It is a fact, a sad one, that foster children often do less well than their more fortunate peers. Inevitably, the argument turns upon the often chaotic nature of foster children’s backgrounds and the lack of support they have experienced. But could these disadvantages be mitigated if we had a world class education system? A general election is in the offing and the most important thing to deal with is this canard that spending ever increasing sums of money will drive standards up. Even before addressing this, the claim that more and more is being spent has to be examined carefully.
The gun has been fired and the campaign is underway: Theresa May has been claiming that education spending is currently at its highest level.The claim is based on figures from the Department of Education: these were sourced from a National Audit Office report. A quote from a DoE blog stated funding was –
“at its highest on record at more than £40bn in 2016 to 2017 and is set to rise to £42 billion in 2019 to 2020, with increasing pupil numbers.”
What is so difficult is that the £40bn is reasonably accurate. And it is also true that this figure is higher than it was in previous years: it does however need to be considered since in terms of education spending, it’s the expenditure per pupil – quite literally the amount that is spent upon each pupil that is relevant. Some recent research into this subject reveals that current spending per pupil in England was mostly frozen in real terms between the years 2010 and 2011, and then 2015 and 2016.
This is a perfect example of how a headline grabbing claim might not be at all what it purports to be. If you are an ‘interested bystander’ i.e. have your own children, or if you foster, it is extremely difficult to wade through the ideological arguments; veneered with an array of statistics, and then determine the true situation about what we invest in the education system.
These political arguments over education have raged back and forth for decades. And they are likely to continue despite an election. This is one area where there is always a great deal of heat but not much light. It might be heretical, and challenge the competing orthodoxies that have a vested interest in a never ending education ‘debate’; but perhaps funding and ideology are red herrings.
Parents and foster parents take note…
It is time to look at a country that has not been mired in an endless debate: Finland has successfully managed to completely transform its sub-standard educational system into one of the best in the world. How was this brought about? We need to understand as the country produces some of the most intelligent and ‘all rounded’ students on the planet.
What is surprising is the minimalist approach of the Finnish education system: the country has done away with practically all standardised testing before the age of sixteen. Even more disturbingly, for our own education evangelists, homework is discouraged. It is also illegal to send a child to school before they reach the age of seven. It is actually viewed as a violation of children’s rights to start school earlier than the age of seven. And the first six years of education do not focus on academic success. Significantly, schools don’t measure children. The onus is on being prepared to learn with each child encouraged and supported to find their own particular passion.
Also, in a recent development likely to astound our army of experts, the country has made the decision to do away with all the traditional school subjects including history, geography, physics, maths and literature. This is a move away from pupils becoming skilled in individual subjects: the approach now is holistic requiring students to think and develop in an interdisciplinary way. In simple terms, a subject, such as the French Revolution will be approached from geographic, historical and mathematical angles.
These changes are to be brought in by 2020: significantly the country aims to develop the full potential of their pupils but significantly that of their teachers as well. So education can be seen as a collaborative process where pupils and teachers alike are able to develop.
In bringing these changes by 2020, Finland hopes to bring out the full potential of their students as well as their teachers. Perception plays an important role as well: teaching is regarded as a highly respected and competitive occupation. And the pay is very good. Before someone can become a teacher, they must have an excellent academic background and hold a master’s degree.
To foster a wider philosophy has made a key difference.
Back in 2011, an Education Ministry official, Dr. Sahlberg emphasized that his country’s success is based on one of basic education, from age 7 until 16, from then 95 percent of the country progresses to the vocational or academic high schools.
“The primary aim of education is to serve as an equalizing instrument for society,” continuing “Finland is going against the tide of the global education reform movement, which is based on core subjects, competition, standardization, test-based accountability, control.”
There is something of an irony here: in the UK debate has raged over improving standards in education precisely to bring about a more equal society – supposedly. It seems that in Finland, by making that the overarching goal they have created a superb world class meritocratic system. It seems here we have put the cart before the horse…something all parents and foster carers should think about!
If you foster visit our news section.
Look into our special news section: here you will find a range of interesting and topical articles to reflect on if you have an interest in fostering children, teenagers or fostering babies. Or want to know about uk fostering. Simply visit http://bit.ly/2e8PrIK
Our ‘Foster Rewards’ bonus scheme explained.
At Rainbow we are keen to attract experienced foster carers so we are happy to pay a bonus of £500 if you are fostering and are in a position to refer someone to become a foster carer. Once the first placement has been made following your referral, we will pay you. If you already happen to be an approved foster carer – with a long term foster placement – we make it easy to transfer and if you do, you will also qualify for a bonus.
Rainbow your foster
Should you want to foster Rainbow are happy to give out information covering a wide range of fostering topics. We are asked about things such as – how long does it take to become a foster carer? And how much do private fostering agencies pay? How much do foster carers get paid a month – what benefits can I claim if I’m a foster carer?
And the good news at the end of this fostering Rainbow…a great response to our twitter campaign supporting Foster Care Fortnight.