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“Complacent and all that’s wrong with the current system”


March 6, 2011 by hallyd

The title of the post is how I was described by Peter Whittle of the New Cultural Forum, following the debate on the national curriculum review #ncr11 last Thursday evening.

Graham Brown Martin had assembled a range of delegates – to listen to a panel of speakers who were each given five minutes to talk about/discuss ‘what should be taught in schools’.  I was invited to be on the panel along with Katherine Birbalsingh, Dr Ralph Townsend, Tristram Shepard, Toby Young and Donald Clark.

The whole debate can be heard here:
What should be taught in our schools? by learningwithoutfrontiers

Interestingly Katherine spoke of the fact that she would employ me in her free school ( if she was/is to set one up) and defended me in regard to the comment in the title of this post, saying that she agreed with most that I said, however she would pull back on some of the freedoms.  Katherine is an engaging personality and is passionate about education, however I do feel it is wrong to hold only private schools up as a beacon for what schools should aspire too.  There are many schools across the country in the state sector doing a fantastic job and these should be highlighted and shared and help up as an example too.

I enjoyed the five minutes by Tristram and loved the way that he compared the Olympics to education – it was brilliant. His highlighting of the fact that there were no students, ‘learners’ at the debate resonated with my own five minutes of involving the learners in their own learning process, however this call to involve learners, was met with quite a few raised eyebrows in the audience. The evening debate also coincided with the book launch for To miss with Love, and it was clear that there was a lot of support for the views of Katherine, Ralph and Toby in the audience.

Toby spoke about his ideas for his free school, Latin being mandatory until the age of 14 and the fact that he would not mind if when pupils left his free school that they were ‘unemployable’, attacking vocational qualifications as well.  What is wrong with vocational qualifications? Are they the easy option that Toby suggest – I think not – they offer children a path, mostly to the career of their choosing.

Ralph Townsend started his talk with the fact that there is no education that ‘fits’ all and that relationships are at the heart of the education process – two points that I agree with. Technology does not play a large part and he argued that it was not the answer – I agree it is not the answer to everything but in this ever increasing technological led world it should be part of the question.

Donald Clark was up last he spoke about anecdotes and the ‘the plural of anecdotes is not data’, he spoke about the celebrity culture hijacking education with such anecdotes form the standpoint of living in inner London – was Latin the answer no and Donald gave his own data in support of this.

As for me – well I spoke in support of the rose review, a review of the primary curriculum that has already taken place and has support of many in the primary sector, but once again with a new government another review is in place. Education should be protected from this political ping pong, I spoke about involving learners, enabling them to take risks and be resilient, for schools to be true communities and to realize dreams and fulfill potential.

It was an interesting evening in many ways and I was lucky to meet new people and share views with them, am I complacent – obviously I think not – I have always tried to do the best for the children in my class and always will do, engaging them in their own learning journey.  It is good to join in with a debate and be challenged by people who don’t always share your own views, although I feel that Education should be playing for more long-term goals than the current soundbite affords.


  1. Olivia Wexelstein says:

    Great post Dawn. It’s with increasing disbelief that I read articles/posts about the education system in England. In Scotland we recognise that all learners should be at the forefront of their learning and the teaching of skills such as cooperation, independence and responsibility play a huge role for later in life. Technology is seen as an important tool to help develp these skills, I am a great advocate on the use of eportfolios as a means of recording achievement and reflecting on learning. What impact will this have in the future if England and Scotland continue to go down such opposite paths?

  2. From what I gather the blioke who said you were complacent was drunk.l

  3. Peter Psshead says:

    That Peter Whittle from the New Culture Forum had quite clearly enjoyed more than his fair share of the free drinks before is outburst speak volumes for the kind of new culture his forum has in mind.

    One only has to look at the members of his “advisory group” (includes Michael Gove) to gain a clear understanding of his ill-advised bias.

  4. Sdenka says:

    I agree with you that Tristram’s talk was very interesting. In my opinion the Curriculum should come from the learner and not from the government or big academic heads.

    Only the learner knows what he/she needs to learn and what he/she likes the most, what he/she wants to learn. Should the system continue imposing what must be learned? at what age? what subjects? at what timetable?…

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March 2011
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