In an exclusive story Schools Week revealed that a “key report from the body which recommends teachers’ pay will not be published until after the EU referendum, despite having been sent to government almost a month ago.” What a great excuse for a bit of speculation; has the one percent ceiling for teacher pay been breached or is the report damning about teacher supply? Fat chance of the first; it’s the latter for me.
In a political sense purdah is the pre-election period; civil servants, local or central government refrain from making announcements about new or controversial initiatives. It’s a way of ensuring fairness for candidates and political parties; none are either advantaged or disadvantaged by some major announcement. It also affords politicians the time to focus on the forthcoming election. The latest purdah began on Friday; it’s the second political purdah of the year.
“The timetable for the new funding formula was already very tight and this delay is the straw that breaks the camel’s back. We have argued vigorously that the new formula should not be about creating winners and losers. However, we are likely to end up in that situation and it is absolutely imperative that if this does happen, the ‘losers’ should at least have enough time to prepare for these very difficult changes.”
Implementation of the proposed fairer funding, with insufficient funds for all, needs to be phased over a much longer time period. This is about people’s jobs and the impact of losing it is massive on their lives and their families; Its impact on pupils shouldn’t be underestimated either. This from the perspective of a leader whose schools are likely to benefit significantly from fairer funding; we can wait a year or two longer. This also as a leader who can empathise with colleagues trying to manage significant down turns in budgets. Time allows for natural wastage; a horrible term but essentially means if someone resigns or retires s/he is not replaced. The savings help create the balancing of the budget.
Purdah possibly accounts for the missing Working Group Reports too; Year 7 resits disappearing from the DfE timeline, 90% EBacc for all – has someone listened to the concerns or is it time for a bit of maverick behaviour – plus waiting endlessly for the final GCSE & A-level specifications to be produced. There may also be no new decisions on academies, sponsors or Trusts prior to the European In/Out Election.
Purdah creates a huge delay in taking forward policy changes and consultations; an inconvenient black hole in which a whole series of things disappear. If the date of implementation isn’t changed it creates another manic deadline for school leaders and teachers to meet. Too much ill thought through policy change in terms of the practical implication; everything requires implementing overnight. Cue more teachers and leaders working through the summer to get things sorted.
I’m experiencing my own little purdah at the moment; we have two policies out to consultation. The Teaching, Assessment & Learning one seems to pretty much have total agreement. This may be partially because it is a summary of many things we are already doing. The Professional Development & Appraisal one has got one of the biggest and best responses to any policy we have consulted on. Summary is: great idea, concept looks spot on, but practical implementation looking a bit of a mare. I’ll wait until all the responses are in but the collective wisdom of staff seems to be think again; probably means it is time to think again not plough on regardless.
Sadly, I don’t sense that the current purdah is going to be used wisely by politician and civil servants at the Department for Education to stand back and have a good hard luck at policy direction and its negative impact on the most important part of the education system; teachers in class rooms working with children and young people. We’ll miss them when they are gone and we don’t have enough of them as it is.