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A Desolation of Learning: Is this the education our children deserve? [Paperback]

Chris Woodhead
5.0 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (5 customer reviews)
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Book Description

22 May 2009 0956257305 978-0956257307
'Class War&' (2002) was Chris Woodhead's verdict on the systemic failures within the British Education system and a bold agenda for reform. 'A Desolation of Learning' is a retrospective on the 8 years since he resigned as Chief Inspector of Schools amidst a flurry of controversy over his views on the importance of a strong and politically independent schools inspectorate. - Are our schools any better? - Have standards improved? - What are the key areas he would target for reform today? Woodhead argues that the Labour administration has wrongly shaped expectations and policy based on a misguided and questionable vision of a social utopia and a misguided linking of educational attainment and economic well-being. Political pressure has resulted in the emasculation of organisations like OfSTED and the National College for School Leadership, whose remit is reduced to peddling ministerial enthusiasms. Woodhead argues that we need: 1) independent school headteachers to assert their independence; 2) the Conservative party to find its voice and generate momentum for change; 3) schools to be free of bureaucratic constraint, and parents to be empowered, via the implementation of a voucher scheme, so that a genuine educational market may be established in Britain.

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Product details

  • Paperback: 224 pages
  • Publisher: Pencil-Sharp Publishing Ltd. (22 May 2009)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0956257305
  • ISBN-13: 978-0956257307
  • Product Dimensions: 14.9 x 21.1 cm
  • Average Customer Review: 5.0 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (5 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Bestsellers Rank: 373,335 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

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Product Description

About the Author

Chris Woodhead has over 35 years' experience in education. He has taught English in grammar and comprehensive schools, lectured in education at Oxford University, and worked in senior posts in three Local Education Authorities. He ran the National Curriculum Council and the Schools Curriculum Assessment Authority before becoming Her Majesty's Chief Inspector of Schools. He resigned from this post in November 2000. In 2002 he published his verdict on British education, Class War, to widespread acclaim. He is Chairman of Cognita and Professor of Education at the University of Buckingham. He continues to broadcast and write regularly on education policy.

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Customer Reviews

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Most Helpful Customer Reviews
4 of 4 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Adesolationof learning 4 Aug 2009
A Desolation of Learning: Is this the education our children deserve?
Certainly, but they won't receive it soon, after 40 years of the educational theorising Woodhead attacks.
It will be a slow process, turning it around, meanwhile our children suffer.
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7 of 8 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars important readin! 21 Jun 2009
This is a really good summary of all of Chris Woodhead's thoughts and feelings towards the state of modern education. Sadly so much of it is true and one can only hope that politicians and especially those with responsibility for educational reforms actually take note. He goes a bit over the top but any true teacher knows that exams are now far easier than they ever were, diplomas are a waste of public money and the government has no real direction whatsoever. Read it!
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5 of 6 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Chris Woodhead's Devasting Blow 16 July 2009
Chris Woodhead has had a long mission to improve state education. In this book, he demonstrates in no uncertain terms why the state education system has been failing our children and what should be done to drastically improve it. Although I feel that, at times, he suffers from being a little over the top in his shouting about the shortcomings of the system and its personalities, and his sentence structure is poor for a person who used to teach English, Chris once again saves no punches in his criticism of our education system. Let's hope that this book gets its deserved high readership in the right places, and that those of us who are more generally interested in education as it helps our children, and we see a massive improvement in the education system. Well done, Chris!
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The follow-up to Woodhead's 'Class War', this is an account of the way the Labour governments of Blair and Brown tinkered with the state education system without tackling its underlying problems. There's a lot of quite detailed analysis of Labour's endless torrent of initiatives, some of which appear, at best, ridiculous and, at worst, genuinely harmful. Woodhead gives us, for example, conclusive evidence that public examinations have been systematically 'dumbed down' and he shows that pure, subject-based learning has been hijacked by the teaching of 'themes' and an obsession with 'personal development'. Perhaps more importantly, we realise that, despite over a decade of so-called improvements, social mobility (nurturing the talent of poor but bright children) has actually declined.

I don't agree with all of Woodhead's views on the curriculum but completely agree with his fundamental, and realistic, assessment of what the education system can achieve. Children are not all born with the same, unlimited, academic potential and, for some (he refers to them as Jimmy Shepherds), being able to read, write and do basic mental arithmetic is a sensible target. Some teenagers are well and truly sick of conventional academic learning at the age of 14 and would be far better served by a proper range of vocational training options.

The book, published 2009, doesn't, of course, offer an opinion on the progress of the current Tory/Lib-Dem coalition's educational reforms (the free schools experiment, for example). So can we have another book please Chris?
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1 of 2 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars An Education in the Politics of Education 12 Mar 2010
As a trainee teacher (DT best subject in the curriculum) I found this book a right barrel of laughs (sarcasm). No I'm joking (for those who overlooked the subtlety of my humour) it left me feeling a little deflated at the thought of wanting to teach (why would anyone want to work in an industry managed in such a fashion?). Chris writes of British education with passion, his concerns hard to question, his knowledge and experience hard to surpass. I think we all know what is going on, exams made easier etc quite probably a cost effective way of improving (? (cooking the books)) 'standards' than say pushing students knowledge beyond what it is today (in classrooms where discipline and respect for the teachers authority are so often absent (my observations and experience)). Great book pity the Education minister and those advising won't be subscribing to the sound reasoning it presents.
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