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Next Birmingham Salon discussion: Wednesday 6 April



Schools of the future: what is education for?

Dr Shirley Lawes is subject leader for PGCE Languages at the Institute of Education, University of London. In 2010 she was made a Chevalier de l'Ordre des Palmes Académiques for services to French language and culture.
Shirley locates many of the current problems in schools within the system for training teachers. Our current model of teacher training is consistent in its capacity to produce a conformist and compliant workforce. New teachers may be skilled in the classroom. However, they lack any real theoretical knowledge that would enable them to take a critical distance from practice and have a principled understanding of education as a value. It is not enough for teachers to know what to do and how to do it. They need to know why they do what they do.
At a time when there is a distinct lack of clarity about what education is, or should be, we need teachers who are educational thinkers. We need teachers who know more than how to ‘deliver’ ‘effective’ lessons, who can rise above the perceived imperative of examination results, league tables, Ofsted inspections and a micro-managed school culture because they have principled views on education that come from theoretical and professional knowledge, and expert knowledge of their subject discipline.
The raft of legislation and policy initiatives that has invaded schools in recent years is unprecedented. Education has become a vehicle of social policy and social engineering. This has gone largely unchallenged, and is equally supported by the present administration. Initiatives that started out as policy diktats, such as Every Child Matters, SEAL, personalised learning, assessment for learning, brain gym, critical thinking, thinking skills, and cross-curricular themes such as health eating and environmentalism, have all been absorbed into school culture. They have had a profound effect on teachers, teaching and our conception of education.
We have seen the rise of managerialism, which has transformed schools. This involves a burgeoning responsibility for data-collection and micro-managing teaching. Further, the content of subject disciplines reflects an instrumental view of knowledge. The purpose of education has assumed a necessary link with the economy. Education for its own sake, it seems, is untenable.
All welcome
Further speakers TBC

Useful background is 'In Defence of Teacher Education: A RESPONSE TO THE COALITION GOVERNMENT’S WHITE PAPER FOR SCHOOLS (NOVEMBER 2010) By the Standing Committee for the Education and Training of Teachers (SCETT)

It can be downloaded here

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