Questions to the Education Secretary. Watch

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Andrew97
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The Education Secretary, 04MR17 will now take education questions from the house. He will also be taking Universities ministers questions at the same time on behalf of Saracen's Fez.

Users can ask a limited number of questions, as follows.

The Shadow Education Secretary, The Mogg, gets 6 questions. Which they may divide between new and follow up questions as they wish.

Party leaders may ask 3 questions, divided between new and follow up as they wish.

MPs may ask two questions, plus two follow up questions.

Ordinary users may ask 1 question, with a follow up.

The thread will remain open for 48 hours, unless MR requests longer.
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The Mogg
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Thank you Mr Speaker. As most of us will be aware, the 2018-19 exam season was filled with controversy, with notable cases of such being the A Level Edexcel Maths papers leaks and plagiarism, and most recently AQA being charged over £1.1m for failing to ensure remarks weren't being done by the original markers. So I would like to start by asking the Education Secretary what his plans would be to uphold the integrity of our examinations, and mitigate the possibility of such events happening in the future.
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04MR17
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This gone be bantz lads. :teehee:
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barnetlad
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Mr Speaker,

I think the whole House would be interested in knowing the views of the Secretary of State on protests being made outside a school in Birmingham about the 'no outsiders' programme, and therefore ask for the Secretary of State's views on the matter.
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Baron of Sealand
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What does the Education Secretary think about political neutrality of schools and teachers? As in, what would be considered a breach? How could they achieve neutrality?
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quirky editor
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Do you believe schools provide more life skills as well academic education such as making informed political choices or preparing for a world where Artificial intelligence is increasingly used to take over jobs?
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04MR17
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(Original post by The Mogg)
Thank you Mr Speaker. As most of us will be aware, the 2018-19 exam season was filled with controversy, with notable cases of such being the A Level Edexcel Maths papers leaks and plagiarism, and most recently AQA being charged over £1.1m for failing to ensure remarks weren't being done by the original markers. So I would like to start by asking the Education Secretary what his plans would be to uphold the integrity of our examinations, and mitigate the possibility of such events happening in the future.
The AQA situation is unfortunate for the students involved, and that was institutional incompetence.

The Edexcel **** up was not Edexcel's fault tbh. One member of staff in a school broke the law and the actual impact wasn't massive as exam leaks can go. The media blew it out of proportion, matched by the hype caused by student stress.

It's difficult to try and uphold integrity of something that I don't think possesses dignity anyway. The easy mitigation would be to have fewer exams as part of the curriculum: though I wouldn't want to implement that so quickly for sake of disruption to teachers and learners.
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The Mogg
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(Original post by 04MR17)
The AQA situation is unfortunate for the students involved, and that was institutional incompetence.

The Edexcel **** up was not Edexcel's fault tbh. One member of staff in a school broke the law and the actual impact wasn't massive as exam leaks can go. The media blew it out of proportion, matched by the hype caused by student stress.

It's difficult to try and uphold integrity of something that I don't think possesses dignity anyway. The easy mitigation would be to have fewer exams as part of the curriculum: though I wouldn't want to implement that so quickly for sake of disruption to teachers and learners.
I can agree with the SoS that fewer exams would be beneficial to students (especially in qualifications like English Language, where for WJEC we had 2 different exam papers which were pretty much the same), and that a slow implementation is the best way to go about doing such.

On another topic, is the SoS in favour of making Politics into a proper GCSE, or at least incorporating Politics into certain subject syllabuses? I ask this as it has recently come to my attention just how little some young people know about current affairs and the world around them, I told someone I was doing A Level Economics and they thought it was about the bloody Environment because of the Eco in the word.
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04MR17
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(Original post by The Mogg)
On another topic, is the SoS in favour of making Politics into a proper GCSE, or at least incorporating Politics into certain subject syllabuses?
I'm currently writing my dissertation on this very thing. Yes I do. Though I'd find it easier to accommodate discussion and awareness of social issues first, leading into political study.
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The Mogg
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(Original post by 04MR17)
I'm currently writing my dissertation on this very thing. Yes I do. Though I'd find it easier to accommodate discussion and awareness of social issues first, leading into political study.
Fair enough, I'm glad we agree on this issue.

Reverting back to the topic of exam boards, is the SoS of the opinion of having 1 exam board for the whole of England much like Wales and Scotland have with WJEC and SQA? Many argue that having multiple exam boards mean schools choose the easiest exam board, and I personally feel it would be more beneficial if all students studied the exact same syllabus and sat the same exams, making it more fair.
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Just to note, I will be using my other 3 questions tomorrow, bloomin tired.
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04MR17
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(Original post by Baron of Sealand)
What does the Education Secretary think about political neutrality of schools and teachers? As in, what would be considered a breach? How could they achieve neutrality?
For Primary Education it is quite tricky to get political in lessons whilst also following the National Curriculum, so I'm not sure there's much to say there.

For Secondary Education I'd say that schools need not adopt political positions. If students, staff and governors all wish to campaign as an institution on a particular issue (be it a community initiative or on forced academisation) then I don't particularly see a problem with that. Other than that I don't why a mainstream secondary school should take any hard political stances.

Teachers are members of the electorate and have a right to opinions. I think it is unrealistic to expect a teacher to be entirely neutral if engaged in a debate with a student on something the teacher cares about. I think anyone as qualified as (most) teachers are should be able to recognise that there are opposing viewpoints to their own and that they are legitimate. Therefore I wouldn't consider there to be any need for forced suppression of opposing viewpoints unless the question is moral rather than political.

For students at a mature enough age to be able to recognise that teachers can be wrong (15 upwards I'd say), it is not unreasonable for a teacher's political viewpoint on a relevant issue to become clear during a lesson. If politics is on a syllabus for (as an example) history, then students often are expected to understand how political institutions work and therefore must be able to appreciate that multiple reasoned viewpoints can exist on a single issue. I wouldn't consider a teacher offering one or more of these viewpoints to be a breach.

I would consider a breach of political balance in the event where a completely irrelevant topic is being discussed by a teacher who only offers one viewpoint and does not open into a discussion about it. Everyone has opinions, and if student's opinions are being listened to and engaged with then I don't have a problem with a teacher engaging in political discourse within schools. A breach would be where only a singular political narrative is heard.
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04MR17
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(Original post by barnetlad)
Mr Speaker,

I think the whole House would be interested in knowing the views of the Secretary of State on protests being made outside a school in Birmingham about the 'no outsiders' programme, and therefore ask for the Secretary of State's views on the matter.
My thoughts are quite frankly that we live in a socially secular country and therefore our national curriculum delivers some secular education in that regard. If a family does not want to make their children aware of other religions, other beliefs and responses to their own faith as well as others, then perhaps secular society is not for them. If they don't wish their child to engage in the national curriculum then I'd suggest encouraging parents to send their child to a fee-paying school.

As for the protests, I find it worrying that these are occurring outside school gates after communication broke down between parents and teachers. If anything I think it's extremely stress-enducing for the pupils who ought to feel safe at their school. I would like to see communication occur again between teachers and parents, and will happily send a mediator from my department to ensure that discussions are civil, I would also wish to see a representative from the Local Education Authority there too. Policy discomfort should not be brought to the door of the classroom but to those responsible for policy: starting with headteachers and governors and going higher.
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Baron of Sealand
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(Original post by 04MR17)
For Primary Education it is quite tricky to get political in lessons whilst also following the National Curriculum, so I'm not sure there's much to say there.

For Secondary Education I'd say that schools need not adopt political positions. If students, staff and governors all wish to campaign as an institution on a particular issue (be it a community initiative or on forced academisation) then I don't particularly see a problem with that. Other than that I don't why a mainstream secondary school should take any hard political stances.

Teachers are members of the electorate and have a right to opinions. I think it is unrealistic to expect a teacher to be entirely neutral if engaged in a debate with a student on something the teacher cares about. I think anyone as qualified as (most) teachers are should be able to recognise that there are opposing viewpoints to their own and that they are legitimate. Therefore I wouldn't consider there to be any need for forced suppression of opposing viewpoints unless the question is moral rather than political.

For students at a mature enough age to be able to recognise that teachers can be wrong (15 upwards I'd say), it is not unreasonable for a teacher's political viewpoint on a relevant issue to become clear during a lesson. If politics is on a syllabus for (as an example) history, then students often are expected to understand how political institutions work and therefore must be able to appreciate that multiple reasoned viewpoints can exist on a single issue. I wouldn't consider a teacher offering one or more of these viewpoints to be a breach.

I would consider a breach of political balance in the event where a completely irrelevant topic is being discussed by a teacher who only offers one viewpoint and does not open into a discussion about it. Everyone has opinions, and if student's opinions are being listened to and engaged with then I don't have a problem with a teacher engaging in political discourse within schools. A breach would be where only a singular political narrative is heard.
Thank you for your response.

So for example, do you believe when an election is coming, a school must invite all candidates if it is going to invite anyone?
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04MR17
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(Original post by quirky editor)
Do you believe schools provide more life skills as well academic education such as making informed political choices or preparing for a world where Artificial intelligence is increasingly used to take over jobs?
Okay a lot to unpack here.

I don't personally believe schools offer enough "life skills", but I also recognise that this is not the traditional role of the school - this education used to be provided by parents but has since failed to occur in households across the country. More can certainly be done but there aren't any easy solutions.

Informed political choices in my opinion are extremely important, as this is one of education's largest impacts on the rest of the country.

The improvement of technology education is an area I want to work on this term in schools in order to prepare for the growth (hopefully) in Britain's Quaternary industry and the impact of AI on the wider UK job market. This includes an attempt to provide a more applied syllabus for mathematics.
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04MR17
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(Original post by Baron of Sealand)
Thank you for your response.

So for example, do you believe when an election is coming, a school must invite all candidates if it is going to invite anyone?
Since the majority of schools students won't be voting I'm not sure what the point would be in inviting anyone to be honest. :erm: Politicians tend to wander in with some photographers for a PR opportunities, distract learning in doing so and then leave. I'm not really sure what such visits achieve and would encourage schools to try to structure any school visit to be of maximum benefit to the pupils.
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Baron of Sealand
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(Original post by 04MR17)
Since the majority of schools students won't be voting I'm not sure what the point would be in inviting anyone to be honest. :erm: Politicians tend to wander in with some photographers for a PR opportunities, distract learning in doing so and then leave. I'm not really sure what such visits achieve and would encourage schools to try to structure any school visit to be of maximum benefit to the pupils.
I mean, some schools do invite candidates and politicians. So you would say as Education Secretary you would simply discourage it? How about the incumbent?
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04MR17
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(Original post by Baron of Sealand)
I mean, some schools do invite candidates and politicians. So you would say as Education Secretary you would simply discourage it? How about the incumbent?
I wouldn't necessarily discourage it, some budding politics students may appreciate a Q&A session for example. I just don't like the idea of politicians swanning round 12 year olds in a Maths lesson pretending to be interested in what they're doing just because that's the day they're launching a new education policy and so they need a photo in a classroom. Anyone visiting the school should be doing so to be of benefit to the learning.
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04MR17
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(Original post by The Mogg)
Fair enough, I'm glad we agree on this issue.

Reverting back to the topic of exam boards, is the SoS of the opinion of having 1 exam board for the whole of England much like Wales and Scotland have with WJEC and SQA? Many argue that having multiple exam boards mean schools choose the easiest exam board, and I personally feel it would be more beneficial if all students studied the exact same syllabus and sat the same exams, making it more fair.
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Just to note, I will be using my other 3 questions tomorrow, bloomin tired.
At fundamental level, no. Scottish Highers are a lot broader in scope than English Qualifications at the more advanced levels; if every school offering A Level English Literature (for instance) had the same list of texts from the same specification, you'd then find classes at English courses in universities where students had all read those texts and no others. How can that then lead them to be able to discuss "literature" more broadly if all they have been given is a singular, narrow exposure to what is out there. Centralising and removing choice also narrows the experiences of students across England to be more uniform, more systematic and less thoughtful and less nuanced.

Schools choose the best specification for their students and staff. The fact that most major boards each offer different specifications for the same qualifications implies there is enough market appetite for them to do so. It is less the case of which board is "easiest" - they've all been accredited by the Government so they are all deemed to be of equivalent standard and more a case of which will be the least challenging to provide.

That said, I do feel somewhat uncomfortable with the freedom exam boards have, so some changes may be needed. Economically though I would much rather that than a monopoly on exam boards similar to UCAS have for university admissions.
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Aph
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Does the member agree with me that exam linearisation needs to be undone?
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04MR17
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(Original post by Aph)
Does the member agree with me that exam linearisation needs to be undone?
Fundamentally yes. Practically it needs to take a bit of time for that to happen as I am against causing huge amounts of disruption to learning.
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