After the pandemic, the new education secretary has some extraordinary damage to repair, argues Gareth Sturdy in Spiked…

The role of education secretary is daunting at the best of times. Education is how we as a society pass on our most important knowledge to the next generation. It is how we socialise our young people into our values. Arguably, education secretary is one of the most important jobs in the British government.

But Nadhim Zahawi, who was made education secretary in the cabinet reshuffle last week, has an even more daunting task ahead of him. He has to reckon with the legacy of two academic years in which schools were closed and education was sidelined by his hapless predecessor, Gavin Williamson.

After the pandemic, the new education secretary has some extraordinary damage to repair. Here are five things he needs to focus on in order to rebuild our education system and rebuild trust with pupils and parents...

Read the full article in Spiked.

Classics should not be the preserve of the posh, writes Gareth Sturdy in Spiked

…The programme has provoked considerable outrage from the liberal-left. Critics of the government say its focus on Latin is a sign of its ‘elitism’. But if ‘elitism’ is the belief that pupils’ backgrounds should determine which subjects are appropriate for them to learn, then the Latin Excellence programme looks like a challenge to elitism. Dismissing the idea that working-class kids might enjoy or profit from learning Latin — that is what is really elitist here…

Read the full article on Spiked.

Teaching unions have abandoned one of their members to the fundamentalist mob, argues Gareth Sturdy in Spiked…

…This spineless conspiracy of silence on the part of the unions amounts to tacit support of the protesters’ outrageous demands, and also to a betrayal of the trade-union tradition of standing up for the liberty of the common worker against the forces of conservatism.

This silence is in marked contrast to the strident, near-constant noise made by the unions in recent months, demanding that schools are kept shut during the pandemic. They even had the cheek, during the Black Lives Matter protests last summer, to insist publicly that ‘silence is violence’. Not when it comes to teachers’ jobs, it seems…

Read the full article on Spiked.

After decades of neglect, educators and policymakers are belatedly realising just how important – and costly – the teaching of practical knowledge actually is, argues Gareth Sturdy in the Education Forum’s latest Teach Secondary column…

When I trained to be a physics teacher in the mid-1990s I never imagined that 25 years later I’d be working from a makeshift classroom at the back of a hair salon, surrounded by sinks and blow-dryers.

I’ve spent the last couple of years out of schools, mainly teaching hairdressing apprentices basic numeracy and literacy for Functional Skills qualifications in a work-based learning setting. It’s been a privilege, allowing me to meet many fantastic people who, despite struggling with the basics of primary-level learning, possess the acumen and skills needed to run very successful, fast-paced businesses.

And yet, I so often hear these people describe themselves as ‘failures’ at school. When I’ve asked my apprentices what they mean by this, they invariably give an answer along the lines of, “I wasn’t academic. So I’d sometimes get into trouble. I was just good with my hands. So I didn’t leave with many qualifications.” These conversations have made a deep impression on me, given my classroom background, and I soon came to realise that such narratives contained several PhDs’ worth of research questions.

How can someone spend over a decade in formal education, yet leave barely able to read or multiply? What do we actually mean by the word ‘academic’? Are teachers and students even talking about the same thing? Above all, to what extent is practical knowledge – that ‘being good with one’s hands’ – different from abstract, conceptual and propositional knowledge? Is there enough room for this approach to making sense of the world within the field of academic knowledge?

Read the full article on TeachWire, or watch the Education Forum debate that inspired it below…

The speed with which children were abandoned shows how little we value education, argues Education Forum organiser Gareth Sturdy in Spiked…

In the space of a year, the government’s response to Covid-19 has attacked the foundations and purposes of our education system. It has exposed the education establishment’s attachment to social mobility as mere pretension. It has eroded the distinction between home and school life, and has confused education with passing on information. But this transformation could only take place because for a long time now education has been built on sand. Now that those weak foundations have been swept aside, as a society we do not have coherent or even agreed ideas on what should replace them…

Read the full article on Spiked.

Gareth Sturdy was interviewed recently for David Didau’s and Martin Robinson’s podcast, It’s Your Time You’re Wasting!, about the second edition of What Should Schools Teach? (UCL Press, 2021) which features contributions from various Education Forum members. Gareth explains how the book can help teachers answer the eternal question ‘why I should I learn this?’.

The interview begins 22 minutes in, or you can subscribe to the podcast to watch the full 40 minute discussion and enter a raffle to win a free copy of the book.

The teaching establishment is livid that poor children are coming to school expecting an education, writes the Education Forum’s Gareth Sturdy in Spiked.

The third national lockdown is starting to reveal the depth of the teaching establishment’s elitism towards the education of poor children.

It took only three days of schools being closed to most pupils before headteachers and teaching unions began to express their horror at the number of poor kids turning up at the school gates because it is their only chance of getting an education…

Read the full article on Spiked.

Forum member Gareth Sturdy has written for spiked in the light of Ofsted chief Amanda Spielman’s comments on over-protecting children.

‘Anyone who has taught a class of 14-year-olds knows Tommy Two-Face. He is the loudest in the class. But, as you’re quietening them all down, he hams up a load of frustration and shouts ‘shush, you lot!’, as if he alone was blameless.

I thought about hypocritical Tommy at the weekend, when I read the latest declaration from Ofsted chief inspector Amanda Spielman. Writing in the Sunday Telegraph, she blamed schools for a culture of over-protection. Children are being wrapped in cotton wool, she argued, by headteachers who are unable to distinguish between real and imagined risk.

Readers of spiked will raise two cheers to this. Learning should be about physical and intellectual adventure, and today’s risk-averse culture stops kids from getting the most out of their education. Wearing hi-vis jackets on school trips and banning conkers in the playground does indeed hold children back.

But as much as Spielman is right to declare that health-and-safety policies are denying pupils the opportunity to develop resilience, she needs to go further to tackle the problem of mollycoddled kids.’

Read the full article here.