According to the UCL Institute of Education blog, since the 2010 coalition government announced that schools should be focused on “educating young people,” there have been a whole slew of new expectations placed on schools including:


“Keeping children safe and preventing sexual exploitation, reducing obesity, ensuring mental wellbeing, promoting British values (and preventing extremism), developing personal and employment skills as well as knowledge and providing childcare.”


This expanding scope of work has left school leaders’ heads spinning. No one seems to be denying the importance of education in general. However, as pressures mount and workloads expand, history teacher and education philosopher Michael Fordam argues that it’s time to make a distinction between schooling and education. Fordam notes that while there is lots of debate regarding what schools are responsible for, the more important distinction might be what schools are not responsible for.


“Education, in the broad sense, is something that people receive and seek out throughout their lives from a wide range of sources. Schooling, on the other hand, is more limited… A school cannot provide the whole education of a child, nor perhaps even the majority of it… This means that we need to have clear rationales for deciding what is and is not within the remit of a school.”


Fordam directs our attention to the question: who else in society is responsible for a educating children? It may be easy to lay all of the responsibility at the feet of schools; however, it doesn’t take much to see that the list of responsible parties includes: parents, family members, youth groups, media, government, religious organisations and more.


At the core, the directive of schooling is to provide a certain kind of education by laying the foundation for good citizenship, personal development, and occupational preparation. Some of the objectives may be more abstract, such as establishing and reinforcing social norms through behavioral standards or models, positively and negatively reinforced. Other objectives are more concrete: the teaching of numeracy and literacy.


With the core mission in mind we can get closer to focusing the scope of work facing UK schools — and perhaps developing systems to better support that mission. It’s increasingly clear that schools cannot be wholly responsible for the education of Britain’s youth; schools cannot and should not be seen as the solution to all of society’s issues.


Perhaps instead, we account for how societal challenges impact schooling, and the role schools have in preparing pupils with specific skills such as critical thinking, interpersonal communication, creative problem solving and collaboration.



Hi, I’m Dr Ioan Rees; thank you for reading this article.

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