Are schools de-skilling our children?

Near the start of my teacher training programme I wrote a blog post expressing my discontent with the UK education system. I’ve now finished my training and find not an awful lot has changed. If anything, I am more worried and frustrated than ever about the state of education in our country.

Today the Telegraph published a piece about a study, claiming that UK school leavers ‘the worst in Europe for essential skills’. This comes as no surprise to myself, having visited a large number of schools around the UK this past 12 months, I’ve seen a lot of worrying things. My primary concern is the fact that students aren’t being taught. Literally. Students are being spoon-fed just enough information to get them through exams and coursework, to make sure schools sit comfortably on league tables. The focus has shifted from learning to data-pruning, everything is results driven. Our children are hungry to learn what they need to know in order to survive in the real world, but instead we’re shoving tubes down their throats and force-feeding them exam flavoured corn until our results are the smooth foie gras that makes the school’s menu look presentable to outsiders.

There are of course exceptions to this rule. Out of the dozens of schools I’ve spent time in over the past few months, there were three in particular that caught my attention. One of which managed to hold onto their traditional grammar school values and are actually developing pupils into learned individuals and all-round great people – rather than just numbers on a spreadsheet. The other two schools that I have been impressed by were in fact new Free Schools. One of which worked their pupils incredibly hard, with a zero-tolerance regime and the other of which had an emphasis on iteration – improving work continuously to the point of mastery. All of these schools had a strong focus on learning. Their education was the primary focus of these schools and shows. Pupils at these schools have attitudes of actually wanting to learn and that is a reflection of the headteachers and the teaching staff, who were all uniformly consistent in their approaches.

I honestly think that if parents saw what is happening in the majority of our state schools at the moment, there’d be national outrage.

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