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Three Developments in British Education - Comments

Neodarwinian's Avatar Comment 1 by Neodarwinian

To a politician or bureaucrat the difference between Free Schools and Academies must be anything but nebulous!

I hope the US takes notice of that primary school teaching of evolution in Great Britain. A good counter to creationist ideology forced on too many of our young. Unfortunately, since schooling is local in the US, this welcome change in pedagogy by Great Britain will probably be completely ignored.

Read the evolution program and it sounds meaty enough for HS students. Sooner the better!

Mon, 11 Jun 2012 20:34:24 UTC | #946930

VrijVlinder's Avatar Comment 2 by VrijVlinder

This kind of back and forth about evolution being taught in schools can also be seen in the USA. It surprises me that there even is a debate over the subject. I had hoped for reason to win over fiction by now.

It has been very difficult to keep creationism at bay in schools in some parts of the country. Further amazement when finding out "third world" countries are more advanced intellectually than the USA by fervently separating church and state from academics. My guess is the oppression and control of the RCC over these people left an indelible mark.

Where as in the USA most of this belief system is a voluntary self generated delusion which people want to include in elementary education. UGH!

I am glad some progress is being made in The UK.

Mon, 11 Jun 2012 20:36:02 UTC | #946931

Stephen of Wimbledon's Avatar Comment 3 by Stephen of Wimbledon

In précis:

Academies are state-maintained but independently-run schools with outside sponsors. They have more freedoms than schools under local authority control and therefore, it is argued, are subject to less bureaucracy and have more freedom over their budgets. They also differ from mainstream schools by what they teach - but only because an academy must specialise in an area (languages, art & media, science, technology & design, etc.). Outstanding schools (as judged by the schools regulator - Ofsted) that become academies do not need to be sponsored by outside organisations, which represents a major change in the funding system.

The plan is that current, local authority run, schools will convert to academies. The essential change is the loss of direct local authority control over schools. Many local authorities are joining consortia to convert schools in their area to academies - thus maintaining significant influence.

Last time I looked, of the 24,000 schools in England, only ~200 were academies.

Free schools are set up by groups of parents, teachers, charities, businesses, universities, trusts, religious or voluntary groups, but funded directly by central government. Of the 323 applications received by September 2011, 115 were from faith groups.

So, I hear you ask, is there a difference between free schools and academies?

Essentially no. Most free schools will be established as academies. The free schools programme will give parents and teachers the chance to create a wholly new school if they are unhappy with state schools in a particular local area (i.e. if they believe that simply turning a mainstream, local authority run, school into an academy will not get significant results). This means that many local authorities are very anti-free-schools (including my own), but positive about academies.

This suggests to me that worrying about whether academies will have the freedom to re-write the national curriculum is a waste of time. Indeed, it would appear that academies are essentially the same school system under new management - but still obliged to teach the national curriculum, including evolution and excluding non-science from science lessons.

Or did I miss something?

I'm willing to be educated.

Peace.

[Sources: The Guardian and the BBC]

Mon, 11 Jun 2012 21:06:06 UTC | #946932

ShadowMind's Avatar Comment 4 by ShadowMind

What about this? Learning a foreign language = good, but
"There will be less of a focus on doing experiments" = not so good. Observation is but a part of science. Hands-on stuff is far better for learning. I forget the percentages, but you retain far more of what you do, than what you see.

Mon, 11 Jun 2012 21:51:45 UTC | #946939

God fearing Atheist's Avatar Comment 5 by God fearing Atheist

Good.

Will Richard or RDFRS get involved in writing evolution textbooks for primary schools?

Mon, 11 Jun 2012 22:00:58 UTC | #946941

angelhumano's Avatar Comment 6 by angelhumano

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=2Mi_cTSiL5Y&feature=plcp

from the movie inherit the wind

Mon, 11 Jun 2012 23:24:59 UTC | #946952

Quine's Avatar Comment 7 by Quine

Comment 6 by angelhumano:

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=2Mi_cTSiL5Y&feature=plcp

from the movie inherit the wind

Thanks, angelhumano, that was awesome.

Mon, 11 Jun 2012 23:31:56 UTC | #946953

raytoman's Avatar Comment 8 by raytoman

When you subsidise or wholly fund Religious Schools, which is the case in most countries, the brainwashing of children will continue and religion will thrive.

In Madrasses in Pakistan, they teach orally, and only the Quran. The kids don't learn to read or write but the smart ones can memorise the whole Quran - great fodder for the fundies and there are reports (Al Jazeera) that there are suciide bombers as young as 8.

As for RCC Schools? great for recruiting more pedophile priests. You see, of the victims who do not commit suicide or do not manage to get over it, many in turn become paedophiles. What better solution can they find than joining the organisation that victimised them and protected their abusers? They can now benefit from the protection. The RCC has a ban on recruiting sexually normal people as nuns or priests so they will even be given priority.

When the UK stops financially supporting religion and the brainwashing of children in their schools, that's when you can celebrate. Still, I suppose every little bit of progress helps.

Mon, 11 Jun 2012 23:50:42 UTC | #946957

Net's Avatar Comment 9 by Net

putting education under the control of those who know little, if anything about teaching learning is mind boggling. that these people are parents, businessmen, and bureaucrats is frightening.

Tue, 12 Jun 2012 07:35:58 UTC | #947003

alphcat's Avatar Comment 10 by alphcat

Until recenty what is being suggested for KS2 wasn't properly touched upon until KS4. The very basics didn't really have to be taught until children were 15 though most good schools did introduce them far earlier. That meant greater depth of understanding was left to A level which is optional, Hopefully this breakthrough shift to teaching the basics at an earlier age will now follow through into KS3 and 4 and children will have to have a greater understanding of evolution and be exposed to far more of the evidence for it then they are at present to get their compulsory science/biology gcse. If it doesn't it will be less effective.

And where the national curriculum leads the exam boards have no choice but to follow. Academies may be able to teach what they want in theory. In practice at the moment they are still schools and still judged by exam results. That may keep them on the straight and narrow in the still unlikely event they become infiltrated by the odd creationist teacher. I was also under the impression that when it came to maths, English and science even academies were required in some way to stick to the national curriculum. After all, nobody really believes Goves new academies legislation was give freedom to schools. Everyone really knows it was an attempt to get rid of LEAs, save cash and I wouldn't be surprised if it were also to introduce limited privatisation by the back door.

The other issue is that the KS2 SATs tests for science was removed. And when that happened a lot of primary schools who were struggling to get science specialists on board simply avoided teaching too much science. We notice at our high school that whilst the children have fairly standard levels of maths and english the amount and quality of science they've picked up varies wildly according to the primary school attended. Science is starting to have a much lower profile in primary schools than it did, and without SATs to measure progress there are no checks. That needs adressing.

At the moment the real threat is from unregulated free schools run by nutters. New academies are still just schools trying to get more cash. In the future however, creationists may realise the greater powers afforded to governors of academies will be useful. But Gove is far too stupid to have thought ahead. So this change is only good if the state manages to retain some control over what is taugh. And that is counter to idiot Goves ideological mindset. In short Gove is taking a lot of time on what seems to be a very good curriculum review at the same time as he is trying to get rid of having to check or control whether schools actually have to teach it. How stupid is that?

Tue, 12 Jun 2012 08:47:03 UTC | #947016

Graxan's Avatar Comment 11 by Graxan

I agree that this is something to be proud of in the UK, but I've another bugbear of my own to lobby for. I believe it should be in the curriculum that all school children should be given astronomy lessons and be made to look through a proper telescope to demystify the heavens and create an understanding other than simply reciting the order of the planets - in many cases still learning that pluto is a major planet rather than a dwarf planet along with it's new siblings.

Another way of introducing this would be through 'scale' classes. This would be where students are taught the size of things in our universe starting from the smallest particles up to galactic clusters and the edge of the visable universe - it doesn't have to be complex, just say what and where these things are and how big they are in relation to each other. Outside of watching startrek, I had no concept of these things until way into being an adult and have come to value this knowledge immensely from a personal level and especially in criticism of the various forms of cultural nonsense we have to endure.

Tue, 12 Jun 2012 08:57:41 UTC | #947018

alphcat's Avatar Comment 12 by alphcat

comment 8 by raytoman

As for RCC Schools? great for recruiting more pedophile priests. You see, of the victims who do not commit suicide or do not manage to get over it, many in turn become paedophiles. What better solution can they find than joining the organisation that victimised them and protected their abusers? They can now benefit from the protection. The RCC has a ban on recruiting sexually normal people as nuns or priests so they will even be given priority

I'm not sure if you are aware of the current situation regarding state schools, including state faith schools in the UK. RC schools in the UK initially relied on unquestioning catholics, mainly immigrants, filling them because their faith demanded it. My parents sent me to one - it was awful. But a whole generation of RC educated parents came along that was more interested in how well their children would be educated, and they weren't going to send their children to any school just cos their faith demanded it. Nor were they going to put up with the sorts and levels of indoctrination they'd been exposed too - it didn't fit any more, they'd lived in a culture that allowed them to see it for what it was. So RC schools, had the choice - adapt, become far more moderate or die. They adapted, and many moved to academic excellence or good ofsted reports as their new unique selling point.

I don't know any priests or nuns that teach in them any more for starters. And child protection in all state schools is incredibly stringent. And whilst the catholic church has committed heinous crimes and in not handing over the perpetrators for prosecution, is still committing them, in terms of current child protection it has learnt its lesson.

So go into any RC state school and you will be hard pushed to see any difference between it and a non faith school. In science, PSHE, SRE and even RE. I've worked in one and send one of my children to one. The concept of faith schools may not be ideal, the RC church as an institution may be morally bankrupt but the facts about the schools are that they are just schools, often very good ones. The religious extremists are elsewhere now, in the new weird creationist churches that seem to be coming from the USA.

Tue, 12 Jun 2012 09:09:51 UTC | #947019

PERSON's Avatar Comment 13 by PERSON

Comment 1 by Neodarwinian

To a politician or a bureaucrat

Or a theocrat pushing to get state funding for their nonsense. A loophole is a loophole, and needs to be plugged.

Tue, 12 Jun 2012 10:46:03 UTC | #947027

crookedshoes's Avatar Comment 14 by crookedshoes

meanwhile over here in 'Mericah, Louisiana has made a staggering change to both fund religious schools with tax money and void evolution from their curricula. It is a cluster fuck.

Tue, 12 Jun 2012 17:09:16 UTC | #947079

Vorlund's Avatar Comment 15 by Vorlund

Verily my gob is mightily smacked.

Tue, 12 Jun 2012 19:22:50 UTC | #947095

Nordic11's Avatar Comment 16 by Nordic11

As an American, I don't understand the difference between free schools and academies. Are both of these private? If so, is the Bristish government allowed to legislate to private schools what they teach? I'm a bit confused.

Tue, 12 Jun 2012 20:18:09 UTC | #947102

Ignorant Amos's Avatar Comment 17 by Ignorant Amos

Comment 16 by Nordic11

If so, is the Bristish government allowed to legislate to private schools what they teach? I'm a bit confused.

No. They legislate what must be taught in British (except Scotland) state schools...it's call the National Curriculum.

Tue, 12 Jun 2012 20:26:44 UTC | #947106

DefenderOfReason!'s Avatar Comment 18 by DefenderOfReason!

Now I just wait to hear some good news like this about the US....

Wed, 13 Jun 2012 00:30:01 UTC | #947139

skeelo's Avatar Comment 19 by skeelo

Comment 12 by alphcat :

So go into any RC state school and you will be hard pushed to see any difference between it and a non faith school. In science, PSHE, SRE and even RE.

This is patently false. Anyone who is interested in what Catholic Schools in England and Wales actually teach, can find out here. This is nothing like what is taught in non faith schools.

It's funny how a Catholic education is so adept at convincing those unfortunate enough to suffer it that, despite all the evidence to the contrary, there is nothing particularly Catholic about it at all. And yet, strangely enough, when all grown up, these former pupils are all too likely, when discussing Catholic schools, to come out with statements such as "My parents sent me to one" and "[ I ] send one of my children to one " while seemingly blissfully unaware of the obvious connection between the two.

Wed, 13 Jun 2012 08:27:54 UTC | #947166

alphcat's Avatar Comment 20 by alphcat

comment 16 Nordic

As an American, I don't understand the difference between free schools and academies. Are both of these private? If so, is the Bristish government allowed to legislate to private schools what they teach? I'm a bit confused

I'm not surprised you are confused, so are most of the people in Britain. Basically before 2010, there were state schools which were free to everyone (I think you call them public schools?) and private schools which were fee paying. There were many different types of state school reflecting the slow move towards universal education, so we had state faith schools opened in the past by churches, state grammar schools, state comprehensive, grant maintained etc etc etc.

However despite the different titles state schools go by, by and large all were funded (or largely funded in the case of state faith schools) by the state. In addition to that they would all be under the umbrella of a Local Education Authority (LEA) which would deal with things like admissions, payroll, HR, health and safety inspections etc. Part of each schools annual budget would go to the LEA to fund these things.

As state schools ALL were required to follow the National Curriculum laid down by the department of education and ALL were inspected by Ofsted and graded from outstanding to special measures or fail. Ofsted inspected all subjects taught in non faith state schools and all subjects bar RE (religious education) in faith schools. Faith schools would have their own inspectorates for RE only. Despite the different names, most schools differed only in the quality of education offered and their intake rather than content. You could move from school to school and find very little differences in what was taught - maybe Spanish rather than German or The American West rather than the WWII but despite what folk like to believe, shools were pretty homogenous in what they taught. There were huge differences in quality - for example some schools are outstanding in every way, others are failing their pupils, which is why you may have heard things like the faith schools debate where parents avoided poorly performing local schools by pretending to be religious or pretending to live somewhere that they didn't. But that is a different issue.

The last govt in a move to help pupils in areas of disadvantage where schools tended to be poorer started the first academies, funded by private money but still free to use. They were patchy and identified the first real threat from religious fundamentalists by allowing them to fund some academies. The last govt also opened a can of worms by allowing expansion of faith schools. The existing faith schools were largely CofE and RC had been around for years and years and like most of their pupils had largely lost a lot of their religious fervour in favour of being schools.

In 2010, a new government and a new secretary of state for education decided to expand the academies scheme and introduce something new - Free Schools. The new academy legislation allows existing state schools, initiailly with an outstanding rating, to opt out of LEA control and to be given all of its budgets. They become, in effect, mini businesses funded by the state, still free to all pupils but with far greater control over things like admissions and what they teach! As this coincided with a squeeze on funds lots of schools jumped on the bandwagon. In reality it has been a nightmare, without the money from all schools LEAs have lost economies of scale and staff, whilst schools are finding they are having to buy in things like payroll and HR.

At the same time Gove (our secretary of state for education) decided parents needed more freedom in the types of schools and so introduced legislation to allow anyone that fancied the right to open a school free from any state interference but funded by the state. Now anyone with half a brain (and half a brain would be a real improvement for Gove) could see that apart from a few middle class parents in areas with poorly performing schools (such as Toby Young the champion of free schools and one of the first wave of free schools) the people this would most appeal to were nutters with an an agenda to spread their nuttiness. Religious nutters from extremely odd creationist sects, Steiner followers who believed the weird writings of some hippy, Yogis and peddlers of all sorts of whacky woo ideas. And that is how it has been, which was why the original legislation allowing free schools to teach pretty much what they wanted had to be moderated to exclude creationism!

And how popular are these free schools, free by and large to teach whatever they want with taxpayers money? Not very. Every survey of parents has found that what they want are good, local, normal schools! Not yogic schools or overtly religious schools or strange Steiner ideas, just a better version of what they had, teaching normal subjects. And the free schools that have managed to fill their places? They are the ones that are like schools! Like Toby Youngs free school. Gove was just too thick to understand that parents didn't want choice they wanted opportunity.

So free schools and academies are not private (yet) but are supposedly free to teach what they want. Academies will in all probality remain as they are, being staffed by existing teachers. They will probably attempt to improve their intake by avoiding poorly behaved or special needs pupils but will most likely continue to educate. Free schools? Who knows, they are a real gravy train. Whilst our real schools lose funds hand over fist they are handed money to build completely new and untried schools. Largely run by people with little or no experience. Many are struggling to fill all their places. An expensive experiment with horrendous consequences for the children that have to attend.

Wed, 13 Jun 2012 10:53:57 UTC | #947175

alphcat's Avatar Comment 21 by alphcat

Comment 19 by Skeelo

So go into any RC state school and you will be hard pushed to see any difference between it and a non faith school. In science, PSHE, SRE and even RE. This is patently false. Anyone who is interested in what Catholic Schools in England and Wales actually teach, can find out here. This is nothing like what is taught in non faith schools. It's funny how a Catholic education is so adept at convincing those unfortunate enough to suffer it that, despite all the evidence to the contrary, there is nothing particularly Catholic about it at all. And yet, strangely enough, when all grown up, these former pupils are all too likely, when discussing Catholic schools, to come out with statements such as "My parents sent me to one" and "[ I ] send one of my children to one " while seemingly blissfully unaware of the obvious connection between the two.

Fair enough, I missed that, though a lot of that curriculum, such as the nature of god, is part of most schools RE curriculums. It also ignores the fact that the RC schools of which I'm aware of are not following those guidelines too prescriptively and RE is allocated the same amount of curriculum time in RC schools as non RC ones.

Secondly as catholic schools they are going to learn something about catholicism in RE, that is the price you pay for going to an RC school. I'm a chemistry teacher not an RE one, and can only speak about the schools I know of, but I have two children in a secular school and one in an RC school and can say that in reality, there is very little difference in what they have learnt in RE beyond a greater knowledge of the catholic hierachy and holy days. And if I'm honest, like most parents, my main concerns are what they learn in the important subjects like science, maths, English, languages, music, PSHE etc rather than in ancient myths and legends - they are what I chose the school for after all. As long as their is no overt indoctrination, which there isn't, nor attempts to force ideas which there isn't.

As for your last point, I left school, like a lot of catholics, swearing that my children would NEVER be allowed near a catholic church, school or teacher. There is no way today that I would send my child to the sort of school I attended at all!! There is no connection, the schools could not be more different if they tried.

And the school she attends has a significant number of parents who had never been near a catholic school or church in their lives until they read the school league tables and had a look at our local failing schools. Then they suddenly found God, and I suddenly found I didn't need to re- find him as I already had the baptism certificate. And there are catholic schools where the majority of the pupils are not catholic and never have been and neither are their parents

I have no love at all for the catholic church - Benedict and the likes of Sean Brady should be in prisons for allowing the sorts of abuse they allowed. nor do I think the concept of faith schools is particularly fair, I've used my baptism into a faith I despise, worshipping a deity I don't believe in to get my child and outstanding education in an excellent school. But there are lots of criticisms of faith schools in general that are wildly inaccurate that I couldn't let pass, like the notion they teach creationism or homophobia (bearing in mind the only homphobic and creationist teachers I've ever seen outed on this forum where from non faith secular schools). And the real threats to education from religious extremism are not from the existing CofE and RC schools. The sorts of religious nutters trying to run free schools are going to be a far bigger problem than kids singing a few hymns once a term. And they pose a very real danger to children.

.

Wed, 13 Jun 2012 11:55:13 UTC | #947187

skeelo's Avatar Comment 22 by skeelo

Comment 21 by alphcat :

Fair enough, I missed that, though a lot of that curriculum, such as the nature of god, is part of most schools RE curriculums. It also ignores the fact that the RC schools of which I'm aware of are not following those guidelines too prescriptively and RE is allocated the same amount of curriculum time in RC schools as non RC ones.

The guidelines I linked to provide a detailed, public plan for the indoctrination of children in state funded Catholic schools from the age of 3 to 19. It does not bear anything other than the most superficial comparison to the RE curriculum of non faith schools.

It may well be that the Roman Catholic school that your child attends doesn't follow the guidelines laid down for it 'too prescriptively'; indeed, if this is the case, you should consider yourself fortunate, but it would be unwise, on this basis, to assume that all, or even most, Roman Catholic schools are following suit.

Wed, 13 Jun 2012 14:07:52 UTC | #947202

Bobwundaye's Avatar Comment 23 by Bobwundaye

OP by Richard Dawkins ...

  1. Now, today, they have announced that evolution is to be added to the National Curriculum for Primary Schools. This last news is especially welcome. I have long felt that evolution is much too important to be left until secondary school, and also that it is easy enough for younger children to understand. This welcome change is an encouraging response to strenuous lobbying – encouraging because it suggests that this government, contrary to expectation, is prepared to listen.

I'm currently in Taiwan and I am amazed that scholars in the second grade already have an understanding that they are somehow related to the primates and that things evolve. Although the ideas of evolution they express is sometimes very rudimentary or oversimplified (as one would expect from a grade 1 or 2 learner) such as we came from monkeys, it is nonetheless surprising that they accept it as part of life and the way things are. To them, evolution is as natural as growing older.

Wed, 13 Jun 2012 15:23:25 UTC | #947215

aquilacane's Avatar Comment 24 by aquilacane

Squeak the wheel

Wed, 13 Jun 2012 16:41:15 UTC | #947220

Alan4discussion's Avatar Comment 25 by Alan4discussion

Comment 23 by Bobwundaye

I'm currently in Taiwan and I am amazed that scholars in the second grade already have an understanding that they are somehow related to the primates and that things evolve. Although the ideas of evolution they express is sometimes very rudimentary or oversimplified (as one would expect from a grade 1 or 2 learner) such as we came from monkeys, it is nonetheless surprising that they accept it as part of life and the way things are. To them, evolution is as natural as growing older.

Kids are naturally inquisitive, and will pick up scientific ideas easily, IF they are not confused by being taught by respected adults, that mythological nonsense is fact, and that muddled thinking is a virtuous norm.

Wed, 13 Jun 2012 17:42:30 UTC | #947227

cadenpolen's Avatar Comment 26 by cadenpolen

Looking back on my american education, I think it was very unfortunate that my science class text book only contained one small paragraph pertaining too evolution; I have true faith that some day the theory of natural selection will be taught in schools around the globe, because it truly does explain our actions, which can simply be known as a combination of our genetics, and environment.

Thu, 14 Jun 2012 05:13:13 UTC | #947329

Iain Mott's Avatar Comment 27 by Iain Mott

Especially welcome news about primary schools. Looking back to my education, the extremely moderate form of Christianity into which we were hermetically sealed simply made no room for anything other than supernatural answers to such questions of existence. Almost none of my teachers were scientifically (or mathematically) literate, but now they will have to face the issue of evolution head on. If implemented thoughtfully, many of our primary teachers may be in for a very pleasant shock when they find out just how interesting a subject it is.

Thu, 14 Jun 2012 16:11:19 UTC | #947417

Dave H's Avatar Comment 28 by Dave H

Some years ago I helped out at my kids' school, on a well-attended parent's day where we all pitched in to work on the shcool: painting, patching, etc. It did not leave me with a good impression, as most of the projects were make-work projects that didn't need to be done and wouldn't last. For example, the parent-in-charge (who sold homeopathic baloney as her day job) decided that we should paint the restrooms. They didn't need painting. The original abrasion-resistant anti-graffiti paint, which had been professionally applied, was still in excellent shape, and just needed a very small bit of work done around a few high-wear spots. We ended up painting the entire restrooms with standard (non-industrial) indoor house paint which will now need to be redone every few years.

Whenever I hear a proposal to give parents or interest groups more control over the running of any schools, I only have one thing to say. "Save me from the enthusiastic amateurs!"

Thu, 14 Jun 2012 17:54:00 UTC | #947432

thebaldgit's Avatar Comment 29 by thebaldgit

Good to see two positive outcomes but we must campaign to insure that the acadamy problem gets rectified.

Sat, 16 Jun 2012 09:19:22 UTC | #947677

nick keighley's Avatar Comment 30 by nick keighley

1.On 10th January, the Government stopped the so-called Free Schools from teaching creationism as science.

hurrah! Amazing that this had to be done

  1. But on 16th January they failed to make the same change for Academies. This is odd, because the difference between Free Schools and Academies is pretty nebulous. Possibly a case of right hand not knowing what left hand is doing.

boo! :-(

  1. Now, today, they have announced that evolution is to be added to the National Curriculum for Primary Schools. This last news is especially welcome. I have long felt that evolution is much too important to be left until secondary school, and also that it is easy enough for younger children to understand. This welcome change is an encouraging response to strenuous lobbying – encouraging because it suggests that this government, contrary to expectation, is prepared to listen.

crikey in my day it wasn't even taught at secondary school!

Sat, 16 Jun 2012 13:04:27 UTC | #947695