Home > Education Policy, Maths, Teaching > “The Universal Panacea? The number one shift in UK education I wish to see in my lifetime”

“The Universal Panacea? The number one shift in UK education I wish to see in my lifetime”

Last week a colleague (http://thegoldfishbowl.edublogs.org/) “tweeted” me to tell me he’d signed up for something called a blog sync (share.edutronic.net/ ), and suggested I might like a go at it. I had a look and despite initial reservations about deadlines etc I figured I’d give it ago. So the topic for the month is: “The Universal Panacea? The number one shift in UK education I wish to see in my lifetime”, and here we are.

Since signing up for this I’ve run hundreds of ideas through my mind to try and come up with an answer. I’ve discovered that there are quite a few changes I would like to see! And I have discovered that at the crux of most of them is “I would like to see an end to the inequality in the UK education system”.

Inequality is something I despise on all levels, whether it be racial inequality, gender inequality, social inequality or any other type of inequality. I usual dedicate a portion of time to discuss the SMSC aspects at the beginning of lessons on inequalities in maths, and find the discussions can be immensely fascinating.

By “an end to inequality” I don’t mean to say that I was everyone to receive exactly the same education, I want them to receive the best education from them. Pupils should be the focus of all education systems.

There are major flaws in our education system, and the first is the fact that fee paying schools exist. We live in a country where education is free for all, thanks to the work of James Kier Hardie and others like him. So why then, are people paying £9.6 billion in schools fees? (These figures are taken from Chris Hildrew’s post http://chrishildrew.wordpress.com/2013/01/13/the-universal-panacea-the-number-one-shift-in-uk-education-i-wish-to-see-in-my-lifetime/ , which conveys a very similar view to mine.) I had planned to dedicate a whole section of this post to the why’s behind this, but I feel Chris’s blog sets it out so well there is no real need for me to go over it again, but instead I would urge you to click the link and read his post (also part of the blog sync) on the subject. In short, I feel the private education system gives people with money access to a network that those educated in the state sector don’t get, providing a barrier for state educated people. It also means that many pupils never mix with anyone from other social “classes”; this can breed contempt on both sides, and will perpetuate the “class war”.

Another barrier to equality is the current allowances made for “faith schools” within sector. I’ve long been an advocate for the separation of church and state, and the place where I feel this is most needed is in education. most “faith schools” are separatist in their make-up, and this idea of “only members of this faith can attend here” is what I take major issue with. Most faiths espouse the view “love thy neighbour” but how are children supposed to take this on board if they are not allowed to mix with those “neighbours” who are of different faiths? Should the tag line not then be: “Love thy neighbour, but they are not worthy of the same education as you”? Faith is not implicit in children, they are not born with it and they do not choose it, it is inferred upon them. Can you imagine the outrage if a school were to only accept children of one skin colour? Why do we not have similar outrage when they will only accept children of one faith?

On top of that, faith schools are heavily centered around “the propagation of the faith” and, as such, drive out the inquisitive nature that children instinctively have. They also have the option of writing their own RE syllabus which allows them to teach their faith as the truth and barely touch on others. Rather than a more secular approach to RE which is to teach the facts about the different faiths, what each one believes and then let the pupils make up their own minds. I feel the system would be better if RE was taught in this more secular way, parents could still bring up their children in the faith, but they would need to do that in their own time.

Then there is also the phenomenon of “Pew Jumping”, where wealthy families “convert” to a religion and move to areas near the better perceived faith schools in order to get their children into said school. This opens up all the same problems as fee paying schools outlined above.

The third worry I have around equality is the overly relaxed law on home education. In a nut-shell it is a legal requirement that all children “receive an education”, but there are no laws to specify what that is, and this worries me immensely. A few hours a day on “how to do chores” would satisfy the law, and this is not giving home educated children an equal opportunity to those in the school system. On top of this they are withdrawn from society, have no relationships with people their own age and have no authority figures in their lives but their parents. The social/relationship aspect of schooling is equally as important as the academic aspect, and schools need to ensure they are looking after the whole child.

In summary, I feel schools should aim to provide the best possible education for all pupils, whatever their faith, socio-economic status, race, gender and any other factor you can find. Over the past century and a bit we have made huge progress on this, but there is still a way to go. Both Chris Hildrew (mentioned above) and a colleague of mine, Richie Dunk (http://richiedunk.com/), have signposted me towards the Finnish education system as a model I would approve of, and the more I read about it, the more I agree.

To find out more about the Finnish system visit: http://www.oph.fi/english/education

This is an excerpt from that site:

“Equal opportunities

The Finnish education system offers everybody equal opportunities for education, irrespective of domicile, sex, economic situation or linguistic and cultural background. The school network is regionally extensive, and there are no sex-specific school services. Basic education is completely free of charge (including instruction, school materials, school meals, health care, dental care, commuting, special needs education and remedial teaching).

Comprehensiveness of education

Basic education encompasses nine years and caters for all those between 7 and 16 years. Schools do not select their students but every student can go to the school of his or her own school district. Students are neither channelled to different schools nor streamed.”


This post is a response to the #blogsync topic for January suggested by Edutronic here: http://share.edutronic.net/

All #blogsync entries on this topic can be found here:  http://share.edutronic.net/a-universal-panacea/

  1. January 23, 2013 at 6:18 pm

    Great stuff – and thanks for the honourable mention.

  2. May 23, 2015 at 9:35 am

    Reblogged this on Talking Policy and commented:

    Here’s a post I wrote a while ago Iver on my Educational blog. It looks at the inequalities that are inherently inbuilt into our current system that I would love to see eradicated. I’d love to hear your opinions.

  1. February 19, 2013 at 9:20 am
  2. October 16, 2013 at 10:28 pm
  3. December 31, 2013 at 5:54 pm
  4. January 27, 2014 at 7:11 pm

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