Saturday, 29 September 2007
Friday, 28 September 2007
UPDATE: Luke Akehurst has his usual exhaustive take on the by-elections here. There are clearly some odd shifts in Dover, but some apparently good results in Chester-le-Street and Mansfield. Seeing the figures suggests the Tory night of triumph was more a triumph of Central Office spin. They really don't want an early election, do they?
Thursday, 27 September 2007
In a curious echo of where the Tories are now, we then attacked the government for its failures on literacy and numeracy – standards were much lower then – and positioned Labour as the party of higher standards. Blunkett had made this his goal in his first statement as shadow education secretary. And he quickly embraced performance tables, testing and Ofsted inspections as the means to that end. Standards not structures became his catchphrase.
Last year, as Labour set about creating city academies and trust schools, Tony Blair told the annual Specialist Schools and Academies Trust conference: "Over time, I shifted from saying 'it's standards not structures' to realising that school structures could affect standards." More recently, we have had the new schools' secretary Ed Balls promise that he would "focus our efforts not on structures but on standards in the classroom," while announcing plans to speed up Blair's academies programme.
Now that the Tories have ditched selection and embraced academies, such debate as there is between the parties is over how to lift standards in primary and secondary schools. But that is because the structural change is being put in place and has cross-party support.
Wednesday, 26 September 2007
Tuesday, 25 September 2007
As for our schools, it's all very well for Mr Brown to say: "Education is my passion." Didn't Mr Blair tell us more than ten years ago that it was all three of his top priorities - and where did that get us?
Since I'm fed up reading such crass comment, here are a dozen ways in which our schools are better now than they were in 1997.
1. Over 100,000 more 11-year-olds can read, write and add up well now each year than could do so in 1997.
2. Over 25% more 15 year olds get five good GCSEs every year - whether you include English and Maths or not. Results have improved fastest in London. The number of non-selective schools where 70% or more pupils get five good GCSEs rose from 83 in 1997 to 603 in 2006.
3. The universal free nursery education promised by Maggie Thatcher in 1972 but never delivered is now available to all 3 and 4 year olds, with their hours increasing. Sure Start children's centres link this with other services including childcare.
4. Most schools are much better at stretching brighter pupils and helping weaker pupils than they were ten years ago, as the culture of expectations has been transformed, with Gifted and Talented programmes now widespread.
5. Over 1000 new schools have been built, and many more have had vital repairs.
6. There are now over 100 open academies and most schools have a specialism, which has led to a completely transformed attitude to education in our secondary schools.
7. Over 30,000 more teachers work in our schools, and teachers and heads are now reasonably paid, with performance pay part of the system.
8. Teaching is one of the top careers of choice, not of last resort.
9. Our schools have entered the 21st century with modern IT equipment and teachers who know how to use it, increasingly imaginatively in lessons.
10. Over 130,000 more teaching assistants now work in our schools, making one-to-one tuition easier and providing vital support to teachers.
11. There is far more school sport than there was, both in and out of school hours, and teachers are helping provide it. School playing fields are much better protected.
12. Thousands of schools now provide extended facilities, including breakfast clubs, after-school homework, IT, sports and arts, and all will soon do so. Few did so in 1997.
I could list many more examples. But, to the question (presumably snidely intended) asking where making education Tony Blair's top priorities got us, that's where.
It is another myth that the last few Blair years were the swansong of a delusional, dying leader, in which everything stopped, while the pomaded dilettante built his cardboard academies. Some fairly profound changes were being wrought in public service provision, and the question has always been whether Mr Brown intended to deepen this process and possibly even accelerate it in pursuit of what he called yesterday a “genuinely meritocratic Britain”, in which “if you try hard, we will help you”..... But, in the general run of education and health provision, what does the PM think about patient and parent choice? Who chooses the personal tutor that we have all been promised? Who can tender to become such a tutor?.... Now, my presumption is that the Prime Minister is prepared to make tough decisions, because if he isn’t, then there’s not much point to him. And if he is, then perhaps he should go to the country very soon.....if he wants the freedom to do the difficult as well as the easy things, then he needs to put the Long Election Campaign behind him.Aaronovitch almost has me persuaded of the case for an early election so that Brown could start to work through these choices (though, to be fair, he has made a lot of them already even if chose to obscure them yesterday). Meanwhile Steve Richards in the Independent makes a good case for not going early, as he applauds how Brown's approach to policy, though downplays the hard choices that he will face turning policy ambitions into reality.
Monday, 24 September 2007
Saturday, 22 September 2007
Friday, 21 September 2007
Thursday, 20 September 2007
Here in Britain, the Irish had access to Catholic schools, which were better than the state average. It meant that they were equipped to profit from the transition that Gordon Brown keeps talking about, from an economy requiring manual labour to one that places a premium on skills. The moral of all this is that it’s not positive discrimination and equality legislation that make ethnic prejudice redundant. It’s decent schools.
That is why the Government is right to respond to the aspirations of parents for more faith schools. They are probably the best available route for ethnic minority social mobility.
Clearly the excellent summer schools run by Hefce and the Sutton Trust with top universities can do a lot to redress the balance. The universities need to back a fairer applications process - A levels can be marked quicker; and university terms could change too. Plans by independent schools to work with state schools on the interview process are welcome. But the biggest change has to be in the mindset of teachers, parents and students: they need to aim higher, and have the support to do so.
Wednesday, 19 September 2007
Tuesday, 18 September 2007
Monday, 17 September 2007
UPDATE: Bob Wareing is hardly graceful in defeat. He plans to stand as an independent. I'm with Tom Watson on this one.
Sunday, 16 September 2007
Friday, 14 September 2007
Thursday, 13 September 2007
Peter Riddell has shown just how close Gordon Brown is now perceived as being to where the British public stand on the issues. In office, he is drawing heavily on the Tony Blair textbook. And he is enjoying upsetting David Cameron by the day. No politician will succeed by tilting too far to the right or to the left, flash or not.
UPDATE: Neal Lawson is upset that the ad was created by Saatchi and Saatchi. What must really upset him is that Gordon has ignored the advice he has been doling out since he set up Compass.
Wednesday, 12 September 2007
UPDATE: Recess Monkey captures the full extent of public enthusiasm for the referendum.
Monday, 10 September 2007
Sunday, 9 September 2007
Friday, 7 September 2007
Thursday, 6 September 2007
But to help change Ireland for the better, Labour itself has to change. We need to change the way we organise, becoming more open to new members and new candidates. We have to change the way we communicate, applying the most modern methods to get across our message. We have to be more positive, telling people what we are for and not just what we oppose. And we have to bond better with our voters and our potential voters to construct a new politics for and of the new Ireland.