Death has been a looming presence in education during the past year. From the single death of a teacher in a Leeds classroom to the remembrance of the multitude of deaths in the conflict that started 100 years ago; the Great War; the War to end all wars; the First World War: a conflict with many names and millions of deaths.
All deaths are a tragedy, especially unnecessary deaths from the actions of others. And while we recall these deaths, there have been the others such as those resulting from the Ebola outbreak in West Africa and for many other reasons that have passed into memory for all but the family and friends of those who died.
Among those that influenced my career, I celebrate the life and work of Professor Halsey who died in 2014. Although he was a socialist, and I am a Liberal, his work had a powerful influence on many in my generation of educators. I would hope that his view of equality would have espoused the Pupil Premium as a link to the doctrine of ‘to each according to its need’ even if the ‘from each according to their ability to pay’ still seem some way from achievement. However, the universal free school meals for reception and infant pupils introduced in September recognised that sometimes the policy of a universal benefit is better than attempting to define where to draw a line on resource allocation.
The change of Secretary of State from the ideological Michael Gove to his less determined successor slowed the pace of reform, including some rowing back on the timing of parts of the examination reforms, although not yet a recognition of the role of AS levels in the post-16 world of achievements. A rebuke from the head of the government statistical service just before Christmas suggests a Secretary of State that might not yet have the depth of knowledge to challenge the rightward drift of Conservative thinking. It would be a tragedy of the first order if, in a mis-guided moment, grammar schools were allowed to expand; for where one creates a breech others will surely follow.
However, the big news story of 2014 and sadly for 2015 as well, at least as far as I am concerned, and it has been chronicled on this blog, is the worsening state of teacher supply. A combination of factors has made teaching less attractive to possible entrants to the profession and schools in some parts of the country are already expressing concern about teacher shortages. These will only become worse during the recruiting season for September 2015 that starts in earnest in the new year. I have established www.teachvac.co.uk to monitor what is happening on a daily basis. The site also allows vacancies to be posted for free and for new teachers to receive notification of jobs as they arise.
The main event of the first half of 2015 will almost certainly be the general election. At present, it looks the most unpredictable election since that of 1974; with more Parties than ever, it may become the defining moment as to whether the two-party state is finally replaced by a mutli-party democracy in Britain. That might be one European import it will be difficult to repudiate. Unless it comes with a change in the voting system, it could produce some interesting times in the future. Perhaps a better educated society no longer accepts the notion of political compromises within Parties, but is prepared to look for them between Parties. 2015 will give us some idea.