Parent Power – The Prime Hope For a Grass Roots Revival of English Education

This is my third investigative report into the parlous state of education in England’s state schools. The first argued for a massive reduction in the scale of government intervention; the second for a transfer of power to give teachers far more control of the education process. Now, in this final article, I want to highlight the vital role that can, and should, be played by parents, grandparents and local communities in helping youngsters develop their individual talents and skills, so they are not merely trained to earn a living, but more significantly to enjoy a fulfilling life and make a substantial contribution to the society they will eventually inherit..

Much is said today of the need to empower children and give them more control of the way their schools are run. This is an invaluable exercise in democracy as children mature, but must never be introduced in a way which weakens teacher autonomy and classroom discipline. One of the government’s recent items of backroom window dressing is ‘Student Voice’, a programme which invites children to rate their teachers’ performance. This, they now realize, gives youngsters the opportunity to downgrade teachers whom they judge to be too strict. Under this new initiative they’re also offered the chance of interviewing prospective new teachers, one applicant being humiliated by a request to sing his favourite song. Ill-conceived policies like these have led to a marked decline in discipline in schools. Practically every week there is a violent attack on a teacher in England. One fourteen-year-old boy sexually assaulted a classroom assistant. The head wanted him expelled, but the governors overturned his decision. A twelve year old boy was banned from an Essex school for carrying a knife, but was allowed back by an appeals panel. With this lax discipline, children will offend with impunity, and think that they can do the same when they leave school which is hardly what we want.

Children are being taught their rights, but not their responsibilities. Coordination Group Publications, one of the UK’s largest educational publishers, has sold thousands of copies of ‘Your Legal Rights’, a book which assures teenagers: ‘You have the right to be protected from emotional or physical abuse’. One of the examples it gives of physical abuse, is being made to take part in a cross country run. This was once thought to be an excellent way of getting fit, but clearly our aim now is not to encourage youngsters to maintain a high level of physical fitness, but to be able to take their place in a litigation culture. Children should we empowered, but at the same time they must be encouraged to recognise authority, and eventually assume positions of authority, for as Voltaire stressed, “firm discipline serves not only to punish the culprit, but also to ‘encourage the others’ to remain virtuous.”

Assuming that power can be wrenched from the government, and a large measure transferred to teachers and senior pupils, some must be retained and reassigned to parents and local communities. Parents are legally responsible for their children, and since they pay the bulk of the taxes which fund the state education system, they should have a powerful voice in the way that money is spent. In a democracy there should be no taxation without direct representation, as the Bostonians citizens argued when they thumbed their noses at the British government and held their highly successful Tea Party protest. There’s little doubt that if a referendum were held today, parents would vote against the rigid, exam based 3Rs national syllabus, in favour of a more liberal, diverse and flexible curriculum which took account not only of children’s needs, but also of teachers’ individual talents and enthusiasms. Classes must be adaptable, so they can respond to a child’s natural curiosity, whether it’s an interest is grasshoppers or a zeal for collecting foreign coins. So much schooling today is dull, and bears little relationship to the real world. A focus on passing tests does little to foster creativity, enthusiasm and a passion for lifetime study. At five the majority of children can’t wait to get to school; at sixteen most can’t wait to leave. Education should return to its etymological roots. It should be a process of drawing out (from the Latin educare), rather than a mindless regime of indoctrination. In the long run the only meaningful education is self-education, for what children learn at school today will be out of date in a few years time.

The educational aspirations of politicians fail, not because they’re too high, but because they’re set so abysmally low. A healthy education system needs diversity rather than mind numbing conformity. Families should be given the choice of sending their children to technical colleges, comprehensives, faith schools, secondary modern, grammar schools or public schools. Or, if they have the time and ability, why should they be hindered from joining the estimated twenty to fifty thousand parents in England who opt to teach their offspring at home? Again, why shouldn’t parents in England be given the chance to open ‘free schools’? This has been done with great success in Sweden where since 1955 local communities have the freedom to buy an appropriate building and turn it into an independent school. Parents are given a voucher to pay for their child’s education and can cash it in at any school they fancy, so long as it doesn’t charge any kind of ‘top up’ fees. Since this legislation was introduced well over a thousand free schools have opened and now educate more than one in ten of all Swedish pupils.

Success in life is not closely related to IQ scores, but is more intimately linked with personality factors, like determination, sociability, inventiveness, courage and motivation. Research shows that gifted children tend to be artistic, musical, good at sports, able to communicate easily with adults, have a lively and original imagination coupled with an ability to focus on their own interests rather than simply what is being taught in the school curriculum. Parents have been led to believe that education is about gaining diplomas and degrees, which is why almost half of the children at London state schools are now receiving private tuition to help them through their SATs and GCSEs. Children’s minds should not be crammed with facts. They should be given time to dream, which is the open sesame to creativity. Like the White Queen in Alice in Wonderland they should be encouraged to think that education includes believing half-a-dozen impossible things every morning before breakfast. At a good school, children should be trained to work together for the common good rather than in monastic isolation. This is not happening today in most UK schools according to a recent survey of eight countries where a sample of children was asked to reply to the statement: ‘Most of the students in my class are kind and helpful.’ In Switzerland over eighty per cent of children replied that this was true; in Britain only 43 per cent of children gave the same affirmative response, the lowest of all the countries polled. This is a sad commentary on our schools, and an even sadder reflection of the state of our divided society.

Many independent schools have a social service programme, an extra-curricular activity which encourages senior boys to go out into the community: to visit the elderly in their homes, do their shopping, help at day centres, work in charity shops, take food and clothing to homeless people and work at centres for the mentally handicapped. By doing so they gain as much as the people they serve. Why can’t a similar system be introduced in state schools? Gardening is another valuable extra-curricular activity, which can be carried out under the supervision of parents and grandparents whenever there’s an accessible plot of allotment land. Less than two years ago the Royal Horticultural Society launched a Campaign for Schools Gardening, which well over six thousand schools have now joined. Its objective is to give every youngster the opportunity to get a taste for gardening, and the opportunity to grow and learn about plants. Children should also be expected to perform chores, a duty which prepares them for the responsibilities of adult life. This is the belief of the charity help line which claims that as well as being a confidence builder, ‘Chores can also teach children how to plan their own time, taking into consideration others’ needs’. This used to be taken for granted in most households, but is now largely forgotten, unless children are bribed to run an errand or clean the family car. A study carried out by Markella Rutherford, an assistant professor of sociology at Wellesley College, Massachusetts, revealed that American parenting magazines regularly advised families to give children routine tasks, like decorating, shopping, house cleaning, gardening and nursing sick relatives. This advice disappeared from the magazines in the 1980s. Since then, children’s only responsibility is to do their homework. This is regrettable, since the more trust we place in children, the more they will grow to justify that trust. Learning doesn’t stop when we complete our formal education, for as Maimonides, the great medieval Jewish philosopher affirmed: ‘A man should never stop learning, even on his last day.’ To recognise and promote the individuality of the pupil, and prepare them for a lifetime of exploration and growth, we must recognize and promote the individuality of each individual school.

Communities ought to form pressure groups to lobby for change in the educational system. Parents should join their local PTAs, to play an active role in the running of their schools. All too often we don’t protest because we think we’re powerless to change the status quo, but as Lord Justice Brandeis rightly observed: ‘The irresistible in often simply that which is not resisted.’ Many people campaigned against the 1902 Education Act, which abolished the board school system, and 170 parents went to prison for refusing to pay their school taxes. Would we be brave enough to do the same today? Schools should work in close conjunction with parents and local communities, and be subject to far less control from impersonal quangos and remote government departments. We must press for change at grass roots level to meet the needs of a rapidly evolving world, for as Thomas Edison observed more than a century ago: ‘If you are doing anything the way you did twenty years ago, there is a better way.’

Why Choose Removal Services in Essex

Essex, the oldest county of England, attracts hundreds of people every day with its beautiful landscapes and closeness to London. All those looking to be near the capital and yet far enough from the noise and pollution choose to make this county their home. Many people actually come from London, searching for more affordable homes and a better place to raise their children. However, they continue to work in the big city and come to their home in Essex each night. No matter where in this county one may decide to move, be it in Chelmsford, the county town or anywhere else, moving is a very stressful time. This is why most people decide to hire removals in Essex, because a professional company can take care of everything for them and allow them to take as little time off from work as possible.

Many people choose to move in Colchester, because this is where the University of Essex is located and they want to offer their children as many options as possible when it comes to their education. Regardless of where in this county a person might want to move, they would still have to pack everything and arrange transportation. Not to mention that their former home would have to be cleaned. So moving can take a few days and those who have demanding jobs may not always afford to take as much time off. This is why house removals in Essex have become so popular over time. The removal company can provide its clients with everything they need to complete this task successfully. From packing materials to transportation and cleaning services, everything can be much easier for those who decide to hire removal services.

Of course, one may say that these services can be too expensive, but when you choose to move to a gorgeous area near the 7th century Saxon church of St Peter-on-the-Wall in Brandwell-on-Sea, hiring a removal company should not be a problem. They will make sure you have everything you need to pack your things properly and even offer you a hand with packing if you feel you have too many things. These companies can send to your home as many men as you need to complete the moving as soon as possible. You can ask for a man and a van or you can have three men coming to your home to move all your furniture and other belongings safely from one place to another.

To conclude, removals in Essex can really save a person a lot of time and effort. Nobody needs to stress about moving when they can hire a professional to help them every step of the way and take care of everything they need. Many landlords ask their tenants to leave the house clean when they leave in order to receive their deposits. But in the hurry to move, making time to clean a home properly can be very difficult. Fortunately, removal services often come with this option and offer their clients the chance to breathe easy knowing that there is someone experienced to handle everything for them.

Earnings From Learning for EFL/ESL Educators: The More You Learn, The More You Earn

On October 17th, 2010 the Moveable Feast conference was held at Osaka Gakuin University, where the main theme was teacher development, and what we, as educators, could benefit from learning. After first hearing about the conference, I started to realize that the more that I learned, the more that I earned (and, as I continue, it continues). Both learning and earning can be categorized in several ways, and the benefits are rather obvious to those who pursue that type of philosophy.

When most people thing of ‘earning’, with respect to employment at least, the concept of monetary remuneration comes to mind. While this is true in many instances, earning can be much more broadly defined. As an example: earning as defined by The Farlex Dictionary is to ‘1. To gain especially for the performance of service, labor, or work: earned money by mowing lawns. 2. To acquire or deserve as a result of effort or action: She earned a reputation as a hard worker. 3. To yield as return or profit: a savings account that earns interest on deposited funds‘ (Earn). When we, as educators embark on learning in its various forms, the rewards will most likely include the first definition, but will by no means be limited to that definition. The other defined earnings can be very valuable and important as well.

While earning can come in more than one form, learning can come in numerous forms, so for explanatory purposes, three are utilized here( though they can and do overlap): Formal learning is defined as formal learning and study with the end goal of degrees, diplomas or certificates; semi-formal learning includes taking classes, attending and giving seminars as well as at conferences; and informal learning is learning that is done on one’s own through actions such as reading, discussions and media.

Formal Learning

The most obvious one and the one that tends to have the most profitable financial results, at least at the beginning (of course, once you get too far, it has the potential of diminishing monetary results later). As most people are aware, the more education one achieves, the better the salary at least in theory ( there is a very familiar quote that states that an average college grad will make one million dollars more than the average high school graduate-but that has been disproven by research, such as from Inside Higher Ed). However, there is a definite increase that can be earned with better education.

The wage increases can and do continue into graduate studies. An excellent case in point is the difference in pay in EFL in Japan from (at least average) English conversation teachers (where a bachelor’s degree is the norm) versus university work (where, at least, a master’s is the norm). But, there are the other ‘earnings’, which include deeper knowledge of the topic (particularly with, but not exclusively with respect to content bases instruction CBI), better understanding of various university systems, research methodologies and academic writing to name a few.

Options available to educators who want to expand into other areas are numerous and include online as well as in traditional class programs. As far as the latter, traditional degree programs are available to Japan based educators. Temple University in Osaka and Tokyo as well as Columbia Teachers College (in Tokyo only) are two large American universities with that option. The in class options not only extend to them. For example, I have an American friend currently in a PhD Program at a Japanese university (Kansai University). So, keep the Japanese university option in mind as well, if considering a traditional degree. Aside from degrees, there are CELTA programmes that are run out of Kobe. As for non-traditional ways of studying, there are numerous options available and those options are growing all the time. The best advice I ever had was to find an area that really interests me, then research it and choose the best place that I can afford to apply to.

There are numerous benefits to this type of education. As a personal example: One side benefit of completing an MBA was that it gave me the added advantage of having experience writing a dissertation with the standard dissertations to it. By the time I complete the degree, I had a deeper background in research methodologies through taking classes in the subject, and then through writing the dissertation. Because of that, I am better equipped to guide students through their 4th year thesis and to advise on some of the options that they have available to them.


As most people who have completed a master’s degree (at least) will contend, the monetary payoff can be immediate and long lasting. Personally, I know that when I completed my master’s of education, it had paid for itself in increased remuneration within two years. Even the MBA (which was expensive) is paying for itself in money terms, but has already paid off in non-monetary earnings with better understanding of the materials I’m teaching and more enthusiasm through teaching classes I want to teach (business and economics). This is, however, a very personal example, and there are other numerous fields one can pursue. The best advice I’ve ever come across is, “do what you love and the money will follow”. (Aaron, 1997)

It is safe to say that through formal studying, we become more knowledgeable and we become better teachers. This is because of any number of ways, including: learning teaching theory, being forced ourselves to give presentations, (after all, being critiqued and peer reviewed raises the self awareness that we all have towards pedagogical approaches to the classroom). In addition, our critical thinking and study skills improve through being involved in formal classroom settings.

Semi-formal Learning

Self improvement and learning is not limited to formal learning, going to conferences, attending seminars and taking classes are excellent ways to improve and increase earning power. While it may not seem as serious a route as formal learning and the earning power seems to be more leaning towards non-monetary gains, there are a number of things that can be learned, comprising skills along with knowledge. Keep in mind that I know of several people on hiring committees who were inclined not to hire non-JALT members who were applying for work. Also, conferences (particularly international ones) may have the effect of raising an application to the top of a hiring committee. Aside from that, there are almost always useful ideas that can be gained from attending conferences. Finally, it is a chance to interact with others and (in the case of education oriented conferences) keep up to date with the advances within the discipline.

Not to discount the monetary earning potential with semi-formal learning, there are networking opportunities, rarely found elsewhere in such abundance. This connects with the other side of earning which is non-monetary. This includes keeping up with new trends, and finding that we are not the only ones in the situations we find ourselves in. Confidence tends to build in most who find out that they are not alone. As one participant stated during a final Q&A session, “once the door is closed, it is a lonely profession”, and finding peers to share with is an excellent way of coping.

Informal Learning

While this broad category may overlap in some ways with the semi-formal, there are a number of things that differentiate it, and make it and make it valuable. With respect to the earning potential as far as money is concerned, it is seemingly the weakest, although, I do know of several cases where teachers are hired because of the specialized knowledge that they acquired through informal learning. The best examples are in IT, but I have also seen it with film studies and geo-politics. As an example of the latter, I do know of one British teacher who is teaching in a lecturer position at a university without a graduate degree due to his acting experience.

The area of learning includes, watching TV news, reading books, experiences and discussions (among others). The biggest payoff might be with the better and more knowledgeable classes that the instructor can provide. Recently, at Konan University’s ‘Peccha Kucha’ night, there was an excellent presentation from one university teacher who uses Dungeons and Dragons in his classes to teach. That, I believe, shows that if the teacher is enthusiastic, knowledgeable and passionate about the topic, it can easily translate into a good and worthwhile class.

As an example of informal learning, I was introduced to the concept of Peak Oil, and I started reading up on the concepts of oil as well as world population, and the idea that sustainable growth might be an oxymoron. As a result, I’ve developed several lesson plans on the exponential rule of 72, world population growth and peak oil. I’ve used these materials in classes that were first, second, and third year university classes as well as a corporate class. I have also given several presentations on these concepts at several venues.

Several years ago, I was given a book on outsourcing (for personal as well as business work) and read it through looking for materials for homework assignment for an MBA course. I was unable to use it in my course, and I thought it was not very useful for me as an English instructor in Japan. However, while preparing original materials for classes, I was reluctant to photocopy from other text books. So, I went to a website that was on the book ( ) and outsourced a number of drawings to the Philippines where it cost me less than $100 to get 12 illustrations (including the one above that I use for ‘homework’ with my original materials).

One way for educators to keep a record, as well as using it as a tool for self development, is the academic CV (curriculum vitae). An academic CV is different from a resume in several ways as an academic CV is a complete record of your academic work, without descriptive adjectives, with three main areas, research, teaching and service. In other words, just the facts. Being a complete record, in can become quite long sometimes going 20 or 30 pages. Listed is a brief overview of differences between a resume and an academic CV.



· Long

1 or 2 Page(s)

· Just the facts

Power sales tool

· Details of all academic work

Broad strokes of abilities

· Standard/Unchanged

Tailored to the job application

While the academic CV may or may not be used as an employment tool, it can be a very valuable asset (though a suggestion would be to add a 1-page resume if adding it to a teaching job application). Because there are few hard and fast rules for academic CVs, a suggestion might be to start with the name, address and then education (starting with the highest obtained, then moving down) and then student activities. This is followed by publications, presentations and then chronology of work (academic only) with all classes listed by academic year starting with the most recent. Next, include student advising, class projects, and memberships.

Because of the lack of set rules for the academic CV, adjustments can be made to the CV. As an example, if your publications are weak, then abbreviated abstracts can be included after the title of the publication. If, on the other hand there are a number of publications that you have, use of APA might be a more appropriate approach. Even if this document is not for employment, it can be a very powerful tool in assessing where one’s strengths and weaknesses are with respect to one’s career. The academic CV can become a flexible record that is more a living document that is added to as achievements are made.

From the employer’s perspective, reasons why an academic CV can be very useful include the professionalization of the EFL industry, changes in the job market, fewer jobs with more competition, and a stronger acceptance of their use by hiring committees. And from the personal side, the CV can be utilized as a scorecard that helps with career decision making (see below), it is a complete record of what one has done professionally and it allows the educator to have a ‘hidden agenda’ where extra work might be performed if it enhances the CV. As Tom Peters stated: “Ask yourself the following. In the last 90 days, what have I done to improve my resume?” He goes on to challenge the reader to complete the sentence “My Principal ‘resume (CV) enhancement activity’ for 90 days is…”And ‘The next year…'”(Peters, 1999)

One suggestion is to introspectively look at our careers through a balance scorecard with the CV as a centre of reflection. By doing so, it is easy to see the strengths and weaknesses that all of us have.

The balanced scorecard was something I adopted and reconfigured from a corporate strategy tool, which is used as a performance management device (Merchant & Van der Stede, 2007). It has been adapted to an academic CV so that educators might want to consider where their strengths and weaknesses lie. While not all areas are covered, the large amount of information from an academic CV is found in the four areas and shows how it balances. The only one major area that might be missing for people in Japan would be their Japanese language ability.


Aaron, R. ( 1997). Bloom Where You Are Planted. Toronto: Raymond Aaron Group

Earn. (n.d). In The Free Dictionary byFarlex.

Lakin, T. (2010, September 15). College sports can change your life. Retrieved from

Leaderman, D. (2008, April 7). College isn’t worth a million dollars. Retrieved from

Merchant, K. & Van der Stede, W.A. (2007). Management Control Systems. Harlow, Essex. Financial Times/Prentice Hall.

Peters, T. (1999). The Brand New 50. New York, NY: Random House.