With a snap General Election announced the political parties will be hurriedly preparing their manifestos and thinking up key sound bites to woo the electorate. Most recent manifesto pledges have left me somewhere between despair and anger. As such I thought I’d get in early and propose a few for consideration.
Pledge/Sound Bite 1: We Will Fully Fund the £3 Billion Gap in School Budgets
It’s been interesting to watch politicians getting confused with school budgets of late. “We are spending more on schools that ever before”; true but only because we need to pay for the education of another one million pupils between now and 2025. Talk of a lack of funding is often met with claims that everything will be sorted with the new National Funding Formula. The proposed National Funding Formula will simply shuffle around the inadequate funding created by a cash flat amount per pupil but hugely increased costs of employing people.
Fairer funding comes second to sufficient funding; let’s hope the political parties address this issue. Interestingly it’s been on a lot more Members of Parliaments’ agenda of late. The election may have come at an opportune time.
Pledge/Sound Bite 2: We Will Ensure there is a Great Teacher in Front of Every Child
If politicians are not prepared to rethink England’s pernicious cliff edged accountability system; workload and the problems we have with retention and recruitment will never be solved. Looking at a multi-year contextualised school effectiveness measures and rethinking assessments in primary schools are a start but this is about fundamental cultural change. Ofsted’s role needs to be significantly diminished, with respect to the majority of schools, but that doesn’t make for a great sound bite; talk of a great teacher in every class room does.
More proportionate accountability is a start to addressing our woeful retention of teachers. School leaders will then need to respond at a school policy level and the potential for workload reduction becomes real, attainable and sustainable.
Second part of this is establishing a National Teaching Force; minimum three years of class room teaching required so you can evidence your impact and a significantly enhanced salary. You must be prepared to teach in a challenging school/significantly disadvantaged area as directed; generous relocation packages available. The biggest attainment challenge facing the education system is that of our most disadvantaged pupils.
Pledge/Sound Bite 3: Our Teachers Need Great Training & Development
Reducing workload in this way opens up the time for effective professional development using evidence, data and experience based practice that is shared and developed widely. Time and to a lesser extent expertise are the key barriers. The former is always the deal breaker so fewer government initiatives, curriculum and examination changes will be paramount.
The current systems for the initial training of teachers are incoherent. We need one clear high quality route into the profession. My preference is for a regional consortium approach with a mandatory curriculum for initial teacher education. The pledge is a fully trained teacher in front of your child; in front of every child.
Pledge/Sound Bite 4: We Have No Daft, Unevidenced, Personal Educational Preferences in Our Manifesto
“Fat chance”, you may say and you will be right. The creation of thousands of new secondary modern schools will be in the Tory manifesto (dressed up as a few more Grammar Schools) and funding a school meal for every child, even those whose family can afford to and already provide them with a nutritious diet will be in Labour’s. The latter isn’t a bad idea (the former most certainly is) but neither is it the best idea or way of spending money.
It will also be interesting to see what is not there: the E-Bacc possibly? A fully academised system? Teaching Schools? Or will these all roll on relentlessly?