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Future Education Policy?

So it’s that time again and we’re well and truly into Election season. Paxman has given Dave and Ed a good going over on C4, we’ve had the election debate and the nation is (I hope) deep in thought about which way they want to go. I’m waiting with baited breath for the manifestos so I can really get to grips with their policies. So far, we haven’t got manifestos, but the labour party have released a pamphlet entitled “Changing Britain Together“, which sets out some key themes which came out of the national policy forum last autumn and which will be in the manifesto.

These are what they believe to be the key facts on education:

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And here are some of the things they want to change:

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So what do you think?

Well let’s take a look, first up we have:

Guarantee all teachers in state schools are qualified

This is something I’ve argued for before. I can understand the argument that someone who is an expert in their field and wants to teach it should be allowed, but teaching isn’t that easy. You need strategies to deal with the classroom climate, you need pedagogical ideas on how to pass on your knowledge and you need to know what’s on the curriculum in your subject. These are (or should be) dealt with within teacher training. I don’t necessarily mean experts should have to go away and complete a qualification, the could do it on the job such as salaried schools direct or teach first etc.

Require teachers to continue building skills and subject knowledge with more high quality training and new career paths

This is a great priority to have. We all need to continually develop our practice. We need to reflect on what we’re doing and improve upon it. Subject knowledge is key, the Sutton Trust Report “What makes great teaching?” told us that the most important thing you improve outcomes for students was teachers having a strong pedagogical subject knowledge. This is particularly important at the moment as we are moving to new curricula across the board, new GCSEs, A levels, all subjects, all key stages. We need to ensure we are sharp on all the content to ensure the best outcomes for our learners.

Ensure schools are locally accountable with new local Director of School Standards responsible for intervening in underperfoming schools.

I’m not too sure about this one. On the face of it it looks good. It looks like there will be a safeguard to ensure all children are receiving a good education, but what will trigger the intervention? And what will that intervention be? These are two massive questions that I don’t know the answer to, so I can’t really comment further. I guess we’ll need to wait for the manifesto.

End the flawed free schools programme and instead prioritise new schools in areas with a shortage of places

This one makes me laugh a little at the ridiculousness of the free schools programme. Money is being spent on mew schools in areas where the existing schools are not fully subscribed, yet areas which are oversubscribed are still in need of new schools. Surely it’s common sense to ensure that schools are being built where they are needed?!

4 promises, the first two would, if done well, make great strides towards improving education for all. The final one is so common sense it seems daft it even needs mentioning, but unfortunately it does, and the third is one I need to know more about. What are your views on these 4 promises? I’d love to hear them.

This is based on the bit specifically on schools policy, the leaflet is 52 pages long and covers all policy areas so do have a read, and make sure you read the manifestos when they come out. And for goodness sake, don’t forget to exercise your democratic right on may 7th and vote, apathy and disenfranchisement are what breaks democracy.

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  1. April 6, 2015 at 7:42 pm

    Reblogged this on The Echo Chamber.

  2. April 12, 2015 at 4:28 am

    The sceptical side of me sees some of these slightly differently.

    1. Using the word “guarantee” in any political sense is always misleading. Don’t get me wrong, I completely agree that all teachers should have to do some form of teacher training, but at a time when teacher retention is so low, I find it hard to believe that they can “guanatee” such an outcome.

    2. Again, I completely agree that teachers should have the opportunity to get good quality professional development. Unfortunately, the devil is in the detail for me once again, and it is that word “require”. Most teachers would jump at the opportunity to continue to develop as great practitioners, but this word makes it sound like this is not the case. It shows an attitude that teachers need to be forced to do this, and does not, in my opinion, give us enough credit. Also, what would be the implications in terms of the administrative side. If we are “required” to do a certain amount each year, surely this is going to have to be logged and checked in some way.

    3. I agree with you here. It sounds like a nice idea, but will have to wait and see how it turns out.

    4. I am not sure how I feel about the Free School system. Although it is clearly absurd to open schools in areas where they are not needed, when the money could be spent in more desperate locations, I also think they can fill a void in the system. My (albeit limited) experience of free schools has been on the whole positive, with a bilingual school being opened to replace the closing EU school providing a continued education in two languages to families who want this for their children. This would never have been approved if it were not for the Free School movement. Also, the figures about one third of Free Schools being inadequate are interesting. Surely, with such a new scheme, you have to allow it time to iron out the creases. No school is going to be perfect in its first few years, as they will need to sort through various hurdles they did not foresee. Does this mean they are doing a bad job? Or just that they need a little time to get it all working properly.

    Just my two-pennies worth…

    • April 12, 2015 at 8:02 am

      On point 1, I think you’re taking a glass half empty view here. Surely it cab be guaranteed by ensuring those employed are working towards a qualification?
      2, again I feel you are being overly pessimistic and looking to create issues. I took the world “require” to mean tgat schools woukd be required to provide it.
      On point 4, i read this: http://www.labourteachers.org.uk/freee-schools-dowise/ recently on free Schools that you might find of interest

      • April 12, 2015 at 2:38 pm

        The irony is that I am a really positive person in pretty much every other aspect of my life, but I have grown tired of the political interference in education. Personally, I think that educational policy should be decided outwith of government, so that it doesn’t keep changing every time a new government is elected.

        It does not affect me now, since my wife and I left the UK last year to teach abroad, but one of our main reasons for leaving (other than going to see the world as we love travelling) was the constant changes in education in the UK which are so difficult to keep up with.

        On point 4, I think the main thing here is that every Free School is completely different, and most teachers only have experience of one. My experience was positive, theirs was clearly negative. I agree that in certain situations the money could be spent in a more productive way, but I also think that the initiative allows certain niches to be filled in areas where they are desired. The bilingual school I mentioned before is heavily oversubscribed already, partly due to the demographic. This was not an area that desperately “needed” a new school (though there were certainly not a surplus of places), but the speciality of the school is highly sought after in that region. As I said before, I do not believe that this would have been possible without the Free School intiative.

      • April 12, 2015 at 3:11 pm

        The issues i have with the free school initiative aren’t based around a negative experience, more an overall big picture view. Its great tge bilingual school is oversubscribed, but if that means other local schools are half empty but parents in another area of the country are having to transport their kids a grwat distance due to a lack of local places then its not so great. The communites with the means and inclination are the ones that will make enough noise to receive tge benefits of the initiative but the working class communities where the most benefit would be seen are the ones who miss out, as with do much of coalition policy.

        As for the idea of removing education from politics, its a noble one, but who runs it? Who decides who runs it? The fact is education is political. The reason we hace free education for all is because Keir Hardie and others like him fought for ot in the political sphere, battling tge inequality that existed. People will always have disagreements on how best to educate. So surely in a democracy it is the majority who should decide? I’ve written more of my thoughts on this here: http://wp.me/p2z9Lp-hn

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