Play-based news reporting

I like Channel 4 News. I think it is by far the most authoritative and reliable source of broadcast news in the UK. But this report (a shortened version was broadcast at 7pm) was in one respect well below the standards I've come to expect from them.

     

Virtually no-one in Wales needs telling that our Government has introduced the Foundation Phase in Wales. It is all about the play-based learning this report commends. We have also done away with SATs at that age.

So it would surely have been both relevant and appropriate to mention it ... not least because when the Channel 4 report did try and make comparisons to show just how out of line the UK government (and opposition, for that matter) is with the way education works in other countries in Europe it mentioned Finland, France and Germany. Why not report on what's already happening just across over their border?

Answer: I don't think those that produced the news report had the slightest idea that we have already taken the initiative by doing things differently in Wales. Or that the same is true in Northern Ireland.

     

Not that I should single out Channel 4. I've just looked through the main UK broadsheets. The Times editorial starts by saying:

Educating the Educators

Primary, and pre-primary, education in Britain increasingly resembles ...

The Telegraph can always be relied on to keep the threadbare flag of jingoism flying proudly:

After 40 years, we still can't get our schools right

Britain has the best schools in the world. They produce highly-educated pupils who go to the best universities in the world, which also happen to be in Britain ...

And—bless 'em—they finish by saying it would all be sorted out by an incoming Tory Government. Of course. The leader in the Independent doesn't explicitly confuse Britain with England, but it doesn't mention that the report only applies to England. The article in the Guardian at least does make it clear that the report is only about England but, like Channel 4, seems quite unaware of what is happening in Wales.

This standard of collective journalism should make us weep, but not just out of pity for those in England. Think how many people in Wales rely on what are undoubtedly among the best UK sources for informed news coverage ... and fail to get a balanced picture.

I'm sure that one of the reasons why the Welsh blogosphere is so vibrant is because the established UK media simply don't appreciate the differences between the countries of the UK, so it is left to us to flag them up. But is it our job to be journalists? Only by default, since if we don't do it, it doesn't look like anyone else will. Except for the BBC, who used to be every bit as guilty of doing this in the past, but do seem to be addressing the issue now. Their version of this story was very well balanced.

     

Anyway, back to the subject. This report from the Cambridge Primary Review (it's not available as a free pdf, so I'll link to this summary and save £199) is not only the most comprehensive review of the situation in England for 40 years, but there have been 31 interim reports to go with it. Yet not only has the UK government rejected these recommendations, but so has the Tory opposition.

Well at least we can be grateful that such wilful disregard of professional advice doesn't directly affect us. Wales is to some extent insulated from the knee-jerk reactions and whipped up indignation of a gutter press that pressures Westminster to over-focus on Victorian values and the three Rs rather than see the bigger picture. Although it is surely unfair that the Labour government in Westminster had to rely on its MPs from Wales and Scotland to force its key education policies onto England.

"Prescriptive" and "Stalinist" were two words in the report ... and don't they fit! On more than one level.

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