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Blame Professor David Hargreaves

Seaton Nick Seaton of the Campaign for Real Education on the ideological roots behind the problems in our schools.

Just possibly – and it's good to be hopeful  – the Christmas holidays may give busy Conservatives time for a little reflection on socialist education policies.  Too many politicians, it seems, neither recognise nor understand them.

They are encapsulated in a seminal book,  The  Challenge  for the Comprehensive School: Culture, Curriculum and Community written about 25 years ago by Professor David Hargreaves. Hargreaves was formerly an  ILEA chief inspector and  professor of education at Cambridge University. In April 2000, he was appointed chief executive of the Qualifications and Curriculum Authority, though he soon resigned. Nevertheless, as an associate director of  the Specialist Schools and Academies Trust, he is still influential.

'...A   change  of  emphasis', he wrote, 'was essential from academic to social subjects,  and  from  the  learning  of information to the acquisition of skills...We must  refuse  to  confine  secondary education to the  culture  of  individualism  and  design  a secondary education with more self-conscious social and political objectives.'

By 'the culture of individualism', Hargreaves means individual effort and achievement.  And what he wrote then more or less encapsulates what ministers and their officials have been doing since this government took office.

Hargreaves' words are not a bit of wishful thinking, written decades ago. They are current government/Department for Children, School and Families (DCSF) policy, which is firmly based on 'progressive' ideology.

For more than a decade, the establishment has been hard at work removing or undermining practically all the subjects the Conservatives worked so hard to specify in the 1988 Education Reform Act.

Geography, history, serious science, honest religious education have almost disappeared  in a mish-mash of  value-changing, politically correct non-subjects such as citizenship and personal, social and health education. These non-subjects are all pointers to the 'social and political objectives' suggested by Hargreaves.

The frightening thing is that many leading Conservatives either haven't noticed, or don't care  – remember Lenin's 'useful idiots'?

Hargreaves also advocated that: 'All the sixteeen plus examinations must be abolished. The comprehensive school curriculum can then be reconstructed or revised...My objection to the sixteen-plus examinations is…that they have become occupational qualifications and thus an instrument of social injustice.'

DCSF strategists knew they couldn't abolish examinations without causing a major uproar. So they dumbed them down until they became impossible to fail.

The new diplomas are a further attempt to undermine and destroy what little remains of an honest school-level qualification system. For Labour, diplomas have another advantage: because they are so
complicated and an unfortunate mixture of academic and vocational content, it's easy to persuade schools they must merge to deliver them. (Always level-down, not up.)

Having thrown secondary education into chaos, Sir Jim Rose's recent review of the primary curriculum is the next stage of this destructive process.

If the school system was working properly and we had honest measuring of standards with honest school league tables, would there be a need for ministers to regulate, or waste taxpayers' money, compelling
universities to accept sub-standard applicants from sub-standard schools?  Yet this is socialist joined-up government.

Ideology is not dead. We have just been led to believe it is. Do you recognise, or even look for, something that doesn't exist?

Meanwhile, perhaps, the most sensible course of action for local Conservatives (and MPs) is to resist and delay damaging changes in the hope of better times to come.

Happy Christmas and happy thoughts!

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