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Primary Education News
News All hail the headteacher who raises his pupils' expectations | The big issue
Peter Hyman's School 21 offers an object lesson
I found Peter Hyman's article on the importance of reinventing education and moving away from the prevalent exam-factory model inspiring ("How I went from Tony Blair's adviser to free school head", New Review). As an English teacher, I agreed wholeheartedly that "eloquent and purposeful, exploratory talk" is vital because a "wide vocabulary" and "fluency" are "top of every employer list", not to mention being an essential skill for life.
It is so sad, then, that last week Ofqual, at the behest of the monumentally wrongheaded Michael Gove, announced that speaking and listening skills, for 25 years or more a key strand of the English curriculum, will no longer be included in the GCSE. Pupils' grades will now be determined solely by their reading and writing abilities in a world where we speak far more than we engage with texts. Shame on you, Gove.
Head of English faculty
Bredon School, Gloucestershire
What a dangerous man Peter Hyman is. Were he to succeed in his self-appointed task of raising expectations in his young charges of escaping from the station in life that providence has provided for them, the very structures of our society, ordained by a higher power, would be undermined and chaos and anarchy would reign in their stead. I sincerely hope that Michael Gove will strike down this odious programme.
As a retired secondary headteacher with extensive experience in the inner-urban context, I was looking for something new and groundbreaking in this article. I wish the best of luck to Peter Hyman, whose passion, resilience and determination are clear. However, he is not offering anything new, other than that he is given to believe that such a small school can be economically and socially viable.
"All-through" schools have been working for many years in parts of the country and within an LEA umbrella. Larger schools have been developing outstanding systems and methods on the basis of a "small-school" approach. This work has been innovative, led by inspiring heads and LEAs, based on evidential need; it has not been experimental.
In 1990, when I took up my first headship in Rochdale, we were undertaking these same approaches with success and with organisation and pedagogy predicated on equality of opportunity. On a national level, we in inner-urban schools changed the educational landscape with the tremendous leadership, help and finance received from the Excellence in Cities project, developed with care under Estelle Morris. The gains made in the inner-urban context set the foundations for the recently published evidence regarding the value-added out-performance of inner-urban secondaries that we see today.
Free schools, for all the genuine passion and commitment of leaders such as Peter Hyman, are nevertheless taking us back to the rather chaotic situation of the economically and socially non-viable, taking resources away from other local schools.
School 21 demonstrates what has been missing for the 50 years I have been in education. It integrates the many elements, often too sophisticated for policy-makers and administrators, which comprise a proper preparation for life. It recognises the flexibility of organisation and the centrality of longer-term values that children need. It undoes several of the endemic myths that have vitiated provision for decades, not least the misplaced, jaundiced view of accountability ever more rampant in our classrooms and homes. Sad that it needed a one-off piece of individual enterprise. Can you now work to ensure these essential educational and social truths are more widely articulated within mainstream provision?
Managing director, In Education,