Scott Charlesworth: "It is time we start manufacturing real change" in Huffington Post

Posted on 30th March 2016

In his recent Huffington Post blog (Blind Faith: Enough Is Enough! It Is Time We Start Manufacturing Real Change in Our State Education System), Bedales chemistry teacher Scott Charlesworth reflects on his educational journey, questions whether state schools are succeeding in preparing young people for adult life, and dedicates himself to reform of the system.

As a child Scott saw state education as his route out of poverty and his model for how he might contribute to society. Despite now being considered successful however, he is left wondering as to the purpose of his schooling – his A grades, he says, did little to prepare him for life beyond the school gates. His school friends had similar stories to tell.

Scott’s schooling coincided with the early years of the National Curriculum and Ofsted, but he argues that things have subsequently failed to improve – inspectors recently announced that the UK’s biggest academy chain is failing too many pupils, and a recent report suggests that UK school leavers are the worst in Europe for essential skills. Nor is Scott reassured by the Secretary of State for Education’s decision to send her son to a private school, arguing that it doesn’t indicate a great confidence in the state sector.

However, he takes heart from recent comments by Chief Inspector of Schools Sir Michael Wilshaw, which he says paint a picture of an ailing state system requiring improvement in three areas – accountability and oversight, the ways in which schools work together and the leadership of teaching in general. Such improvements should be led by local politicians regardless of powers bequeathed by Whitehall says Wilshaw, with whom Scott declares an affinity in what he calls “the war against bad education”. However, he takes issue with Wilshaw’s reliance on the involvement of politicians in reform, arguing that it should be led instead by teaching professionals. More broadly, he asks whether incremental reform to what he sees as a broken system is really what is required.

Scott concludes by calling for a new curriculum structure, and predicts a “perfect storm” that will “push education forward as the independent sector needs to compete with the state.” Innovation he says has always come from the private sector – not least the idea of free schools. Having been enticed back into teaching at by the possibilities afforded by working in the independent sector at Bedales, Scott is now driven by the prospect of building something new as an educational reformer– “the driving force behind my career!”