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An Education Manifesto from The Good Schools Guide

We may not be fielding any candidates in the forthcoming general election but that hasn’t stopped our education experts from coming up with some suggestions:

In a nutshell

Schools should be properly funded and well led, with good teachers, good discipline and lots of ambition for their pupils. The system should help every child reach their potential.

Government initiatives should be based on evidence and research, and schools should be allowed more discretion when it comes to funding.

Key points

Curriculum: Narrowing the curriculum leads to cultural disenfranchisement. We think that the restoration of breadth should be a priority for funding and measured in performance tables.

Grammar schools: Creating grammar schools by examination is expensive, unnecessary, disadvantages poor children and distorts primary education.

Challenging schools: We need realistic and sustained incentives for teachers to work in challenging schools in all parts of the country, and to train top quality school leaders.

Mental health in schools: Creation and evaluation of a body of good practice should come first. Thereafter schools should be supported with specialist help and extra funding.

SEN: The funding for SEN provision is in a confused and confusing state. Sorting this out must be a priority for an incoming government. We also need to think again about whether inclusion should be the default position.

Read our manifesto in full here: An Education Manifesto from The Good Schools Guide

Should holiday homework be banned? A Good Schools Guide writer offers her personal view.

With the summer holidays fast approaching, a leading head has called on parents to ban schoolwork and give their children time to relax in July and August.

Tim Hands, headmaster of Winchester College, says that schoolchildren should be allowed to take a break from formal academic study during the holidays, apart from at ‘critical times of academic pressure’.

Writing in the latest issue of Attain, the Independent Association of Prep Schools’ magazine, Dr Hands says: ‘Holidays aren’t there for academic study, for concentrating on schoolwork or sitting down at a desk and writing or word processing things. To be sure, a little bit of cultural sightseeing, a lot of literary or historical reading, or a good bit of music practice can certainly be done. But the emphasis should always be on something different from term time – something that the pressure of term time makes it difficult to accomplish.’

Some parents, including those who hire tutors during the holidays, will no doubt disagree with Dr Hands but he’s hit the nail on the head as far as I’m concerned.

From academic work to sporting fixtures, school terms are action packed these days. The days are long and the evenings are filled with homework, music lessons, sports practice and a host of extracurricular activities. Holidays, on the other hand, are the perfect time for children (and parents) to read, relax, discover new hobbies and catch up on their sleep. As a child I remember the bliss of having weeks on end to read every Famous Five novel I could find, learn how to ride a bike, build dens in the garden and play endless rounds of an obscure game called Exploration with my sister.

When my own children were little my daughter wanted to spend time with her friends, while my son was desperate to perfect his skateboarding skills at the local park.

They rarely did any schoolwork at all, apart from the summer when my son’s primary teacher kindly offered to give him some extra maths coaching in readiness for the autumn term. Much to my son’s indignation I agreed but when the teacher rang the doorbell I discovered he had vanished into thin air. We searched the house for 20 minutes, only to find that my son had climbed a tree in the garden and was hiding amidst the branches – not through fear of his teacher but through a fierce determination not to do any maths during the holidays. He got his way and as things turned out his missed coaching made no difference whatsoever to his grades. Years later he sailed through his maths GCSE with ease and is now studying engineering at university.

Does a break from schoolwork during the holidays benefit children? As always we’d love to know what you think. Email us at [email protected]

Going up, going down

Going up

School Breakfast. That’s if the Conservatives win on election day. See ‘Going down’ for balance.

Sales of ‘naice’ soap. Latest fab idea from everyone’s go-to progressives, the Football Association, is that ‘nice-smelling soap’ in the changing rooms will encourage all the young ladies to keep playing sport. We’re probably being a little unfair on Baroness Sue Campbell, head of women’s football at the FA, who is trying to tackle (sorry) the ‘steeper than average decline’ in primary school girls’ physical activity. Other ideas include a wider choice of activities and an emphasis on ‘fun and enjoyment’ rather than competition.

Entry requirements. We may worry about catchment areas and 11+ exams, but spare a thought for Chinese families. Two top schools in Shanghai have been up in front of the authorities for demanding proof of ancestral academic credentials and testing parents’ body shapes as well as their brains. Apparently ‘fat parents display poor self-management skills.’

Going down

Free school lunches for primary school children. (Unless Labour triumphs on June 8, in which case they’re going up).

Going down the sleeve very soon will be new badges. Girlguiding (formerly The Guide Association) has asked members to put forward ideas for a ‘refreshed offer’ that will ‘attract new members from all backgrounds.’ Suggestions include: vlogging, upcycling and app design.

Going in teacher’s drawer until home time. Fidget spinners. Claimed to relieve stress but doing the opposite in schools up and down the country.

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