Education in Britain

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The need for educational change arises partly from a concern about academic standards. The sense that Britain is declining has been reinforced by statements from employers. According to them, Britain’s workforce is under-educated, under-trained and under-qualified! These criticisms of standards are pitched at different levels. First, there are worries about low standards of literacy and numeracy. Second, international comparisons give weight to misgivings about the performance of British schoolchildren in mathematics and science. And, therefore, the subsequent changes have tried to define standards much more precisely, and o have regular assessment of children’s performance against these standards.

II. Changing Political Control

After 1944

The key educational legislation, until recently, was the 1944 Education Act. That Act supported a partnership between central government (Local Education Authorities or LEAs), teachers and the churches - with central government playing a minimal role in the curriculum.

The 1944 Education Act required the Secretary of State to promote the education of the people of England and Wales and the progressive development of institutions devoted to that purpose and to secure the effective execution by local authorities, under his control and direction, of the national policy for providing a varied and comprehensive educational service in every area.

In the decades following the Act, «promotion» was perceived in very general terms - ensuring that there were resources adequate for all children to receive an education according to «age, ability and aptitude», providing the broad legal framework and regulations within which education should be provided (for example, the length of the school year or the division of education into primary and secondary phases), and initiating major reports on such important matters as language and mathematics teaching.

Within this framework, the LEA organized the schools. The LEA raised money through local taxation to provide education from primary right through to further and indeed higher education, and made sure that the schools and colleges were working efficiently. They employed and paid the teachers. And ultimately they had responsibility for the quality of teaching within those schools.

The Churches were key partners because historically they (particularly the Church of England) had provided a large proportion of elementary education and owned many of the schools.

The 1944 Act had to establish a new partnership between state, LEAs and the church schools.

b)After 1980

However, the changing economic, social and cultural conditions outlined in the previous section caused the government to reexamine the nature and the composition of that partnership. The questions being asked during the 1980’s included the following:

Has central government the power to make the system respond to the changing context? Are the local authorities too local for administrating a national system and too distant for supporting local, especially parental, involvement in school? Have the parents been genuine partners in the system that affects the future welfare of their children? And what place, if any, in the partnership has been allocated to the employers, who believe they have a contribution to make to the preparation of young people for the future?

New governing bodies

Various Acts of Parliament since 1980 have made schools more accountable.

Teachers, employers and parents have been given places on the governing bodies. Governors have to publish information about the school that enables parents to make informed choices when deciding to which school they should send their child. Each LEA has to have a curriculum policy that must be considered and implemented by each governing body. Schools also must have a policy on sex education and must ensure that political indoctrination does not take place. This accountability of schools and LEAs has to be demonstrated through an annual report to be presented to a public meeting of parents. The government gave parents the right to enrol their children - given appropriate age and aptitude - at any state school of their choice, within the limits of capacity. Parents already sent their children to the local school of their choice. The decision to publish schools' examination results, however, gave parents a stark, but not necessarily well-informed, basis on which to choose the most appropriate school for their child. Increasingly parents sought access to the most successful nearby school in terms of examination results. Far from being able to exercise their choice, large numbers of parents were now frustrated in their choice. Overall, in 1996 20 per cent of parents failed to obtain their first choice of school. In London the level was 40 per cent, undermining the whole policy of 'parental choice' and encouraging only the crudest view of educational standards. Schools found themselves competing rather than cooperating and some schools, for example in deprived urban areas, faced a downward spiral of declining enrolment followed by reduced budgets. Thus the market offered winners and losers: an improved system for the brighter or more fortunate pupils, but a worse one for the 'bottom' 40 per cent. Schools in deprived parts of cities acquired reputations as 'sink' schools. As one education journalist wrote in 1997, 'There is a clear hierarchy of schools:

Реферат опубликован: 20/09/2009