FORUM
ISSN 0963-8253


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Volume 61 Number 3 2019

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

 

Keep the Faith

Patrick Yarker. Editorial. Keep the Faith, pages 291-296 FREE ACCESS VIEW FULL TEXT http://doi.org/10.15730/forum.2019.61.3.291

Aaron Schutz. Power and Conflict in the Public Realm: rethinking progressive visions of collaborative citizenship, pages 297-306

Ruth Boyask. Educating Publics in the Greater Community, pages 307-316

Terry Wrigley. A New Curriculum for a New Public School, pages 317-326

Tom Collins. Commercial Realities and Ethical Discomfort: international branch campuses and the market in higher education, pages 327-337

Damien Fitzgerald. A New Public Conceptualisation of Education and Care for Young Children: bridging the private–public divide, pages 339-348

Jane Martin. Against Private Schools: culture, power and myths of equality, pages 349-364 FREE ACCESS

Alex Bloom. ‘This Age of Clichés’ and ‘Equality of Opportunity ... for What?’ Two articles by Alex Bloom, introduced by Michael Fielding, pages 365-370

John Quicke. Deficit Models, Masculinity and Boys' Achievement, pages 371-379

Colin Richards. The Fable of the Squirrels and the Hedgehogs, pages 381-382

John Bolt. What Are We Doing to Our Children? Report on the Reclaiming Education Conference, 2018, pages 383-386

Margaret M. Clark. Early Education in England: the power of politicians over policy and practice, pages 387-399

Claire Lee. ‘I ain’t no clue, but we learned it yesterday’: losing our way with the Year 6 grammar, punctuation and spelling test, pages 401-414

Lucy Wenham. ‘It was deathly dull and boring and stressful’: listening to parents’ voices on primary school testing, pages 415-425

Patrick Yarker. Learning as Mimicry, Teaching as Coerced Compliance: the continuing damage caused by a high stakes summative testing regime, pages 427-436

Jon Berry. Succeeding against SATs, pages 437-444

Madeleine Holt. Expeditions, Projects and Trees: working hard, getting smart and being kind, pages 445-450

BOOK REVIEWS VIEW FULL TEXT http://doi.org/10.15730/forum.2019.61.3.453

Some Kids I Taught and What They Taught Me (Kate Clanchy), England: poems from a school (Kate Clanchy, Ed.), and Engines of Privilege: Britain’s private school problem (Francis Green & David Kynaston), reviewed by Patrick Yarker, pages 453-460

Life Lessons: the case for a National Education Service (Melissa Benn), reviewed by Nuala Burgess, pages 460-463


 

Power and Conflict in the Public Realm: rethinking progressive visions of collaborative citizenship

http://doi.org/10.15730/forum.2019.61.3.297

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John Dewey’s vision of education and of the school as a model for society was grounded in a commitment to collaboration. This view continues to inform the basic assumptions of progressive educators, especially in the USA. Collaboration in classrooms is offered as the basis and matrix for collaboration beyond them, in the civic realm. But the civic realm is a realm of struggle, and to overemphasize collaboration miseducates students as to its reality. This article explores Saul Alinsky’s critique of the Deweyan vision of civic action, with its alternative understanding of the place of collaboration in civic engagement. For the powerless to be heard and heeded by the powerful, collective organization and skills for engaging in conflict in the public realm are key requirements.

 

 

Educating Publics in the Greater Community

http://doi.org/10.15730/forum.2019.61.3.307

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Democratic public schooling prepares for and models collective self-governance in a complex society where the people are subject to various forms of governmental power. The common or public school is the main way democratic nations prepare their people for participation, yet in modern versions democracy is contested through school curriculum and governance practices. Examples are state-funded self-governing schools, which appear to support democracy, yet are shaped by a neoliberal ideal of school autonomy. Proposed new models of school governance that attempt to build in collectivity may still limit democratic participation. The influence of entities outside of nations challenges the view that a national system of schooling is sufficient to inform public opinion. A better education for democracy would consider how public opinion is formed, and how public opinion might be formed within a complex society. Developing a deeper and more expansive concept of the public is one place to start.

 

A New Curriculum for a New Public School

http://doi.org/10.15730/forum.2019.61.3.317

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This article is written in response to widespread concerns about the inadequacy of the school curriculum in England, and the urgent need to rethink what public education should involve. It builds on earlier contributions in FORUM and elsewhere by discussing curricular opportunities arising from Labour’s proposal for a National Education Service. This is particularly timely given the limited horizons and understanding shown in Ofsted’s call for better curriculum planning. In contrast to neoliberal obsessions with schooling as the production of human resources, and the neoconservative dependence on tradition, the article discusses how we might build a curriculum oriented to social justice, environmental responsibility and democratic citizenship. It addresses core issues such as age appropriateness; the relationship between everyday and academic knowledge; the importance of cognitive, practical, aesthetic and ethical dimensions; and how we might make a socially just and politically serious selection of knowledge. Whilst drawing on the strengths of earlier curriculum development, particularly in the 1960s and 1970s, it also points towards more recent international developments drawing on place, story and enquiry, which have been eclipsed by high-stakes accountability regimes. This broad-ranging article throws out a challenge: how to avoid retreading a traditional path of alienated knowledge acquisition and create a framework for authentic learning and really powerful knowledge.

 

Commercial Realities and Ethical Discomfort: international branch campuses and the market in higher education

http://doi.org/10.15730/forum.2019.61.3.327

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This article explores the evolution of higher education in the context of a growing – if largely silent – consensus at governmental level to the effect that the State can no longer afford to fund higher education. Higher education institutions are, therefore, expected to explore new funding avenues as costs are increasingly shifted onto the student and the international student market is plumbed for additional revenue. The article proposes that where commercial considerations come to drive the academic programming and ideological positioning of the university, they can present the most fundamental challenges to the underpinning philosophical precepts of higher education. The existential imperative of the university around academic freedom, freedom of expression and of speaking truth to power in the interrogation of orthodoxy can be jeopardised, particularly in the case of international branch campuses. Ultimately, the authenticity and integrity of the institution and its sense of agency and self-worth become exposed.

 

A New Public Conceptualisation of Education and Care for Younger Children: bridging the public–private divide

http://doi.org/10.15730/forum.2019.61.3.339

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Over the past two decades there has been substantial expansion of Early Childhood Education and Care (ECEC) provision. This has led to significant expansion of the role of the private sector. Alongside this, there is a substantial evidence base about the importance of high-quality, pedagogically appropriate provision, delivered by highly skilled practitioners. This article argues that to provide high-quality ECEC a reconceptualisation of provision for young children within public education is needed. These changes would allow developments to build on previous reforms through an increased role for public provision as a distinct education phase, creating a more highly skilled workforce with clear career pathways and offering a pedagogically appropriate curriculum.

 

Against Private Schools: culture, power and myths of equality

http://doi.org/10.15730/forum.2019.61.3.349

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England’s premier league of public schools, educating less than three thousand boys, started life in medieval times as charity schools for the poor. Closely tied to the Church, they found favour as institutions of social mobility. By the turn of the eighteenth century, vandalism and violence were endemic in many; misrule and abuses so common that they provoked one of the leading radicals in Parliament to demand that a proportion of their charitable income be invested in teacher education in a new public education in a new public school. Instead, former public schoolboys in the corridors of power helped ensure their survival and prosperity in the late-Victorian period and beyond. Towards the end of the 1945 Labour government, public intellectual and activist R.H. Tawney said the failure to abolish private schools would undermine the effectiveness of all the other social welfare reforms. This article takes up Tawney’s challenge and provides a detailed exposition of the role and contribution of socialist activists and their forgotten radical perspective on the educational endowments they argued had been stolen from the poor.

 

'This Age of Clichés' and 'Equality of Opportunity ... For What?' Two articles by Alex Bloom†

http://doi.org/10.15730/forum.2019.61.3.365

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Two short articles by Alex Bloom, written in wartime London, expose the easy recourse in educational policy to fine-sounding phrases – in this case ‘equality of opportunity’ – and offer a vision of education based on the spirit of cooperation and the common good.

 

Deficit Models, Masculinity and Boys' Achievement

http://doi.org/10.15730/forum.2019.61.3.371

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Boys' underperformance relative to girls has been a major cause for concern in recent years. Some have seen the problem as linked to a dysfunctional anti-school masculine identity. The article explores this idea via a close reading of a popular text where the focus is on boys’ behaviour and achievement in the context of a strategy for rethinking masculinity in schools. It suggests that grounding a definition of boys’ achievement and identity in a deficit model is likely to result in the deviant labelling which most teachers seek to avoid. Moreover, this model is consonant with a view of research, curriculum and pedagogy in the current period where the constraints on the development of progressive reform are only too evident.

 

The Fable of the Squirrels and the Hedgehogs

http://doi.org/10.15730/forum.2019.61.3.381

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Education is so serious and important an enterprise that like life, death and taxes its excesses need tempering and combating by humour. The author believes that educational lampooning can be a powerful weapon against current orthodoxies.

 

'What Are We Doing to Our Children?' Report on the Reclaiming Education Conference, 2018

http://doi.org/10.15730/forum.2019.61.3.383

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Reclaiming Education is an umbrella campaigning group made up of the following organisations: Campaign for State Education (CASE), Comprehensive Future, Socialist Education Association (SEA), Forum, Alliance for Inclusive Education, Information for School and College Governors, New Visions Group and Rescue our Schools. In November 2018 it held a conference, ‘What Are We Doing to Our Children?’, addressing the issues of the negative impact current policies have on many of our children. This article, written on behalf of the group, is a summary of the conference.

 

Early Education in England: the power of politicians over policy and practice

http://doi.org/10.15730/forum.2019.61.3.387

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In this article, two government education policies for primary schools in England are scrutinised, the Phonics Screening Check and Baseline Assessment, both claimed by ministers to be ‘evidence based’. What has become a high-stakes test rather than a diagnostic assessment, the Phonics Screening Check, introduced in 2012, now dominates early years education in England. Pilot studies of Baseline Assessment are under way and the government’s intention is to introduce this assessment for all children in state primary schools in 2020. Children are to be assessed shortly after they enter reception class and, it is claimed by ministers, this will enable the children’s progress throughout primary school to be monitored. The author summarises her extensive published evidence on both policies and indicates where to locate relevant but neglected research by many others. Reference will also be made to evidence from 18 internationally recognised literacy researchers critiquing synthetic phonics as the only method of teaching reading and the Phonics Screening Check.

 

'I ain't no clue, but we learned it yesterday': losing our way with the Year 6 Grammar, Punctuation and Spelling test

http://doi.org/10.15730/forum.2019.61.3.401

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In 2012, head teachers responded to the proposed new Year 6 Grammar, Punctuation and Spelling test (commonly known as the SPaG or GPS test) with warnings of curriculum narrowing, teaching to tests, and misery for pupils and families. Despite head teachers’ opposition to the test, seven cohorts of Year 6 pupils have now taken it. This article considers the head teachers’ warnings in the light of evidence from recent ethnographic fieldwork with Year 5 and 6 children in an English primary school. The history and rationale behind the introduction of the test are discussed. It is then suggested that the emphasis on teaching the concepts and terminology required for success in the GPS test intersects with schools’ accountability mechanisms, leading in some settings to the teaching of formulaic writing that has little to do with meaning, creativity, purpose or audience.

 

'It was deathly dull and boring and stressful': listening to parents’ voices on primary school testing

http://doi.org/10.15730/forum.2019.61.3.415

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Many parents are unhappy with the way testing has altered, expanded and taken hold in primary schools in recent years. Some parents chose to express their objections to primary Standard Assessment Tests (SATs) in particular, through taking part in collective strike action. While research into testing abounds, the opinions of parents and their role in such activism remain less explored. This article draws from a qualitative pilot study into parental opinions on primary school testing. Some preliminary thematic analysis is presented, giving a flavour of the data. Parents are concerned with the effect and emotional stress on children, the content and structure of tests and with their broader impact on the curriculum and on classroom teaching. They are impassioned, articulate and forthright.

 

Learning as Mimicry, Teaching as Coerced Compliance: the continuing damage caused by a high-stakes summative testing regime

http://doi.org/10.15730/forum.2019.61.3.427

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The requirement to ready pupils for high-stakes summative testing continues to undermine and baulk teachers as they try to act in line with their pedagogical principles. For some – perhaps many – practitioners this experience is increasingly insupportable and gives rise to profound inner conflict. Test readying promotes in pupils a necessary mimicry. This falsifies the relationship between teachers and pupils on which better kinds of learning depend.

 

Succeeding against SATs

http://doi.org/10.15730/forum.2019.61.3.437

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The lesson to be learnt from a quarter of a century of resisting standardised testing is that educational and pedagogical issues must drive campaigning. Teachers must work together to re-establish confidence in their own ability to control the curriculum and what is offered to our children. This can only be a collective enterprise and teachers must find the spaces, literally and metaphorically, to work out how to do so. Enlisting the support of parents, researchers and academics needs to be central to their actions – as must be their willingness to see the assault on children and their education as part of the wider, ideological drive toward marketisation, privatisation and individualism.

 

Expeditions, Projects and Trees: working hard, getting smart and being kind

http://doi.org/10.15730/forum.2019.61.3.445

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This article reports on a short film being made for the Edge Foundation by the author. It records the innovative approach to learning taken by two comprehensive schools serving areas of high deprivation. Work in these schools integrates knowledge and skills, and offers a context in which all students, whatever their perceived ‘ability’, make effective and valuable contributions, find success, and so progress educationally.

 

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