Category Archives: Intrinsic value

Parental strike against school testing – hint, intimation, or flash in the pan?

Straw in the wind?  Harbinger? Hint or intimation? Dunno.

Snowball in hell? Impossible odds? Flash in the pan? Dunno.

Still, worth noting that at the time of writing 24,412 parents (or people claiming to be parents) have signed an online petition supporting a strike – yes, worth reading that again: a STRIKE – that will keep some kids out of school for a day in protest against SATs testing at an early age.

Worth noting, too, is the parental plea – or do I mean ‘demand’?

‘ We want our kids to be kids again and enjoy learning for learning’s sake not for Ofsted results or league table figures. Bring back the creativity and the fun – say goodbye to repetition and boredom!’

‘Learning for its own sake’ .  There, in the second paragraph. Unadorned and unashamed.

A Headteacher writing in support of the strike, eloquently sets out the damaging consequences of high stakes testing.   The letter ends apologising for not signing the letter, or giving the name of the school ‘because I’m afraid of repercussions’.

Not to be pursued in this short blog, but there is a wider issue here, and that is the contraction of the public space available for independent thought and action.  Areas other than education should perhaps reflect on this.

Parents refusing to send their child to school without good reason – a strike is not likely to be seen as a good reason – lay themselves open to a daily fine of £60.00 rising to £120.00 a day if not paid within 21 days.  The price of independent action?

As to the evidence that might support the value of independence, there is none. It is not susceptible to the sort of evidence that is purportedly considered persuasive.  The Good Ship Independence must proceed under its own power, aided of course by a fair wind. But then, one can also make one’s own weather.

You may wish to sign the petition.

Review of Adrian Voce’s book ‘Policy for Play: Responding to children’s forgotten right’

I was invited by the International Journal of Play to write a review of  Adrian Voce’s ‘Policy for Play: Responding to children’s forgotten right’. 

This is the original manuscript of the review published by Taylor & Francis in International Journal of Play on 15 March 2016  available online

Policy for Play is at once a eulogy for the demise of an unfulfilled, wished-for future, and a statement of faith in the need for, and possibility of, resurrection.

The unfulfilled future is the Play Strategy for England which did not live long beyond its birth; the hope of resurrection resides in the belief of many play advocates, and certainly the author’s,  that children’s ‘forgotten right’ to play can be secured only by a national, all-embracing policy (or strategy, the terms are used interchangeably) for play.

Policy for Play is Adrian Voce’s well-written account of the rationale for national play polices, and a detailed history of attempts to secure such a policy for England.  It is an insider’s account, one that chronicles the twists and the turns, the ups and the downs, of this singular pursuit. Continue reading

A word in your ear: Sharing dismay

It’s been ringing in my ear recently.  Like a tune stuck in one’s head, endlessly repeating itself. ‘Disciplinary society’, those are the words, that’s the discordant, repeating, tune.

And the flipside of discipline, is punishment; or, in the more mealy-mouth words of official-speak, the flipside of discipline is ‘sanction’. In practical terms this is a distinction without a difference as anyone who has been sanctioned is likely to tell you. If it looks like a punishment, if it feels like a punishment, then it’s punishment.

And as a society we seem to be getting better and better at creating occasions to threaten and impose punishment or sanction.

Why do I mention this now? It’s simply that over the past couple of weeks or so a few seemingly disparate experiences crossed my path, and, not for the first time, I realised I was seeing a pattern, a system in fact, and not a series of random coincidences. I’d noticed it before and I’m pretty sure that you have to. No claim to novelty here, this is about sharing dismay. Continue reading

‘Something is profoundly wrong with the way we live today’

To cut to the chase:  I hold that a society or culture entrapped by a perpetual need to achieve, to endlessly generate quantifiable outputs, to obsessively ‘progress’ – slippery term that – is a society most likely to exhaust and dispirit its members.  For rather too long, that’s pretty much the position that has been reached.

The emblem and motif of such a society is the treadmill, and the force that drives it, fear.  These afflictions affect adult and child alike, trapping both in a perpetual circle of unremitting striving. It continues without cease – no sooner has one goal or objective been achieved, than another looms into view demanding satisfaction.  Performance is all. Repose is nowhere allowed.  We are required to be strivers. Welcome to the club that should have no members.

The symptoms  of this malady are everywhere about us:  the child who from the earliest age must be made learning or school ‘ready’;  the sales assistant – most likely on a low or minimum wage – as well as the  classroom teacher, now both equally performance assessed; the parent frantic to get their child into a ‘good’ school, the better to ‘achieve’; the school shackled to anxiety about their place in the performance league tables; the voluntary organisation, now formally contracted to provide quantifiable outcomes that do not easily mesh with the substance and purpose  of their undertaking; the business executive tethered to work 24/7 via mobile phone or tablet and driven by targets.  And so on.  The list is long. Continue reading