Even in a coalition Ministers are Party politicians

The good news from David Laws at the ATL Conference this week was that the Lib Dems back the need for qualified teachers in all state funded schools, unlike their Tory coalition partners. How far they are prepared to support the principle as a Party, as opposed to a Conference where delegates voted for a wide-ranging motion on the subject in the spring of 2103, only the Manifesto will reveal, but it would be helpful to see a return to at least the 2005 position of the need for appropriate preparation to teach that included subject knowledge plus pedagogy for all teachers, with a more restricted permanent licence to teach than the present un-restricted QTS that in practice is little different to sanctioning the use of under-qualified if not un-qualified teachers without letting on to parents what is allowed.

Now it is becoming more of a challenge to recruit new entrants into the teaching profession, it does seem sensible to keep track of what is actually happening post-training. We won’t achieve a world-class schooling system by letting some schools return to a position where they have insufficient trained staff. Personally, I hope that someone somewhere at either the DfE or the National College is asking the unthinkable questions about supply, and how the newly diversified system would respond to a severe shortage. One scenario that has already arisen in Oxfordshire is that of academies with spare capacity refusing to take local children, and putting the local authority in the position of having to find other places for them, even if that means paying for unnecessary transport. If schools felt they might not recruit staff, as academies they might trim their admission numbers even though it caused extra expenditure for others.

David Laws also told the ATL Conference he wanted stability in the system after the next general election. Personally, I want predictability ahead of stability. Michael Gove is increasingly looking like his Labour predecessors of the 1960s who wanted a universal comprehensive system for all, but failed to impose their will on local authorities, leaving a legacy of secondary education that was little more than a geographical lottery when it came to the type of school system. There was some explanation then for the reticence of the Labour government in that schooling was seen more as a local responsibility. There is no such excuse in the new nationalised world of schooling in the Labour/coalition era of the last decade. At least make all secondary schools academies, so that parents know the rules they will play by, even if the rules are set in Westminster. A failure to take this action will leave a legacy of school organisation that is different across the country, and also with local government still struggling to know its role in education. The position of the primary sector is more complicated, and there is a need for the faith communities to engage more in the debate since they manage a significant proportion of primary schools, especially in the rural areas. Are they happy to see power transfer to Whitehall from the local town or county hall?

Sufficient teachers, of the right type and quality in a school system that is sound in organisation seems like a good recipe for moving the education system forward, especially if some of the more idiotic curriculum changes are also addressed.


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