Schools

Labour retreats on Ofsted and primary tests

Reports that the Labour Party leadership is moving towards reforming Ofsted and SATs testing in primary schools, rather than scrapping them, as promised in the 2019 election manifesto, should give activists and educationalists cause for alarm. Kate Green, the shadow education secretary, in an interview with Schools Week, has said she wants to lower the stakes in primary testing, but does not commit to scrapping the statutory tests. The statutory tests have nothing to do with improving children’s education. They are about measuring schools and school workers to make a competitive, semi-market...

Schools: workers' control vs closure

Ireland’s second lockdown (21 October to 2 December), with schools open, has brought a 75% drop in infections from around 19-25 October to 14 November. The Netherlands’ (14 October, tightened from 4 November), with schools open, has brought a 45% drop so far from a 31 October peak. Wales’s, 23 October to 9 November, with schools closed to 2 November, ended with rates no lower than 23 October but maybe a third below peak around 29 October. Northern Ireland’s, 16 October to 13 November, with schools closed to 2 Nov, has got rates 50% down from the 12-18 October peak. Belgium’s (2 November for 6...

Scrap all GCSEs

The Welsh government has cancelled GCSE and A level exams for 2021 in Wales. This is good in that it increases pressure on the Tories to cancel them for England, too. The Welsh approach is not that good, though: the summer exams are to be replaced by a series of “externally” set and marked tests, plus teacher assessment (which puts pressure on school managements and teachers to compete to manipulate grades upwards because otherwise their students lose out compared to the next school’s). GCSEs should be scrapped outright, for good, and need no replacement. Breaking the whole “exam factory”...

Schools and the second lockdown

Throughout the Covid pandemic, but particularly since the wider reopening of schools in June, there has been debate about the role of schools in spreading the virus and the right balance between the need to provide children with education and the most effective suppression of Covid. The key issue for us as socialists is for as many schools to be open as safely and sustainably as possible. The fact is that, for as long as society is affected by the Covid pandemic and there is no widely available vaccine, schools will not function normally and are likely to be subject to persistent closures...

Cash for the NHS and isolation pay!

For weeks now, Solidarity has supported the call by scientists, later taken up by Labour leader Keir Starmer, for a limited new lockdown to slow virus infections. With a “but”. Or rather several “but”s. The agitation by Nigel Farage and some right-wing Tories against restrictions is really a call to favour the better-off who are, or feel, safe from the virus, at the expense of the worse-off in public-facing jobs and crowded circumstances. David Nabarro of the World Health Organisation (WHO) has been misquoted by right-wingers. But he is right. “We in the WHO do not advocate lockdowns as the...

NEU can prepare strikes

Throughout this exchange between myself and leading AWL members I have been hoping someone might convince me that I’m wrong. I’ve been disappointed. Instead I have been offered only misrepresentations of my position to the point where now, after thousands of words of clarification, I feel the process has been exhausted. This is not a complex theoretical disagreement but a simple matter of industrial strategy. Yet I appear unable to make myself understood. In the latest episode Colin Foster says he sympathetic to my supposed advocacy of a national ballot for “school guarantees” (?) including...

Letters: What about musicians?; Full employment; NEU can prepare strikes

Full employment In the arguments about job cuts, we need Full Employment as the driver of economic policy across the board, not profitability, financial markets, or the growing wealth of the richest. Sunak says we will have to put up with millions of unemployed to “save the economy”. He does get criticised by Labour and left for not supporting jobs, but the fundamental idea that you can separate the health of the economy from the number unemployed has been internalised by the labour movement after 40 years of neoliberalism. Full Employment speaks to general working-class consciousness as a...

Keeping schools as safe as possible

Schools are large institutions which are fully open. In most there is little possibility of social distancing and the wearing of face-coverings is impossible during lessons and difficult at other times. The virus is being spread in schools, albeit at possibly a lower rate than other institutions. Last week in my London borough there were around 15-20 schools where Year Group bubbles had been closed, the majority with more than one Year Group closed. We have had already had two schools in the borough closing entirely for two weeks. The situation is far worse in other parts of the country. It is...

Scrap GCSEs for 2021 now!

The conference on 10 October of the Socialist Educational Association decided to call on the government to stop SATs and other high-stakes primary assessments this year. It also demanded that moderated teacher assessment be used instead of examinations for GCSE and A levels in 2021, and that the Labour front bench take up that policy. The Scottish government has already decided to replaced Scotland’s equivalents of GCSEs with moderated teacher assessment. On 3 October the conference of the NEU school workers’ union voted to campaign for the replacement of SATs in 2021 by a system of moderated...

School closures harm girls

Being forced to stay at home and not being able to study has a greater impact on girls, affecting their mental health, increasing their domestic responsibilities, and making them more likely than boys to drop out of school. UNESCO estimates that about 10 million more secondary school-aged girls could be out of school following the crisis. At the height, there were over 1.5 billion affected learners and 194 country-wide school closures. In many countries there is already a pronounced gendered difference in educational access and achievement. Disparities in re-enrolment are particularly true for...

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