Obviously and for good reason, those who - like me - cherish the RSA's independent, non-aligned status would be worried if the Society started to praise the policies of one particular political party. But what if a party adopts a pre-existing RSA idea?
This is happening today as Ed Miliband unveils his idea of a technical baccalaureate for those students who do not intend to pursue an academic route to university.
Which school is arguably the lead in developing and piloting just such a qualification? Step proudly forward: the RSA Academy.
Emerging naturally from its commitment to a balanced, competency based and demanding curriculum, the RSA Academy has been at the forefront of developing the IBCC (the International Baccalaureate Career Related Certificate). For a slightly tongue in cheek introduction to the IBCC this article in the Telegraph (not a newspaper one might normally associate with educational innovation) is useful.
So two cheers for Ed Miliband. One for focussing on the less academic - a group generally given a shockingly low profile in national educational debate. Two, for giving the RSA Academy a great opportunity to showcase its fantastic work. However, as is typical (and perhaps understandable) for politicians, there is a danger that Miliband is being a little simplistic.
For example, the IBCC, while absolutely being aimed at those who do not want a classic academic route into a Russell Group University, can be a very good stepping stone into HE. Also, while the IBCC has strong vocational and competency based elements, academic study is also integral to it. Indeed like the EBacc there is a requirement to study a modern language. Finally - and it is a separate point emerging from other RSA research - while there is a strong case for Miliband's insistence that pupils continue learning English and Maths up to aged 18, it is also important that what they learn is integral to the overall curriculum. So, for example, pupils who have not achieved a C or better in Maths GCSE should not necessarily be expected to keep plugging away at the same content (a dispiriting and generally unsuccessful endeavour) but be offered a maths qualification which is more vocational and practical in content.
So, there is a lot more thinking required before Labour's new idea is watertight. And as Michael Gove's response seems to be that the Government is already planning to do what Labour is promising, there is plenty of scope for the RSA to be involved in the debate without showing favour to any individual party.
Having said which, it can surely only be good news that for once the politicians are fighting to win credibility for their offer to all pupils not just the academically- inclined sons and daughters of the middle class.
Al Mathers Anthony Painter
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