Archive for the ‘Michael Gove’ Category

On the Free School Primary planned for Chester Cathedral (and shortcomings).

Okay I know, I haven’t written on this blog for a good while. Excuse being writer’s block brought on by various events, some or all of which were highly political. Also, being a bit of a blog perfectionist – posts sometimes appeared disparate and unconnected with each other. It made sense to me – but as far as the readership goes – I’ve got some joining-up to do perhaps?

It all seems to come together when you look at the Free School Primary planned for Chester Cathedral and the questions which no-one seems to be asking (yet).

The first question one might ask is: “How does the planning of such a school impact on other primaries in the area?”. (West Cheshire). Let’s just attempt a draft answer shall we? It seems to be the case that if the plan goes ahead less money will be available for other schools in the area. I have sources which indicate this is the case – so will update this blog post perhaps to include some of these.

The second question – most relevant to an early years blog – is – how will the (flawed) Early Years Foundation Stage be implemented in this school (?). I’m assuming  since the EYFS is ubiquitous and statutory requirement that this will be the case – unless the school plans to apply for an exemption…

Question number three: How did it happen that the front page of our local newspaper featured a report on the Chester Cathedral Free School Plan – which resembled a paid-for advertisement for such a school, rather than a journalistic analysis of whether or not such a school would be a good idea? See the Chester Chronicle’s Ambitious plans for first ever free school in Chester.

And question number five: Bearing in mind that it is Wednesday today – and I have only just got wind of a ‘public consultation event’ – scheduled for next Monday at the Chester Cathedral site –

(University cathedral free school Community Consultation event Monday 6th February 7pm 11 Abbey Square) how can this event apparently arranged at short notice – and the lack of adequate publicity offer the general public a chance for any really democratic consultation?

Question Six: How does the Chester Cathedral free school plan connect with the three-quarters-of-a- million pounds scandalously wasted on a proposed (and botched) – ‘improvement scheme’ described on this site? (See:  Chester Cathedral Free School background and history).

And last but not least: How does the Chester Cathedral Free School proposal connect with Michael Gove’s announcements this week?

More questions than answers…anyone out there – wish to comment?


Shorefields Secondary Anti-academy Protest hits Chester.

Arriving at the University of Chester around 11.30 a.m this morning, the passengers on the  double decker bus from Shorefields Secondary School filed out and assembled. Yet another protest against the drive to make their school an academy.  I listened to many different voices – most of them said the same thing: “There was no consultation” and “Not one person wanted this”. What we are seeing now in our society, one protestor said – is ‘institutionalised corruption’. Children, parents, trade unionists,  teachers and classroom assistants showed a united front and had brought with them a petition which they handed over the to the Vice Chancellor of the University of Chester via the reception desk of the University.

Shorefields Liverpool comes to Chester. Anti-academy protest. University of Chester. Photograph Frances Laing.

NUT Banner. Shorefields Anti-academy protest University of Chester. Photograph Frances Laing.

Parents told me something about the school. A school with good Ofsted ratings. A school particularly reliant on community support, a community school – with double the national average of children with Special Educational Needs and five times the national average for free school meals.

A school where price rises for essentials like school uniform are a difficult challenge for many, especially those with more than one child at the school. Under the new academy regime I was told a blazer would cost £40 and an outdoor p.e. kit shirt alone would cost £25.  

Protests have been covered extensively in the Liverpool Echo and the Liver press, but this time protestors were on a ‘Day Out’ in the style of the playwright Willy Russell, to show Cestrians what the academies story really is and how Chester University is at the forefront of the push to privatise our schools.

I was told the protests have seen five resignations by governors at the school.

Shorefields Anti-academy protest comes to Chester. Photograph Frances Laing.

One of the major funding issues with special educational needs was that in contrast to a local authority school – in an academy special educational needs funding is not ring fenced. Therefore if the school finances go down, there is no financial back up for this provision.

Shorefields Anti Academy protest outside University of Chester. Photograph Frances Laing.

University of Chester officials attempted to stage-manage the protest in PR terms leaving the majority of protestors in an empty hall – with all the banners propped up against the tables.

A hot drink had been laid on by the University of Chester but these seasoned   protestors clearly had no intention of being bought out by tea and biscuits (come to think of it, in fact there weren’t even any biscuits). With a polystyrene cup of University tea  in hand I heard how  pro-academy forces-that-be had been slowly chipping away at the school’s reputation. A school that had been described as ‘good’ by Ofsted.

Shorefields Anti-Academy Protest University of Chester. Photograph Frances Laing.

 Afterwards I accompanied protestors on the coach from the University of Chester to Chester Cathedral. (They had asked the Bishop of Chester to meet them to discuss their concerns).

Shorefields community clearly cares about itself and Shorefields butties were shared on board. Here was a community which was together. Not some theoretical kind of Cameron-esque big society but a real, big-hearted community in action.

Our own Chester city chiefs like to make a show of offering hospitality to visitors and each bus load of visitors can access a tour guide. 

In contrast – the Shorefields Anti-Academy Protestors coach featured a police escort up front courtesy of Cheshire West and Chester Council.  

Protestors kept their sense of humour, I had lost mine, I was just ashamed of our city at that point. The official reception seemed so shabby.  It seemed our University never had any intention of listening to these parents, teachers and children – it was just seeing pound signs – just wanted them to shut up and go away. And seldom if ever do we hear about any of these things in our own local press.

Shorefields Anti-academy protest police escort. Photograph Frances Laing.

Undeterred, protestors left their double decker bus and headed confidently for Chester Town Hall Square steps singing a cleverly crafted anti-academy cover version of  “We’re all going on a summer holiday”. It was a day to remember…and I felt privileged to be there.

Shorefields Anti-Academy protest heads for Chester City Centre. Photograph Frances Laing.

Local union officials stood ready to greet protestors on the Town Hall steps together with a spokesperson from the National Union of Teachers.

 I believe the protest made the national news. 

Shorefields Anti-academy Protestors Chester Town Hall. Photograph by Frances Laing.

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:

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.

Coalition government, Michael Gove and the Early Years Foundation Stage

There are advantages to being an older parent. You watch political developments with a certain, patient stoicism. Without panic. You’ve seen  (most of it in different guises) before, after all.

In our household we’ve lived through a whole lot of political history. I was in Germany for ten years and lived through the fall of the Berlin Wall. Proportional representation became second nature. As did the realisation that coalition governments make  agreements on policy  – agreements which they often choose to break. My other half was a young man in Britain when Thatcher was around. So no false hopes  about the Lib-Dem coalition there either.

As far as this blog is concerned – we want to know about the future of Early Years education. We’ve looked at the Lib Dem Manifesto and what the Lib Dems were saying about the Early Years Foundation Stage. They were talking about a ‘slimmed down’ version of the Early Years Foundation Stage – as far as proposals for reform are concerned, this could mean anything and nothing – let’s face it.

So let’s look at what Michael Gove had to say about Early Years Education in the Guardian on Tuesday. Michael answered a reader’s question:

Q. In the light of the Rose and Cambridge reviews of primary education, what do you see as the priorities for the early years?

Wendy Scott, Keswick, Cumbria

 Here is Michael’s answer: “It’s critical that children spend time before they arrive in school in a warm, attractive and inclusive environment, where they can learn through play, master social skills and prepare for formal schooling.

The central priority for the first years of primary schooling must be learning to read. Unless children have learned to read, they can’t read to learn. Which is why we will improve teacher training to provide authoritative instruction in the implementation of systematic synthetic phonics. The most detailed academic studies – in Clackmannanshire and West Dunbartonshire – show that in these two relatively disadvantaged Scottish local authorities, systematic synthetic phonics teaching effectively eliminated illiteracy. So we will do everything we can to support teachers in getting reading right so that children can then go on to enjoy a broad, balanced and wide-ranging curriculum.

Readerare you thinking what I am thinking on this one? Michael wrote: “Unless children have learned to read, they can’t read to learn”.

Where is the awareness of current international research standards (as mentioned in the previous post)? I’d like to see those “detailed academic studies – from Clackmannanshire and West Dunbartonshire”. How do these relate to Dr. Sebastian Suggate’s research, I wonder…

Is this the study Michael Gove is referring to?

And what about the hundreds of childminders who have left the profession due to the overly bureaucratic nature of the compulsory EYFS learning and development requirements?