Cymru, Lloegr a'r Llwchwr

Cymru, Lloegr, a'r Llwchwr...

Helo! Croeso i’m blog newydd sy'n cymryd lle Yma byddaf yn rhoi'r byd yn ei le o safbwynt y De Orllewin. Bydd rhai sylwadau yn fwy cyffredinol na’i gilydd ond canolbwyntio ar wleidyddiaeth cig a gwaed sydd yn effeithio yn uniongyrchol ar bobl o’m cwmpas i yw'r bwriad. Gwyntyllu fy marn personol y byddaf i fan hyn wrth gwrs!

Hi! Welcome to my new blog which has replaced I'll be setting the world to right from the perspective of the South West. Some comments may be more general than others but my aim is to talk about everyday issues that directly affect people around me. Needless to say, the views expressed here will be purely mine.

Thursday, 24 June 2010

Logotherapy for Labour: Free Schools and finding a purpose

A couple of weeks ago, I asked what the Lib Dems were for ( I thought it was only right to ask the same question of the other parties…

Last weekend I picked up Josef Frankl’s book on Logotherapy. He argues that people’s happiness emerges almost accidentally out of serving a useful purpose. Simple and liberating...

But will Labour find happiness?

The debate on Academies (or as the Tories insisted on calling them, “Free Schools”) may offer Labour a way of finding a principled way forward. In England, the incoming Blair Government vowed to make education its main priority. But in both the primary and secondary sectors, well to do parents increasingly used league tables to dominate the best performing schools and increase educational inequalities.

Initially, Labour enabled ‘failing’ schools to opt out of local authority control as Academies which are publicly funded schools outside local authority control that can select a proportion on pupils by ability. In some cases, these institutions used their status to develop poor staffing practices, including refusing union recognition and making staff easier to sack. Far from affirming parent-power or even localism, such schools turned out to be run by Governors, private Sponsors and Head Teachers under the direct control of the Minister. Academies are exempt from freedom of information requests and so their methods of obtaining exam results are above scrutiny. But rates of exclusion from some Academies, suggest that taking hard to reach pupils out of the mix is a tactic used to boost results...

We are now faced with a Tory “Academies Bill” which would allow up to 500 secondary schools and nearly 2,000 primary schools in England to become independent by September and could see private companies running them.

Because the main contenders for the Labour leadership supported creating Academies and have maintained that support in opposition, their criticism of the Tories’ plan to extend Academy status to more successful schools will be compromised.

How much more preferable would it be to see an honest debate in Labour about taking responsibility for raising standards in schools? There are few more important motors for achieving equality available to any Government than ensuring fairness in our publicly-funded schools. Can we expect that debate from the Labour leadership contest? Probably not.

I would like to think there is room for that debate here in Wales - and it is likely to be needed.

The “Academies Bill” applies only to schools in England. But we have a handful of semi-independent foundation schools in Wales and I hear that at least one school in Cardiff is already pressing for Academy status. Will Labour dangle such 'Academy status' before worried parents in the run up to the Welsh General Election?

Their introduction of such a divisive system in England, and their reluctance to own up to the increased inequality that this system has created does not inspire confidence.


  1. Historically it would appear that really this is nothing new. For centuries there have been private schools funded by the rich or by religious groups or indeed by people wishing to practice their education in a particular language.

    There are many entrepreneurs and companies funding private schooling to this day and I believe that this will always be the case and perhaps should be allowed or even encouraged.

    To not to do so is to prevent freedom of choice. Sadly it is often only the rich who can benefit from this choice as in so many things….which is why it is probably a Conservative tenet….and of course denies choice to the not so well funded.

    The new change seems to be that various governments are actively encouraging a divergence to create centres of excellence by allowing schools to be taken out of the LEA system. This of course means the good schools will effectively be privatised (or made pubic if you will).

    This is a disgrace as this brings positive discrimination against the poor by taking good schools out of the system.

    Yet the system also positively discriminates against the better off child when it comes to University placing to allow the less better off a place.

    Discrimination in any form needs to be stopped -there is no positive in discrimination.

    The real scandal and where the debate should focus is, as you say, on the provision of education available to all to lifted away from mediocrity to excellence as a standard.

    This is what many parents want but some sadly do not care or have the ability to be supportive and this is an area that is often ignored but family support is key to encouraging the education of the young at all levels.

    Where this is not available there needs to be some mechanism which can be a substitute for this – the challenge is what can be used – teachers obviously have a role to play in this but can only go so far.

    Surely what we need to do is to create a system of education where we cater for different abilities, talents, skill sets so that we can produce in the secondary education stage all types of rounded individuals where a University place is not necessarily the final goal for all.

    We need sportsmen and women, cabinet makers, plumbers, farmers, artists, poets, singers, soldiers, computer experts, etc. people that are needed throughout our society but these need to be appreciated as much as our doctors, nurses, philosophers, pilots, mathematicians, lawyers.

    Where should our politicians come from, the professionals or from the shop floor?

    They should be able to come from wherever because their education allows them to…..sadly our current system does not encourage this.

    Because of this much of our gene pool of talent never sees the light of day.

  2. Like so many institutions in this country, education is firmly rooted in our Victorian past.

    The issue is not really how schools are funded and from where (even though conflicts of interests may occur).The issue is this, are the schools themselves going to be producing citizens which are well prepared for our economic future. Is our education system at the grass roots fit for purpose or like the NHS are we papering over the cracks.Forget the banks and the current economic crisis,we are a small island and the future will we shaped by natural economies of scale like India,China and Russia. We can't punch our way out of the paper bag anymore, we need to think our way out.

    So,does the traditional learning approach still apply, can we learn from new ideas in behavioural sciences on how best to engage our young minds.

    Can we learn from companies like Google about employee autonomy in boosting creativity and output. The traditional work roles approach has been proved unproductive especially in the technological industries.Is the classroom moving on too (will we even need a classroom?)

    Will education go through a revelation in the next ten years to keep up with our exponentially changing world?