I need to set the parameters. I’m no economist or strategist. I am an idealist, a very deep blue sky thinker, with a rainbow over one side. I am an optimist and I attempt to see the good in everyone. I wished we lived in the utopia of the Star Trek universe, where money was no longer the driving force behind ambition. Bearing all that in mind here is what I would like to do to the UK education system…
I believe that all children need to attend nursery at least from the age of 3. This isn’t a political motive, this is a broadening perspectives motive. Even if it is just one morning a week, and mum is more upset about leaving them than they are about running over to see their new friends. Children need to interact. If they are sociable then they will love it; if not, they will develop skills to adapt to it. After that things would run pretty smoothly. Children need to go to school, of course they do. I think children should be taught up to the age of 12. But from my perspective as a Secondary teacher I think there are far more options: parents or carers should be given education ‘vouchers’ that they can cash in for schooling, until the age of 21 – that would include FE and HE if they so choose to take it. It would also cover apprenticeships and all that day release options some student do. Most would take this option and carry on in education as long as they could. Others would happily take the alternatives; outward bound courses, agriculture, mechanical basics, cadets, physical training, design craft, traditional skills like plumbing, carpentry, electrical and building, or even computer programming and other practical training that we don’t see as main stream yet, but will save us from a skills shortage and a lack of skilled technical support. I don’t necessarily advocate a return to split education of grammar and secondary moderns – my world would enable students to cash in their education vouchers at any time, joining a class to build up theoretical skills to match the practical ones. But, it would be a broader curriculum designed to be a real solution for those students who just don’t see the point in doing subjects they will never need. And here’s the interesting part, it will allow those same students to opt back in when they do see the need.
My brother hated school. He joined the army at 17 and enjoyed a very full army life, despite having no formal qualifications. He reached a time in his life when he wanted promotion. He applied and was turned down, because of his grades. The army gave him the option to go back to ‘school’ and gain the qualifications he needed. So he did, in his 20s. He could see by then the reason why he needed them was not to jump through hoops, but so he could prove he could cope with the rigours of the paperwork involved in his promotion. Since that day, he has never looked back. I am proud but I can see how much money was wasted on him when he just needed to work out what he needed to do. How many students leave after 11 years with below par grades, when if they had the chance to take time out and assess what life might be like without school, they might treat things differently.
Blue sky thinking…I’m not sure anyone will agree with me, but I will enjoy the discussion it raises.