UK school standards at risk from attempts to 'cure social ills'
Education standards are being put at risk by repeated attempts to force schools to cure the country's biggest social problems, a minister warned today.
Nick Gibb, the Schools Minister, said the "first answer" to almost any challenge facing society -- such as obesity, teenage pregnancy and knife crime -- was to give schools a new duty to tackle the issue.
He said he was regularly presented with proposals "from one well-meaning group or another" to add "something socially desirable" to the curriculum.
But Mr Gibb warned that the move risked cutting the amount of time available for teaching traditional subjects -- the "best way out of poverty" for young people.
The comments come just a week after a major report into last year's riots in England suggested that schools should be required to "develop and publish their policies on building character".
It suggested that primary and secondary schools should undertake regular assessments of pupils' character, in a move likely to cover issues such as self-confidence, honesty and sense of right and wrong.
But addressing the Association of Teachers and Lecturers annual conference in Manchester, Mr Gibb said: "Today it seems that the first answer of many to almost any problem in society is to give a duty to schools to tackle it -- be it obesity, teenage pregnancy, or knife crime.
"It feels like every other week I am presented with proposals from one well-meaning group or another to add something socially desirable to the curriculum.
"I see my role as resisting those pressures so that schools can concentrate on educating young people and teachers can focus on teaching."
The last Government was repeatedly criticised for introducing a series of new duties for English state schools.
This included compulsory lessons in citizenship, a new onus on schools to promote community cohesion, nutritional standards for food and an overhaul of the curriculum covering personal, social, health and economic education (PSHE) lessons.
|The issue being, of course, how to assimilate the children of immigrants - and how to maintain and restore civic values in general. That was a major reason for establishing public schools in the first place, but has been hijacked to change rather than reinforce society.|