During the Covid-19 pandemic many of our members have expressed their concerns about the plight of our schools and the experience of children growing up in our current education system. This has been further highlighted by the debate about vulnerable children still needing free school meals and the additional pressure on our valued teaching staff. One of our members has summarised her thoughts in the following letter:
Education is not just for now it is for life. It is not about facts and the transfer of knowledge but the developing of skills and of endless curiosity and confidence to try, explore, and have fun even in failure. Education in the UK has sadly evolved in to a conveyor belt where the end is all and the means can be stultifying. Anxiety over test and exam results adds pressure to schools to be top of the list; on parents to secure a place for their child; and on children and young people themselves to please the adult world and gain a successful pass in to it. Anxious parents either disengage or become pushy and the professionalism of teachers has been undermined and eroded.
The last year has been a mess and many students have fallen behind. There is talk of allowing some to repeat a year. Would this close or widen gaps, fight or fuel injustice? Might there be a way to enable all students to repeat a year; to make the primary start age not rising five but rising six? Or could we accommodate double classes at other pinch points bringing volunteer teachers out of retirement and utilising community halls and faith buildings as centres for catch up and refresher clubs. What about three year six forms enabling those who missed out on GCSE grades to build a foundation for Further Education and those who missed out on A levels to prepare for Higher Education. How would this be funded? How do we change a culture that says it's all about now, you have one opportunity and if you fail or the world fails you, your life is ruined? Now is an opportunity to reset; make education for everyone a thing of excitement, delivered by supported professionals, and something employers can support and maintain in its open-endedness not just criticise for shortcomings.
We would value other members thoughts on this and other issues that have become particularly worrying during the pandemic.