As a father of two teenage daughters, I’ve come to the conclusion that happiness, health and confidence should form the foundation of our education system here in Manchester as we seek to raise the bar of quality. The current methods of teaching brings only stress, pressure and uncertainty for both teachers and pupils and there is now a fear of failing starting to develop amongst our children which can only have a detrimental effect on any entrepreneurial spirit . Even a quick glance at the statistics for mental health issues, depression and self-harm amongst our children aged 4 to 16 is enough to demand a total rethink of what’s presently on offer.
I might have voted for Brexit, but I do believe in the European model of education where children start formal academic schooling at the age of 6. I believe the foundation stages of education for 4 to 6 year olds should revolve around developing social and emotional intelligence through play, rather than academic learning. Pushy parents need to understand that by increasing demands on academic results in the early years reduces quality and increases stress levels of the finished article.
I also believe that by age 11, all children should know how to cook a healthy meal and understand the importance of fruit and vegetables over processed foods. Rightly or wrongly, I think all problems within our education system have a link of some kind to poor diet – too much sugar in particular – and lack of hydration.
When it comes to teenagers, I think we should look at them as we do plants. If all plants are put in the sunshine, some will flourish but those that need shade or damp conditions won’t do as well. And there’ll be many weeds! The idea that one type of school fits all is evidently not the answer – and large schools that argue economies of scale actually appear to operate diseconomies of scale. We need to move towards a system with smaller, specialist schools that deliver the skills individual children need to successfully enter the workforce.
I am in favour of grammar schools in all areas of Manchester to take the brighter kids and push them along academically. This will prevent the private sector taking over our education system, which is certainly the case in South Manchester. The idea that kids who don't go to grammar schools are ‘left behind’ is ludicrous in 2017. It’s obvious there’s a massive shortage of practical skills in our workforce – and these should be taught in our schools to meet the demand. Too many of our children are bored with the narrow idea that one educational style, i.e. traditional academic learning, fits all.
With regards to college education in Manchester, I would create a business-minded organisation that links schools with local companies who can provide proper careers advice to our children, together with a list of opportunities. Teeneagers leaving school need to know and understand all the opportunities available to them.
The video below is an example of how a failing London school was turned around with strong leadership and organisation.