We are regularly asked why the campaign is called Every Child Should. And the official (and true) answer is because we are leading a debate about entitlement – what is it that every child is entitled to experience, learn and have by the time that they leave school. ‘Must’ would in truth be a better word than should.
But it also came from many years of teaching, youth work and charity campaigning where we have both written and been on the receiving end of reports and initiatives that start with ‘every child should’ – from studying phonics to learning first aid to the top 10 cultural experiences to learning how to use contraception. And nearly all of these reports say that these things a) should be offered in schools b) should be the subject of OFSTED inspections c) should form part of Initial Teacher Training and d) will be the one thing that will change lives.
Experience tells us that the strength, funding and connections of the lobby will have a significant impact on whether something becomes the flavour de jour and therefore makes the cut (there is little rationale for example for STEM being the subject of so much attention and curriculum space versus say Media Studies or PE.) And things go in and out of fashion.
We are glad that in shaping this debate, others such as Parents and Teachers for Excellence, are engaging in the discussion. Interestingly, despite their title, their view is that schools and teachers – alone – should set the curriculum content.
And – in truth all of these things across all the multitude of reports are important. But even in a well-funded system to deliver all in school time, and using solely teacher expertise, would be impossible and even undesirable.
But in the current system two things are becoming clear:
- That those who would benefit the most from activities that constitute a broad and balanced curriculum are those who access them the least
- The pressures on schools as the point of universal delivery is untenable.
Following our recent blog has the extra in extracurricular become exclusive? teachers, parents and charities have been contacting us to share their concerns and experiences with some very real worries about how schools can no longer offer a broad range of experiences. And articles in the media over last week have built on the debate.
Sir Andrew Carter has called in the TES for a national debate over what a state school can sustainably offer for free at the point of delivery. Sir Andrew has controversially suggested in the past that all parents should pay £500 a year to support their school. This latest (paywalled) article speaks to a theme about what should be offered for free and what should be charged for.
The Guardian’s Secret Teacher makes a strong case for the impact of experiences including school trips, both in their own right and as an essential part of the curriculum and exam success; but also explores the very real challenges that schools now have in offering such experiences to all students.
This concern is echoed by Natalie Perera who warns that disadvantaged pupils will be worst hit by the financial squeeze.
“It’s the things that enable education to happen that will suffer: the pastoral care, the after-school clubs,” she said.
As part of Every Child Should we are looking at the pressures on schools as the point of universal entitlement. The death of other universal provision across all ages and areas – Surestart; Health Visitors; relationships with family doctors; youth work; child benefit etc. – has put enormous pressures on schools to be the one point of state contact for each and every child – and all that comes with that and all that others would hope it to be.
And this combined with a reduction in targeted support e.g. CAMHS, specialist youth work, SEND expertise, social workers etc. means that schools are also having to carry burden of funding and delivering services that go beyond their budget and remit, or indeed, their skill set.
Over this year we are pulling in data to support those who are lobbying for school resources and making the case for support for appropriate funding to allow access to a broad and balanced curriculum.
But we also recognise that even with funding in place schools need support. We are exploring routes to support schools including closer partnership working with charities; approaches to referrals; the lobby for the reestablishment of youth services and models that help school identify and capture support from their local community across state, private and voluntary sector.
Because the truth is – that even in a model with fully funded provision – the responsibility for supporting all children to their entitlement is one that we believe is shared between, school, parents and society. It Takes a Village to raise a child (thank you Hilary) and this wonderful piece from Fiona Carnie shows how it can be done.