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  • Author or Editor: Richard Riddell x
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Returning Education to the Public Service
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The COVID-19 pandemic has left inequalities in schools wider and uncertainty about the future greater. Now seems an appropriate time to think about the contribution schooling makes to the communities it serves and the country generally.

However, drawing on his recent research, Richard Riddell argues that the increasingly narrow focus of Education governance after 20 years of reform has made new thinking impossible and has degraded public life.

Nevertheless, he highlights new possibilities for democratic behaviour and the opening up of schooling to all it serves.

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The chapter introduces the key themes of the book. The outline is made of the twin pushes of academisation and a national policy that has lost sight of the wider world and the communities it is supposed to serve. The structure of the book is set out.

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To begin the discussion over three chapters of the need for proper governance structures, this chapter sets out the challenges for the UK and England currently. It details changing employment patterns, poverty, unequal access to schooling and how these have been worsened by the COVID-19 pandemic. This sets the scene for what has to be new thinking, including in Education – the challenge to be faced..

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This sets out the changes, especially since 2010, that have reduced the so-called middle tier in English Education. It sets out the distrust of central government and its contempt for its local counterpart. It details the gradual development over time of a national arrangement and cadre for school improvement and the effects of ‘conversion’ to academy status, including the withering of local authorities. There is a first discussion of MATs and their nature.

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This chapter describes the current functioning of the middle tier in England. It details how school improvement activity is planned and carried out. It outlines the chaotic way that new schools have to be commissioned. Lastly, it describes the changing role of RSCs and how these can be varied by central diktat, open to political lobbying.

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This chapter considers the wider community role and potential of the school. It notes the more transactional relationship of schools with community organisations currently. It describes how communities shape schools and teaching now. Overall, the strong possibilities for local government in this connection are considered.

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The chapter begins with the limitations of nationally driven policy making in Education. It examines difficulties of realising national prescription and how there are always unforeseeable consequences. The constantly changing market for private companies is explored whose presence helps secrecy, and ends new thinking. The chapter ends with a review of arms-length bodies, their role and that of Ofsted

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This chapter makes parallels between known weaknesses in private sector management, goal setting, and the incompetence of CEOs and other leaders with Education. ‘Kicking the can’ and short termism are explored and the general lack of sense making at ecosystem level. The need is set out for an effective middle tier and the blindness that exists without it.

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This chapter describes the paradox of centralisation: focus on the minister while officials have been progressively weakened; how notions of strategy at national level became anathema and the problems with the backgrounds and self-view of senior officials’ roles, NPM and its current weaknesses and irrelevance, the end of expertise and its consequences, and how ignorance of social and economic processes makes policy realisation weak.

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This chapter summarises arguments so far about current system weaknesses. It rehearses the need for change, but considers who might want it. It outlines the futility of compete dismantling of current structures and begins to think about how to do it all.

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