Mark Woods: Season of bad news for education

As schools across the country prepare to close for Christmas, there can scarcely have been an Advent season which has seen bad news poured upon our education system so relentlessly.

First, we had the news that internationally the UK is at best stagnating and at worse declining sharply against the educational standards of other countries as the OECD’s Pisa test results were published. What’s more, much of our continued sluggishness has been caused by other countries improving more quickly than we are. Then there were headlines that hundreds of primary schools in England failed meet to literacy and numeracy targets. Further interrogation reveals that 767 of more than 15,000 schools sitting Sats tests didn’t make the grade and that although that’s a higher figure than last year, the targets themselves have been made harder so, all in all, we are looking at an overall backdrop of improving results, it seems.

At least we’ve got the new free school system to turn things around? Cue the Government having to order the closure of a failing free school for the first time this December after inspectors found standards to be unacceptably poor.

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The Discovery New School in Crawley, West Sussex, 
will close its doors next 
April and represents a big blow to the great new classroom hope.

Perhaps we need to look to the past to the grammar school system, still clinging on in certain counties and capable of giving any child, from any background, the chance to turn their fledgling academic potential into educational excellence? Not according to the chief inspector of schools.

Grammars are “stuffed full” of middle-class children and don’t improve social mobility one jot, Sir Michael Wilshaw opined this weekend.

What about those nice Sure Start schemes for pre-schoolers everyone likes? Nope. There’s a distinct lack of clarity about the “core purpose” of them, said an Education Select Committee only yesterday.

The only thing left is say happy Christmas to all teachers – fingers crossed you find the mental strength to come back to work in January!

Twitter @mark_r_woods