Today the media have been alive with statements by Stephen Twigg, the shadow education secretary, about secondary school education. Depending on what article you read you get different variations, but the one I'm going to refer to is in The Telegraph as highlighted by The Children's Society on Twitter this morning.
Mr Twigg seems to be confused on his views about schools; on one hand he says they're "organised like factories" and on the other he calls for kids to get used to a "work-like timetable". He's clearly likes his employment metaphors but I'm not entirely sure what he's trying to achieve beyond muddying the waters.
The first accusation is that the current secondary school education is focussed entirely on batches of work rather than on the entire education. Well the former is certainly true and has been shown for many generations to be an efficient way of providing knowledge in distinct subjects. But I would also argue that the provision of form tutor and PSHE sessions are all about bringing together the rounded character of the child. Add to this the invaluable role of parents, grandparents, youth workers and friends and you have the environment for a practical understanding of the "work packets" presented at school. I learned this way and it has ensured that I have a thorough grounding in the subjects I need for life; I've never had a problem bringing it all together.
The second accusation is that our secondary schools are not providing enough education for our children; that kids should be in school later in the day, have less holidays and possibly even attend at weekends. I am in some agreement with some of this, I am constantly astounded to see the local secondary school finish at 2.30pm and most of the kids not staying to do extra curricular activities. It would be great if clubs were reinstated as a compulsory part of every child's education; providing them with sporting, music, drama and other team working opportunities.
However it can not be right to say that our teenagers need to be saved from themselves and their sadly lacking families, I paraphrase. Certainly there are families where additional support would be beneficial; but for the vast majority there is a great benefit in doing homework within the family structure and spending time in family based activities. I am worried that the moves Mr Twigg talks about are about gaining more societal control of the next generation, taking the nanny state to a whole other level.
It really is about time that instead of all these endless talking shops about what is best for the children of today we start accepting that every child and family are different and that the schools need to work with each individual child to ensure they achieve their potential. It involves the unbelievable skills of talking to each other and working together, not really very difficult but as shown in early years, very powerful.