Centre for Studies on Inclusive Education

supporting inclusion, challenging exclusion

contributions to national and international inquiries

January 2016

CSIE response to the Education Committee’s inquiry into the purpose and quality of education in England.

CSIE has responded to the Education Committee’s inquiry into the purpose and quality of education in England. The call for submissions included a link to a short video where a range of people said what they thought the purpose of education should be. Their views included: to get people a good job, or basic life skills, to help people realise their full potential, to give preparation for day-to-day life, to enable critical thinking leading to informed choices, and to enable people to get a good job and be happy. These do not appear to be conflicting views; they are all variations on the theme of creating the possibility of a better tomorrow. They are all, however, focused on what individuals get out of a good education, with no mention of the benefit to society as a whole.

In its response, CSIE suggested that the primary function of education is to enable children and young people to become responsible and informed citizens, capable of sustaining happy and fulfilling lives for themselves and for others. It added that an agreed set of core values and a culture of respect, for one another and for the environment, are essential in order to enable future generations to establish sustainable communities free from prejudice and discrimination. CSIE further argued that, at a time when information has become easily and readily available, education’s role needs to expand from a conventional learning of facts and skills organised around a range of curriculum subjects, to a more empowering set of life skills relevant as much to information processing as to interpersonal relationships and communication.

In addition, CSIE’s response highlighted concerns about the narrow focus of what the DfE calls “fundamental British values” and about the negative impact which league tables and the standards agenda can have on school admissions. CSIE recommended that the Equality Act 2010 should be reflected in any framework used to evaluate the quality of education. CSIE further recommended that pupils should learn more about equality and human rights and be supported to monitor and promote these in school. In addition, schools should take every opportunity to challenge stereotypes and educate people away from prejudice, as well as enable pupils to develop a range of interpersonal skills such as collaboration, negotiation and conflict resolution. Last but not least, CSIE recommended that schools should be encouraged and supported to educate all children from their local community, including disabled children and those categorised as having special educational needs, especially when their parents have requested this, and that schools should be specifically evaluated on their development of provision for these learners.

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