"I learned a great deal from the children, families and communities in London's Docklands and the East End where I started teaching in 1961. Conditions were not much better than those faced by the McMillan sisters in Deptford half a century earlier. Children played on unreconstructed bomb sites, and many, including immigrant families, lived in difficult conditions. My college training had not equipped me with necessary knowledge about bed bugs, or prison visiting, so I had a lot to learn …"
"Educators should guard against over-concentration on formal teaching and the attainment of a specific set of targets". the Rumbold Report 'Starting with Quality' 1990
In a paper which we are publishing for a general readership, Wendy Scott brings much to our attention in a rounded reflection on her sixty years of experience and advocacy in early education. The highs, principles, histories of morally committed pioneers; developing democratic early educational practice despite the disinterest of wider society; the frustrations and volte-faces of policy and ministers. She highlights the need for educators to maintain vigilance and articulate 'what quality is and should be' in the face of seas of change and ignorance in recent and contemporary times – and from her own experience reminds of the need for individuals to find their ways to keep rooted and also open.
Wendy Scott is an early years teacher with extensive experience in the PVI sector as well as schools. Headship of a demonstration nursery school was followed by a senior lectureship at Roehampton University, where she co-ordinated the original advanced diploma in multi-professional studies.
Wendy has been an early years and primary inspector in London, and has worked across England as an OFSTED Registered Inspector and trainer. She led The British Association for Early Childhood Education and chaired the national Early Childhood Forum before becoming a specialist adviser to the DfES, and working abroad with the British Council and UNICEF. She is has been President of TACTYC, the Association for Professional Development in Early Years, and has judged the Nursery World Nursery of the Year competition since 2008. She was awarded an OBE for services to education in 2015.
"The Treasury … allocates resources to Government Departments over three years. This is reviewed biennially, but is followed by an annual internal battle within Departments for funding. This together with our oppositional political system makes long term strategic planning virtually impossible: I was told that my ideas for developing secure and effective early years provision over 20 years had no chance, nor did any proposal that would take longer than a single parliamentary term."
"A heavy accountability system together with inappropriate definitions of school readiness and ill-advised approaches to the teaching of reading are narrowing the curriculum in nurseries as well as reception classes. Several recent initiatives pushed through by Ministers go against research evidence and professional experience. The lack of respect for expertise is hard to understand, let alone accept. …. The politician simply put his hands over his ears, and said "I'm not listening". "
"As an experienced professional, I have deep concerns that rigidly imposed accountability to a flawed system currently takes precedence over the real needs of individual pupils: rising levels of mental health problems among students of all ages and stress on teachers are serious symptoms of the current malaise. It is very frustrating to find that although many parents as well as professionals seek to speak truth to power, they are not being heard. The human cost is considerable, and will cast shadows long into the future."
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"RIP to Sir Ken Robinson, an eloquent and indefatigable defender of the role of the arts and creativity in education. His TED talks made him world-famous; his presentation "Do schools kill creativity?" remains the most popular TED talk of all time—and he wrote widely, including major books on creativity. Robinson was knighted in 2003 for his distinguished career in service to the arts.
He was a staunch critic of standardised tests and compliance-based classrooms, and an unapologetic champion of every kind of creative endeavour—from theatre, to music, film, painting, dance, and everything in between. He died on Friday 21st August after a brief battle with cancer. His voice will be greatly missed."
[Jaweria Sethi, Edopia]
Here is a distillation from Ken Robinson's excellent and cogent publication 'Creative Schools':
" Richard Gerver (Head Teacher of the Year 2005) said: the basics I'm talking about are the biological gifts we're born with that thrust us into the world as incredible learning organisms. We are born with all the skills – all the basics – we need. Babies and very young children are incredibly intuitive, naturally creative, and deeply curious.'
People will achieve miracles if they are motivated by a driving vision and sense of purpose. That vision has to connect with them personally. I can't imagine that many children wake up in the morning wondering what they can do to raise their state's reading standards. But countless children do want to read and write and calculate for their own purposes and to sing and dance and explore and experiment. Countless teachers and parents want to support them.
There is not a simple line from vision to change. It is a constant process of action, improvisation, evaluation, and reorientation in light of experience and circumstances.
As Gandhi said, if you want to change the world, you must be the change you want to see. "
Ken's book is a cogent call for change. He's setting the ground for what and why, and how.
In 2018, commenting on the BBC this week on the government's 'high stakes testing' approach to education, Ken Robinson cogently outlined the damaging path which education is being pushed down. Do take two minutes to listen to the interview here.
You, Your Child, and School
In this book, Ken Robinson has also been considering how to inform and support parents. It is very timely in the work of spreading a broad cultural vision for enlivening education. For decades and decades now, educators have been striving to make the case for education which enables, enlivens, connects. Often we've been working and doing this amongst ourselves – which is great and necessary. But this rather leaves parents out on a limb, with varying degrees of disquiet or unhappiness which can simply feel unfathomable, or lead to decisions such as simply keeping their children away from the whole sorry mess. Rather latterly we've realised that 'our information' needs sharing and discussing broadly – that examples of lived, exciting education needs sharing, that aspirations for what education could actually be need blazoning in public spaces. Parents are the potential partners in this re-making of such a basic public good. Here's an extract from his introduction:
"Education is sometimes thought of as a preparation for what happens when your child leaves school-getting a good job or going on to higher education. There's a sense in which that's true, but childhood is not a rehearsal. Your children are living their lives now with their own feelings, thoughts, and relationships. Education has to engage with them in the here and now, just as you do as a parent. Who your children become and what they go on to do in the future has everything to do with the experiences they have in the present. If your children have a narrow education, they may not discover the talents and interests that could enrich their lives in the present and inspire their futures beyond school.
I hope [that this book] will be useful in three ways.
- The first is by looking at the sort of education your children need these days and how it relates to your roles as a parent. The world is changing so quickly now that education has to change too.
- The second is by looking at the challenges you face in helping them get that education. Some of those challenges have to do with public policies for education and some more generally with the times we live in.
- The third is by looking at your options and power as a parent to overcome these challenges."
We recommend it to all who are striving to envision and empower a broad vision for education and the wellbeing of the children who are and will experience it.
"Rainy day dens, sunny day dens, inside, outside. Whatever the mood or weather the boys love to make a den, and let their imaginations run wild. Even baby brother is allowed in them (sometimes!)
Their own space that comes alive. "
Our 'Learning Together at Home' invitations are still connecting, and of course children, supported by their parents are still finding the times and places for imagination - here are some windows into summer worlds of a family of boys in Cumbria:
Do carry on - playing, learning, connecting - and posting us your stories.