Archive for December, 2010

League tables for five year olds.

Michael Gove’s plan to introduce league tables for five year olds has given rise to a flurry of protest letters in the print edition of the Times Educational Supplement today – among them this one by Margaret Edgington of  Open Eye which I’m taking the liberty of re-publishing here:

Five years old is no age for an ‘audit’

Letters | Published in The TES on 10 December, 2010 | By: Margaret Edgington

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 Michael Gove’s latest policy initiative (“League tables for five year olds”, December 3) betrays a woeful ignorance of young children and what their parents want for them. It also indicates that he is likely to ignore Dame Clare Tickell’s Coalition-sponsored review of the Early Years Foundation Stage, which is due to make recommendations on early-years assessment and the Profile.

At the end of the reception year, some children are nearly a year younger than others (some being almost six and others, who were born in late July and August, still four) and many are just beginning to learn English language.

To compare individual children at this point in their life is appalling enough. It is therefore hard to imagine what would lead someone to come up with the idea of comparing, school by school, the scores of such young, vulnerable children. Surely the teaching unions in England will stand together and support headteachers and teachers to mount a strong campaign against this highly damaging proposal.

Margaret Edgington, On behalf of the Open EYE steering group, Leicester.


Cheshire West Against the Cuts. Protest. Conservative Party Offices Chester.

Cheshire West Against the Cuts campaign kicks off with a high visibility protest outside the Conservative Party offices on the main roundabout into Chester. Photo: Frances Laing.

Paid a flying visit to the Cheshire West Against the Cuts demonstration outside the Conservative Party offices in Chester today.

Twelve o’clock saw more than a dozen protestors arriving to site themselves at the main roundabout. Drivers started tooting straight away in support.
Shirley Clout, a local mother and protestor said “As a child my parents had a booklet on the shelf – the Beveridge Report. Everyone used to talk about how important it was. This government does not have a proper mandate to change how the welfare state works. They are putting the clock back. They haven’t consulted people properly“.
Union members including PCS and Unison joined the protest.
Placards included:
“Reject 40 per cent cuts in higher education”
“No tuition fees increases”
“Tax the rich. No education cuts”.

Cheshire West Against the Cuts. Vigil tomorrow. Chester.

Cheshire West against the Cuts (see also Facebook group) will be holding a vigil outside the Tory Party offices in Nicholas Street Chester, on Thursday (tomorrow) from 12 noon to 4.p.m (if we don’t freeze before then).

They say:

“Trade Unionists, students and Labour activists are welcome to join us  – perhaps after the campus demo if you are a student. Placards and warm clothes essential”.

League tables for five year olds. Gove and co. what on earth are they doing?

Did anyone ask parents how they feel about the stupid and demeaning plan to create league tables for five year olds? Not enough that our family  housing is endangered, our jobs are threatened and almost every aspect of our children’s future has now been rendered uncertain – but we are now expected to rob our own children of the last vestiges of freedom to learn that they can still experience in the early years of primary school.

Not enough that the best early years educational experts internationally have criticised the English Early Years Education system and the Early Years Foundation Stage Learning and Development Requirements.

The government promised a review of the system which should have taken these criticisms into account. Many childminders, parents, early years educationalists and carers spent a great deal of time formulating their responses. From where we are standing the review now looks like a complete sham. As I’ve said before “EYFS review = a cover for the cuts”.  

Start to read more about why government league tables for five year olds are such a bad idea at this TES link.

League tables for five year olds

Tuition Fees. Nick Clegg’s pre-election promise and the future of Early Years Education.

Due to impending cuts in universities (up to and over ninety per cent in some cases) I’m not hearing anything from most of my usual early years higher education contacts.

It seems early years education is a soft target – with parents, women in particular and young children being hit particularly hard. Many parents of under fives are restricted as far as how they can take part in evening meetings or demonstrations – so blogs and the internet become more important to understand the situation including the implications of the vote on Thursday on tuition fees – and to take effective action.

I want to carry on spelling out what the cuts mean for the very youngest and most vulnerable of our children and what can be done. Amongst other things it is clear to me that if tuition fees are raised, early years research and education will continue to suffer as it will be much more difficult for students to enter early education studies. 

Channel Four reported that “raising tuition fees is an extremely difficult issue for the Lib Dem leader Nick Clegg because the party’s MPs signed an NUS pledge before the May election promising to vote against any proposals to do so”.

According to the NUS – Nick Clegg “failed to respond to a letter from NUS President Aaron Porter, (earlier this week) in which Mr. Porter set out his opposition to the Goverment’s plans and requested an opportunity to discuss the issue with Nick Clegg in public”.

The NUS President has published an open letter to Nick Clegg which reads as follows:

Dear Nick

I see with interest that in today’s Independent on Sunday, you’ve challenged me to “come clean” about “just what my proposals are” for a graduate tax; asking for an “open contest” comparison. You will remember I wrote to you earlier in the week suggesting both a meeting and an open debate. Although I’ve had no reply other than reading your comments in a Sunday newspaper, I’m delighted to respond. Here’s ten reasons why I think our proposals are fairer and more progressive than yours.

Firstly, our proposal for a progressive graduate contribution scheme would have retained the idea that the state, as well as the individual, should contribute to the cost of Higher Education. Your Government’s decision to transfer the whole cost on to the individual through a loans system is the ideological choice of group who believe that Higher Education should only be available to the richest. I’m sure they are amazed at your willingness to go along with it and they’re not the only ones.

Secondly, under our proposals, earners in the lowest quintile would have paid less than £500 for university; those in the next quintile about half what they do now and those in the middle quintile roughly the same as now. It would only have been those who really benefit that would have paid more. Under your Government’s proposed scheme only the bottom 25% of earners would pay less overall- meaning 75% pay more. Our version of a graduate tax would have been more progressive.

Third, you’ve argued that your proposals are fairer because graduates would only start paying back when they earn £21,000 as opposed to £15,000 in our proposals drafted in 2008. You omit to mention that this is £21,000 in 2016 money, and that the threshold won’t increase until 2021 (not even Vince Cable had worked this out when he spoke about it on the radio earlier this week). Under our proposals the repayment threshold would have moved every year in line with inflation.

Fourth, you say that your proposals are fairer because so many students never pay back their debt under your scheme. Being in debt for the next 30 years of our lives is not something we want to celebrate as progressive- and never paying off a debt is something I was raised to believe is a source of shame, not progressive pride.

Fifth, your proposed system introduces course price as a factor in student choice. Even if the system of loans and repayment makes it easier for a student to get into and then pay off debt (and I dispute your assertion that it does), there are still significant problems with a system that includes fees and course prices. It is ridiculous to assume that students won’t take the price of a course into account when choosing it, regardless of the repayment mechanism. A truly progressive system is one where students are able to make decisions according to their ambitions and aspirations without concern at all to price or potential returns (as remains the case in the proposed system), or viability in relation to the support they could obtain. A modified graduate tax would have removed price as a determinant in student choice.

Sixth, your system means that higher contributions go to rich institutions and lower ones to poor institutions. By operating a “fees and loans” scheme instead of graduate tax, it means that the higher payments from richer graduates end up flowing into the universities that are already richest, with the fewest poor students to support, the most endowment funds and the best asset bases. This means that, apart from the few on “golden ticket” scholarships, the poorest students go to the poorest institutions and the richest students end up topping up the richest institutions. There’s no sense in a progressive payment system if the outcome effects are regressive. Our modified graduate tax would have meant a fair distribution of the extra contributions that the richest graduates make to all universities.

Seventh, you have said you will look at “early repayment penalties” on loans (although we’ve had no detail yet). But this misses the point. By operating a fees and loans scheme, it is possible for the richest families to avoid taking out loans altogether- meaning that the children of (in your words) “Goldman Sachs Bankers” can avoid having to pay more at all. A modified graduate tax would have meant that those who financially benefit the most from their education pay their fair share in later life.

Eighth, your proposed system supposedly offers students more “consumer power”, helps drive university efficiency and improves quality. In truth your proposals offer virtually no enhanced rights or power to students over their provision. And there is no evidence from any other country that a market in Higher Education would work to improve efficiency- in fact most other countries’ evidence points to the opposite. There is also no evidence at all that the “market” improves quality or that there is any link between the quality of teaching and the price paid. The supposed “link” between a student paying an institution and it responding to student need is faulty, and a cover for an ideological attempt to marketise HE. Our modified graduate tax would not have pretended that students paying more automatically means they get more.

Ninth, the key determinant of university access is achievements at level 3. We wouldn’t have swapped £450m in maintenance support for the poorest at school and college doing A levels for a third of that in golden ticket partial scholarships to universities. What’s the point in free first years for the poorest if they drop out of college before they get there?

But finally and tenth, your manifesto said you’d scrap fees. Your signed pledge said you’d vote against an increase. Your video address to my conference said you’d “vote against, campaign against any increase in that cap”. Your proposal takes student fees and debt and triples them. Ours would have taken fees and debt and abolished them.

Students are angry about your proposals because they are unfair, ideological and represent a massive betrayal of the students who voted for you. That is why they want your party to vote against them and not because “It’s great going on demos and really having a crack at the government of the day”.

Aaron Porter

NUS National President

PS- The vote on Thursday is a vote on the cap. It’s not a vote on making fees progressive, or your scholarship fund, or reforms to deliver better value for students. Tripling fees before Christmas with a vague promise to make them more progressive after Christmas, on the thin excuse of prospectus deadlines, is nothing short of a disgrace.

If you’re a parent, grandparent or carer and you can’t get along to the tuition fees demonstration this Thursday in London – check out this link – you can use it to personalise a protest letter to your M.P.

Families Against Fees say:

“We have formed Families Against Fees to give parents, grandparents, brothers and sisters the opportunity to contact their MP to raise concerns about the imminent parliamentary vote that would triple tuition fees to £9,000. MPs will vote on these proposals on Thursday 9 December 2010.

We have included below a tool to find your MP’s email address and a draft of a model letter to send them. We recommend that you adapt this to fit your own circumstances and those of your family, your own concerns and the impact this will have on you locally and in your constituency.

We need MPs to understand the concerns of the general public about proposals to hike fees. An ITN poll shows 70% of the public agree that higher tuitions fees would deter students from poorer backgrounds from going to university, and only 17% believe they won’t. According to a recent Sunday Telegraph poll, just 29% per cent of the public support higher fees.”

We need to make politicians aware of the huge public concern about their proposals to triple fees”.

See also:


Coming soon to a school near you? Academies and the anti-academies alliance.

The Chester and District Standard reported today that the anti-academy alliance group at a local secondary school (Christleton High School) have lost their battle to stop their school becoming an academy.

David Robinson a spokesperson for the Cheshire West Anti-Academies campaign has been quoted in the Chester Chronicle. He said he was ‘not surprised but disappointed’ by the move…“I am clearly disappointed with the outcome because it’s been done with indecent haste with no public consultation, largely behind closed doors.”

“It’s anti-democratic and threatens the stability of our  schools in future.”

Mr Robinson, whose two children both attended the school, expressed dismay the school would neither officially confirm nor deny its decision on Friday despite it being ‘a public decision, a public building and public money’.

He added: “It makes it difficult to plan a decent range of schools for local kids because if one school leaves local authority control it starts to make its decisions on its own without considering other young children in the broader area.”

Parents should rightly be concerned about the impact such a move will have on the funding and organisation of their own schools as well as what effect this move will have on early years provision.

There are things we can do to access more information:

Firstly follow these links to access the anti-academies alliance website with information about schools which have successfully fought an academy plan and won. There is also a list of schools which are putting academy plans forward right now:

Anti-academies alliance

Secondly – if you can – get yourself along to tonight’s public meeting to be held in the Chester Guild Hall on Watergate Street at 7.30 p.m. CH1 2LA

The Meeting is organised by the West Cheshire TUC and marks the creation of the Cheshire West Against the Cuts” – they say:

“West Cheshire has called a public meeting to launch the campaign to defend our jobs and services. Join us to fight against the cuts in local jobs and services and defend our community. Everybody is welcome bring a friend”.

Here is the TUC North West website link:

and one of the Chester Chronicle reports on Christleton High School and the Academy Plan.