Tuesday, June 2, 2020
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The many plus sides of school closures

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NO MORE lessons on gender identity, no more brainwashing in political correctness and no more demonising of the white, male part of British culture! These are a just a few of the benefits that will accrue from the temporary and partial closure of our schools.

We could also throw in shelter from bullying and an escape from classroom disorder. And is too much sub-standard but misnamed ‘best practice’ teaching really going to be missed? What about the over-academic, non-practical/vocational ‘green mile’ curriculum pathway for older pupils? It leads many school leavers to no worthwhile qualifications, no job and no hope. Is that curriculum going to be missed? Is the temporary closure of schools really going to be so bad?

The answer is very definitely a ‘yes’, according to Sir Anthony Seldon, vice-Chancellor of the University of Buckingham, writing in the Daily Mail.

Whilst admitting that many thousands of children are already home-school, he is ‘frit’ – big time.

‘Let me make this very clear. When it comes to home-schooling en masse, we have no collective memory of best practice, no historical evidence of the most effective techniques, and no bank of psychological research.’

The utterly charming, intelligent and well-intentioned Sir Anthony’s expression of angst reflects a very real malaise in the mindset of educationists. This is the total inability to conceive that there are alternatives to the pathway that has undermined educational quality in this country for decades. The much better educational progress and attainment of far poorer children in other countries around the world, built on considerable parental involvement, gives the lie to the notion that British education promotes ‘best practice’.

Sir Anthony argues that ‘the risks’ of relying on parents to home-tutor their children ‘are beyond the imagination’. ‘The vast majority of young people have been abandoned in unknown territory,’ he opines. ‘In short, we are embarking on a road without maps.’

As a historian, Sir Anthony may be aware of a response Churchill made to Bevan in a parliamentary debate in December 1944: ‘I should think it was hardly possible to state the opposite of the truth with more precision.’

Sir Anthony’s defeatism over the respite given to pupils from the UK version of mass education should be seen in this context. His scaremongering could not be more misplaced. Involving parents in the education of their children via a dose of home-schooling could turn out to be just the boost our moribund school system needs.

Like it or not, and partly via online learning, parents are going to learn a great deal more about what is going on in teaching than schools intend them to know.

Children, especially the younger ones, are likely to be major beneficiaries. There are fewer escapes or moments of distraction with one-to-one tuition or one-to-two or three, for that matter. What is more, parents will not be wasting time with pseudo-psychiatry and low quality lessons on ‘relationships’.  

‘What does not kill you, makes you stronger,’ is a piece of traditional wisdom. The panic alarm bell sounded by Sir Anthony is, at best, misplaced and at worst reckless. The young will suffer least from the coronavirus pandemic and most are likely to benefit from a period of home schooling.

Have more faith in parents, Sir Anthony! Put aside your ‘End is Nigh’ placard. Mum and Dad will not let down their kids, and schools are staying open for the most vulnerable and for the children of frontline workers.

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Chris McGovern
Chris McGovernhttp://www.cre.org.uk
Chris McGovern is the Chairman of the Campaign for Real Education. A retired head teacher with 35 years’ teaching experience, Chris is a former advisor to the Policy Unit at 10 Downing Street under two Prime Ministers.

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