"What kind of school system am I joining?"

Melissa Benn's picture

The launch last week of LSN’s first book The Truth About Our Schools at Goldsmiths, University of London, covered in detail here,  provided a good opportunity to reflect on the huge changes there have been in education over the past five years.

Free schools.  Mass academy conversion. A huge shift in teacher education from universities to schools. A narrower curriculum.  Ever more testing. The continuing assault on local authorities and parallel growth of academy chains, many of them of poor quality and some far more controlling than the LAs they were designed to replace. The arrival of the still somewhat mysterious Regional School Commissioners.
Add to this: serious shortfalls in funding, a looming crisis in teacher recruitment, overload and demoralisation for the profession, the growing threat of more selective schools and still no decent vocational provision or proper apprenticeships
As we have long argued at the LSN,  the new school revolutionaries, swept to power by Gove, have fragmented and weakened our education system, without seriously denting the educational inequality that they promised to tackle.
Many of their damaging reforms are underpinned by the key myths outlined in our  new book.  
Our aim, in refuting each of these ideas, with careful argument and evidence, is not to say ‘I told you so’ but in part to help lay out an alternative agenda for the future. You can read more about this here. 
As always, the most interesting part of the evening was the discussion afterwards. Everyone wanted to talk about the new educational landscape and what it meant. 
Possibly the defining question of the evening came from a young woman about to qualify as a NQT.  ‘What kind of a system am I joining? Will I be able to be the teacher I want to be?’
More experienced figures in education were able to reassure her that yes, she would be able to find a school where she felt comfortable.  She just needed to shop around; sadly the current crisis in teacher recruitment would be of help as there is now greater demand than supply.
LSN’s Francis Gilbert  stressed how important it is for young teachers to hold true to their own way of teaching. He also urged them all to join and become active in a trades union.
The evening was also a chance to reflect on the achievements of the LSN, which has just launched this terrific new-look website. 
LSN was formed in 2010 by myself, Fiona, Henry and Francis, all staunch supporters of comprehensive education with, between us, decades of experience supporting our own local schools.
Janet Downs, our most prolific blogger, a parent and grandparent in selective Lincolnshire, and co-author of The Truth About Our Schools,  joined us later.
We originally came up with our name as a jokey riposte to the New Schools Network, an organisation given half a million by government in 2010 in order to further the free school agenda.
Some might argue that five years later, LSN -  operating on shoe string budget, without any official backing -  has gone on to have a greater impact on national education debate than the NSN. 
I couldn’t possibly comment.
Our publishers Routledge are able to offer LSN readers a 20% discount on The Truth About Our Schools. To claim your discount , please use the promotional code LTSN6 when ordering online here via the Routledge website.


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