Archive for the ‘Events’ Category
Last month I attended a fascinating discussion about the Finnish school system by Pasi Sahlberg, author of Finnish Lessons, an account of how Finland created one of the most successful school systems in the world. In this brief extract from Pasi’s talk, he explains how, in order to create a high quality universal system, the Finns had, first, to abolish private and selective education, which created an unacceptable gap in achievement. This then prompted me to ask a question……… read on.
Over the last eight months, I have been taking the arguments in my book School Wars around the country, talking to parents, teachers, heads in maintained schools: local authority leaders; private, grammar, academy and faith school heads and staff; and many students. I have learned an enormous amount from these discussions about the strengths and divides of our current system and the impact that Coalition policy is having on our schools.
Last week the New Statesman published my edited diary style account of some of these discussions. There is so much I had to miss out…never mind. This gives readers a flavour….
I debate selection and streaming with Katherine Birbalsingh on the BBC. Listen here if you are interested. Go straight to Chapter 6.
‘Government education reforms will lead to a lack of accountability and greater inequality’, Melissa Benn will say at the forthcoming ‘School Wars’ debate.
The debate takes place in Islington on Thursday 9 February and is being organised by the National Education Trust, the leading education charity. It will be led by Melissa Benn, author of ‘School Wars’, with responses from Sally Coates, Principal of Burlington Danes Academy and Roy Blatchford, Founding Director of the National Education Trust.
The event will be chaired by Fiona Millar.
Melissa Benn commented:
‘Michael Gove has set a revolution in train, in the name of radical improvement of state education. But nothing is quite as it seems with the Coalition’s school reforms.
In the name of autonomy and freedom, the government has gathered to itself unprecedented powers. Local authorities are being drained of funds and key powers, only to be replaced by democratically unaccountable providers, including the powerful educational chains.
Grammar schools are set to expand even though the correlation between selection and inequality is now well proven.
My fear? A return to a version of the failed 1944 settlement, this time via the market not the state’.
Roy Blatchford, Founding Director of the National Education Trust, said:
The National Education Trust has for some time been a leading platform for critical debate about today’s key education issues, so we are delighted to be staging this timely event.
I look forward to hearing – and perhaps challenging – Melissa Benn’s version of ‘market versus state’.
Notes for Editors
The media are invited to attend School Wars at New North Community School and Children’s Centre, 32 Popham Road, London N1 8SJ on Thursday 9 February (1.00-4.00pm). Please use the contact details below to book a place.
The National Education Trust is an independent charitable foundation dedicated to
the promotion and sharing of excellent practice and innovation in education. More information can be found on our website: http://www.nationaleducationtrust.net
To book a place, contact firstname.lastname@example.org or book online:
I will be hosting a fundraising evening on December 1st in aid of the Maya Centre, which provides therapy to low income women. The evening will feature some of our finest writers – Jill Dawson, Margaret Drabble, Helen Simpson and Sarah Waters – reading from their short story collections. Tickets selling fast. Please come along.
Some of the events I will be doing over the next few weeks and months.
September 21, 2011 / The Court Room, Glaziers Hall
Melissa Benn: Comprehensive School Education – Policy Mistake, Lost Ideal or Model for the Future?
Part of the University of Leicester ‘The Floor is Yours’ debate series
September 25, 2011 / Dartington Hall
Melissa Benn: How to respond to inequality
Interrogate! festival 2011
September 27, 2011 / Watershed Media Centre
Melissa Benn: School Wars
A Festival of Ideas event
October 11, 2011 / London Review bookshop
Melissa Benn: School Wars
“This a passionate but well made argument for universal public education to promote every child’s chances—not just for them, but for us.” Will Hutton
October 13, 2011 / Wanstead Library
School Wars: The Battle for Britain’s Education
Melissa Benn in conversation with Michael Rosen
October 14, 2011 / Ilkley Playhouse Wharfeside
The Battle for Britain’s Education: Melissa Benn
Ilkley Literature Festival
October 16, 2011 / Imperial Square
Melissa Benn: The Great Education Debate at Times Cheltenham Literature Festival
With Chris Healy, Anthony Seldon & Toby Young
November 10, 2011 / Pages of Hackney bookshop
Pages presents School Wars: The Battle for Britain’s Education
Melissa Benn at Pages in conversation with Gareth Evans
November 29, 2011 / Bishopsgate Insitute
Melissa Benn: Whose mind is it anyway? Influencing young minds
With John White (Institute of Education), Andy Thornton (Citizenship Foundation) & Frank Furedi
I will also be taking part in debates, and doing signings, at a number of literary festivals – including Richmond, Glasgow and Bath – and at the Labour Party and Liberal Democrat conferences.
Please check this website and the Verso website for more details.
Read Melissa Benn’s latest pieces on the web. Further comment on ‘bigotgate’ in Public Finance, and a piece on one of Burma’s most celebrated activists, the poet and comedian Zarganar, recently sentenced to thirty five years for criticising the government’s handling of cyclone Nargis in 2008, on the Guardian’s Liberty Central section of Comment is Free.
Two excellent pieces today on separate aspects of the election campaign. Francis Gilbert has written a cogent piece on Comment is Free on why Tory policies for schools will spell disaster for our education system. In the main paper Natasha Walter analyses the deeper reasons for the absence of women from the front line of politics.
There are many reasons, of course, for the shift in modern politics, away from a collegiate/cabinet emphasis to a more Presidential style of party leadership but the set piece TV debates have only accelerated this trend. 2010′s election campaign has been structured entirely around the Thursday debates, and associated briefings and endless analysis. This means, as many have observed during this singularly depressing campaign, that the only women who seem to count are the glamorous loyal wives whom, it is hinted, will be able moderate their husband’s excesses and weaknesses in traditional medieval court style. The power beyond the throne: yes indeed; nothing to do with democracy. As for the elected women, they are nowhere to be seen. Harriet Harman, deputy leader of the Labour Party, is occasionally glimpsed in her bright red coat ( much good it does her) standing at the edge of some media scrum or apparently pushed to the edge of a platform.I have glimpsed the top of her head at least three times on television in the last week; they don’t even bother to show her face. Of course, the main media players are only interested in the main political players. There’s a few women in there, but not many.
As for Tory policies on education, they will be an unmitigated disaster. If schools can select their own pupils, secure their own funding and float away from struggling schools in their neighbourhood – the independent school model, unwritten by the state this time – inequality will only intensify. The Tory claim to want to tackle poverty and inequality is disingenuous; if anything proves it, it is their education policy.
Below, the latest link to one of Melissa’s December book events.
Spoke last night at full and very lively fringe meeting at Labour Party conference on the importance of ending selection or, as we in Comprehensive Future call it, rejection at 11 plus.The other speakers were Vanessa Everett, the head of both a comprehensive school and a small secondary modern in Kent, and Aaron Porter, Vice President of the NUS. Everett’s speech was powerful testimony to the damage that the eleven plus can do to children; she told many disturbing stories of young children weeping, waking in the night, withdrawing and even turning to alcohol as the immediate result of failure or fear of failure of this test but also of the longer term impact of demoralisation and low self esteem. Siblings are often set against siblings with one passing and the other failing.
It made me realise once again how lucky I and my three brothers were to be sent to the same local school, a short walk from our home. Not only did it mean that we knew each other’s friends and teachers, people we talk about to this day, but we were not divided at a young age, according to our assumed interests, intelligence or capabilities. It was only later in our school career that we began to make different choices and go our separate ways. But I am convinced that sharing a common schooling to the age of 18 was a very important part of our experience as a family, a solid building block in our lives.
One member of the audience found the discussion ‘too emotive’; another young woman defended her grammar school education in a poor area. But generally the meeting was united in powerful feelings of revulsion at the continuation of the eleven plus in fifteen local education authorities, that is twenty percent of the country. That 164 grammar schools should remain after twelve years of a Labour government notionally committed to ending selection is very disappointing.
To get involved in Comprehensive Future, visit our website. and join us on Facebook.