It feels a very long way from Tony Blair’s Education, Education, Education speech. Then, as the New Labour machine swept all before it, the bright new hope for Britain explained his three priorities.
In the intervening 21 years, the percentage of people going to university has almost doubled. But much else has also changed. The introduction of university fees has placed a debt burden on graduates. And while this can be viewed as a success tax, to be repaid by those who will gain better-paid employment, the changing job landscape – a gig economy and the shadow of increasing automation – has meant that the value of that success is increasingly unclear.
Everybody has a view on education because everybody has been in it
There are governmental statistics about the upticks in secondary education, many tied to academies, but teachers and teaching unions frequently claim they are being suffocated by paperwork, to the detriment of pupil wellbeing and deeper learning.
There are requests for more vocational training and focus on learning that leads directly to jobs. But what of the joy of learning for learning’s sake? Is there a better balance to be struck? Should we look to other international systems for tips? Should we encourage more home-schooling – and what is the measure of success anyway?
Who doesn’t like an image of a flying sausage on a fork?
Everybody has a view on education because everybody has been in it. Many are going round again seeing children, and then grandchildren, passing through. And we all remember an inspirational teacher, one person who saw something in us that had languished. There are unquestionably thousands of men and women like this across Britain. How do we find the best way to allow these inspiring educators to shape future lives?
Also, it’s the 40th anniversary of Grange Hill. It was the TV show that hooked a generation and reflected something of our lives back at us. Or at least allowed us to think we were like the faces on the screen. Who doesn’t like an image of a flying sausage on a fork?