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Monday, October 3, 2011

Leave school at 14... if only it were that simple

This morning I came across a BBC report of an interview withSir Chris Woodhead.  Now Chris is known for his forthright opinions but in this latest interview he seemed at first glance to have gone off the deep end.  He appears to be suggesting that it is just not worth the effort keeping certain types of kids in school beyond the age of 14.

This got my hackles up a bit and I was all prepared for a little bit of blogging righteous indignation on behalf of all those less fortunate who appear to be being written off...

But a little voice of doubt in the back of my mind suggested that rather than go off half-cocked I should at least read the interview in its original form in the Times rather than its digested second hand version on the BBC.

Interestingly the sub editors at the Time have gone for the same sensationalist headline of "leave school at 14" on the front page but when you get to the article itself you find the context:

"If a child at 14 has mastered basic literacy and numeracy, I would be very happy for that child to leave school and go into a combination of apprenticeship and further education training and a practical, hands-on, craft-based training that takes them through into a job."

So he's not saying leave school.  He is recommending a different type of 'school' which is better suited to each child's individual needs and more oriented to obtaining the skills required for the world of work. Lots of similarities here with the well established German three-tiered approach of Gymnasium (for those destined for university), Realschule (for those more technically inclined towards a craft or trade) and Hauptschule (for the rest).

I'm not sure if Chris is alluding to the growing Studio Schools concept but he could well be and their CREATE skills framework seems solid (finally someone putting critical thinking at the heart of a curriculum) and evidence based.  In any case he starts to sound much more reasoned and balanced than the sub editors at both the BBC and The Times would have you believe...

Until he goes on to suggest that it is wrong for the government to encourage independent schools to support state schools as it is unfair on those who have paid for their education.   But then again, he is chairman of a group of private equity backed independent schools with debt amounting to twice its turnover so you can understand if not necessarily agree with his reluctance.

Further proof if it were needed that, the headline is there to make you read the story; things are rarely as simple as they first appear and we don't need to agree on everything.

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