Sunday, 3 November 2013

Gove: stop driving creativity and enjoyment from our schools

The Circus by Lebedev - under discussion today!
I enjoyed spending the last day of my half-term break at the 'Socialism 2013' discussions hosted by the Socialist Party at the University of London Union. It wasn't lost on me that in these workshops of mainly non-teachers, Gove and education were still part of the discussion!

In a discussion on 'Art and Revolution', which broadened into a wider discussion about education and culture, a number of contributors, young and old, correctly pointed out how art, drama and music were being downgraded under Gove's curriculum reforms, instead of being promoted as an essential part of a broad comprehensive education. As one trade unionist put it, Gove's aim seems to be to turn out youngsters trained just sufficiently in the skills needed to be a low-waged worker on a zero-hour contract - and no more.

An online petition that I have been asked to publicise via twitter, calling on Gove to "Stop the marginalisation of the Expressive Arts in education policy" can be signed via 

The petition explains the threats to the Expressive Arts and raises a number of demands, not least that "we want an end to this short sighted, Orwellian drive to force the arts from our children’s schools before we drive creativity, passion and enjoyment from our primary and secondary schools".

With his 'payment-by-results' Gove is turning back the clock to a failed Victorian attack on teachers and education. In his increasingly restricted curriculum, he is also rewinding the film of educational reform back to Victorian 'elementary' education where little beyond reading, writing and arithmetic were to be taught to working-class children. 

The development of 'higher grade schools' by the more progressive (and, of course, elected) School Boards sought to extend education to science and the arts. Facing Tory attacks back then, in 1900 the Parliamentary Committee of the TUC demanded "that the elementary and higher education of the people shall be at the public expense, free, unsectarian, and under the management of the elected representatives of the people". 

In 2013, those demands still need to be fought for.

... and this post gives me an excuse to also add a favourite quote from Tom Mann, one of the pioneers of the trade union movement in Britain, who told the second conference of the Dockers' Union in 1891, "We claim now material necessities to lift us above worrying for food and shelter but we claim more - we yearn for culture, we demand opportunities for physical and mental development, and we openly declare war against all that tends to keep us riveted to earth".

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