Virgin on the ridiculous?

3256981828_0eed8d225d_oHeadteacher Branson launches the new Virgin Academy teachers’ uniforms.

The other day at a disrupted conference he had sponsored (also supported by the rather difficult to imagine anything less disruptive Pearson), with his head as high in the clouds as one of his planes, no richer a person than Sir Richard Branson himself spoke forth about his views on education. And some of the things he said were things that All Change Please! has been saying for quite a while now.

First that all children should have a gap year at the age of 16. Not perhaps to travel the world as Branson suggested, but to get some proper experience of the real world of work and the community before deciding which further courses to follow. Yes. Big Tick.

Next that schools should stop teaching French and teach other languages such as Spanish, which are actually used in a substantial part of the world. And that instead of being taught using a formal academic approach the methods using in TEFL and on-line learning apps should be adopted. Yes. Yes. Another Big Tick.

And last, or should that be first, that History should be taught backwards, i.e., from the present day, which will be of far more interest and relevance to children. Yes. Yes. Yes. Hooray! Big ticks all the way.

But wait. Who invited Toby Dung on to the discussion panel? No. No. No…

So while we eagerly await the launch of Virgin Academies, Virgin Teachers and maybe even manage to find some Virgin students, it raises some interesting questions. Namely what would happen if a significant 20th Century ‘Old School’ capitalist were to take over education provision? Would they be capable of delivering an experience of appropriate 21st Century teaching, learning and a curriculum to match, or would it just descend into a ‘bums on seat’, increase the profits by maximising academic exam results sort of affair, which is after all what the academy chains seem intent on doing?

A big business approach to education is far from ideal, and while it might help prepare our future workforce more effectively and appropriately, would it pay enough attention to the broader personal and social aspects of education and the local community?  Schools currently do little enough to prepare children for the future world of work, but that’s not all they are there to do. Of course it is arguable that in the late 19th Century Victorian philanthropists were willing to fund local libraries, museums and other community facilities for little more than a name-check. Are there any genuine early 21st Century philanthropists in the audience tonight?

And if accepting the patronage of big business is the only way forward, which currently is seems it is, should it be supported as at least one step towards moving away from our 19th Century academically-based approach?

But if it’s the really ridiculous we’re on the look out for then look no further than this Headteacher from a distant planet who is seriously suggesting that the teacher shortage problem can be solved through the use of Skype by unqualified teachers while each simultaneously training a new teacher.

Not to mention Head of OffQual’s Glenys In Wonderland Stacey’s belief that the low standards of examiners’ marking problem won’t really be a problem because experienced, able teachers love marking examination scripts so much that they don’t need to be paid more, and anyway if they were then Pearson wouldn’t make as make as much profit out of them, and we wouldn’t want that to happen now would we?

Meanwhile, All Change Please!‘s local supermarket has finally got round to putting its Christmas stock out, so the festive season can now begin properly. Merry October everyone!

“But I don’t want to go among mad people,” Alice remarked.
“Oh, you can’t help that,” said the Cat: “we’re all mad here. I’m mad. You’re mad.”
“How do you know I’m mad?” said Alice.
“You must be,” said the Cat, “or you wouldn’t have come here.”

One comment on “Virgin on the ridiculous?

  1. I agree that Spanish should be taught – it’s much easier to learn and would suit all those schools looking for high grades for their MFL departments. I like the idea of backwards history – we teach up to the German perspective in the Second World War which seems a bit skewed. But mostly I like the idea of a year out at sixteen to decide sensibly on a possible career path and experience several work placements to help choose the best possible subject combinations for a realistic chance of future employment.

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