Archive for January, 2011

International Petition to Stop School League Tables for Five Year Olds appears in “The Friend”

“The Friend” is an international Quaker journal and the petition to “Stop School League Tables for Five Year Olds” featured this week in it. There is also an online version of this news piece which is written by Symon Hill – see this link:

“League Tables petition gets off to a strong start”.

I don’t think I would ever refer to this campaign as ‘my campaign’ as I’ve always tried to use a consensus-building approach and this is of course much less about me as an individual and much more about the thousand or so people who have already expressed their views as signatories of the petition and the dozens of people who supported me through the process of launching the petition. But I suppose the mother-takes-on-the- government-approach makes for a striking headline. And sometimes we need this light of print (and the net) to put something important across.

Nevertheless – it is a strong article and will carry considerable weight amongst subscribers to the Friend, I hope. Quakers also have their own Parliamentary Liason Officer in Parliament. And whilst this issue has not (yet) been adopted as an official Quaker ‘concern’ – I harbour the hope that Quakers in their meetings might be able to consider approaching their own M.P’s and ask them to sign the Early Day Motion.

Some supporters had feared that the Early Day Motion 1285 launched by Caroline Lucas would fall prey to the party whips. The first signatories were members of the Labour Party. If the Lib Dem and Conservative Party had cracked their whips against their motion – then the Early Day Motion might not succeed in mobilising the numbers of M.P’s we need. But – at the time of writing this we now have at least one Liberal Democrat on board.

Symon Hill, who wrote the Friend news piece – succeeded in extracting a statement from the Department of Education. And a statement from Caroline Lucas (who recently launched Early Day Motion 1285 on School League Tables for Five Year Olds) in response to what the  government said. 

According to this Friend piece – the DfE said:

” that it is inaccurate to use the term ‘league tables’ as this implies that testing will be involved” and

A spokesperson insisted “that the government is not ‘considering league tables for five-year-olds’.

But a spokesperson for Caroline Lucas described the DfE comment as ‘disingenuous’. She said ‘league tables don’t have to be about testing’, and that the term still applies when school-by-school comparisons are published.

Enlightening? Do let me know what you think of this one, blog readers.

 Three weeks into this petition launch we can see just how  the “Stop School League Tables” issue is galvanising public opinion. A series of cliches spring to mind. The petition has hit a nerve, that’s for sure. But it isn’t a ‘flash in the pan’. 

The nerve I’m referring to had been gradually exposed over a period of years with the repeated criticisms of the Compulsory Early Years Foundation Stage learning and development Requirements. I’ve been writing about these criticisms for nearly two years now on this blog as regular readers, I hope can see. 

Early Years Education is not an easy topic to write about. It is not easy for parents and it is not easy for journalists either. That’s partly because the lives of small children are influenced by many different factors – not just the care they receive in nurseries or schools but issues of food – housing – parental income – security – the culture we live in..and so it goes on.

The school league tables for five year olds proposal – it seems to me ( and to fall back on yet another cliche) – was for many of us – simply a ‘last straw’.

The petition (and the Early Day Motion) – are not (yet) subject to the sort of  censorship that typically – happens when a ‘consultation’ is launched. Everyone is keen to contribute to a consultation – but no-one has any assurances that their contributions will ever meet the light of day/print or be properly and seriously considered. And government spin-doctors tend to cherry pick the responses which suit them and leak these responses to the press – but typically not the responses which are critical of existing government policy. So many of us are left confused about the issues.

Before I did the interview with Symon Hill in the Friend – the following sentence came to me:

“The futures of young children are in danger of being sacrificed at the altar of political expediency”.

I stand by that statement. Before our government (parliament itself – the coalition government and the  Department of Education) enters into this debate properly it seems we will all have a fair amount of ‘kicking and screaming’ to contend with.

Here is that petition link once again:

Stop School League Tables for Five Year Olds

and here is another, complementary petition just recently launched:

Say No to Phonics Tests for small children

and here the link to the EDM 1285

http://edmi.parliament.uk/EDMi/EDMDetails.aspx?EDMID=42302&SESSION=905

International Petition to Stop School League Tables for Five Year Olds in the Guardian Education News

The International Petition to Stop School League Tables for Five Year Olds has made the Guardian Education News Section Today. See this link:

International Petition to Stop School League Tables for Five Year Olds.

There is also an Early Day Motion in Parliament. See previous post:

International petition to Stop School League Tables for Five Year Olds. Week Three. Early Day Motion 1285 Week Two.

The international petition “Stop School League Tables for Five Year Olds” featured in the Times Educational Supplement this week. In just three weeks we have amassed over a thousand signatures, including those of nursery and head teachers and some very ‘big’ names.

In a time of savage cut backs to nursery services we’ve been asking how much such ill advised measures cost. The government has not yet provided the answer to my Freedom of Information Query of last week on School League Tables for Five Year Olds and the Reading Test for Six Year Olds. 

 However, in the meantime Helen Ward of the Times Educational Supplement had launched a Freedom of Information Act Query of her own on the reading tests for six year olds: 

 Both the reading test scheme and The league table idea features in the Coalition Education Business Plan – details of which came to light in November last year.

The reading test for six year olds has been much criticised by educationalists – amongst them Professor Greg Brooks an expert in synthetic phonics – who criticised it as a ‘waste of money’ (in another TES Helen-Ward-Times-Ed-article a few weeks ago) – you’ll find the article link mentioned in a previous post on this blog. Professor Brooks has signed the petition against “School League Tables for Five Year Olds”.

In response to the Times Ed. Freedom of Information Act Query, the government has refused to provide information about how much the ill-advised reading test would cost. In order to challenge this decision the person who lodged it would need to go through the appeal process – which could take years. National Association of Head Teacher’s General Secretary Russell Hobby commented in the  TES:

“Apparently, it is in the public interest to disclose the salaries of heads and when they’re off sick, but it is not in the public interest to disclose the cost of a test that people are very dubious about”.

Here is the link to that TES article in full: Department for Education  refuses to disclose cost of Year 1 reading test pilots.

The movement to “Stop School League Tables for Five Year Olds” has also sparked Parliamentary Early Day Motion 1285 – with ten Member of Parliament signatures already. See this link:

We really need a debate in parliament on this one. It is time the Department of Education did their homework properly and stopped bullying young children, their parents and their teachers in this way.

  To get a debate in parliament we need to attain a third of M.P’s votes. So we need people at the grass roots to ask their M.P.’s to sign.

To find your M.P’s contact details follow this link:

http://www.parliament.uk/about/contacting/mp/

Stop School League Tables for Five Year Olds International Petition Day Fourteen. Early Day Motion 1285 day five.

Stop League Tables for Five Year Olds International Petition Launch day fourteen. Close to a thousand signatures and an article by journalist Helen Ward in the Times Educational Supplement today:

Anger builds over league tables for five year olds.

If you haven’t signed the petition yet please do so at this link: “International Petition to Stop School League Tables for Five Year Olds”. Forgive me for repeating myself – I believe it helps people to find this information on the net. 

As far as the Parliamentary Early Day Motion is concerned, it’s day five since it was created and already ten M.P’s have signed: Early Day Motion 1285 was put forward by the Green Party’s Caroline Lucas M.P and reads as follows:

“That this House opposes the Government’s proposal to begin publishing school league performance tables for England’s five year olds on a school by school basis; believes that such an unprecedented development puts both young children and their teachers, parents and carers under unwarranted stress that is distinctly unhelpful, especially for children at such a tender age; further believes such tables to be divisive and unnecessary; and calls on the Government to abandon its plans to expose young children and their schools to the pressures of the league table system”.

Here are the EDM signatory scores so far to date: (With the Green Party clearly in the lead)

Labour Party – 9

Social Democratic and Labour Party (Belfast South) – 1

Lib Dems – Nil

Conservatives – Nil

EDM 1285  
 
LEAGUE TABLES FOR FIVE YEAR OLDS 17.01.2011
 
Lucas, Caroline    10 signatures
  Campbell, Ronnie   Caton, Martin   Corbyn, Jeremy
  Flynn, Paul   Lavery, Ian   Lloyd, Tony
  McDonnell, Alasdair   McDonnell, John   Meale, Alan
 
 

We need over two hundred signatures to achieve a debate in Parliament so please ask your own M.P to sign. 

Petition link: Stop School League Tables for Five Year Olds

Early Day Motion 1285 Stop School League Tables for Five Year Olds.

If you would like to ask your own Member of Parliament to sign this Early Day Motion – you may want to make use of some of the petition text as background – it is best to personalise your email/letter and include a comment of your own. 

To see the petition background text click here: International Petition to Stop School League Tables for Five Year Olds.

To find your M.P’s email address and contact details click here:

http://www.parliament.uk/about/contacting/mp/

Making sense of the discussion on a National Curriculum.

A brief respite from the petition and Early Day Motion 1285 to “Stop School League Tables for Five Year Olds” to take in the wider context once again.

There’s discussion of a new national curriculum for primary schools. On the Today programme – Christine Blower General Secretary NUT explains clearly why we don’t need another review: 

“Let schools determine the Curriculum”.

http://news.bbc.co.uk/today/hi/today/newsid_9367000/9367572.stm

Sign the petition to “Stop School League Tables for Five Year Olds”

Ask your Member of Parliament to sign Early Day Motion 1285 – see previous post.

Stop School League Tables for Five Year Olds. Petition Day Thirteen. Early Day Motion Number 1285 (Day Two).

Things are moving fast. It’s only day thirteen since the international petition launch to “Stop School League Tables for Five Year Olds” and we already have close to a thousand signatures. And some very big names. See previous posts and the petition itself:

The Parliamentary Early Day Motion 1285 sparked by this campaign – (and launched by Caroline Lucas M.P just yesterday) – is boasting some big names too. At 2.30 p.m today the names are as follows:

Caroline Lucas, John McDonnell, Alan Meale, Jeremy Corbyn and Martin Caton.  

To see the Early Day Motion itself follow this link:

Early Day Motion 1285: Stop School League Tables for Five Year Olds.

If you would like to ask your own Member of Parliament to sign this Early Day Motion – you may want to make use of some of the petition text as background – it is best to personalise your email/letter and include a comment of your own. We need at least 200 signatures on Early Day Motion 1285 to stand a chance of a debate in parliament, so anything you can do is important.

To see the petition background text click here: International Petition to Stop School League Tables for Five Year Olds.

To find your M.P’s email address and contact details click here:

http://www.parliament.uk/about/contacting/mp/

Thanks for your support.

Stop School League Tables for Five Year Olds Early Day Motion. Petition Day Twelve.

Wow. It’s only twelve days since the international petition launch to Stop School League Tables for Five Year Olds and we already have a Parliamentary Early Day Motion, put together by Caroline Lucas M.P and her Parliamentary Research Team and supported by many, many petition signatories, parents, carers, teachers, researchers, lecturers, professors, writers and journalists. The Early Day Motion text varies only slightly from the petition text as you can see here: Early Day Motion to Stop School League Tables for Five Year Olds.

The second name on the Early Day Motion to Stop School League Tables for Five Year Olds is just as impressive as the first:  it is John McDonnell M.P. Thank you John. This is a very happy moment for me – although I can’t write fast enough!

Very pleased to see Netta Ford (N.U.T Birmingham and former President of this branch) having signed the petition too. She left a comment:

“Targets, testing and league tables have ruined our education system; they lower self-esteem and reduce learning to ticking boxes. They should be scrapped for all.”

So we need more signatories. Grass roots, rank and file – AND the big names. And more M.P’s signatories on the Early Day Motion to Stop School League Tables for Five Year Olds.

We have more than a few things helping us along here. For further reports try to beg, borrow or even buy (it’s expensive!) a copy of this weeks Times Educational Supplement. And keep an eye out for the issue in the national (and international?) news.

Once again here is that international petition link:

International Petition to Stop School League Tables for Five Year Olds

And the link for the Early Day Motion to Stop School League Tables for Five Year Olds.