Wednesday, 23 March 2011

What a Difference a Year Makes...

Michael Gove was the keynote speaker at The Spectator's "The Schools Revolution One Year On" conference

I recently attended the Spectator Conference in London entitled ‘The Schools Revolution one year on’.

This event was held last year in advance of the General Election, and what was interesting this year was the number of teachers and educationalists at the conference and the lack of architects and construction people, despite the fact that The Spectator is a big advocate of Free Schools and Toby Young is on their payroll…

From the line up at this event, with Michael Gove delivering the keynote address, David Laws bringing the Lib Dems’ point of view to the table and Lord Adonis and Tim Byles attending, it was clear that it was supported by like-minded people who are in general in support of the Free Schools movement.

Michael Gove came across well, and I was surprised that he does have a sense of humour. He focused on three key areas as priorities, these being accountability, independence and teaching. He talked very little about new buildings or IT. It seems he is wedded to the private school model and is hoping to encourage schools to take this approach across the curriculum with the introduction of an English baccalaureate.

It felt like a very one-sided conference, supporting academies and free schools. Many of the arguments were valid, and I was encouraged by the focus on improving teaching and a zero tolerance policy of poorly performing teachers, however I still maintain the big difference between state schools and private schools is the commitment of the parents and not the ability of the children.

It is clear that the Government’s focus is no longer on buildings and the statement from Tim Byles was that buildings had to no longer be inspirational, but fit for purpose. This does seem to be setting the bar fairly low and I think that it is a missed opportunity.

What we have to do in our industry is to deliver inspirational learning spaces within the parameters which we have been set, and which this conference reinforces. Only time will tell if the new approach is a success, but so much has changed in the past year, and I am intrigued to see where the schools agenda will be this time next year.

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