Temporary Schooling Changes Should Be Permanent

As Gavin Williamson announces that children will return to school over the summer to recover the time lost to lockdown, the Institute of Economic Affairs (IEA) is now arguing that the pandemic creates an opportunity to reshape the education system more fundamentally to address long-term problems throughout the sector. Proposing radical changes such as lengthening the school day, reducing the summer break, scaling back GCSE-level exams, and introducing education vouchers to assist poorer families…

Writing in the IEA’s new report, the think tank’s Editorial and Research Fellow J.R. Shackleton says:

“As with the NHS, the Covid-19 crisis has exposed longstanding problems in the educational system and there is a strong case for government policy to look beyond short-term recovery and temporary changes.

[…] Policies such as changing the structure of the school year and the length of the school day, which have been advocated for years, could now be brought forward. The government could also consider changing the ages at which children enter and leave primary school. […]The National Curriculum could be decluttered and there could be only a limited number of examinations at 16. A levels might usefully revert to a modular structure. 

[…] England’s educational system could be loosened up to allow more innovation and wider teacher recruitment. It might be wise for the government to eschew top-down solutions and allow schools and parents more choice. A bold government could look again at voucher schemes and other ways in which choice could be widened, for instance by making it possible for more families to access private education at reasonable cost.”

Many of the quirks within our school system (like starting primary school at the age of 4, and secondary school at 11) are relics of decades-old policy which contradict modern thinking and new evidence on children’s’ behaviour. Rethinking old habits may be to kids’ benefit, but good luck convincing the unions…

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