The left needs to rethink. As I have argued here, much current thinking and practice in education can hardly be considered left-wing in the first place. There are certain truths that we need to face whether we like it or not.
- There will be academisation of schools that are special measures or require improvement.
- There will be 500 more free schools.
- There will be some changes to Ofsted.
- Whoever the Secretary of State is there is, for once, an acceptance that workload is far too high, and this is a bad thing. Whatever actions are (or are not as the case maybe) taken this is still an important statement from a Conservative government, who lets face are not known to be bothered by such things. It is something tangible that they can be held to account for. It is our job to hold them to account and let’s think of some solutions here.
- It is not all about the government. If school leaders do not act to improve workload issues, then no amount of legislation or changes to Ofsted are going to matter
- PRP is here to stay. Again the extent to this will be corrupted is down to school leaders, not the government. We need to direct action and anger wisely and discriminately if we are to negotiate these rough waters. However, a cursory glance at teacher vacancies shows that already there is a difference between schools who are considered to be good or outstand and those that aren’t. The schools opting for paying less and who don’t ask for experienced teachers even when this seems like a good idea (i.e. they are not doing well) is there. The effect on poorer children is not one to ignore. I agree there are NQTs that do brilliantly and experienced teachers who do not. However schools that inordinately take on NQTs, who they can’t support well lead to poor outcomes for children and teachers lost to the system.
- The national curriculum is here to stay for state schools, and that is no bad thing. Hopefully, all the detractors who were hoping for a reverse will now get on with the task. Teachers and schools who have lost that fundamental purpose need to think about how their dumbing-down only leads to deprofessionalisation. If you are going to argue that we should spend our time tending to the emotional needs of pupils above their learning then what are you doing to the profession? Yes, emotional development affects learning, but our interventions need to be to support their learning. Anything else requires skilled professionals from other fields. Stop trying to save souls and start asking for more support from mental health professionals, even if the school has to buy into that.
- We need to seek solutions that work from Speech and Language Therapists, Behaviour Specialists, etc. This means schools need to invest in them coming to us and jointly coming up with solutions that work for the classroom and not what may work if we were one-to-one with a challenging child or one with learning difficulties.
Labour needs to distance itself from the fads and the progressive nonsense. The Greens seem happy to step up to promoting pseudoscience so let them. We have always been the party to promote opportunities for all and we need to do so once again. The ‘soft bigotry of low expectations’ is real. Those of us from poorer backgrounds who are now teachers encounter this all the time and struggle precisely because we know we are giving them less than what we had. It is not our role to instigate and reinforce a two-tier system where the poor are treated fundamentally different to their middle and upper-class peers. We need to be the ones to tackle social inequality not embed it. We need to remember and reinforce the moral purpose for having a system of education for all in the first place.