Given what we now know about how children's abilities develop, we would surely not opt for the rigid structural schools we have inherited from the Victorians. The best research we have shows that the level of an individual’s later educational attainment is massively determined by the level achieved before it.
I have therefore established the Foundation Years Trust in Birkenhead to try to ensure as many children as possible arrive at school more than ready to learn. The leader of Wirral Council has been immensely supportive and so have the other party leaders.
In one sense the Trust will aim to make teachers’ lives easier. If the Trust works, schools will no longer need to spend time teaching skills not traditionally expected of teachers.
I was in Ipswich recently meeting junior school heads. They indicated that too many children come to school without an idea of what a book is for, and cannot sit still or stop shouting. Likewise pupils are starting secondary school not at the level expected. The heads have set in hand a project to start educating children at their own levels.
Our new Principal at the University Academy is doing something similar. He has used his freedom as an Academy to start educating this year’s new pupils’ at their actual level, and not where the curriculum thinks 11-year-old should be. Instead of drowning, pupils will be better able to progress. I'm privileged to be opening the Academy’s new Year 7 hub on Friday.
On another more positive note, during my visit to Ipswich I also had the pleasure of visiting an excellent community ‘playbus’ project (pictured) with Ipswich MP Ben Gummer. This is a charity run by a board of voluntary trustees for families with children under 5 years old. The playbus is a fully converted double-decker bus which is fully equipped to be a stimulating learning environment for young children. It offers craft and art activities, hand/eye co-ordination toys, books, puzzles and lap-tops for young children. It is a wonderful little project.