Graham Turner: A parent’s view of our muddled education system

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If our current education system were a recipe, any chef worth his salt would scrape the whole sorry mess into the bin and start again.

But don’t blame the cooks, those at the hotplate, the problem is the hotel manager who keeps bursting through the kitchen swing doors like a modern-day Basil Fawlty demanding increasingly eccentric changes to the ingredients and cooking methods.

Exam league tables reared their ugly head again last week, their purpose, like a restaurant menu, to give some clarity about the dishes on offer.

But to me, as a parent – and that’s my only qualification to comment on education matters – they simply highlight the befuddlement that surrounds our ever-more complicated education system.

Community schools, academies, free schools, foundation schools, city technology colleges, grammar schools, federations, pyramids, faith schools, three-tier, two-tier, all-through, independent – it’s a sickly confection that we’re being asked to stomach.

Some would argue it reflects diversity and choice but to me it shows a lack of clear focus and direction.

Then there are the exams – SATs, GCSEs (foundation and higher levels, short course, double course, single award, double award, linear, 
unitised . . .), AS-levels, A-levels, diplomas, NVQs – all of which have been tinkered with, spiced-up, watered down; their value and credibility gradually being eroded.

Made-up pseudo qualifications like the English Baccalaureate, which doesn’t recognise arts subjects at all and only history and geography amongst the humanities, just add to the mess (pity the poor schools that decided to become arts or humanities specialist colleges).

Wouldn’t it be great if politicians stepped back for a while and kept out of the kitchen? Let’s come up with a clear, straightforward strategy and give it time to work. Certainly, appoint a benign overseer to occasionally season the pot, but retire the heavy handed food inspector who wields the tenderising mallet on anything he doesn’t like the look of.

There obviously needs to be some system for measuring standards in schools and helping them to improve but, as an outsider, it seems to me that Ofsted has become bloated with its own self-importance, with schools looking forward to visits by inspectors like they would an infestation of cockroaches.