22) seems unaware that the state school system we have now is not as he describes, but the result of reforms initiated by Sir Keith Joseph as Secretary of State for Education in Margaret Thatcher’s government to try and correct those problems.
The National Curriculum was imposed to tell teachers what to teach and how to teach it, with an emphasis on “back to basics”. Their progress would be measured by Statutory Assessment Tests for primary and early secondary school pupils. The results of these and the public examinations for older pupils would be published in “league tables”, which would create a competitive atmosphere and “drive up quality”.
When the Labour Party came into government, in the hope of showing it was not the bad old Labour Party Nick Thomas still thinks it is, and because it rather liked this sort of state-centred approach to problems, it enthusiastically adopted Sir Keith’s ideas and made them its own.
As ever, such an over-prescriptive approach resulted in an emphasis on meeting the letter of the law while missing the spirit. Boring teaching emphasising memorisation and other tricks to get through the tests replaced imagination and enthusiasm for real knowledge and skills. As ever, league tables resulted not in driving up real quality but in doing whatever would artificially score more points, such as pushing pupils into “easy” public examination subjects.
David Cameron’s proposed reforms are just more state prescription; anyone who had real experience with school teaching would know such rigid requirements would not measure real teaching skills. I am sure Nick Thomas himself would have said the same had these been proposed by the Labour Party.
Yours faithfully, MATTHEW HUNTBACH London SE9