Posts Tagged ‘Cheshire West Against the Cuts’

Campaign for the Book. West Cheshire Council Staff take Industrial Action.

This blog has developed organically over the course of two and a half years. My daughter is now six and a half. We are acutely aware of the damage that has been done by testing young children too much. And too much too soon, as has been evidenced by the mistakes made with the early versions of the Early Years Foundation Stage (which has now been reformed) – the coalition government’s proposed league tables for five year olds (which we managed as a grass roots campaign) to push back.

As parents we refused mostly wholesale the homework imposed on our child from the age of four – the testing and the tables. Instead we read stories to our daughter consistently and had conversations and followed and engaged with the guidance of fellow co-contributors to the book ‘Early Learning and the Erosion of Childhood’ which was published last year. We were in good company my daughter and I – collaborating with the best of early years educators internationally.

So it was an immense privilege for my daughter and I to stand on a picket line together with Alan Gibbons – children’s author today and founder of the ‘Campaign for the Book’. You see as parents we refused every test and measurement of our child that there was going – it came as no surprise to us that approaching the age of seven – our daughter has not only been awarded a prize for her descriptive writing at school – but is now amongst the VERY top of her class at spelling. How did that happen?

It happened in large part because as a family (and as a community) we love books. And accordingly, we love libraries. Stuff the tests. Libraries are free and have always been an important part of our culture. They are also a cheap, warm, safe and secure place to visit with small children (especially when the weather is cold or in the holidays).

So we supported our libraries today in Chester. West Cheshire Council staff (not just librarians) are currently taking industrial action see this link for video by David Holmes of the Chester Chronicle. It always amazes me how PR people in large organisations are often ignorant of the sheer unstoppable force of word-of-mouth communication. Alan Gibbons remembered how my Other Half campaigned on the miner’s strike twenty years before. There wasn’t much we needed to explain. Alan reminded us of how the U.K is twenty fifth in the Pisa rankings and planning to shut down many of it’s libraries. South Korea on the other hand I recall he said is number five on the Pisa list and they are opening more than one hundred new libraries.

So it seems as has so often been the case throughout history and across the world, those who love books are in the forefront of resistance to the canker that is the coalition. Joined in Cheshire West  by Home Care Workers, Housing Network Staff, Parking Enforcement Officers, Park Rangers, Central Control Officers, CCTV Officers, Streetscene Operatives, Children’s Home Staff, Social Workers and Family Support Workers.

Cameron and co. who on earth do you think you are fooling?

Council Staff are taking Industrial Action – UNISON PRESS RELEASE FOLLOWS:

Staff across all Council Services are currently on strike over the Easter holiday period. 100’s of staff have been forced to take strike action following the rejection by the Council of new proposals that would have avoided this disruption to services across the Borough. The Council by rejecting new reasonable proposals from the trade unions that would have avoided this strike – have only made matters worse.

The issue:

This Council, unlike most others in the North West, has decided to remove the pay enhancements staff receive for working weekends, bank holidays and overtime. They are also cutting the rate for working nights.

UNISON believes that paying more for working nights and weekends is fair and proper. It reflects the real cost of working 6 days, missing family life and of higher child care costs.

All major employers make such payments. We are not prepared to see ours taken away because of a financial crisis we did not cause. We are already suffering redundancies and a 3 year pay freeze, which has cut our real pay by over 10 per cent.

In addition to that – the Council have actively sought to undermine the strike action by offering double pay to people who are prepared to undermine their colleague’s action.

Other Councils have all managed to negotiate with the trade unions – no other Council has gone this far; and we believe this is an ideological attack on the workforce.

If the Council had put as much effort into resolving this dispute, as it has into undermining lawful action, we would not be in this position today. We hope you will understand why we are forced to take this action and you will support us in the fight.

SOURCE: west cheshire UNISON.

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The Truth about Academy Schools. Public Meeting Chester. The verdict.

Last night’s public meeting at the Mollington Banastre hotel with representatives of the NUT, the NASWT, ATL and UNISON went well. I was speaking as a writer and a parent and promised I would make the transcript of my talk available on this blog – for those who couldn’t make it – or for those who want to add to and continue with the discussion.

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I’ve been asked to give a short talk. Initially I chose ‘The potential impact of academies on parents and children’ as a heading and then quickly realised how ridiculous a title it was – more like a dissertation… so let’s narrow  this down to:

‘Towards an analysis of the potential impact of academies on parents and children’.

This title kind of implies that we’re on the way but we don’t have all the answers…(if like me you’re a stressed out parent and you nod off during this talk – you can catch up with it later on www.parentsguidetoeyfs.wordpress.com

I wrote a chapter for a book on education last autumn. The book is “Too Much Too Soon – Early Learning and the Erosion of childhood’. The chapter was called  “A Parent’s Challenge to New Labour’s Early Years Foundation Stage”.

I described how a new parent (or a parent who is new to a particular school) may not know how the school system (and the individual school) works. This is also highly relevant to any discussion on academies – parents are subjected to a great deal of propaganda – about the system itself and about systems-within-the-system such as the Early Years Foundation Stage).

Where does this propaganda come from? In simple terms it is created by

a) The government

b) The government and businesses sending PR and targeted press releases to the media which some  journalists no longer have the time to analyse properly as they should. Funding for investigative journalism is increasingly difficult to find.

c) Local authorities (following the government line)

d) And schools themselves (websites, PR) e.t.c.

Of course parents are savvy and inventive, they were not born yesterday – but many of us nonetheless find ourselves in an extraordinary vulnerable position as far as sending our children to a particular school is concerned. Personally I feel you never really know what a school is like until your child has been there for a good while or until you start to work there yourself, as a member of staff.

I’ve been asking parents about academies locally and writing about it. I spent a day in the company of parents from Shore fields Academy as they protested at the University of Chester and at Chester Town Hall. You’ll find an account of what they had to say on the blog mentioned above – I heard many different voices – most of them said the same thing: “There was no consultation” – “Not one person wanted this” – and having lived through the experience of seeing their school turned into an academy one parent summed things up: “What we are seeing now in our society is institutionalised corruption”.

Our daughter is six and she attends xxx primary school. I would not have said when she started there that it was a good school. Our current headmistress with whom I have had a great many interesting (and often difficult) discussions about education – together with her team – is succeeding in improving the school.

When my daughter started there some years ago – parents were kept at a distance – outside the gate – quite literally even when it was pouring with rain we were no allowed in to the school gates at pick up time. We didn’t even have a parent teacher association. There was a lot of bullying.

And then the culture started to change. School staff asked parents for their opinions, parents took part in all manner of events, maths days, school garden project, people started to relax more and work together more there were visible improvements. Parents teachers and head navigated their way through the painstaking process of forming a PTA and in the first year won a national award from the National Association for PTAs. I mention all this as in academy schools systems of governance in contrast appear to be undemocratic.

I’m not going to reiterate the detailed and excellent arguments put forward by the unions. I’ve noticed that some assume that I am against all academies and free schools per se. I’m not sure I am. What I’m saying is more pragmatic than that something more like “if it ain’t broke then don’t fix it”.

State schools can work and they do work. I believe that as long as parents work together with the school, as long as their suggestions  are really listened to, taken up AND mechanisms are in place for criticisms to be listened to and parents are not marginalised – they can be effective and happy places. Yes, we need to change govt. policies and I will never agree with some aspects of the state school system as it stands for example sending school to school at four is far too early (the arguments on the one are in the book I mentioned – fellow co-contributors include Barry Sheerman the former chair of the government’s education committee and many international childhood experts.

As a parent the thought that our state school might be turned into an academy is dreadful. As is the thought that when my daughter is ready to start secondary schools there will be no state schools left – only academies to ‘choose’ from.

As a writer I have received testimonies from parents (and teachers) who are experiencing unethical behaviour in academies locally. Here are some examples:

– One new teacher in an academy had been working for free  for six months (the equivalent of a workfare scheme in education).

– Examples of teachers completing student’s work themselves in order to meet targets

– Examples of classroom assistants being used as substituted teachers for project work inappropriately.

– Putting children with attention span problems in a 2 to 3 hour lesson

– Financial mismanagement – which favoured senior management salaries whilst leaving teaching staff without the necessary resources to teach effectively (no equipment for sessions e.. books)

– Academies cannot be put into special measures – so make an academy which fails and you are effectively creating a failing academy that can’t be failed. (N.B after having given this talk, someone queried this – so I would be glad of any comments to clear this one up).

– There are huge problems with behavioural issues – it is difficult enough to tackle bullying in a state school which has access to local authority resources but without local authority anti-bullying resources – the problem can get worse. One teacher in an academy said: “As a subject lead I experience some incidents/problems with my classes. however I am constantly interrupted by incidents in the department. I do not blame staff for his as the pupils have nowhere else to go – The punishment for verbal abuse and physical assault in totally unacceptable as i is for repeat behaviour and escalation in behaviour. Levels of abuse are tolerated, pupils are openly defiant there is complete confusion over roles and responsibilities.

I’m sorry that more parents from our school were not able to join the discussion tonight. I often think that most of the activity around a public meeting happens by word of mouth – when people go home  and tell their friends (at the school gate). Some are double booked we have a PTA meeting tonight.

Having spoken about the positive sides of PTA’s I need to add a word of warning as far as academies are concerned. There is a degree of pressure right now to reduce the role of PTA’s to fundraising and to try to exclude topics from the agenda that are perceived to be ‘political’ or ‘ideological’. We’ve come up against this issue quite a number of times in ours. One example: we objected on religious, ideological and political grounds to our child being asked to ‘dress to impress’ on the day of the Royal Wedding – and were promptly told by a fellow PTA parent that if we didn’t like it we should ‘go to Libya’.

PTA’s need to be aware that ‘dissent’ is the cornerstone of democracy itself. The model PTA constitution offered by the National PTA association states that PTA’s exist not only to fund raise but also their primary purpose is to ‘further the children’s education’. To my mind this should include a discussion of the wider influences on schools such as academies. Schools have a legal obligation to actively further the involvement of parents in their children’s education.

I believe that academisation, the setting up of free schools locally and nationally will not ‘raise standards’ but lead to a deterioration in the essence of what education is truly about – it will lead to an over emphasis and further obsession with target culture.

Education should be about asking questions and finding answers, investigation, creativity and yes, in a positive sense – discipline .

Education should be about substance and NOT spin.

My other half, my daughter and I are proud to be long-standing members of Cheshire West against the Cuts. I have to say apart from being extremely hard working, the people involved are compassionate and caring. I mention this fact for a reason. We need to fight the cuts on all fronts and I believe that truth and the moral imperative is on our side. At a packed meeting of Chester Disabled People Against the Cuts my husband Richard Atkinson described what the government is doing to essential services as ‘evil’. He is an atheist, but his speech would not have been out of place in my Wirral and Chester  Quaker Meeting.

He said the government cuts in the NHS health and social care were ‘evil’ because they were prompting people to accept the idea that is  somehow alright to stop seeing people as human beings at all. That it is okay to judge every adult and every child – according to whether or not they can do certain tasks – and in doing so reduce human beings to a set of ‘outcomes’.

There is much more to say about this obviously than is possible in ten minutes, but the truth about academies I believe is that they will do nothing to reverse this trend.

It’s really not that complicated. The following quote came from a resident of Haringey not connected with education.

“If  you have a flourishing school and if parents and teachers are happy with it, what is Mr Gove’s problem? It is his horrible Etonian ideology that wishes to privatise education so that his mates can get a cut: same with the NHS really.”

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Public Meeting Chester: The Truth about Academy Schools

I’ve done it again – agreed to speak at a public meeting I mean.

In Chester this evening on “The Truth about Academy Schools”. Wasn’t at all nervous until people started saying: “Rather me than you” 🙂 ?

It’s organised by Chester Trades Council and supported by trades unions ATL, NASUWT, NUT and UNISON. The venue is the Mollington Banastre Hotel, Parkgate Road Chester and if you need the post code for your Sat Nav it is CH1 6NN.6.30 p.m for 7.00-8.30

Everyone is welcome apparently, parents, teachers, school support staff, any interested parties…for those that keep an eye on such things it is quite a posh venue – with free parking and refreshments. And, (I’m told) some sort of facility for children. So not having a babysitter is no excuse, guys and gals. The flier says: meet representatives of the Trades Council, ATL, NASUWT, NUT and UNISON. And me. Speaking amongst other things as a member of the largest non-unionised work  force in the U.K. (mothers).

Would have liked to have done more research but since the slot is only fifteen minutes maximum one has to curtail it to a certain extent. In my head and in the background I’d been trying to find the main link between the push for academy schools and pressures on children in the early years. I think I found it in a very fat NASUWT report called ‘Academy Schools Case Unproven’. Legally speaking and to be very basic about it young people have far fewer human rights in academy schools.

Of course, for all those mums dads and carers out there – just remember parent power counts for a great deal and in fact, although we are often ignored the government has to think twice about their policies if we shout loud enough. So if you can join us this evening. If you can’t I’m publishing my speech on this blog later this week so you can tell me what you think via the comments box. Wish me luck, eh and tell your friends. Here is a link to a flier:

Chester Public Meeting The Truth about Academy Schools

 

Disabled People Fight Back against the Cuts. Campaign Meeting Dial House Chester tonight.

WEDNESDAY 27TH JULY, 6PM at DIAL HOUSE, HAMILTON PLACE, CHESTER. Union reps, carers and supporters of people with disabilities also welcome. Try to get your union to send a rep of you can. Also parents of children with disabilities. There will be at least one child at the meeting, it is early evening so if you don’t have a babysitter, bring your child along with some toys or something to do. No creche though but between us we’ll manage!: Too many disabled people are living in fear of coalition government cuts which threaten our independence, our care and our benefits. Government proposals will mean: …* the abolition of non-means tested benefits like Incapacity Benefit from April 2012 * the abolition of Disability Living Allowance from 2013 * strict policing of all benefit claims by privatised medical services (ATOS) who view all disabled people as potential criminals * cuts to support services from local authorities * cuts to housing provision * privatisation of the NHS. And all this is accompanied by a wave of attacks in the media. Government ministers try to smear disabled people claiming their rights as welfare cheats or drug addicts. It is time for disabled people themselves to make their voices heard in opposition to the cuts. There will be a meeting in Chester to start a campaign of protest here: WEDNESDAY 27TH JULY, 6PM at DIAL HOUSE, HAMILTON PLACE, CHESTER ALL DISABLED PEOPLE IN AND AROUND CHESTER ARE WELCOME TO COME AND HELP. ALSO CARERS. PERSONAL ASSISTANTS, PARENTS AND SUPPORTER

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.

Coalition government annual school report, 2011. Part One.

Battle-fatigued is the phrase Special Educational Needs blogger Guerilla Mum Ellen Powers uses (she is currently sadly missing in action from her SEN blog). Come back Ellen – we need you. As I approach the end of term and contemplate a parents evening with my daughter’s soon-to-be Year 2 teacher – battle fatigued is how I feel too. There are some good things about our school. Our current headmistress who has been in post for a year – is one of them. But right now my over-riding feeling is – is there really any point going to a parent’s evening at all? It seems to me that despite the lip service paid the coalition government doesn’t really want parents to be involved in their children’s education – or in any discussion about what schools should look like.

According to this government parents can be tolerated as long as they confine themselves to the fund-raising clause in the PTA constitution and never mind about discussions on how their children are to be educated. We don’t need a discussion about it, we know what we are doing thank you very much. The problem is, they really, really don’t.

Still, I suppose that is what this blog is for, isn’t it? At least  I hope it is. I mean to change something for the better. (I hope.)

The battle-fatigued bit comes from looking back at many of the past years events. In our family we kicked off last year’s school summer holidays in style (sarcasm). A warning letter from the school governors floated through our letterbox – which accused me of  two incidents of ‘inappropriate behaviour’ at the school and threatened to ban me (and by implication my daughter) from the school grounds should another such ‘incident’ occur. From experience I know that ‘disciplinary’ letters such as this (solicitors or redundancy notices for example) – by accident or design – are timed to land on the recipient’s mat on a Friday (thus spoiling the recipient’s weekend) or just before the holidays. But knowing that didn’t help much at the time and I was left to worry about this letter for six weeks. I just couldn’t work out what the ‘inappropriate’ behaviour had been and neither could my Other Half (who had been there at the time).

So, when the holidays were over in the very first week of the new term of school – I made use of my rights as a parent to examine my daughter’s file. I found a letter in it which had never been sent, and therefore never received(we had not had an opportunity to respond to it). The letter was signed by a previous head and accused me of ‘inappropriate’ behaviour at my daughter’s parent’s evening in reception year, said that someone had expressed concern about the welfare of my child on that evening. If I hadn’t requested to look at the file, I would never have found that letter. I eventually gained a written apology from the school. The letter should never have been written.

I had thought back to what had actually happened that very first parent’s evening at school. My daughter was four. I remembered it quite clearly and my husband was there too. It was around the time our parental exemption to the early years foundation stage was rejected. It had been a horrible, horrible process – and I had become aware of the magnitude of the damage that English government policy was doing to children – I had just watched Fergus Andersen’s video “Too Much too Soon”. On the way to the school in the local nursery I’d seen a poster to collect money for the troops in Afghanistan and both things just set me off – it was all, well to use a word differently – just inappropriate. The worst thing was, I felt there was nothing, nothing I could do about any of it. And there was such an urgency to it. So much happens in the early years and it is over so quickly.

In fact I hardly spoke at all at that parents evening. The reason was that I spent most of it in floods of tears and couldn’t get a word out. I remember quite quietly through the tears saying three words ‘leave her alone’ (meaning my daughter – meaning leave her to be, play, without the constant measuring and target-setting – meaning leave all the children alone) and that was pretty much all I said. My daughter (being four) cried too – (we are very close and she started because I was crying probably). I remember carrying her out – we were both in tears. The previous head (who no doubt was no friend of mine due to the fact that we were the only parents in England to apply for a parental exemption for our child to the EYFS targets) – there must have been a complaint about this and someone had written a letter about it which was never sent. A complaint.  Despite seeing a parent and child in tears at the school, no-one offered us any assistance at the time and there was no phone call the next day to even check we were okay. And someone was concerned about my child’s welfare? Nothing was said about what had happened afterwards at school and at the time no assistance or discussion was offered at all. I put it down to embarrassment at the time.

There were other dimensions to this too and I believe the other reason why I had been so upset is that on some subliminal level I knew that something else was wrong. Several months later I discovered that my daughter had been bullied at school on many occasions in reception year – (see previous posts) – she was bullied in Year One too. Incident number two of alleged inappropriate behaviour it turned out  had been me practising an anti-bullying technique with my daughter at the school gate: (“stop don’t do that” – in a loud voice). It has been a long, long road. But there are no more tears now.

No more tears – not least because last summer holidays both myself and my daughter signed up to a black belt martial arts programme. We’ve both been training for a year now. There are a lot of stereotypes around about martial arts. Good martial arts schools come with a code of conduct that is way beyond any disciplinary code children might learn in school, as far as I’m concerned. Still not sure I’ll ever measure up to it, but it is something to strive for. I’ve had a rude awakening realising some of the behaviour that some children get way with in (and out of) school, that’s for sure.

No more tears, because the growing movement of people who really care about young children’s education (and want to discuss the content and direction of it)  is getting stronger by the minute. Part Two of the Coalition Government Annual School Report follows as soon as I can.

For a (very cross) headmistress’s view on the things the coalition government is getting wrong, read this week’s TES article by Kenny Frederick head of a school in east London : “How to stop a bulldozer and not be crushed”.

Kenny writes: “Combine the pensions debacle with the frequent pronouncements from the education secretary about how much harder GCSEs should be, then add on the warnings that the new Ofsted framework will ‘raise the bar’ once again, the fact that secondary school floor targets are being raised to 50 per cent and the 200 plus “failing” primary schools are going to be taken over by academies and you can see what is making my blood boil…”

In which the writer re-visits a socialist analysis of the English education system. Vgotsky at Marxism 2011.

This week I had the privilege of attending a packed seminar (around 100 people were present) with Jane Reed, NUT member at the cultural and political festival Marxism 2011. Jane introduced a seminar on “Vgotsky and how children learn”. All issues raised were relevant to the cuts in education : particularly the decimation of special needs provision and the much criticised Phonics test for five and six year olds – (the pilot alone will cost us a quarter of a million). You can obtain a recording of the session from Bookmarks bookshop.

Jane Reed speaks on "Vgotsky and how children learn". London, 2011

 
Speaking in an individual capacity Jane had been on strike this week. 

I’d never heard of Vgotsky before (although I’m a trained teacher in Adult Education). He was a Russian educational theorist and psychologist and his work is enjoying something of a revival right now amongst progressive teachers. It seems  highly relevant to Early Years Education and what is currently happening in the English educational system.

The session was an international one – with colleagues from the Czech Republic and Germany. Apparently the Vgotsky revival is showing itself in the States too (see the video below).
 
Jane’s talk focussed on the question: “What is education FOR?”. She spoke of an ideological attack which is currently taking place – which equates to an attempt to discipline teachers and students – an attack on teaching as a craft. She referred to a Department of Education quote: “students need to know their place again after 1968”.
 
Vgotsky wrote seven books in the 1920s and 30s in tsarist Russia and was particularly interested in children with special needs. His theories and practice are enjoying something of a revival amongst learning theorists and teachers right now –   not least because they emphasise the importance of ‘play’ AND the importance of learning in context – and the ways in which a child’s surroundings and the interactions in society and in a group –  influence how they learn.
 
Jane highlighted how Vgotsky’s theories and practice are directly relevant to early years education – the ‘tick-box’ system of the Early Years Foundation Stage and the Phonics Test  for five and six year olds. The much criticised Phonics Test includes ‘non-words’ – words completely taken out of context. 
 
There were many contributions from the floor including points made by a maths teacher, a drama teacher, and more than one special needs teacher. I spoke too briefly- I mentioned the relevance of this blog and the forthcoming Open Eye book “Dissent and the English Early Years Education System” – which I have contributed a chapter to – entitled:
 
 “A Parent’s  Challenge to New Labour’s Early Years Foundation Stage”. Fellow contributors to this book include Dr. Penelope Leach and Barry Sheerman, M.P.
 
The seminar was recorded and recordings are being made available at the Bookmarks Socialist Bookshop London. A Vgotsky study group also emerged from the seminar.
 
More on Vgotsky at this link: Vgotsky versus Piaget and in the videos below: