Election manifestos are starting to appear

Right of centre think tank Policy Exchange this week published its education manifesto. Not quite in the league of Kenneth Baker’s call for a coalition with Labour in terms of headline grabbing policies it did however have some surprises. I am delighted that they recognise that charging fees for trainee teachers is wrong. Their solution is slightly more nuanced than mine which regular readers will know is to make training free at delivery. Policy Exchange only want fees paid off for those working in state schools. This presumably means that the private sector will have to pay extra to attract teachers as such teachers would still be required to repay their fees. That’s an interesting idea, but it leaves a third group, including possibly many PE teachers where government training numbers are too high, in limbo. What of the trainee that wants to work as a teacher but cannot find a job: should they be penalised for training if they have to take a job outside of teaching because the government mis-calculated training numbers? For those reasons I am still personally in favour of remitting fees for all trainees.
Policy Exchange also wants to allow city regions to create incentives for teachers to work across the country. This seems like a thinly disguised version of regional pay and I wonder whether it is based on serious research since most of the teacher shortages that don’t affect the sector as a whole are likely to be in and around London where teacher turnover is at its highest. A more radical move would have been to hand the training to regions or even local authorities to administer.
The think tank’s idea that all 16-18 year olds should study maths, but not seemingly English, is a sensible proposal that most would now agree is worth implementing once an acceptable curriculum can be devised.
Earlier this week I attended the launch of the DataLab project funded by the Fischer Family Trust. This initiative should be a useful source of independent research into education using the large databases on pupils and teachers that are now available. Their first projects showing that learning isn’t a linear process but has its ups and downs and their work on pupils that just gain a place at a selective schools and those that just miss out is well worth reading. The fact that those that just miss out on a grammar school place often outperform those who just gain a place must give pause for thought to the lobby wanting to expand selective schools on academic grounds.
Next week is national apprentice week and it is really good to see the focus on those young people not going to university. One of the great failings of the Blair Labour government was to cast aside the Tomlinson Report without really understanding what it was trying to do. Perhaps if there were a Labour/Tory coalition we might see some more progress. But, we might also see a Liberal Democrat as leader of the opposition facing the PM every Wednesday: now there’s a thought to cheer me up.

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