To identify value commitments and ideologies through consideration of educational policy statements

Aim

To identify value commitments and ideologies through consideration of educational policy statements.

Evidence and reflection

Besides being able to identify our own value positions, as in the activity above, it is also important to feel able to interrogate the texts and actions of others, and to identify their value positions. A variety of policy statements, from your school, LEA or from national government, can be discussed with colleagues with a view to identifying both the underlying value positions and practical implications. You could try this out with the following example. This is taken from the government's white paper 'Excellence in Schools' (July 1997) presented by the secretary of state for Education and Employment, David Blunkett, three months after Labour were elected.  The extract is taken from Section 1 of the document which is entitled 'A New Approach. Education. Education. Education' and describes 'six principles'.

Principle 1: Education will be at the heart of government

Our first principle is to ensure that education must be at the heart of government.  The Prime Minister has made it clear that education is the Government’s number one priority.  The first Queen’s Speech announced two education bills: one to provide the resources to implement the Government’s class size pledge, the other to advance the standards agenda set out in this White Paper.  The Department for Education and Employment (DfEE) has higher status than ever before.  Other departments of government whose work impacts on education will contribute to our drive for educational success.  Already education has taken centre stage and it will remain there through this parliament and beyond.  A clear sign of this is our pledge that over the lifetime of the Government we will increase the proportion of national income spent on education as we decrease it on meeting the bills of past social and economic failure.

Principle 2: Policies will be designed to benefit the many, not just the few

Our second principle is that, in deciding our priorities, we shall put in place policies that benefit the many, not just the few.  Hence, for example, the shift of resources as a matter of urgency from the Assisted Places Scheme to the reduction of class sizes for all 5, 6 and 7 year-olds.  Our policies will be designed to achieve early success rather than later attempts to recover from failure.  This explains the emphasis we have placed on nursery education for all 4 year-olds and on raising standards in the three ‘Rs’ at primary level.  As a matter of urgency, the Government will reduce the extent of early failure in the system by encouraging best practice and effective monitoring with speedy intervention where necessary.

Principle 3: Standards matter more than structures

The preoccupation with school structure has absorbed a great deal of energy to little effect.  We know what it takes to create a good school: a strong, skilled head who understands the importance of clear leadership, committed staff and parents, high expectations of every child and above all good teaching.  These characteristics cannot be put in place by altering the school structure or by legislation and financial pressure alone.  Effective change in a field as dependent on human interaction as education requires millions of people to change their behaviour.  That will require consistent advocacy and persuasion to create a climate in which schools are constantly challenged to compare themselves to other similar schools and adopt proven ways of raising their performance.

Principle 4: Intervention will be in inverse proportion to success

The main responsibility for improving schools lies with the schools themselves.  Where schools are evidently successful, we see no benefit in interfering with their work, although all schools need to be challenged to improve.  Schools need a constant supply of good data about how their performance compares with that of other schools, a clear understanding of the Government’s strategic priorities and recognition of their achievement.  We will of course seek to celebrate success and learn from it but, where a school has problems, intervention is essential to protect the pupils.  Ideally intervention should be preventive and early, so that severe failure is avoided.  The Government intends to put in place arrangements for targeted interventions by LEAs or the DfEE, informed by OFSTED, that are appropriate to the scale of the problem.

Principle 5: There will be zero tolerance of underperformance

Our aim is excellence for everyone.  If this is to be more than rhetoric, then persistent failure must be eradicated.  Hence our commitment to zero tolerance of underperformance.  We shall seize every opportunity to recognise and celebrate success in the education service, and we shall put in place policies which seek to avoid failure.  But where failure occurs, we shall tackle it head on.  Schools which have been found to be failing will have to improve, make a fresh start, or close.  The principle of zero tolerance will also apply to local education authorities. Our policy will be driven by our recognition that children only get one chance.  We intend to create an education service in which every school is either excellent, improving or both.

Principle 6:  Government will work in partnership with all those committed to raising standards

Government will lead the drive to raise standards and create the right framework, but it cannot succeed alone.  It must work in partnership with all those who have a part to play in improving the quality of education: parents, teachers and governors, local authorities, churches and business.  Parents are a child’s primary educator and our partnership approach will involve them fully.  We want to put the years of division, conflict and short-term thinking behind us.”

Extension

Think in turn about how each of the seven value positions described in Reflective Teaching for Schools relate to the principles described here. Is there a match or a yawning gap? Just to remind you - the positions were;