Considering my recent post on Labour and Tristram Hunt and the future of education in this country in their potential hands, I was interested and reasonably pleased to read Hunt’s largely endorsing review of Ken Robinson and Lou Arinoca’s book Creative Schools in today’s Guardian.
As I already stated in a quick Facebook posting on this, the likes of Gove [though he is probably too obvious to reference] and others would not have the capacity to embrace the kind of ambitious and progressive ideas on education from Ken Robinson, and for Hunt to declare an understanding of and support for these is reassuring. My biggest concern could be that this is a singular light merely shining bright in a black hole of well-established conservatism and philistinism.
I would add to this concern by quoting the following caveat Hunt puts in his review, though I guess this is predictable given the electioneering ‘caution’ that abounds at the moment:
Robinson rightly makes the case for the rigour of creative learning – “creativity in any field may involve deep factual knowledge and high levels of practical skill” – but we always need to guard against the soft bigotry of low expectations: the worrying trend of play and expression being adequate for working-class pupils, while leaving the tough stuff, the physics and history, for their better-off peers.
I can’t imagine many teachers or schools would currently support such an ethos of ‘soft bigotry of low expectations’ for working class students [though a legion of proletariat poets seems no bad army for the future] and it is a shame for Hunt to engage in this familiar and silly scaring rhetoric. But if in government Labour and Hunt were to provide substance to the following endorsement:
We need to call time on the exam-factory model, ensure a broad and balanced curriculum in our schools, and focus on improving teaching rather than fruitlessly reforming school structures – not only because a childhood at school should be a rich, enjoyable and challenging time; but also because the coming economy demands exactly the kind of rigorous creativity and personal resilience that Robinson advocates.
then this could begin to realise the kind of seismic curriculum shift we desperately need and whose absence, under the Tories, Labour and Coalition, I was ruing in the posting already mentioned. Given my own caveat about the electioneering ‘caution’ prevalent at the moment, and accepting some of the reasonable pragmatism Hunt inserts into his generally positive response, I think his review articulates one of the more radical statements I have heard from a potential Education Secretary for a very long time.
NB: adding these links – Hunt’s review here; and perhaps less enthusiastically in championing Hunt’s views being stated now [rather than years ago by anyone in Labour…], this link to Warwick Mansell’s book Education by Numbers – The Tyranny of Testing which back in 2008, as well as through his consistent insights on similar before and since, articulated the problems very much sustained by Labour in power. However, as a teacher of 30 years, I have to believe that lessons can be learned, eventually…..