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What I’d like the Labour Leadership candidates to say on Education

June 6, 2015 1 comment

This post was first published 16th June 2015 on Labour Teachers here

I have just read this post from Duncan Hall (@doktordunc) on Labour Teachers (@labourteachers) outlining what he’d like the Labour Leadership candidates to say on education and I thought I would draft my own wish list on the topic.

Qualified Teacher Status

I’ve written about this before, and it’s still something that I feel is extremely important. Teachers should either be qualified or working towards a qualification. Teacher education gives a good grounding in pedagogy,  ensures a minimum level of subject knowledge and ensures fair payment for the teacher.

Bring back our schools

For too long we’ve seen the dismantling of local authorities and the removal of schooling from state control. Some of the “freedoms” offered are worrying, no need for the national curriculum etc. I am also worried by big academy chains and their motives. I know from experience many small chains are run well,  but as the bigger chains expand I worry about what will happen. I worry about a race to the bottom,  how cheaply can we run this school, and ultimately a switch into a for profit nature of schooling. I’d go further and suggest all schools, including private schools, be brought into local authorities to ensure minimum standards are met and raised and all children received a top quality education.

Vocational Education

For too long we have tried, and failed, to create an educational system that caters for all. Vocational education is something we have repeatedly got wrong. I’d love to see the leadership candidates discussing how we can get it right, make it a real alternative with the same rigour and esteem as it’s academic counterpart. I was intrigued by Tristram Hunt’s comments on this pre election and would have liked to see how they panned out.

Political Education

I do worry about the lack of knowledge some school leavers show about politics and democracy. It’s something that has been looked at before,  but has not improved in recent years. I’d like to see compulsory political education for all, giving a broad overview of the way our democracy runs and the history behind how and why it developed as it did.

Teacher Recruitment

I’d like to see the teacher shortage acknowledged and addressed. Consecutive government’s have thrown money at teacher recruitment but have not really addressed the issues. The first think I’d like to see is an end to “teacher bashing” from the political elite. Some of the criticisms Gove levied at the profession and the insults will have weakened public perception of teachers which is already lower than it should be. I’d like to hear candidates put forward ideas to improve the status as I think that’s the way we can recruit passionate people into the profession and hold onto the ones we’ve got.

Future Education Policy?

April 2, 2015 5 comments

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.

4 Govian Years – A Retrospective

July 15, 2014 3 comments

I was going to call this piece “Goodbye, Mr Gove”, but Old Andrew (@OldAndrewUk) has already written this one with that title. I read his post, really enjoyed it and agreed with the majority of it. But that’s not what I wanted to write. This mornings announcement was a total shock, one from which I still haven’t really recovered! I wanted to have a look at some of the policy decisions that have happened during Mr Gove’s tenure and explore my feelings on them. I have tried to write objectively, and not taint my feelings on these policies with my feelings of Gove himself. I haven’t researched specifically for this post, all the measures here are from memory. If I’ve attributed something wrongly, or remembered it wrong, I do apologise. Feel free to correct in the comments and I will amend.

Progress 8

Progress 8 is something I have been meaning to blog about for a while, and I will blog in more detail soon. I think it is the single best piece of Education Policy in recent history and I have high hopes that it will eliminate the idea of a threshold pass which is detrimental to pupils. I truly hope that this measure doesn’t get scrapped by the incoming Education Secretary.

The New Maths Curriculum

The new secondary maths curriculum is, in my opinion, much better than the current one. It includes much more challenge for the most able and is far more rigorous. I have every faith that it will provide a much better grounding for A Level maths than the one we have at the moment. My only criticism is that it doesn’t go far enough. There are still some highly irrelevant topics (Why do we need to perform translations by hand in the 21st century?) and I would have loved to see basic Calculus and an intro to Complex Numbers included.

I’m yet to see the draft A Level curriculum, but I have high hopes for it. I feel tat Complex Numbers need to be included in A Level maths, and not just be kept for further maths. I’m fairly excited about the core maths qualification and hope that all these curriculum reforms lead to more people continuing with maths post 16 and post 18.

Performance Related Pay

I think this one is a terrible policy. It is open to abuse and could cause all sorts of trouble within schools. Teaching should be full of collaboration, but this runs the risk of pitting teachers against each other and causing people to share, and collaborate less. People may be less willing to help out a colleague in the fear that their results will outshine their own.

The death of early entry

I am a fan of this piece of policy. We had a ridiculous scenario where pupils were sitting their GCSE 6 times in some school before the end of year 11. The whole of their year 10 and 11 maths lessons were geared towards “hitting the c” and many potential A Level candidates were put off maths and many who could have scored A’s and B’s were never taught the higher stuff because of the regime they were in.

It also gave rise to classes where pupils had reached grade C at the end of year 10 and had then decided that that was good enough, so they refused to do any further work. Meaning that students who should and could have scored A’s and A*’s reached KS5 with only C grades. I know many students this year who had C’s but re-sat their maths GCSE as they needed B’s to get onto the courses they want to study at university.

Only June exams

This is a strange one. I have long been of the view that sitting all exams at the end of the year if of the most benefit for the students as once the whole course is completed they have a deeper understanding. In maths A Level C1 becomes really easy once you have studied C3 and C4 for instance. But on the other hand, ever year the January exams provide a reality check for many who walked the GCSE exams without working and thought they would be able to do this with A Levels. This may be off set in the long term by the tougher GCSEs, and IU think that Mocks done properly could recreate this effect.

Removal of QTS as a requirement

This is, quite frankly, a ridiculous policy. I’ve written before about my feelings on this matter, but to sum them up I would say that I think ever teacher should have had, or at least be having, some basic training. I’m fine with the schools direct/teach fist model of learning while teaching, but I think that this should be the minimum. I also feel that all teachers should be in control of their own CPD.

So, the verdict?

I don’t like what Gove stands for, I don’t like his Party and I don’t like his Ideology. I wouldn’t, however, say that everything he has done has been terrible. Slagging the Education Secretary off for every move he makes is something that has happened for as long as I can remember, and I think we need to start assessing policies on their own merits, not on who puts them forward. Gove is a fantastic orator and is brilliant at polarising public opinion. He has brought Education to the forefront of the minds of most people and raised its profile no end. I find some of his policies abhorrent, but I also find some of them to be fairly good. And I hope beyond all hope that when Nicky Morgan puts her own stamp on the portfolio that she doesn’t cancel Progress 8.

The Future?

I know very little about Nicky Morgan, I read her voting record this afternoon and baulked at it, particularly her major opposition to equal marriage. She rarely rebels (5 times out of 955 votes), which suggests she is agreeable to all the governments policies, or is happy to tow the line to further her career. On Education matters she has gone with the government on all major votes. She has little background in education, which means she is even further removed from the classroom than Gove, who at least had studied it as shadow minister for years before taking office. I only see things getting worse under her.

I said to a friend last week that Tristram Hunt needed to get up to scratch fast, come up with some policies and be ready to take on Gove at the dispatch box or he would run the risk of losing the debate ahead of 2015. I think the conservatives have done him a favour here, and now is the time for Labour to put forward their views on the education portfolio and take a lead on driving future policy.

I’d love to hear your views on the Govian years. I’m sure I’ve missed some major policies here, but here are the ones that stuck in my mind.

QTS, Inequality and Political Footballs

January 27, 2014 5 comments

This month’s #blogsync, in conjunction with Labour teachers, invites bloggers to write an open letter to Tristram Hunt, the shadow secretary of state for Education. Here is mine:

Dear Mr Hunt,

Welcome to your new role, I think that this invite is a novel and brilliant idea and hope more politicians look to engage with the electorate in a similar manner.

I would like to raise a few points that I feel should be at the forefront of the debate on education and that I hope you will look into, raise in the house if appropriate and even include in your next manifesto if you are inclined.

Qualified teacher status

I think that the current administrations decision to remove the requirement of QTS is terrifying, damaging and dangerous. It removes the professional status of teachers and really does make a mockery of the whole thing. I fully believe that all teachers should have, or be working towards, QTS, or some equivalent and I hope that you do too. Having a qualification guarantees an adequate subject and pedagogical knowledge which enables teachers to ensure that all pupils get the best education possible. Overlooking it at best, I.e. for the top academics, might mean you have extremely brilliant historians standing in front of classes unable to impart any knowledge at all. At worst it might mean unscrupulous heads employing people with neither subject knowledge nor teaching skill to cut costs.

Inequality

I stand fully against inequality anywhere, but especially in education. My ideal world would see an end to any inequality. I would bring control of all schools back into the public sector. Removing private education and faith schools entirely is, in my opinion, the only way to create a truly integrated society where everyone has the same opportunities. I think private schools create an elitist culture and increase the gap between rich and poor.

People like James Keir Hardie fought for free and equal education for all, and this is currently under threat. The recent talk of charging the wealthy for state education is dangerous, and risks the reversal of the long fight to make education universal, and not just the property of the upper classes. The wealthiest would surely, if forced to pay, opt for the smaller class sizes and better facilities offered by the private sector, leaving the pupils coming from poorer backgrounds to make the best of a state education being run on a shoestring.

Political football

I think that too often education has become a political football. Governments use it to stamp their authority and this can be very damaging for the pupils. I hope that in the future more safeguards could be put in place to prevent this, and to ensure that the future of the young people of Britain is at the forefront. I would like to see teachers more involved in policy making and perhaps a reduction in the power of the Department of Education. Although I would be terrified if the control were to move entirely out of government control as we would no longer be in a full democracy. I have read about a Scandinavian country (I think it was Denmark) where the secretary of state had two advisers with him constantly, both of who were front line practitioners, and this struck me as an excellent idea.

Those are the three main issues I have at the moment.

Thanks

Stephen

Further Reading

You can read all this month’s #blogsync entries here.

I have written previous about the issues of inequality and education as a political football.

Victoria Coren Mitchell has written this eloquent piece on the state school fees issue.

Chris Hildrew has also written on the inequality issue here.

Tom Sherrington has written this excellent piece on the QTS debate.

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