class compare to only 15% in the C2DE classes.

Faith schools start out with a somewhat better set of raw materials (children) to work with than a typical non-selective comp.

Second, the use of school league as the primary measure of school performance creates competition between schools not to improve the quality of education but to attract the best students.

Yes, the government now publish a value added score for each school alongside its exam results to provide a measure of pupil improvement rather than raw outcomes but the reporting of school performance in the media is still almost entirely dominated by the data for GCSE results and the manner in which in which the value added scores are presented is so obtuse and incomprehensible to most parents that it might as well not exist for all that it influences parental choice.

To be frank, having looked at the published data, I would say that its nigh on impossible to be sure which schools actually provide the best education because the current system is bent so far out of shape by a range of selection effects that the data that is published is the next best thing to meaningless.

48. Stuart White

Unity at 34: interesting…and (to me, anyway) surprising. Makes one even more impressed at what the Finns achieve.

#46

Has Damnation expanded beyond a one-day affair? I went to the first two, but wasn’t overly impressed. It was definitely organised primarily by fans, but they gave the bands too much licence and promoted their mates’ bands too heavily. Plus many of the best bands were put in the small room rather than the big one. Entombed were rat-arsed by the time they went on, and they were definitely much worse than I’ve seen them elsewhere. It may well have improved now though; I haven’t gone since they moved to Leeds. Only been to Bloodstock once; went mainly for At The Gates and was outraged they weren’t headlining the night they played.

And if you’re categorising by publication, I suppose Damnation is Terrorizer, Bloodstock is Metal Hammer, Download is Kerrang, Leeds/Reading is NME, Glastonbury is Pitchfork, WOMAD is the New Statesman. (The Isle of Wight festival is the Spectator?)

And before you cream your pants over the “lack of selection” has it occured to you that rich Finns send their kids abroad to be educated (Eton, Oxford et al) so the system fails your utopian vision of comprehensive

Or that you’re throwing around a stream of crass assertions that you can’t support with evidence.

For the record, i can’t find any data on the number of Finns studying in the UK – they’re included in the data for the EU which doesn’t provide a breakdown by nationality – but the main online forum for Finnish students studying in the UK has been running since 2004 and had accumulated less than 1600 members in that time, so I doubt very much that wealthy Finns are running off to the UK for their education in droves.

40 – “Finland doesn’t have the huge numbers of single parents and their violent, disruptive offspring to deal with that we do”

16% of young people aged 11, 13 and 15 in the UK live in single parent households.

14% of young people aged 11, 13 and 15 in Finland live in single parent households.

Amongst OECD countries, the USA is top by far for single parent households, and the UK is second, and these two countries do worst for child well being. But the next four highest countries for single parent households are Norway, Sweden, Denmark and Finland – and these countries do best for child well-being, far ahead of countries such as Italy and Greece which have very low numbers of single parents.

The difference is not the number of single parents, but that the US and UK think that single parents and their children are a problem (in the way that you so charmingly describe), and in Scandinavia they design their services to support them. Guess which approach leads to better education and child wellbeing outcomes?

Our education system does need some fairly radical re-thinking – in fact we really do need to rethink our entire concept of what constitutes a school and move away from battery farming young people in large scale institutions, i.e. secondary schools with 2000+ pupils towards much smaller scale schools (150-200 pupils) operating within comprehensive and flexible local networks.

Agreed, Unity. But how are we going to be able to afford and implement this?

Well.

Firstly, we need to free up the money being squandered by the LEAs in their appaling mal-administration of a Stalinist top down system and we need to take Government interference out of the whole sector. Education is too important to be a political football.

All schools should be run by an independent board of governors (elected by the parents of the school) and should be self funding. The system should allow for a diversity of school sizes, attainment aims, educational methods and subject choices to be available to the potential parent to choose from. The role of Ofsted and the examination boards needs to be adjusted accordingly and the dead hand of the national curriculum should be removed from the system entirely.

All of the above funded entirely through educational vouchers.

Simple really.

And for extra credit: Finland runs something akin to a voucher system, like Sweden. Privately run schools exist and get funded on exactly the same basis (and cannot charge extra fees) as the state schools.

This is an example of several people above, but:

I find it hard to imagine any actually existing system that offers academic and vocational streams in which the vocational isn’t mainly somewhere that people who fail to get into the academic stream go. Put it this way, can you envisage a system where people mostly apply first to go vocational, and then get put into the academic stream if they fail?

This is an absolute failure to understand the concept. It’s a failure which British society shared, wholesale, while the socialist governments of the late 20th century were trying to build a working educational system.

Selectivity in Britain, as TimF has eloquently described, was very much a case of we’re selecting between the bright (middle-class, precocious) kids and the not-so-bright, or late-developers (or everyone poor).

Selectivity in the Swiss system is more like the choice of A-levels, and I suspect this is true in Finland as well. When a kid has been taught 5-15 in a system which reinforces the principle of self-determination and autonomy as significant cultural values, by the time they’re 15 they have a pretty good idea if they prefer conceptual (academic) or applied (vocational) work.

Thus, anyone who wants to fix cars goes vocational; anyone who wants to design car engines goes vocational, they just stay in education for much much longer; only someone who wants to do pure research in the fluid dynamics of diesel in pressurised conditions would go into the academic stream. Designing engines is a pretty high-status job, fixing cars less so, but those guys would both make the same preparatory choice at 15.

The reason this selectivity is not ‘selective’ in the class-war, party-political sense we in Britain use, is that the criteria for selection are in a completely different context. Intriguingly, the example of medicine is the only one I know of where people are effectively liminal, but then IIRC (check me if I’m wrong?) someone who at 15 wants to go medical goes to specific institutions from there on anyway.

When Unity says ‘selectivity is necessary’ he’s right; he means the selection of a specialisation, allowing further education to be in more depth and clarity. The Yanks specialise much too late, which is part of why we criticise their University qualifications.

The Academic vs Vocational divide means, to Germans, Swiss, Finns, etc. choosing to do double-maths, physics and chemistry at A-level, rather than choosing to do C, D, T [1] and Computer Science at A-level.

[1] Is it still Craft, Design and Technology? I split them up because in that system, each one (making things by hand, designing things and making things with machine tools) would be studied with the depth and time of a full A-level.

#49 – Damnation is still one day, but is now over 3 stages. It’s still the same people running it, but they’ve obviously learnt from experience (plus one of them winning 20 grand on deal or no deal helped them). Plus they’ve also started going for headliners like Life of Agony and Therapy? to help increase the turnout. I don’t think you can blame Entombed being pissed on them though, they’ve always been fond of a drink every time I’ve seen them….

I’ve been going to bloodstock every year since 2003, and I still don’t get why At the Gates didn’t headline that year. Still a good festival, as they’ve kept the same core fanbase and friendly atmosphere, though these days the corporates have a stake in it, hence you’ll be overcharged for food and booze and the increasing crowds will attract the thieves, with security there being a joke.

I still say the smaller european ones are far better.

I’m loving this, the nearer we get to election time the more the Tories are actually having to come up with hard and fast policy and boy oh boy is it bad.

That’s been the pain of the last few years, they’ve been pissing and moaning from the wings, taking pot shots with no need to back owt up but as election time nears they have to start putting more concrete ideas out there.

Cool, can’t wait for them to churn out more crap.

Ooh, Pagar – almost there…

What gets killed off…

Ofsted, SACREs (local boards that set mandatory RE curriculum), mandatory RE lessons and mandatory religious assemblies in all state schools.

What gets heavily revised…

Role and composition of LEAs, which will retain responsibility for ensuring that pastoral standards in local schools are met (e.g. child welfare, health and safety, appropriate governance arrangements, due diligence and keeping out the extremists and other fucknuts) via a licensing system plus provision of community schools, where parents exercise this choice, and as a fallback against school failures/closures.

LEA would also be responsible, at a strategic level, for ensuring that there is an adequate supply of places and sufficient diversity of provision to meet local needs, i.e. in area lacks a particular type of school/provider (say one specialising in the natural sciences) and there is demand for such a school then its down to LEA to advertise for a suitable provider. In essence the LEA is there, in part, to ensure that any gaps in supply are filled on a minimal interference basis, i.e. as a kind of broker/agent for parents wishing to exercise a choice that’s not currently available in their area.

If an independent school goes tits up, then the LEA steps in to guarantee all pupils at that school get an alternative place at, at least, a local community school.

LEA’s might also retain responsibility for some pan-system services such as Ed/Dev Psych referrals and remediation of exclusions, if adequate alternative options are not available.

Composition of LEA boards – 49% stakeholders (LAs, schools, etc.) 51% parents, with parental place to be filled by direct elections.

Vouchers – yes.

School independence – yes but encouraged to operate within local networks to facilitate comprehensive provision. This could include having multiple specialist providers housed in existing school premises, so what is now a large comp/academy could become a network of co-existing specialist schools based in a single building/site.

Pedagogical diversity – yes, if supported by adequate evidence base for effectiveness. (i.e. Steiners can fuck off for starters until the start teaching science instead of than woo).

Religious Instruction and assemblies – up to the school to determine provision according to character.

National Curriculum – pared back to setting general content only. Delivery and pedagogical approach determined by schools.teachers. RE to be incorporated into the National Curriculum within a broad-based ‘humanities’ course that includes philosophy, critical thinking, civics, etc.

#57

A couple of queries:

Your “yes” to vouchers is presumably conditional on having removed the last vestiges of the class system from education? Presumably would go alongside measures like stopping schools charging fees (or mandating expensive and extensive as opposed to simple uniforms)?

And while I’m all for getting rid of religious assemblies, if we get rid of mandatory RE lessons, I’d want some content on beliefs of the major religions and philosophical arguments for and against the existence of God to be folded into citizenship lessons. Is that your intention?

ignore the last bit, reread your post and I’d missed the last two paras

54.John q Publican. A good mechanical engineer can take an engine apart , repair it and understand fluid dynamics; that is why Mitchell, Chadwick and Wallis were so good at their jobs. All these engineers left school at 16 to start apprenticeships and were taught the practical skills under the supervision of foremen and studied the relevant maths, physics and chemistry at evening school.

Good engineers design what is the the most practical to build and maintain and that knowledge only comes from undertaking practical work. Many of the German tanks in WW2 were overly complicated , subjects to problem of deep snow and dust, broke down too frequently and were difficult to maintain. The Russian T34-delivered on the basics( firepower, armour , coped with the snow and dust( causes wear )and and speed) but was easy to repair and cheap to build. The Russian designers appreciated that in Russia, the vast distances means that fully equipped workshops would not be close by, so poorly educated tank crews would have to be able to do much of the repairs with basic equipment .
The AK 47 is also an example of good design. The engineer realised the AK47 had to be rugged;reliable when used by poorly skilled people with little or no access to repair worksops.

The Spitfire was a superb machine because it was possible to improve it’s performance throughout WW2 without massive re-design. The practical aspect of the design was probably because Mitchell had been apprenticed at the age of 16 to a locomotive works and therefore appreciated the importance of simplicity.
British engineering at it’s best was often because the performance of the finished product was matched by the simplicity of the elegance of it’s manufacture and operation.

One can only appreciate the importance of such aspects if one has had to build and repair the equipment. If we had the old system of crafstmen/technician/engineer or scientists( educated to degree standards and chartered), then people could to whatever heights they were capable of achieving.

The destruction of the grammar schools did much to destroy the eduation of many future scientists and engineers. Many of our top engineers studied at grammar schools. Crossman, likely many middle class Labour politicians had no technical or industrial experience .

Your “yes” to vouchers is presumably conditional on having removed the last vestiges of the class system from education? Presumably would go alongside measures like stopping schools charging fees (or mandating expensive and extensive as opposed to simple uniforms)?

Yes – schools accepting pupils under the voucher system would not be permitted to charge additional fees and would have to ensure that things like their uniform policy do not place pupils from poorer backgrounds at a disadvantage.

What I’d also look at is including premiums in the voucher system that encourage schools to take on pupils who are, for various reasons, disadvantaged by their personal circumstances and/or background.

Schools taking on SEN pupils would attract a premium rate, although at least part of that premium would be tied to performance and would have to be refunded if the child fails to make adequate progress.

Any voucher system will need a degree of carrot and stick to ensure that suppliers take on disadvantaged children but don’t then take the money (and the piss) and fail to deliver in the expectation that because the there lower performance expectations attached to these kids, the school can get away with doing fuck all without anyone noticing.

@ Unity

School independence – yes but encouraged to operate within local networks to facilitate comprehensive provision………Pedagogical diversity – yes, if supported by adequate evidence base for effectiveness. i.e. Steiners can fuck off for starters

I’m not sure you are totally on board with this concept of diversity and choice!!!! Like you, I’d cut off my right arm before I’d send my child to a Steiners school but others take a different view.

Role and composition of LEAs, which will retain responsibility for ensuring that pastoral standards in local schools are met

I’d prefer to see the licensing role undertaken by the body responsible for cashing the vouchers working in conjunction with the new inspectorate. Part of the role of ensuring pastoral standards should be the limitation of religious influence on teaching. The voucher is to be used to provide secular education, not religious indoctrination. The LEA involvement adds an unnecessary layer of expensive unaccountable beaurocracy and adds no value.

Regarding an adequate coverage of quality schools, I think you have to trust to the market, rather than local planning, to work this out. Of course there is no guarantee that every parent will be presented with the ideal school for their child in their locality but the choice will be much more meaningful than it is now.

School independence – yes but encouraged to operate within local networks to facilitate comprehensive provision. This could include having multiple specialist providers housed in existing school premises

Agreed.

And it could also allow the independent school to buy in specialist competencies from mobile teaching providers. So, for example, there may be insufficient demand from pupils wanting to learn Chinese to justify a full time teacher in a particular school, but there may be enough demand to run courses in a group of schools in a particular locality.

Finally, one of the keys to progress is a much more flexible and fluid system of testing and examination than currently prevails.

I’m not sure you are totally on board with this concept of diversity and choice!!!!

On the contrary – we’re still talking about a state-funded system that has a duty not to piss money down the drain on complete and utter shite, in much the same way that I take the view that the NHS shouldn’t piss public money away on homeopathy.

If people want a Steiner education for their offspring, they can still use their own money to pay for it.

The LEA involvement adds an unnecessary layer of expensive unaccountable beaurocracy and adds no value.

Not if you cull the central bureaucracy entirely and devolve authority entirely down to local level.

Regarding an adequate coverage of quality schools, I think you have to trust to the market, rather than local planning, to work this out.

Its not really planning I had in mind – more a brokerage role that responds to parental demand by facilitating introductions between purchasers and potential suppliers. Even markets need their wheels greasing every once in a while.

@38: “excellent comprehensive schools”

FWIW we can settle this issue. Admittedly there aren’t many but there some comprehensives which feature in this latest league table of the best achieving schools at A-level, a league that is otherwise dominated by selective and independent schools:
http://news.bbc.co.uk/1/hi/education/8439634.stm

Given the likely affluence of households able to afford the fees at independent schools and the selection by entrance exams of pupils attending maintained grammar schools, it’s hardly surprising that few comprehensive schools feature in the premier league but some do. Notice that Eton, in fact, is quite a way down the league table. Three maintained grammar schools in the London borough where I live achieved better average A-level results. Why pay the fees at independent schools if your children can get into the remaining 164 maintained grammar schools?

Excellent piece, Unity.

The main features Cameron fails to consider are (1) that teaching is an over-subscribed profession in his ‘model’ countries, while here it is under-subscribed; and (2) the reason it is over-subscribed in those places is because it is an attractive job – as you point out, teachers in Finland have almost un-heard-of freedom to be creative and to innovate in the classroom, are acknowledged as expert professionals, and the good fortune to live where the country as a whole regards education as being of tremendous importance. In Britain, alas, these conditions do not really exist, although a lot of lip-service is paid to the importance of education here.

The ‘best brains’ in Britain, unfortunately for Cameron, are well aware that they can get more personal satisfaction, better pay, and better respect in other jobs. As long as Cameron fails to address why so few people want to be teachers, the only result his ‘brazenly elitist’ plan will have will be to chronically worsen the already dire shortage of teachers in the UK.

http://bellagerens.com/2010/01/18/raising-the-barriers-to-entry/

66. Alisdair Cameron

Forgive me for arriving late, but while it seems many of those points/merits of Finland count against Cameron, just as many if not more count against Ed Balls and co:
viz, nos 2, 3, 4, 5, 6, 7, 8, 9, and 10

just as many if not more count against Ed Balls and co:

As should be apparent from the discussion in comments, I’m no more enamoured of the New Labour approach to secondary education than I am Cameron’s.

64.Bob b. The decline in the number of grammar schools may be partly responsible for the decline in the the number of world class engineers and scientists Britain has produced over the last 40 years.

Huxley , who won the Nobel Prize for Physiology said it was selection at 11 or 13 followed by the rigour of O and A levels which meant when people started university level they commenced at a much higher level than any other country. Consequently people completed their doctorates by 24 or 25. In other countries people did not complete their doctorates until the late 20s or 30 yrs of age. As the most innovative work is often undertaken by people in the end of the Phd or first doctorate position, this gave British scientists and engineers several years lead over their rivals. The reduction in the standards when CSEs were merged with O levels to form GCSEs has resulted in our undergraduates in science and engineering losing their advantages.

The consequence of reducing the standards of A levels is that 3 year degrees have become 4 years if not even 5 yrs. This has increased the cost to the country and the undergraduate as university teaching costs more than school teaching.

American universities used to actively recruit out top Phd s because the standards of training in the UK were so much higher in this country.

If Britain re-created the rigour of A and S levels of 30 years ago it would help to produce the world class scientists and engineers we need to build up our industrial base to required to produce green technology. Britain used to have the best education system for producing the finest scientists and engineers in the World-The Industrial Revolution, Darwin, Faraday, Clerk Maxwell, the number of Nobel Prizes won, Turing and the development of computing, the number of patents awarded etc, etc. Perhaps we ought to look at the reasons for our past achievements?

Charlieman & everyone:

I’m afraid that DHG currently has a personal troll with a major hard-on for him, who’s MO is spoofing Daniel and a few other regulars.

This is being worked on but, in the meantime, be aware that this is happening and that while I do my best on the whack-a-troll front, some of the crap will get through from time to time, until I can spot and kill it.

Charlieman:

Hope you’ve read what Unity has written and sure you’ll take that back.

Cheers.

@71 Grammar schools: one important reason for their high success rate in A-levels – besides selection at 11+ – is that the grammar schools are all-through 11-18 schools so their final year is dominated by pupils with academic values who are mostly also committed to going on into some form of higher or professional education.

The trouble with popular structure of 11-16 comprehensives feeding 6th form colleges is that in deprived areas the final year of the 11-16 schools is dominated by early school leavers who often have little commitment to education. For teens, peer group pressures often have a decisive influence on their post-school careers. Blunkett had that daft idea of home work classes at football stadiums which hardly catered for girls and my guess is that many parents would worry about young teens going to football stadiums on dark winter evenings but it was cheered on at the time.

Too much is made of failing selection in the 11+ exam. Nobel laureate Sir Peter Mansfield FRS failed his 11+ exam and left school at 15 to become an apprentice book-binder. He made his way to university through night-school. Sadly that route and taking part-time degrees while continuing to be employed are seldom there now:
http://www.mirror.co.uk/video/news/2009/10/08/pride-of-britain-sir-peter-mansfield-115875-21731467/

In the run-up to the 1997 elelction, Gordon Brown had that bright idea of a University for Industry (UfI) on the internet to fill the skills gap but that got screwed up by Blunkett too:
http://news.bbc.co.uk/1/hi/education/4311791.stm

71
The ‘A’ level was first introduced in 1951, around the same time as the 11 plus, and way after Turing’ and clearly Darwin, both were privately educated. It was the 1876 Education Act which gave the majority of children access to elementary education.
In the 1960s around 6% of the population held a first degree (mainly males) compared to the present, between 36 and 40%’ and since 1993 more females than males are accessing higher education.
The fact is, our technology, economy and environment have changed beyond all recognition, and looking at professions eg. in healthcare, the role of nurses have considerably changed to the point that to enter nursing will soon require an appropriate degree.
My nephew gained a first in environmental sciences at UMIST and coudn’t even get an interview for a job requiring science, he now manages a wine bar, (he used to work there as a student)
Our education system has broken down in many areas but harking back to the good old days of selective education and students taking degrees in areas that are not in demand is not the answer.

@76: “My nephew gained a first in environmental sciences at UMIST and coudn’t even get an interview for a job requiring science, he now manages a wine bar, (he used to work there as a student)”

“Graduates can expect to earn £100,000 more over their working life than those without a degree, says the chair of the review into university fees in England.”
http://news.bbc.co.uk/1/hi/education/8401267.stm

The pecking order of average graduate salaries gives some insight into which degree subjects are in high demand:
http://www.independent.co.uk/news/education/higher/table-what-do-graduates-earn-1675502.html

DHG,

Please accept my apologies. I was unaware of the existence of the fake DHG.

Given the confused circumstances, is it fair to ask Unity to delete my offending post? It’s no longer relevant and could be misconstrued to put either of us in bad light.

All the best.

No worries Charlieman.

Peace.

71 Bob b . Good comment about studying part time while working . It used to be the case many engineers did not have degrees. During their apprenticeship they studied in the evening at the local technical college and sat the exams set by the various chartered engineering institutes such as civils, mining, structural , chemical electrical etc, etc . The exams were HNC or degree standard, the latter was required to become chartered. This system produced Engineering Technicians, Incorporated Engineers and Chartered Engineers who understood the higher mathematics, physics and chemistry yet understood the practical aspects such as how to cut metal or pour concrete and the important aspects of man management.The advantage of this system is that people are earning money as soon as they leave school do not incur large debts, can decide to study academic subjects at a later date, have the benefit s seeing how academic subjects are relevant to their working life and understand the practical aspects (incuding man management) of engineering . This combination of work and study produced some of the best engineers in the World Mitchell- The Spitfire, Chadwick -The Lancaster and Vulcan, B Wallis – R100 airframe, Wellington Bomber, Bouncing and Earthquake Bombs and swept wing technology, IK Brunel.

There is a massive shortage of engineers in the UK and in the World. Even if one does not want to go into engineering many employers prefer someone with a technical education over many arts subjects. Goldman Sachs is keen recruiter of engineers.

It is cheaper to raise the standard of education at 18 to the old A and S levels of 30 years ago then extending university courses by another year to make up for a decline in standards. By reducing costs of university education by shortening it’s duration( from 3 to 4 yrs) may encourage poorer students to attend.


Reactions: Twitter, blogs
  1. Robot J. McCarthy

    Czary Baby! RT @libcon :: Cameron: Isn't the most socialist education system in the OECD brilliant! http://bit.ly/5gH98L

  2. James Hepplestone

    http://bit.ly/8pJ3x4 <- Maybe this is what is meant by 'Red Toryism'. @libcon

  3. Mike Power

    It's only "the most socialist education system" if you start playing silly games with your definition of 'socialist'. http://bit.ly/4CBlDX

  4. Mick Dickinson

    @benjamindyer trouble is that the best teachers gravitate to private schools leaving state schools gasping http://bit.ly/8pJ3x4

  5. Rogue

    David Cameron praises the most unapologetically socialist education system in Europe http://ow.ly/YeHF

  6. Robot J. McCarthy

    *rolls sleeves* RT @Rogue_Leader David Cameron praises the most unapologetically socialist education system in Europe http://ow.ly/YeHF

  7. Nick Drew

    RT @libcon Cameron: Isn’t the most socialist education system in the OECD brilliant! http://is.gd/6A1vs

  8. Paul Evans

    Cameron: Isn’t the most socialist education system in the OECD brilliant! http://bit.ly/585NT5

  9. A ‘good university’ « Though Cowards Flinch

    [...] simply being a highly qualified person is likely automatically to make someone a better teacher. Unity points to the fact that the Tories’ choosing Finland as a model is ironic, to say the least, [...]

  10. uberVU - social comments

    Social comments and analytics for this post…

    This post was mentioned on Twitter by mrpower: It’s only “the most socialist education system” if you start playing silly games with your definition of ‘socialist’. http://bit.ly/4CBlDX

  11. Kiasu

    Liberal Conspiracy » Cameron: Isn't the most socialist education …: Finland, Singapore and South Korea hav… http://tinyurl.com/ygtepre

  12. Andrew Roche

    Cameron: Isn’t the most socialist education system in the OECD brilliant! http://ff.im/-eBbug

  13. Benjamin Frey

    RT @Ikiasuparent: Liberal Conspiracy » Cameron: Isn't the most socialist education …: Finland, Singapore and South Korea hav… http://tinyurl.com/ygtepre





Sorry, the comment form is closed at this time.