"Government education policy is damaging its own objectives
Sir: We are specialists with considerable experience collectively in the different phases of education who have come independently to the same conclusion; that government policy is no longer the solution to the difficulties we face but our greatest problem.
We have the same objectives as this Government in wanting to offer a first-class education and training to all and, in particular, to narrow the attainment gap between the most and least advantaged. We have, however, become increasingly dismayed by ministers who are intent on permanent revolution of every aspect of the education system: in so acting, they demonstrate a deep lack of trust in the professional education community.
It is not only the torrent of new policy that rains down on each sector, the constant changes in direction and the automatic rubbishing of any discomforting evidence by ministers: it's also the failure of successive ministers to appreciate that reform has to be accompanied by continuity if the stability of our educational institutions and the high quality of their courses are to be preserved.
For example, despite its rhetorical advocacy of lifelong learning, the reality of government policy is that there are now 1.4million fewer adult learners in the FE sector, broadly defined, than there were two years ago. Similarly, the new policy in HE of withdrawing funding support for all those learners studying for an equivalent or lower qualification (ELQ) to that which they already possess, will reduce dramatically the numbers of adult learners in the system. These policies are being pursued despite near universal condemnation – the Select Committee report on ELQs was particularly damning.
Despite significant, additional investment in education since 1997, our research shows that government policy is now working against the government's own intentions and that the current frenetic pace of change must slow down to what is pedagocially (and structurally) possible.
We need a more consultative, democratic and inclusive way of developing and enacting policy for all the public services. The one change we need above all is for government to consult the professionals and learners before it announces policies which will damage the objectives that we all share.
Emeritus Professor Frank Coffield Institute of Education, University of London
Professor Richard Taylor Director of Continuing Education and Lifelong Learning, University of Cambridge,
Professor Sir Peter Scott, Vice-Chancellor, University of Kingston,
Professor Stephen Ball Institute of Education, University of London"And so say all of us!