Keeping children after school

November 08, 2007 10:19 AM

The Telegraph reports new government plans for slow readers to stay behind after school for "back-to-basics lessons in how to recognise words and extra time practising silent reading to bring them up to scratch".


It is tempting to argue for or against this as a policy in isolation.  Will the pupils take advantage of the extra time?  Do schools have the resources?  How much improvement in reading ability will it lead to?  Are there more efficient ways of improving reading standards?


However, that really misses the point.  What our education system really needs is for politicians to stop making this kind of decision.  When the question of whether to teach students literacy for an extra hour after school has nothing to do with government advisors, Education Secretaries or - particularly - Prime Ministers our education system might finally start to shine.  Getting politicians out of the management  of education will lead to better decision making for a host of reasons, here are two particularly relevant to this case:


1)  It might well be that different schools should be taking very different decisions.  Different schools, with different pupils, resources and ideas might want to try very different strategies for improving the literacy of slow readers.  There is almost certainly not one 'correct' education policy for the entire country.


2)  The best way to see if this and many other measures designed to improve educational standards work is through real experimentation.  Not the special circumstances of a pilot but different schools trying new things and offering a model to others.

The Telegraph reports new government plans for slow readers to stay behind after school for "back-to-basics lessons in how to recognise words and extra time practising silent reading to bring them up to scratch".


It is tempting to argue for or against this as a policy in isolation.  Will the pupils take advantage of the extra time?  Do schools have the resources?  How much improvement in reading ability will it lead to?  Are there more efficient ways of improving reading standards?


However, that really misses the point.  What our education system really needs is for politicians to stop making this kind of decision.  When the question of whether to teach students literacy for an extra hour after school has nothing to do with government advisors, Education Secretaries or - particularly - Prime Ministers our education system might finally start to shine.  Getting politicians out of the management  of education will lead to better decision making for a host of reasons, here are two particularly relevant to this case:


1)  It might well be that different schools should be taking very different decisions.  Different schools, with different pupils, resources and ideas might want to try very different strategies for improving the literacy of slow readers.  There is almost certainly not one 'correct' education policy for the entire country.


2)  The best way to see if this and many other measures designed to improve educational standards work is through real experimentation.  Not the special circumstances of a pilot but different schools trying new things and offering a model to others.

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