How traditional are you?

Before I start I think it is crucial that I give the following facts to help contextualise this blog.

Firstly, I attended state schools in the 1970s and 80s. These schools were in the heart of the South Yorkshire coalfield . The Junior and Infant school that I attended was about 1/2 mile from Europe's largest Coking plant (where coal from the surrounding pits was sent to be "cleaned" and turned into coke. All the crude oil, sulphur, etc was either taken away or pumped out into the local atmosphere for us all to enjoy!) The Comprehensive school was also about 1 mile away from the Manvers Coking plant.

Secondly, I feel I need to clarify what an Independent school is, how it is regulated and inspected.
In the UK we have either State or Independent education. State education can be split up into Grammar, Comprehensive, and Academy to name but a few. Independent schools are either Public schools (belonging to HMC ) or one of the other 7 member associations of the ISC (Independent Schools Council). There are also Independent schools that aren't part of the ISC.

OFSTED inspect state schools (Over 17000 primary and 3000 secondary), the ISC inspect the 1221 Independent schools associated with them. Anything else is inspected, I believe, by OFSTED.

So, I am a teacher in a secondary state school and I have been for nearly 10 years. I've never worked in the independent sector of education but my daughter does attend an independent school. This blog isn't about her story. Nor is it my story.

This blog aims to look at what is a "traditional" education. As time marches on, institutes either survive or die out. I suppose it is like educational evolution; that which works is maintained, that which doesn't either changes or disappears.

Select 5 HMC schools at random. When were they formed (on average):

Sedbergh School - 1525
Ipswich School - 1399
Brighton College - 1845
Leighton Park School - 1890
Grammar School at Leeds - 2005 (formed when Leeds Grammar school (1552) merged with Leeds                   Girls High School (1876))

Average date of founding 1730 (or 1639 if you use Leeds Grammar School as 1552). So on average, the HMC schools are over 290 years old.

Public (i.e. Independent) education has been around for a long time. The history of education in England is fairly straightforward according to Wikipedia. This article from Derek Gillard gives you a better (and more in-depth) overview of education in England for the last 1400 years. Therefore I ask the questions: which provider of education is the "traditional" one? When was the golden age of schools?

My schooling through chapter 7 and 8 is all I knew until I came into teaching in chapter 10 (at about the same time my daughter started school).

There is no doubt that people are prepared to have and voice their opinions about education. Quite a few people seem prepared to comment on the parts of education that they have absolutely no experience of. To be ignorant is no crime. But to be hateful against a system that you have nothing more than anecdotal experience of is quite clearly a problem; especially if you are a professional. The prejudice against independent schools intrigues me. They form part of the educational landscape of this country and I'm sure they will be with us for a long time to come.

The state schools came into being as a result of the 1870 Elementary Education Act. This is a good few years after many HMC schools had already been "plying their trade". Now I'm clearly not extolling the virtues of either independent or state education. You may think I have an opinion about which is best. I haven't experienced all the schools in the UK so I won't comment about that. But I will be happy to comment on people's feelings about state or independent schools based on my experience and knowledge.

For example, I was recently told that independent schools have the best resources. I read of a school that has given iPads to all staff (and most pupils). Not independent, but it is an Academy. I know of a community school that has also done the same. I have evidence of independent school classrooms that use chalkboards because they don't possess Interactive White Boards. Therefore I can't agree that independent schools have the "best" resources, assuming that an iPad is better than a pen and paper.

Perhaps people will comment on this blog. I hope to promote informed debate because I want to learn more about my own reasons for having chosen to send my daughter to what I think is the best educational experience that she could possibly receive. There is no doubt that she would perform as well academically in most schools. But schools aren't just about exam results. It's how the school chooses to help the pupils spend their time there. For me, a school is about how the child is developed, the surroundings that they develop in, and the traditional nature of teaching that they give. The results are a separate part of the mix.

Independent schools aren't for everyone. Neither are state schools. But I know that there is a problem with hearing and reading prejudice against either of them, especially if it isn't based on personal experience.