Is education reform ‘political meddling’ or the best decision for children?

In an article in the Oxford Mail, 03/05/13, Dr Tim Hands, Master of Magdalen College School and HMC Chairman Elect criticises national curriculum coalition policies.

He warned of “growing political interference” over how state school youngsters are taught and tested.

And he said education secretary Michael Gove, who visited Abingdon this week, has put too much focus on learning facts at the expense of pastoral care and extra-curriculum activities.

But the county’s cabinet member for education Melinda Tilley said: “I think he is wrong.

“Education is a bit like the NHS – it has always been a political football. Everybody thinks they can do it better than everybody else.”

She pointed to its Oxfordshire Reading Campaign – backed by The Oxford Mail – as a symbol of the positive power of politics.

It commissioned The National Literacy Trust work with 81 primaries to improve reading levels after concerns about standards. She said: “That is not a political decision – that is a decision taken for the benefit of the children.”

Dr Hands made his attack ahead of taking the chairmanship of The Headmasters’ and Headmistresses Conference in September.

He said: “There is now growing political interference in educational matters. The national curriculum in part began so school results could be usefully compared.

“But it is now in danger of becoming a politically influenced set of tests.”

He added: “The more politicians interfere, the more political education becomes. What you teach and how often you examine, all these things are best left as the domain of educational professionals.”

Independent schools have freedom over what to teach and how children are tested.

Gawain Little, county secretary for the National Union of Teachers, “wholeheartedly agreed” with Dr Hands’ comments. He said: “Under this Government, we have moved closer and closer to the national curriculum being a diktat from Government about what should be taught.”

However, Department for Education spokesman Ros Selby, said the reforms gave schools more freedom while reducing political interference.She said: “The new national curriculum is far less prescriptive and half the size of the current curriculum.”

Click here to read the article © Oxford Mail.