Why do schools exist? What exactly are we trying to achieve? Renowned educationalists Sir Tim Brighouse and Professor Mick Waters call for a national conversation about the purpose of schooling and offer their list of 12 core reasons we do what we do...


An Education Commission established last summer by The Times will shortly produce an interim report. Its remit is to look at making the education system in the UK, especially schools, colleges and universities, more fit for purpose.

Either in this report or in its final deliberations a key ingredient should be to demand a nationally agreed set of aims and purposes for schooling. Amazingly there are none at present, at least for England: Scotland, as in so many matters educational, is ahead of us.

It does seem odd that, with all the centralisation which successive secretaries of state have engaged in – acquiring more than 2,000 powers from a starting point of just three after the Second World War – none has thought it worthwhile to have a debate about what exactly, or even roughly, we are trying to do through our schools.

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