The TES reports that the party manifestos may cover a range of important issues in education, but there’s actually very little about children and the quality of their lives – it’s all too Gradgrind, writes educationalist John Dunford.
None of the party manifestos in the 2017 general election say anything about helping children and young people enjoy their education more. There is plenty about school funding, structural change, Ofsted, teacher supply, the curriculum and careers education – all important issues, but there is very little about children and the quality of their lives.
Charles Clarke produced a paper in 2004 on primary education entitled Excellence and Enjoyment.’ His introduction to the paper was a welcome message to a troubled primary system and caught most people by surprise. In the current climate, it bears repeating:
Children learn better when they are excited and engaged – but what excites and engages them best is truly excellent teaching, which challenges them and shows them what they can do. When there is joy in what they are doing, they learn to love learning. Different schools go about this in different ways. There will be different sparks that make learning vivid and real for different children. I want every primary school to be able to build on their own strengths to serve the needs of their own children. To do this, they will work with parents and the whole community; they will think creatively about how they use the skills of everyone in the school.
There has been a crisis in maths for as long as I can remember – too few well-qualified maths teachers, too few children passing GCSE, too few doing A level. The latest policy wheeze from the Conservatives – a maths specialist school in every city – will not solve anything and has rightly been described as counter-productive by maths experts and school leaders.
Maths is a beautiful subject and politicians and teachers should think more about how to bring that beauty to the attention of all young people.
But enjoyment should not be confined to mathematics. Teachers in all subjects and phases of education need to talk more about the joy of learning. Then, perhaps, politicians will follow suit and Charles Clarke will no longer be a glorious exception.
Where has the joy in learning gone? Washed away with Stats exams and ever stricter subject curriculum’s to follow? Please tell us your thoughts in comments or via Twitter ~ Tamsin
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