Has The Time Come For Experimental Models of Schooling?

There was a typically thoughtful/outspoken feature by Matthew Taylor in the Times Education Supplement last week. The piece was trailing the launch of ‘Whole Education’ the new (and somewhat obtuse) name for the Education Alliance formed by some UK charitable trusts and foundations. The piece claims that ‘new battle lines are being drawn in anticipation of the election of a Conservative government, with a campaign planned to defend “progressive” education in the face of a predicted “back to basics” onslaught’. It feels as though Matthew has been mounting a one-man campaign warning of the dangers of an in-coming Conservative schools strategy for some time now. I’ve referred earlier to some of the more ‘traditional’ pronouncements by  Tory Shadow Education leader, Michael Gove, so it seems as though there is a clear ‘battle’ to be fought.

But what’s this? It doesn’t look to be as clear-cut as progressives v traditionalists: An unnamed Tory spokesperson repllying, said:  “We’ve said for three years that people like Matthew Taylor who want to set up new schools with experimental curricula should be campaigning for a Conservative victory because, unlike Ed Balls, we would not just let him do it but fund him to do it under our ‘Swedish schools’ policy.” (There’s a thought – why not borrow someone else’s education policies?) Is there a shift taking place in Conservative thinking which might present their direction as innovative rather than primitive?

It’s becoming terribly confusing – education was one of the few areas where there seemed to be some clear blue water between to the two major parties. All of a sudden, experimental schooling models and innovation are de rigeur (it’s not that long ago that they were outlawed on the ‘guinea pig’ principle).

Elsewhere in the TES, it’s rumoured that Ed Balls is inching his way towards scrapping high-stakes national testing at the end of primary schooling. So, could it be that both sides are acknowledging that the ‘progressives’ could soon be pushing at an open door? And if so, could we learn from what seems to be working elsewhere, and find a way of bringing parents into the conversation?

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