Owning what is ours

Last week I was sent a copy of this manifesto for education produced by the NAHT in July. It contains a number of eminently sensible recommendations as might be expected from an association whose general secretary was a management consultant before taking up his present role some years ago. Indeed, a longer time ago than I care to remember, we were both part of the same team on a leadership project.

There are a couple of things that I would add to the manifesto. Firstly, what works in the secondary sector might not work in the primary sector; and secondly, there is a crying need to sort out the 16-18 sector including deciding where it belongs: with the skills or the education department of government?

I would also put more emphasis on the need to sort out the control mechanisms while recognising the truth eloquently stated in the manifesto that you cannot really run the detail of education from Whitehall. We do need a Secretary of State that can lift the spirits of the profession and tackle the workload issue if only because the boom in pupil numbers is going to require future Ministers to put recruitment at the top of their agenda for at least the next decade if we are going to maximise the educational opportunities for all children and continue to create a successful economy. I would have liked to have seen a bit more about the relationship between schools and parents and how we motivate the disaffected and disillusioned not to damage the education of their families by failing to make the most of the opportunities on offer.

All the technical issues; qualified teachers based on an agreed preparation programme regardless of how it is delivered; preparation for headship; a Royal College; the re-introduction of a proper professional development programme based upon the needs of both the teachers’ current school and their own career development; local authorities as the admissions appeal body for all publicly funded schools and with the central role in planning pupil places and commissioning both the expansion of existing schools and new schools where necessary all seem sensible policies to me both as a Lib Dem politician and a councillor.

If the NAHT wants a national funding formula then it must ask its members why they so many of them are not spending the money that they already receive. Using some of the reserves to find ways to cut workloads would be a sensible approach to a problem that is now generally acknowledged to be something that needs tackling. I was told yesterday of an experienced teacher whose sleep patterns are disturbed by being unable to switch off from thinking of the workload and I am sure that she is not alone.

The four core priorities of the manifesto; returning the focus and pride to teaching; refining accountability; rebuilding relationships; and strengthening the bonds between schools suggest education as a common purpose rather than a battleground between warring factions. Indeed, it may be that a study of the OECD reports, rather than just a quick look at the numbers, would reveal how important these qualities are for successful systems.

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