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Last week, the UK government's March 2016 budget announced that it would promote education by dedicating money to 'free schools from local authority control', as if this is self-evidently a good thing, and will result in better situations for our children. At least we presume this is the reasoning; perhaps there could be other reasons.
Having just had some delightful discussions with Canadian colleague Dr. Patricia Tarr who introduced me to new and extremely thoughtful guidelines being developed by a regional authority, Alberta, I was yet again appalled by current political thinking, and left struggling to contemplate if our government could ever understand, or care about, the worlds of children and learning.
Here is something from Play, Participation, and Possibilities: An Early Learning and Child Care Curriculum Framework for Alberta: "[We are] inspired by a vision of strong, active, and energetic childhood communities—places of vitality—that welcome and invite the participation of children and their families. It is a framework of possibilities situated in the social and cultural experiences of families in local communities. Each child's care, play, learning, and development are nurtured as educators work within a practice of relationships, appreciating family, social, and cultural practices and traditions and embracing a strong capable image of the child, as a mighty learner and citizen. ... We view the child as a mighty learner and citizen—strong, resourceful, and capable. This image affirms each child's right to be listened to, to be treated with respect, and to participate in daily decisions that affect him or her. This understanding of each child as a citizen and as a strong, resourceful, and capable learner shifts the intention of our interactions from "doing to" a child toward "participating with" each child. This image of the child—a mighty learner and citizen—calls on us to continually re-examine our own practices, our interactions, and our assumptions about children, childhood, learning, and play. "
I highly recommend it to both educators and politicians (and Mr. Osborne, you will see that it is not a matter of 'control' but also of care, cohesion and connection. ) Click on the link - it's free.
Very much thrown by this massive gulf in comprehension by political leaders who are nevertheless keen to wield power over children and education, and wondering if things could ever be different, I heard radio interviewer Libby Purves yesterday ask: "Was there a definite moment [in the history of whaling] when people thought 'these are wonderful, intelligent, extra-ordinary animals and we must save them?" - the answer gave a powerful direction:
Shortly before Christmas 2015, the Education Committee decided that they would address this question. ("Now that's a good idea", thought many.) They invited public responses, identifying three questions of the enquiry:
- What should be the purpose of education for children of all ages in England ?
- What measures should be used to evaluate the quality of education against this purpose?
- How well does the current education system perform against these measures?
They received many responses, and you can see them - and read them all - here. The collection of submissions is a powerful set of documents, and worth publishing separately as a case study, we think. (In this article we are giving you an additional link to our original submission, it having been edited to conform.)
In our submission we began, as others also did, suggesting that they actually should begin by asking a preliminary question: 'What are the characteristics of learners?'
To be followed by their question And Then: 'so, what should education look like'?
We really hope that the portfolio of submissions will cause the group of MPs to think widely, and we are sure that some of them will.
In their first meeting last week (see the following video from the Parliament website) Gateshead MP Ian Mearns endeavours to steer Michael Wilshaw away from his 'performance indicators' back to the subject of the enquiry:
Our colleagues Cambridge Curiosity & Imagination invite all to a presentation of their recent work.
Without a doubt it will be fascinating and thoughtful, so if you are in striking range of Cambridge on the evening of 3rd March, mark the date, and get in touch with them!
"Three projects with children in different places
What happens when we invite children to be experts in these familiar places and explore with us some of our big questions - how can we lead more active futures? what can happen outside the classroom? how can this library garden be a friendly space for others?
This supper seminar will explore the challenge of co-creation with children and what that looks like in practice for everyone involved; children, teachers, other educators, families, other artists and experts. CCI artists Sally Todd and Deb Wilenski will share insights from recent work with Addenbrooke's Hospital, Spinney Wild Woods and Rock Road Library."