Leading academic blasts government

Written by: HTU | Published:

The coalition is pursuing a “lunatic and harmful" education agenda, a leading academic has said.

The coalition is pursuing a “lunatic and harmful" education agenda, a leading academic has said.

Professor Bernard Barker, Emeritus Professor of educational leadership and management at the University of Leicester, also said that Michael Gove's overhaul of policy means that he will be “long gone" as education minister before we know the full impact of his reforms, including the controversial English Baccalaureate (EBacc).

Prof Barker, a former headteacher, is known for a similar attack on the previous Labour administration. In his March 2010 book The Pendulum Swings, he accused Labour of having a “self-defeating pursuit of test results".

His ideas have now been included in an article due to be published in the Journal of Educational Administration and History in the coming weeks alongside further comment from educationalists, including himself. In his contribution, he turns his attention to the coalition's education policy-making.

In it he says the coalition has replaced Labour's “targets" with “floor standards" using “arbitrary criteria plucked from the air".

Speaking to Headteacher Update, he explained: “Current reforms will impact on the definition of success and achievement, not progress towards targets over time. By rubbishing New Labour measures, Michael Gove has introduced a year zero, so it will be years before we'll know whether schools improved on his measures; by which time he'll be long gone.

“The government is increasing child poverty and disadvantage dramatically; how can their words about improving standards and social mobility be taken seriously in that context? It is lunacy and harmful. They've damned all the improvements under New Labour, when at least there were funds, support and agencies with ideas; so what are the Tory improvements that will produce miracles?

“Is it mad or not to talk about every school achieving above average results by 2015? The cuts are harmful, the attack on teachers' pensions and salaries are harmful, the attack on the poor is harmful, the inflammatory rhetoric is harmful, and the two-faced rhetoric (cuts and big society) is harmful. How do schools, teachers and children thrive in these conditions?"

Elsewhere, Prof Barker said the government's insistence on numerical targets “trivialises education and devalues qualifications".

He added: “When everyone secures the EBacc you can be sure that some other criteria will be introduced to differentiate and select students. This has happened over and over, from five A to Cs, to five A* to Cs, to five A* to C including GNVQs or English and maths, and now the EBacc. I also believe that talking about everyone achieving As and above average results belongs to Alice in Wonderland, not educational improvement."

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