Welcome Back

So we have the same Secretary of State. Will it be the same Department or will the Prime Minister seek to abolish the Business department and return FE and HE to Education, while sending Children’s Services to Health or somewhere else?

Regardless of any organisational change, there are a number of policy issues to be resolved over the next few years.

As I hinted in my last post, teacher supply and probably training, need urgent ministerial attention. Splitting the teacher training part of the NCTL away from CPD and Leadership might be a smart move, even if in the short-term it means bringing it back in-house in London. At least it would be close to Ministers.

Then there is the future governance of education. The small band of Commissioners aren’t enough to deal with all the issues in both the primary and secondary sectors. So, further reform will be needed here. As many Labour councils won’t embrace the academy programme, primary schools in these areas will grow larger as Councils strive to prevent a loss of control. A firm hand is needed, not least because in those Tory authorities that did embrace the academy agenda and created Trusts over which they have no control, are still left holding the blame when anything goes wrong. I suspect Kent will have something to say on this matter after the arbitrary closure of an academy in the west of the county just before the announcement of the allocation of places to pupils.

If the Conservatives want more UTCs and Studio Schools for 14-18s then they will have to solve the leadership issue. In recent weeks I have had several journalists and researchers contacting me about how bad the leadership crisis is at the present time? Since I gave up that research some time ago I don’t really know, but it seems sensible to ask the question; if we create more schools, do we have enough leaders in waiting? There may be more of an issue in the primary sector where lack of career direction and encouragement, as local authorities saw the cash for this disappear into schools, may have lasting effects until the governance issue is sorted out and a new middle-tier can take responsibility for the career development issues schools aren’t interested in.

Pay and conditions will remain a concern, as the Liberal Democrats were prepared to recognise during the election campaign. Motivating the workforce may also be a major concern for the Secretary of State in the coming months; here a good appointment of Schools Minister will be vital as someone the profession can work with on a day to day basis.

Regardless of whether the Department is re-structured, Ofsted will need reform. If there are no advisory services to do the positive things in changing schools a totally negative inspection regime, or even one that looks that way, risks not only resentment but also loss of authority if the profession refuses to take it seriously.

Then there is the issue of selective schools.  The Secretary of State will need to make it clear whether she agrees with selection at eleven or whether she considers that is an idea that has passed its sell-by date now everyone stays-on to eighteen. At the same time she will need to make clear where she draws the line with regard to the profit motive? Can schools now be run for profit; if so, should she signal that she expects the fee-paying schools to all be run for profit and to abandon their charitable status. It would, seemingly be odd to have three classes of schools; for profit state funded schools; non-for profit state funded schools; state supported charitable institutions that can also charge fees for the education component of their work.

Now that apprenticeships are firmly back on the agenda, there are issues to resolve in the curriculum and in examinations. The arts, so long a success story of education in England, are being squeezed out along with sport if trends in advertised vacancies mean anything. Other subjects will disappear if teachers cannot be recruited. What is the future for CGSE now all will be in education or work related training until eighteen? Was Labour prescient in suggesting GCSEs might become unnecessary in the future?

There is much to do with early years as well, especially around those families that don’t see the value of education. That they are holding back the life chances of many of their children is accepted by many of us, but needs to be better communicated. This should be something politicians of all parties can agree upon. Then there are groups such as Travellers that all too often fall below the radar of politicians, but deserve better from society. The same is true for other groups whether young carers, those with SEN not severe enough to be really appreciated and those on the wrong side of the digital divide. Hopefully, the next five years will still be a time when government recognises their need for improved education.

But, my main message remains that, if we cannot recruit enough teachers, then we cannot create a world-class education system.

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