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Head calls for end to ‘battery farm’ education January 17, 2011

Posted by Alex, Managing Director in Independent Education.
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The former Chairman of the Boarding Schools’ Association, Dr Stephen Winkley, has called for an end to the league table culture, which he claims has turned British schools into educational battery farms.

Speaking on the eve of the release of the latest league tables, Dr Winkley has slammed the current system and called on the secretary of state for education, Michael Gove, to add this to his list of proposed reforms for the education sector during this parliament if he wishes to attract more people into the teaching profession.

He commented: “I have always hated league tables and strongly resent the conclusions which are drawn from them.  If we continue to run schools in order to do well in league tables it would be like battery farming: spoon feeding, restricting freedom to do other valuable things. This utter focus on producing A* eggs isn’t why any of us joined the profession and it’s clear to me that the emphasis on a traditional academic curriculum for all children, purely to satisfy the needs of a school’s league table position, is clearly absurd.

“We seem to have lost the focus of why we educate people and that is to help them to learn and develop as people, whilst being mindful of their unique skills and attributes.  This ‘one size fits all’ model of education and obsession with league placing is clearly not working for the benefit of children.”

Dr Winkley does think that the introduction of an English Baccalaureate could be a step in the right direction, but without fundamental change to the education culture he also feels it will not fulfil its potential for children.  He added:  “I like the idea of an English Baccalaureate.  My own school has been teaching the International Baccalaureate for 14 years with excellent results for the children, so I’m in favour of the introduction of the EB, because it demonstrates a commitment to breadth and makes certification for the likes of Cake Decoration, Call Handling, and Wired Sugar Flowers less rewarding.

“However, for kids for whom those qualifications are the only passport to a way forward then they shouldn’t be force fed academic subjects at the expense of subjects which will aid their development more.

“Every child matters, we are told, yet within the current battery farming culture it would appear that children who produce golden eggs matter more to schools than those millions who are going to keep this country afloat through the next difficult years”.

Dr Winkley, a career educationalist, is recognized as one of the country’s leading authorities on boarding schools and was a key figure in the Boarding Schools’ Alliance, the organization responsible for halting the decline of the boarding sector at the turn of the century.  He is currently head of Rossall School, a large independent co-educational boarding and day school in Lancashire.

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