This site’s being saying it for years: reforms to state education in England introduced by Michael Gove are a retrograde step.
Now it’s being said by Christopher King, head of the Independent Association of Prep Schools. In a speech today, he will say how the focus of fee-paying prep schools ‘really needs to be on creative work, because that is where you are likely to remain employable in the future.’
King will criticise Gove’s reforms:
‘The Michael Gove-directed changes focused on the rote and robotic. It would seem the state has travelled a long way to go backwards.’
The reforms may have raised test results, King will say, and these scores ‘are all good for rankings.’ But, he will ask, are these scores ‘relevant to the present and most importantly the future world?’
He is right. Primary school tests have no educational value. Their only relevance is to judge schools. They tell teachers nothing they don’t already know and sideline subjects which aren’t being tested.
King will remind his listeners that Gove’s reforms attempted to mimic private schools by focussing on grammatical rules and learning tables mechanically. But independent schools have moved away from this to a more nurturing and caring approach. This is a long way from those much-lauded state schools which expect pupils to adhere to rules far stricter than you would find in good fee-paying schools. It is doubly ironic when these schools say they have adopted a ‘private school ethos’.
Nothing could be further from the truth.
The Good Schools Guide said prep schools face a ‘slow and gentle good night’ because of competition from good state primaries in England. But destructive Gove reforms undermine the ability of state primary schools to provide education in its widest sense.
There are, of course, thousands of English primary schools who still offer such an education despite high-stakes tests and funding cuts. But it’s a struggle. It’s time to free English schools, not just primaries, from being prey to ministerial prejudices and inadequate investment.