Monday, January 09, 2006

Educational musings and that stupid poll on Today

Everyone's an education expert. We've all been to school even if it was many decades ago and many of us have children going or having gone through the system. It must be difficult being an education expert with so many of us here to shout you down. In the Guardian Peter Preston thinks that teachers are more important than systems and few would disagree. But he gives little clue as to how more people with what he calls the "spark" can be lured into the profession or those without weeded out.

Teachers are imho frequently poorly represented by strident leaders such as many in the NUT who seem to resist all change and any outside interference. I admire many of my own and even more of my children's teachers. But good as they are I wouldn't trust many of them to organise a jumble sale let alone a school. We do need professional administrators in our schools just as we do in hospitals. And it's unfortunate that it's so awfully difficult to get rid of duff teachers. This is in part because they work alone and therefore can't easily be assessed but also because teachers and head-teachers tend to be nice people who think they're being kind by covering up poor performance. Actually they're being unkind to the pupils and, often, to the person who might be happier outside the profession. It would be better for them to discover this in their late twenties than their early forties....

I'd like to see the power of LEAs reduced and, especially, the influence of local politicians over them. LEAs and many of our council chambers are packed with theoreticians rather than practitioners. So they are wont to have too much faith in dogma.

So too would, I think, Sir Bob Balchin who was a senior education adviser to the last Conservative Government. Writing in the Times he urges the Tories to give up on their pet obsessions such as vouchers and increasing the number of grammar schools and to concentrate instead on reducing bureaucracy and obsession with targets. So not all Tory dogma slain just yet then.

In the Times Thunderer column Carol Sarler lays into Radio 4's Today programme because of the poll they ran to find "Who Runs Britain" which concluded that it is José Manuel Barroso, some high up guy in the EU. Good for her, the poll was boring and daft. As she points out: "Ukip, with fellow Eurosceptics, had “encouraged” supporters to vote, in order that the rest of us would be shocked into Brussels phobia" . But that hasn't stopped the Daily Mail for example trumpeting as evidence that what they've said all along about the EU now has wide support. Shame on the BBC; "It would be possible to poll Today listeners properly. MORI would happily do it. At a price. But these self-selected samples are, at best, just samples of Today listeners who also happen to be sad bastards with nothing better to do than participate in a meaningless exercise in filler programming." And that would have stopped multiple voting. It always enrages me when I read dross like 'more people voted for Big Brother than did in local elections'. No they didn't - some people voted hundreds of times each. Herumph....

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