On Wednesday evening the student newspaper Nouse held their first event in a new events series being run by the society. Lord Adonis, the Labour frontbencher, former Education Minister and Transport Secretary, gave a talk on “Class war: How education must change” to over one hundred people in the Bowland Auditorium.
Adonis spoke at length without notes on the failings of the education system and what he thought were the main areas reform must focus on: governance, teaching and the curriculum. Having qualified governors, he argued, has been key to the success of independent schools. Giving teaching greater status – as it has in places such as Finland, Singapore and South Korea – is key to driving up standards.
He noted Teach First, of which he is a Trustee, has helped do this by encouraging the best graduates to apply and making the profession more selective. And without a more well-rounded curriculum, offering a technical baccalaureate, reform will be incomplete.
The government, he stressed, have not followed his academy schools programme – rather than focusing on improving the worst schools, the Coalition is just allowing already good schools to become academies.
A range of questions were asked during the Q and A, from undergraduates, PhD students and local secondary school teachers. A theme which roused much curiosity was whether private and grammar schools have a place in modern day society, and to what extent aspects of them should be emulated by state schools. Adonis cited Isaiah Berlin in defending private schools’ right to exist, but reiterated the Education Secretary in any government should send their children to state schools.
Lord Adonis was visiting the university as part of a tour of the North East conducting an economic review for the area’s Local Enterprise Partnership, having recently returned to Labour’s front bench team as an adviser on industrial strategy.
At the end of the evening, host Harry Lambert informed the crowd that the event series’ next speaker will be George Galloway, news which certainly stirred up some excitement amongst the crowd. Other speakers in the new year will include Shami Chakrabarti, Rachel Reeves, and the NUS President Liam Burns.