Education policies 'creating confusion'

ERIC BOLTON, the former senior Chief Inspector of Schools, yesterday made a fierce attack on the Government's education policies, and said the present situation is 'unstable and unsustainable'.

He accused the Government of creating uncertainty and confusion, and said it would only listen to fashionable voices on the right who gave advice it wanted to hear.

Professor Bolton, who retired as head of Her Majesty's Inspectorate last year, and who is now Professor of Teacher Education at London University's Institute of Education, said that under the Government's market philosophy 'clients and customers rule and any gathering of professionals or experts is, by definition almost, bound to be a conspiracy against the consumer'.

Government was increasingly active in the detailed organisation of what was happening on the ground, and had made it clear that it no longer regarded local education authorities as its major partner in a national system of education.

'If the Government does not allow LEAs to influence schools significantly, it becomes increasingly nonsensical for the law to insist that the duty to ensure sufficient, suitable places lies with them.'

Schools were becoming increasingly autonomous, making decisions only of importance to them. 'It is surely a triumph of hope over experience to expect that such self-interested, isolated, fragmented decisions, made in thousands of separate institutions, will add up to a sensible, effective and efficient national school system.'

Music had, as a result, already suffered, because it was only through LEAs making larger provisions than schools that the service had developed. The same could be said of art, drama, and remedial teaching support.

He told the annual conference of the Council of Local Education Authorities, meeting in Liverpool, that a national system of schooling could not remain 'if it is to be shaped and determined by nothing other than the aggregation of the random, self-interested choices made by individuals in thousands of particular schools. A public education service must be subject to some degree of overall planning and organisation'.

The Government needed an overarching vision because without it 'the system risks becoming a stifling bureaucratic monster intent upon its own day-to-day survival in which people are treated like so much lost property . . .

'I suspect that if we were able to lift the veil hiding the Government's intentions for education we would find, not a coherent vision, worrying or otherwise, but uncertainty, confusion and incoherence.'

Professor Bolton said there was a lot of 'plain silliness' emerging from the present legislative scene. 'There are worrying signs that providing suitable and adequate school places, far from being eased and facilitated by recent legislation, is becoming more difficult and chaotic . . .

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