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Advising the Secretary of State for Education

Being totally honest I’ve not been sat by my phone waiting for a call nor do I think Nicky Morgan MP has been scrambling around desperately trying to find my number for a quick chat and bit of advice.

I had imagined, like most people, we would still be in the complex throws of forming a coalition government with all kinds of permutations still possible.

Shades of 1992 & 1997

My rather shallow analysis of the election is that Labour went left, the Tories went right and the Liberal Democrats went … well, nowhere.  The centre ground, occupied by legions of undecided voters, was unoccupied and uncertain voters were left with no obvious party to go to.  An unwillingness or inability of Labour to address fears around effectively managing the economy, no meta-narrative for what the country should be and an increasingly “pumped up” David Cameron, playing to the strong Tory suit of the economy, brought the Conservative Party safely home with a little help from UKIP.  It had shades of 1992 all over it.

Photo Credit: Henry Burrows via Flickr cc

Photo Credit: Henry Burrows via Flickr cc

We’ve lived through difficult educational times before and survived them.   I’ve no doubt we will again.  The last time there was a majority Conservative Government I ended up supporting the children’s primary school by marching up and down the main street, with one in the buggy and one holding onto each handle, chanting about cuts to school budgets.  You can only do so much with not enough.  Then came the 1997 election.  All political parties should take note.

24 Hours to Save Schools

Thank you to everyone who contributed to the 1000+ votes recorded on the poll.  You’re views are represented below:

Final Vote

All the issues gathered a level of support but the unfairness of changes to GCSE grading, the administrative burden of identifying children eligible for Pupil Premium Funding, Performance Related Pay and short inspections for all topped the poll.  I hadn’t built in any mechanism for reliability testing and after recent events maybe I should have.

In devising a pre-election set of #QuickWins for the incoming Secretary of State I hadn’t accounted for the possibility of a single party majority in the House of Commons.  With many of the changes suggested above the product of the previous Conservative-led coalition it is easy to think that none of them will be given the consideration they deserve.  My glass is always full approach to life sees possibilities. 


Source Unknown: Can you help with attribution


Signalling a New Relationship with the Profession

As a new leader or Secretary of State for Education you sometimes need a few #QuickWins to gather people and momentum around a new way of working.  I believe Nicky Morgan MP could implement all the above without essentially changing direction.  It would be a very powerful statement to the profession about a different relationship, a different way of working together

Continuing a negative blaming narrative, centrally imposing unpopular policies and seeking constant change by dictat has been the education politics of the last few decades.  It would be refreshing to work with a Secretary of State who sought to build a positive relationship with the profession, removed far more than she tried to implement and blended a trusting, challenging and supportive narrative and way of workingIt would be a most radical departure from the status quo.  Equally she may not want to be remembered as the Secretary of State for Education who merely implemented someone else’s ideas.

Sacking primary school headteacher’s whose pupils can’t recite their times tables, retesting children in Year 7, making the E-Bacc compulsory are part of election rhetoric.  Where are we going to find a whole shed load of new primary headteachers and English, Maths, Science, History, Geography and MFL teachers?  What are the mechanics of retesting and what to do if the children still don’t pass?  These are trifling incidentals in the heat of an election battle.  The Conservative Party won a majority, even they hadn’t dare dream of, and we’re left with a rather incoherent set of ideas.  The Tories weren’t alone in presenting a series of bullet points for education that didn’t really add up to very much.  We need a new vision and way of working if we are to avoid the perfect storm predicted for the next five years in the SSAT’s Vision 2040.

Acknowledgement:  SSAT Redesigning Schools - A vision for education beyond five year policy cycles (April 2015)

Acknowledgement: SSAT Redesigning Schools – A vision for education beyond five year policy cycles (April 2015)

Click the image to read more about #Vis2040

I’m already looking forward to the 2020 election as the next five years will be fascinating.  Can the Liberal Democrats rebuild trust with a very sceptical electorate?  Has UKIP peaked and will they go backwards or forwards from their current position?  Same goes for the SNP in Scotland?  Can the Labour Party leave the Blair/Brown days behind yet learn the lessons of their 1997 election success – going left strengthens their core vote but winning an election requires them to sit firmly on centre left ground?  They also need to select a leader the country sees as a future prime minister not the one they feel most comfortable with.  Can the Conservative Party produce a more compassionate approach alongside their aspirational tendencies that will speak to the centre ground?  Part of this is understanding that public services are different from the private sector and a different approach is required to work with us.  At the same time this new government has massive constitutional issues around the union and Europe to resolve with a small majority in parliamentary terms, I wish them well.  We live in interesting times which chime so loudly with 1992-1997.

Vision, trust, inclusivity, compassion

A sense of purpose and trust, self-determination and service, inclusivity and responsibility, compassion and aspiration are not mutually exclusive.  These must be the basis of our education system and any political system that wants longevity and public support.

Before all this I am left with the legacy of implementing incoherent curriculum and assessment reforms that will drive teachers insane, cut about one million pounds from the budget, over the next five years, and manage a teacher supply shortage which may soon reach epidemic proportions.  However, these are shadows of what may be not necessarily what will be.  I’m one of life’s eternal optimists.

Please click me to share this post.  Stay Positive.

Please click me to share this post. Stay Positive.



3 thoughts on “Advising the Secretary of State for Education

  1. Brilliant!

    Posted by Tom Sherrington | May 10, 2015, 8:00 pm


  1. Pingback: ORRsome blogposts May 2015 | high heels and high notes - May 31, 2015

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