If there weren’t so much money in education, we would probably be better off.
The only really essential thing to spend money on is good teachers. And good teachers are more than capable of training other teachers. But when billions of government cash is washing around, there is a strong temptation to spend it on a well-known guru who will initiate staff into the dark arts of the latest trendy fad. They’ve published a book and it’s sold millions, so they must know what they’re talking about, right? They’ve even been on telly! The headmaster will be able to pose for a photo which will appear in the local newspaper, and everyone will be wowed by how up to date the school is.
In order to justify their large fees, gurus need to make a strong sales pitch, and they need to offer something unique. This is how myths are perpetuated. It just wouldn’t be good enough to talk in the cautious, measured, humble language of real science. Pseudoscience always makes big claims. If the lie is big enough then plenty will believe in it. Throw some spurious statistics about and use words like ‘brain’ and ‘neuro[insert suffix]’ a lot, then offer the surefire solution to all these scientific complexities.
Don’t tell me I’m fighting a straw man. ‘Brain training’ is an international industry worth billions of dollars, when the only proven benefits to the brain are to be had from regular exercise, a balanced diet, sufficient rest, and yes, using your brain. Thinking about stuff.
More money led to ever greater spending on worthless nonsense in the Labour years. How can education leaders be prevented from spending taxpayer’s money on worthless fads? Academies have more freedom to waste money, not less.
The answer lies in the battle of ideas, the battleground to which Andrew Old refers in the title of his blog. That is the fight which will raise standards, far more than funding increases or governance changes.