Is this 'soft' education? (CONTINUED FROM PAGE 6)
and telling them “high grades in soft subjects” and “going to any old university” would help them succeed in life. Aspiring students in comprehensive sixth forms are, however, increasingly aware of these divisions themselves, choosing their A2 options accordingly and placing practitioners in a difficult position. Wanting to offer a variety of options that students enjoy, they also want their students to get to their chosen universities.
With a change in government, attacks on ‘soft’ subjects are certain to continue. Education Secretary Michael Gove has already claimed that the introduction of too many new subjects had resulted in a “flight from quality” (The Telegraph 18/11/2008).
After 13 years of New Labour centralisation, Gove’s proposals for ‘freeing up’ schools from government interference might cut ice with some teachers, but his announcement that state schools, like private schools, can offer the international GCSE (IGCSE) instead, will cause further fragmentation.
Gove’s support for more traditional subjects reflects his support for more traditional practices. Squashing ‘trendy’ ideas about teaching and learning, imposing more ‘rigorous’ discipline, even returning to the practice of children standing up when the teacher enters the classroom, all feature in his itinerary. Inappropriate for an education system of the 21st century – his proposals represent a major step back.
For more from Martin Allen go to www.radicaled.wordpress.com.
Martin Allen teaches in a comprehensive school sixth form and is vice-chair of the NUT Secondary Advisory Committee. He co-authored the book Lost Generation? New Strategies for Youth and Education, published by Continuum.