FORUM
ISSN 0963-8253


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Volume 49 Number 3 2007

Archive

CONTENTS [click on author's name for abstract and full text]

 

Clyde Chitty. Editorial. The Blair Legacy, 203
Jonathan Romain.
Faith Schools are Still a Recipe for Social Disaster, 207
Derek Gillard.
Never Mind the Evidence: Blair’s obsession with faith schools, 213
Clyde Chitty.
The Malign Effects of Faith Schools, 229
Patrick Murphy.
Socialists and Religious Schools, 237
Lucy Russell.
Keeping the Faith, 247
Pragna Patel
. Every Child Matters: the challenge of gender, religion and multiculturalism, 261
Julia Bard.
Faith Schools: minorities, boundaries, representation and control, 277
David Rosenberg.
Hermetically Sealed Learning: my experience of Jewish schools, 281
Marcos ‘Qboy’ Brito
. Coping with Classroom Homophobia, 285
Julia Hope
. Flightlines: exploring early readers for children about the refugee experience, 289
Martin Allen
. Learning for Labour: specialist diplomas and 14‑19 education, 299
Malcolm Thorburn.
Seizing the Moment: improving curriculum and pedagogy prospects for physical education in Scotland, 305
Robert Butroyd
. Denial and Distortion of Instrumental and Intrinsic Value in the Teaching of Science and English: its impact upon fifteen Year 10 teachers, 311
Helen Moore
. Black Pupils in a White Landscape: reclaiming the countryside for enriched learning experiences, 329
Allan Fowler
. Beyond Behavioural Management Strategies: an alternative viewpoint from the pupil perspective, 337

DOCUMENT VIEW FULL TEXT doi: 10.2304/forum.2007.49.3.345
Clyde Chitty. Evidence to the Committee of Enquiry into Academy Schools, 345

LETTER VIEW FULL TEXT doi: 10.2304/forum.2007.49.3.347
Richard Harris. The Disadvantages of Faith-based Academies and Trusts: schooling – don’t be seduced by promises, 347

BOOK REVIEWS VIEW FULL TEXT doi: 10.2304/forum.2007.49.3.349
Faith Schools: consensus or conflict? (Roy Gardner, Jo Cairns & Denis Lawton, Eds), reviewed by Derek Gillard, 349
Education plc: understanding private sector participation in public sector education (Stephen J. Ball), reviewed by Clive Griggs, 353
A Comprehensive Future: quality and equality for all our children (Melissa Benn & Fiona Millar), reviewed by Patrick Yarker, 355


 

Editorial: the Blair legacy

doi: 10.2304/forum.2007.49.3. 203

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Whether we concentrate on foreign or domestic issues, the Blair legacy is a decidedly mixed one, and obviously open to a number of varying individual interpretations; that said, I feel able to state with some degree of confidence that much of it will not have earned the endorsement of FORUM readers and supporters.

An editorial which appeared in the Observer on 29 April 2007 listed some of the positive features of the past decade, thereby justifying the heading of the piece, which proclaimed, ‘after 10 years, Blair has made Britain a better place’. According to the Observer, Blair’s solid achievements included: the minimum wage; free nursery care; tens of thousands more teachers, doctors and nurses – with higher wages; the working families’ tax credit; the right to increased maternity and paternity leave; a statutory right to flexible working hours; the Disability Rights Commission; the Freedom of Information Act; civil partnerships and the repeal of Section 28; the restoration of self-government for London; devolution for Scotland and Wales; the Human Rights Act; peace in Northern Ireland. In the view of the Observer, ‘Mr Blair’s Government has given millions of people unprecedented freedom to live as they choose and has also given them the wealth and security to do it’.

Yet there is a much bleaker side to the story of the Blair years. New Labour has shown itself to be as besotted with the rich and the successful as were the Conservative administrations which preceded it. Public sector workers have had their morale constantly undermined by a government that has insisted on portraying them as obstacles on the path to modernisation. In the Health Service, reforms have been confusing and often plain contradictory – first dismantling and then reinstating the internal market. Indeed, there are so many areas where New Labour has been determined to adopt and expand the Conservatives’ privatising agenda. According to the staunch Blairite John Hutton, former Work and Pensions Secretary, speaking recently on the BBC Radio Four Today programme, Tony Blair’s greatest achievement was in ensuring that ‘the marketisation of the public services is now built into the DNA of public service provision’.

Where education is concerned, there is remarkably little to applaud. Right from the outset, Blair’s Government seemed determined to carry forward most of the Conservative Party’s education agenda, even if some of the language used by ministers was calculated to hide the true extent of this seamless continuity. Back in 1999, I edited with John Dunford, now General Secretary of the Association of School and College Leaders, a collection of essays entitled State Schools: New Labour and the Conservative legacy. We asked Guardian and Times Educational Supplement (TES) cartoonist Martin Rowson to provide a suitable drawing for the cover of the book, and he came up with a brilliant cartoon which seemed to neatly summarise the essential message of the book’s contributors. A gowned and mortar-boarded head teacher (unmistakably Margaret Thatcher) is shown handing a prize to a beaming, blazered student (unmistakably Tony Blair). The prize is obviously a neat scroll of Mrs Thatcher’s education policies.

At the end of June this year, former Education Secretary Estelle Morris wrote an extraordinarily blinkered and ill-informed article for Education Guardian (26 June 2007), with the headline ‘Don’t forget what Blair has achieved’, in which she said she had no doubt that ‘history will record Tony Blair’s contribution to education as one of the most significant of any of our prime ministers’. She went on with a paean of praise to Blair’s qualities and achievements:

his personal drive, commitment and leadership; the time he gave to education; the number of school visits he made and educationists he met – all this must be unmatched by any of his predecessors. ... He has always shown determination and skill in driving through the issues he thought were important, and he led a government that has delivered the biggest ever sustained increase in funding.

What Ms Morris failed to highlight in this articles was the divisive nature of Blair’s education policies, with education being seen as a market commodity driven by consumer demands, and parental choice of schools being facilitated by greater teacher accountability and the publication of league tables of test and examination performance.

There can surely be no denying that Blair was a remarkable politician and actor with an ability (on most occasions) to convince a supine audience that their concerns were also his. With no roots in the Labour movement, he managed to survive for over a decade while actively disliking the party he was elected to lead in 1994. The adoption of the label ‘New Labour’ was no mere cosmetic tinkering; it represented a complete break with the values and principles that the Labour Party had once upheld. Those values could hardly have been described as truly radical or socialist; but there had been some sense of a collectivist vision and a commitment, however mealy-mouthed, to the idea of greater social equality and to the gradual amelioration of the worst excesses of free-market capitalism. Under Blair, the gap between the rich and the poor actually widened, with most ministers clinging to the belief, popular with all greedy entrepreneurs, that the prosperity of the few must eventually lead to the well-being of the many.

There are those – and I’m thinking here principally of Guardian columnists Jackie Ashley and Polly Toynbee, who are often viewed as Gordon Brown’s representatives on earth – who have argued that everything would change for the better under the new Prime Minister. Yet there have so far been few positive signs of a radical break with the past and certainly, where education is concerned, there is little cause for optimism. Gordon Brown is no longer committed to a truly comprehensive system of secondary schools; and, in his final Mansion House Speech as Chancellor, he said he shared Blair’s vision of securing 400 city academies by the year 2010. He also said that ‘we need a renewed focus on setting by ability in key subjects as the norm in all our secondary schools’.

The Executive of the Campaign for State Education (CASE) has recently sent an open letter to Gordon Brown (see CASE Notes, Issue 20, July 2007) arguing that, in recent years, ‘choice’ has become a means of selection, ‘diversity’ a route to ethnic, religious and class segregation, and PFI (Private Finance Initiative) a means of privatisation of public assets involving a major loss of local accountability. CASE is particularly concerned about the expansion of the academies programme – the subject of a forthcoming special number of FORUM in the spring of 2008. In the words of the open letter, ‘this programme, driven as it is by the inexplicable belief that religious zealots or unaccountable private corporations are more worthy custodians of a child’s well-being than that child’s own local community and the people they elect to run their local affairs, exemplifies much of the worst in state education today’.

I must admit I have little optimism that Gordon Brown will start listening to the views of progressive educationists; but that doesn’t mean we must stop campaigning for a state education system that will benefit all our children.

Clyde Chitty

 

Faith Schools are Still a Recipe for Social Disaster

doi: 10.2304/forum.2007.49.3.207

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This article argues that the creation of a range of separate religious schools can prevent integration and encourage separation. It might well be that in fifty years’ time, people will look back at this moment and blame us for exacerbating the social fragmentation that characterises modern Britain.

 

Never Mind the Evidence: Blair’s obsession with faith schools

doi: 10.2304/forum.2007.49.3.213

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In this article the author describes how the Blair governments have sought to increase the number of schools controlled by churches and other religious groups despite a mass of evidence about the dangers of faith-based education and in the face of widespread professional, political and public concerns.

 

The Malign Effects of Faith Schools

doi: 10.2304/forum.2007.49.3.229

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The author argues that faith schools serve to exacerbate existing divisions in society and are therefore a threat to social cohesion. In many parts of Britain where segregation is already a reality, ‘faith’ has now become another word for ‘race’. Ethnic groups are not evenly spread between the religions, creating a situation where religion is used as a ‘proxy’ for ethnicity. At the same time, there is the distinct possibility that some faith schools (and academies sponsored by faith groups) will use their power to influence the curriculum to undermine the values of a liberal, tolerant and enlightened society.

 

Socialists and Religious Schools

doi: 10.2304/forum.2007.49.3.237

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This article argues that the issue of religious control of schools is becoming more and more important with every day that passes. We have a situation where one-third of our state schools are faith schools, and the New Labour Government seems intent on increasing their number. It is the author’s contention that the state should not be allowed to fund and privilege religious schools, and that the Left should not be mealy-mouthed in campaigning for a fully secular education system.

 

Keeping the Faith

doi: 10.2304/forum.2007.49.3.247

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This article argues that we live in a culturally, politically and religiously diverse society and that faith schools are the product, rather than the cause, of this diversity. As an easy target for those with fears about social cohesion, faith schools are being ‘scapegoated’.

 

Every Child Matters: the challenge of gender, religion and multiculturalism

doi: 10.2304/forum.2007.49.3.261

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This article makes use of the findings of a small pilot study which investigated the management and nature of multiculturalism in three secondary schools in London. In the course of the investigation, two major themes emerged: the ‘collapse’ of anti-racism and multiculturalism into ‘multi-faithism’; and the impact of the ‘over-accommodation’ of religious identity on the rights of minority ethnic girls.

 

Faith Schools: minorities, boundaries, representation and control

doi: 10.2304/forum.2007.49.3.277

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This article explores the implications of funding increasing numbers of religious schools on the children of minority communities. It argues that handing responsibility for schooling to religious bodies undermines transparency, democracy and accountability in educational provision. Far from promoting ‘inclusion’ as the Government claims, increasing the number of religious schools atomises and isolates communities, stifles debate and marginalises complex expressions of identity.

 

Hermetically Sealed Learning: my experience of Jewish schools

doi: 10.2304/forum.2007.49.3.281

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This article looks at the cultural impact of faith schools on their pupils in terms of what it teaches them about their own identity, and what it fails to teach them about the identities of people whom they live among in the wider society. On the basis of personal experience it attempts to tease out the assumptions on which such an education is based and the limitations it places on those who pass through this kind of system.

 

Coping with Classroom Homophobia

doi: 10.2304/forum.2007.49.3.285

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In this article, a version of which first appeared in the February 2007 number of Gay Times, gay rapper Marcos Brito describes his experiences of dealing with a general climate of homophobia at his secondary school in Essex. He argues that positive affirmations of lesbian, gay and bisexual people should be promoted as part of the school curriculum.

 

Flightlines: exploring early readers for children about the refugee experience

doi: 10.2304/forum.2007.49.3.289

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Much has been written about children’s literature that deals with war, and specifically the Holocaust, but very little has been said about the portrayal of the refugee experience in children’s books, which is now developing as a significant genre of its own. The rapid growth in these books, which are aimed at all ages, has not been documented separately and yet there are compelling messages that derive from them about citizenship, tolerance, respect and integration, as well as the enduring nature of the human spirit in the face of terrible circumstances. This article focuses particularly on books about the refugee experience written for the younger reader, and their suitability for the age group they are aimed at.

 

Learning for Labour: specialist diplomas and 14‑19 education

doi: 10.2304/forum.2007.49.3.299

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The 2006 Education Act provided an entitlement for all 14 year-olds to take a specialist diploma from 2013. Despite concerns of many educationalists and politicians, the first diplomas will begin in September 2008. New Labour claims that the diplomas are innovative and challenging; however, this article argues that they exhibit many of the weaknesses and contradictions of existing vocational qualifications, will accentuate divisions and represent a further move away from a comprehensive curriculum. The article also argues, however, that in addition to opposing the introduction of the diplomas, reformers must rethink approaches towards vocational learning in schools.

 

Seizing the Moment: improving curriculum and pedagogy prospects for physical education in Scotland

doi: 10.2304/forum.2007.49.3.305

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This article points out that recent government pronouncements clearly envisage an enhanced status for the provision of physical education in schools in Scotland. This being the case, it is essential that policy makers, researchers and teachers examine many of the contested aims and conflicting agendas now in existence so that outcomes can match investment.

 

Denial and Distortion of Instrumental and Intrinsic Value in the Teaching of Science and English: its impact upon fifteen Year 10 teachers

doi: 10.2304/forum.2007.49.3.311

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This article focuses on the impact of schooling on teachers through an exploration of the teaching of Science and English to Year 10 pupils in a metropolitan area in the north of England. Data was collected from 15 case studies through semi-structured interviews with the teacher, a lesson observation, and a post-observation interview with a sample of pupils. The analysis revealed a denial of intrinsic value, and the distortion of instrumental value contributing to the mortification of the teachers’ substantial self. Denial, distortion and mortification are not found in all the case studies, but to a significant extent in 11 of these. The four exceptions were all teachers of English. If teaching is to be an attractive occupation and retention of staff is to be improved, particularly for science teachers, then issues of intrinsic and instrumental value need to be addressed along with the debilitating effects of mortification.

 

Black Pupils in a White Landscape: reclaiming the countryside for enriched learning experiences

doi: 10.2304/forum.2007.49.3.329

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This article focuses on the accepted identity of the countryside as a hegemonic, idyllic and stable environment. Making use of the experiences of a group of 25 15-year-old London students on a recent residential trip to the Dorset coast, it seeks to understand whether or not the countryside is seen as a ‘welcoming place’ for inner-city children.

 

Beyond Behavioural Management Strategies: an alternative viewpoint from the pupil perspective

doi: 10.2304/forum.2007.49.3.337

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The article begins by discussing the literature as it relates to the perceived effectiveness of behavioural management approaches, as well as the author’s experiences of implementing a behavioural approach. The second part highlights an alternative viewpoint, as derived from an empirical study, as it relates to the pupil perspective of effective teaching and learning environments.

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