Sunday, 30 November 2008

Ready For Work

“School Closures are inevitable” runs the headline as news of a cross party Assembly Report arrives. With thousands of empty places in primary schools the authorities have to do something. The report took arguments from those defending the case for schools in rural areas who don’t have the numbers and came to the conclusion there was no evidence to show that children did better at small rural schools than their colleagues at schools in an urban sprawl.

The arguments were anecdotal and some of based upon a romantic view of a past age; no hard facts and evidence the report claims. In an extraordinary piece of petulence it says it is unacceptable that young children could potentially be provided with a lower standard of education simply in order to provide a hall in which community groups may meet from time to time.  Now who is being anecdotal?

The whole thing smacks of the ongoing debates between rural and urban, local and global, concrete and mudflats. The missing point appears to be that there is a stack of anecdotal evidence from industry and the working world that education of our youngsters is failing in many cases and is a contributory factor in the general feeling that there is a decline in society values and standards.

All that is anecdotal too, and open to the charge that moral decline in society is a function of some rosy backward looking spectacles. Yet many small firms find they cannot find a youngster to take on who can turn up on time, can accept they only have an hour for lunch, who speaks up for themselves and has enough social know how to converse responsibly with customers and intelligently with colleagues and who doesn’t give the impression they have just learned to walk upright this morning. In short, one who shows a bit of spark.
It is very difficult to measure comparisons accurately. If you do hit upon a measure it is inadequate. The smaller rural schools have more chance to know their kids, to instil some behavioural loyalty, to do interesting things outside etc etc. The larger schools, by their very nature tend to herd their kids and slide towards mob thinking and culture problems.

It is not just that schools should know their kids. They should know what they think and what they are doing. Education is formative as well as being informative. The parents have their part to play and we are paying today for the failures of the education those parents and grandparents saw when they were young.
Industry and the Working World needs Education to produce basic academic skills, advanced academic skills and the ability to relate to a team and colleagues, clients, customers, suppliers of all ages and types. It is not a factory output. That is why it is nonsense to talk of a goal that 50% of school students should go on to Higher Education and get a degree.

The answer to the school places problem may indeed be to rationalise the school delivery in one particular area. But only if a wider view of the value of the provision is understood can a sensible solution be found. If it means a couple of classrooms are empty until the next baby boom show up then, so what? 

No comments:

Post a Comment