“There must be something in books, something we can’t imagine, to make a woman stay in a burning house; there must be something there. You don’t stay for nothing.”

― Ray Bradbury, Fahrenheit 451

I love a dystopian narrative; one of my favourites is Fahrenheit 451 – which is about the suppression of dissenting ideas. Bradbury later said it was how mass media reduces interest in reading literature (Go Twitter!). In particular it is the ‘ordinary people’ who suffer most in the dystopian futures. The poorer you are the less power and influence you have.

I made this comment on David Didau’s blog Neo-progressivism this week, regarding social justice in our education system and teachers desire to ensure ALL pupils receive a just and sustainable education.

“One thing I keep battling with is how the top universities are not about taking the brightest. That many students from state schools are achieving the exam results to get in. They get pipped by their peers due to not having experiences that broaden their life experiences. It may not be education that holds these pupils back but access to varied and exciting life experiences such as broad travel, opportunities to work in low paying creative industries (fashion etc), and access to people with influence… I believe that schools are getting to grips with empowering students with knowledge and a better education… I am not convinced it will narrow the gaps between the haves and haves not.”

Education feels like a Guy Montag shift right now (The fireman who burns books in Fahrenheit 451). There is a real sense of that leveraging for power, a ‘special pleasure to see things eaten, to see things blackened and changed’ or a sudden desperation to convince us all that some of us are ‘winning the argument’. There is certainly an air of change. Much has been done to debate and no longer take for granted many approaches to education. The fact that we can do this though does not mean that different philosophies are better ones in practice. For all the complaints regarding a teaching profession dominated by progressive ideas it’s amazing how much more skilled and able primary children are in comparison to 10 years ago (Never mind 20 years ago when I started). I am a fan of tougher tests because they will raise expectations and therefore standards. Right now I am in the standards can be better camp. Though, I also believe that many will be left behind because of this. I believe that the system will be assimilated and this is not always the same as a better education system.

The fight to win an argument is one thing; on educational practice this is a wide and varied debate. There is history, facts and stats to make it a hotpot of disagreement and back slapping.

So on to Grammar Schools

Really? Have we not learnt anything?

What happens when you base an argument for huge investment on the premise of Grammar Schools will ‘ensure’ more opportunity for ‘Ordinary Working Families?’

There’s decades of evidence to back that up then?.

Fewer than one in 10 grammar school pupils came from the most disadvantaged backgrounds, compared with more than one in six at non-selective schools.

Dear Justine, take a good long look in the mirror and ask yourself – Who should I listen to regarding this? Where is the evidence? I have not heard one head teacher or one academic support this policy. I have only heard politicians. Maybe I have missed something? Maybe someone is trying to swindle us?

This is at a time when ‘ordinary working schools’ are creaking and cracking under the greatest strain in my 20 year career. It is at this time you look for leadership, you should look to our elected governments Education Secretary.

So, tell me Justine – what are you going to do for the children attending the 21,079 state funded schools? As a parent where is the guarantee that your policies, your priorities are focussed on assuring that the majority of ‘ordinary families’ will get the best? Get what they deserve?

Sorry? I couldn’t quite hear that?

Yes, I still have a massive budget concern.

Yes, morale in the profession is as low as I have ever known it.

Yes, I no longer have confidence that you listen or even understand the profession you champion.

This latest folly is absolutely against the will of the vast majority of professionals running and teaching in schools. It has no support (that I can see, apart from within your own party) and you are going to waste your energy and time (as well as TAX payers money) on this when the ‘Ordinary Schools’ up and down this country are wading in the water desperately trying to stay afloat, as they take each and every desperate breath…

Every dystopian story has a key theme… it is the power of authority doing what they want to do against the will of the people (against the dissenting voices) to ensure their aims are achieved. This experiment, at this time… is madness and will bring about an even more divided society.

Rain fell as a thick black band over the decaying building. Dirty water pouring through the leaking roof onto one of the few tables in the classroom. Mr Bradbury flexed his aching fingers, sore from scrabbling around the skip behind the school for scraps. The room was packed and he struggled to raise his voice. He looked at the unprivileged masses, turned and without a word, walked out.

My first draft to a dystopian novel…

There must be something in Grammar Schools, something we can’t imagine, to make a woman stay in a burning house; there must be something there. You don’t stay for nothing.

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