Human Scale Education logoHuman Scale Education, a charitable trust originally set up in 1985 by Satish Kumar, Philip Toogood, Colin Hodgetts and Maurice Ash, has recently received a grant of £69k from the Paul Hamlyn Trust for the development of the Antidote PROGRESS programme. This is described as ‘a sustained in-depth conversation that releases hidden potential in staff and students to change their schools for the better.’

This is to be developed alongside HSE’s other activities. Their autumn newsletter includes a clear statement of their admirable principles and practice, which are listed as ‘Developing smaller learning communities,’ ‘Developing an engaging and relevant curriculum,’ ‘Developing new designs for the timetable for learning,’ ‘Developing habits of practice that give young people partnership and voice’ and ‘Transforming schools’ relationships with families and their community.’

There is no mention of the words ‘freedom’, ‘respect‘ or ‘democracy’, but it seems to be moving in what Lib Ed would call the right direction. The main purpose of the newsletter seems to be to attract further financial support, and it is not above unconvincing boasts such as the climax of the description of the Human Scale Free School, due to open in September 2013, which will offer ‘a world-class education, combining traditional and innovative learning,’ going ‘hand-in-hand with research at the forefront of education.’   

It seems to be extremely difficult for groups which advocate anything outside the accepted norm to unite in order to promote their shared ideals. The newsletter lists objectives HSE believes it shares with such charities as Adoption UK, the NSPCC, The National Children’s Bureau, Children England, Young Minds, the Consortium for Emotional Well-Being in Schools and the Alliance for Inclusive Education. These are, 'that we want our children raised and educated in supportive environments, where they are known and well known and where the discourse on the child is based on nurture, welfare and relationships, rather than on control, regulation and surveillance.'

 Other groups working with similar objectives, such as Personalised Education Now, the Phoenix Education Trust, Student Voice, CRAE (the Children’s Rights Alliance for England), OBESSU (the European Students’ Union) or the annual IDECs (International Democratic Education Conferences) and EUDEC (the European Democratic Education Community) are not mentioned. Maybe these groups do not mention Human Scale Education in their own publications, either.

Do we ignore each other because of fundamental differences of emphasis, or is it because we all notice how little influence the others have, individually, and do not see how much stronger we would be if we supported one another?

Perhaps one of the most important things HSE could do would be to bring together the many different groups that share these ideals into a single pressure group. They might even manage to include those of us who would put respect, love and trust above the practical objectives listed in their newsletter. And perhaps we freak idealists might manage to work with people who believe in systems and training. It would be a shame to continue with our mutual disdain, when there are so many important areas in which we agree.


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