A Bradford Apprenticeship by Donald Naismith

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A Bradford Apprenticeship by Donald Naismith

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Category: Politics and Society
Rating: 4/5
Reviewer: Sue Magee
Reviewed by Sue Magee
Summary: An insider's look at how education in the city of Bradford and then the Metropolitan area has developed. It's thought-provoking and enlightening.
Buy? Yes Borrow? Yes
Pages: 108 Date: September 2016
Publisher: AuthorHouseUK
ISBN: 978-1524636111

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The government would like to kill off local education authorities, with all schools removed from their control and established as freestanding and self-governing academies. In effect this would (and possibly will) mean that what was once a national service, locally administered will become a local service, nationally administered. Donald Naismith is perhaps best known as the former Chief Education Officer of Richmond-upon-Thames, Croydon and then Wandsworth but his education and formative working years took place in his adopted home city of Bradford. In A Bradford Apprenticeship he gives us an affectionate tribute to the city which made him what he is and his thoughts on the education system. Bradford was once one of the country's leading education authorities and he values the opportunities it gave him to fine tune his thinking.

Like Donald Naismith, Bradford is my adopted city. Most of my working life was spent there (at one point in a building opposite one of the schools which he attended) and my daughter thrived under its education system. These days much of Bradford is down at heel and it was a real pleasure to read about how the city used to be and the ways in which it was an educational pioneer. It was his days firstly as a teacher (in Greenwich) and then as an administrator (in Bradford) which shaped Naismith's belief in the value of local government as an essential part of the national educational system.

Naismith's descriptions of Bradford as she used to be are excellent: he has the ability to convey in very few words a feeling of the city in its prime, when there was prosperity from the woollen mills and the sense of hope reflected in the attitudes of the educators. He sums up the suburb of Heaton in the mid-twentieth century perfectly: Conservatives lived there. But delightful as it was to read about the city, it's Naismith's thoughts on education (past, present and future) which are the meat of the book.

I liked his concern that the average and less-than-average pupils are being neglected, his concern that marks have become the end rather than the means and that expenditure is best controlled when incurred as closely as possible to the point of delivery (something which doesn't just apply in education, but seems to be widely disregarded) and done in an open and accountable way. I appreciated too that he hasn't closed his mind to new developments such as academies but argues that they would make greatest headway in partnership with local authorities.

Naismith gives us a vivid insight into the politics of local government reorganisation in the seventies, with some of the characters involved brought vividly to life. There's a dry sense of humour in the book which made the reading very easy and I'd like to thank the publishers for sending a copy to the Bookbag.

For more thoughts on education, have a look at Wasted: Why Education Isn't Educating by Frank Furedi, although Furedi doesn't have Naismith's easy way with words and reading will be more of an effort.

Buy A Bradford Apprenticeship by Donald Naismith at Amazon You can read more book reviews or buy A Bradford Apprenticeship by Donald Naismith at Amazon.co.uk


Buy A Bradford Apprenticeship by Donald Naismith at Amazon You can read more book reviews or buy A Bradford Apprenticeship by Donald Naismith at Amazon.com.

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