Synopses & Reviews
tells the story of the struggle for Britain’s education system. Established during the 1960s and based on the progressive ideal of good schools for all, the comprehensive system has over the past decades come under sustained attack from successive governments.
From the poorest comprehensives to the most well-resourced independent schools, School Wars takes a forensic look at the inequalities of our current system, the damaging impact of spending cuts, the rise of “free schools” and the growth of the private sector in education. Melissa Benn explores, too, the dangerous example of US education reform, where privatization, punitive accountability and the rise of charter schools have intensified social, economic and ethnic divisions.
The policies of successive British governments have been muddled and confused, but one thing is clear: that the relentless application of market principles signals a fundamental shift from the ideal of quality education as a public good, to education as market-controlled commodity. Benn ends by outlining some key principles for restoring strong educational values within a fair, non-selective public education system.
Partisan but surprisingly fair ... refreshing, in a debate usually full of denunciations." Andy Beckett
This is a tremendous book. It is a passionate polemic about the most important public policy divide of the day, schooling." Guardian
"In this polemic, Benn sets herself up as a one-woman commission of inquiry, analyzing the social, political, and financial case for comprehensive schooling in a climate of spending cuts and a culture of privatization." Andy Beckett Guardian
A clear-sighted statement of why universal, comprehensive educations is--obviously--the best option. It should, and hopefully will, be taken as a rallying call to the left." The Times
"An exceptionally well-informed, cogent, and spirited account of the debates over secondary education in Britain." Stefan Collini
"This is a tremendous book. It is a passionate polemic about the most important policy divide of the day … It is powerful but also reasonably argued … [and] marks her out as one of Britain’s foremost advocates of comprehensive education." Nation
"Benn’s book could well be an important watershed. It is a clear-sighted re-statement of why universal, comprehensive education is – obviously – the best option. It should, and hopefully will, be taken as a rallying call to the left." Anthony Seldon Observer
"[A] partisan but surprisingly fair book … Alongside [the] bracing polemic runs a warmer current of idealism about what state education can achieve." Phil Beadle Independent
"Short, well written and passionate, and is meant to be read not just by those who are experts in education, but also by parents struggling for the first time with a system that must seem impenetrable and unfair, who must wonder if things have to be this way. It tells the story of British state education from 1945, and illustrates starkly the danger it is in." The Times
"If you read just one book on education this year, then make sure it’s School Wars by Melissa Benn. Brilliantly researched and compellingly written." Frances Beckett New Statesman
"Lucid [and] strongly committed … Benn’s crucially timely account is full of insight about how privatisation and examination-led schools maintain and lead to further systemic social division. Yet her book is not an analysis born of, or leading to, despair or inaction … [but] redolent with humane faith and a belief that public services should remain within the remit of a dynamic democratic state, at every level." Roy Blatchford, Director of the National Education Trust
"Superb … School Wars provides ample evidence that an approach to education inspired by the free market, and founded on a competition in which the dice are loaded is deleterious, regressive and unjust. If this book is read as widely as it deserves to be, the author will have started a conversation that might just arrest this trajectory." Chris Searle Race and Class
"Melissa Benn deserves – demands – to be read. This is a passionate but well made argument for universal public education to promote every child's chances – not just for them, but for us." Andrew Fleming Ceasefire
and#8220;Mortimore, a former director of the Institute of Education in London, has written a short, clear, and luminous book that is devoid of education jargon. . . . Anyone can read and understand it and come away with a much clearer idea of how our school system works.and#8221;
and#8220;This is the book I wish I had been told to read at the start of my career in education.and#8221;and#160;
and#8220;Lively, authoritative, and thoroughand#8221;and#160;
and#8220;An important book which I hope will be widely read by parents, students, teachers, and all those who care about the education of our children. (It would be good if a few politicians read it, too).and#8221;
andldquo;A thoughtful book focusing on the meaning of education for English society and how it can be improved for all young people based on developments in the Nordic countries.andrdquo;
andldquo;A commendable contribution . . . [Education under Siege] will hopefully inspire policy makers and politicians.andrdquo;
andldquo;Peter Mortimore has analysed the English education system from andlsquo;buildingsandrsquo; to andlsquo;Bildung,andrsquo; from andlsquo;desirable outcomesandrsquo; to andlsquo;democracy,andrsquo; and from andlsquo;qualityandrsquo; to andlsquo;equality.andrsquo; He has compared English with Nordic education and thereby been able to identify new weaknesses and strengths and thoughtful and innovative ways forward.andrdquo;
andldquo;An expert voice to be trustedandmdash;and enjoyed. If you really want to understand what education is for and how we could create a high quality system, I urge you to read this book.andrdquo;and#160;
The story of the struggle for Britain’s schools, and a passionate call for education as a public good.
Since the 1960s, Britain’s politicians have been promising equal educational opportunities for all but consistently failing to deliver. Now, with the rise of academies and free schools, new forms of inequality and discord afflict the nation’s classrooms. The Coalition Government is further fragmenting and privatising the nation’s school system, making a mockery of their claims to promote social mobility.
In this coruscating analysis of the games politicians play with our children’s futures, Melissa Benn puts forward a genuinely comprehensive vision and points the way to restoring the educational values of equity and excellence.
Inand#160;Education under Siege, Peter Mortimore considers the UK education system as it is and as it might be. Concluding that the United Kingdom has some of the best teachers in the world but one of the most muddled systems, Mortimore proposes radical changes to help all British schools become good schools. He argues that the government should outlaw selection practices, integrate private schools into the state system, and establish processes to ensure that each school has effective teachers and a fair balance of students who learn easily and those who do not. In a concluding call to action, he asks readers who share his concerns to demand that politicians alter the course of education policy.
About the Author
Melissa Benn is a journalist, novelist and campaigner. She has written for the Guardian, the New Statesman, Public Finance, Cosmopolitan and the London Review of Books, among many others. Her writing on education includes Education and Democracy, co-edited with Clyde Chitty, and A Comprehensive Future: Quality and Equality for All Our Children, written with Fiona Millar. A regular broadcaster and speaker, she is a founder member of the Local Schools Network, set up to support local schools and to counter media misinformation about their achievements and the challenges they face. In spring 2012 she won the Fred and Anne Jarvis award in recognition of her outstanding individual contribution for a fairer education system.
Table of Contents
List of tables
List of abbreviations
About the author
1 What is education?
2 Desirable outcomes
3 Intellectual ability
7 Quality control
11 How good is the system?
12 A better system?
13 Stepsand#160; toward a better system
14 What next?