Teacher Supply news from the seaside

The news from Brighton that the policy area of teachers and teacher supply is one of the key issues for Labour’s new Shadow Secretary of State for Education is clearly to be welcomed by this blog. Hopefully, Ms Powell and her advisers will be more adept at keeping the subject in the headlines than her predecessor, one of whose best briefing on teacher shortages appeared on the Monday of a Christmas week when all the press had just gone on holiday. As a result, it was entirely wasted.

Clearly, Ms Powell has also been listening to the teacher associations about retention problems. However, she will need to come up with some data on the matter if she is going to convince the government to take the issue seriously, especially as some schools would probably be shedding teachers next year if costs continue to increase faster than income.

I am not sure what labour’s position is about academies and why they singled out free schools for specific mention? Do they include UTCs and studio schools in the group of schools to be curtailed or are they happy with them?

More importantly, who do they really want to manage the oversight of all state-funded schools? Will they retain the un-elected Regional Commissioners, having now as a Party accepted a role for the Police & Crime Commissioners?

The key issue in education is that of governance and whether schools and education policy is decided locally, regionally or nationally. Place planning and the effective use of resources is at the heart of the matter. If individual schools can dictate how many pupils they can take, then local authorities in rural areas face an open expenditure line on home to school transport that they cannot control. The same is true where schools can exclude pupils without having to take a corresponding number of such pupils from other schools. Allowing all nationally funded schools to set their admission criteria also doesn’t help local planning and the efficient use of taxpayer funds. However, that doesn’t matter if parental choice is more important than providing a good school for every pupil. Do the Labour Party want to channel funds to achieve the best outcomes for the largest number of pupils or do they just want to satisfy just the parents concerned that their offspring can attend an excellent school?

I haven’t heard anything about the curriculum and examinations from Labour, so presumably this is a policy work in progress area. I had hoped to hear that Ms Powell would call for fees to be paid for trainee teachers, but perhaps the new shadow Chancellor isn’t up to allowing spending promises from other colleagues around the shadow cabinet table.

I hope that Labour will support the continuation of universal infant free school meals and the Pupil Premium both of which can help with the vital early years of education where closing the gap can make a real difference as I am sure that Ms Powell knows from her former role in the Party during the last government.

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5 thoughts on “Teacher Supply news from the seaside

  1. Labour will need to tackle the problems caused to LAs by the academies and free schools programme. The Local Gov’t Association warned in 2012 this would make it difficult for LAs to manage school place supply (details here http://www.localschoolsnetwork.org.uk/lsn_faq/what-problems-do-local-authorities-face-when-schools-become-academies/). The LGA has already called for a ban on free schools in areas where there are surplus places.

    The Gov’t has of course ignored these warnings. The New Schools Network, the Gov’t appointed charity which promotes free schools, says free schools should be set up where there aren’t enough ‘good’ places even if there’s unfilled capacity in the area. There’s no guarantee, of course, that a new free school would be ‘good’. What is clear, however, that a new school in an area with already surplus places would threaten the viability of existing schools. And two small secondary schools can’t offer as many subject options as one large one. In this case, two schools don’t increase choice but decrease it.

    • Janet,

      So what do you think Labour’s view on UTCs and Studio Schools should be? Useful addition to the vocational scene or place to send under-performing fourteen year old pupils? As you know, this blog has written about the need for effective governance of the school sector that includes the sensible use of resources in a time of austerity.

      • Technically, UTCs and Studio Schools come under the academies umbrella. Practically, they’re a diversion of resources into 14-19 education which doesn’t seem to attract full quota of students although, as you’ve implied, they could become alternatives to APUs for ‘challenging’ pupils at age 14.

        Studio Schools are often attached to existing schools so, despite their name, are really part of these schools (a particular stream, perhaps?)

        I’m not a fan of segregation or selection at 14. I’d like to see all pupils having a broad, balanced education up to 16 with graduation via multiple routes at 18 as I explain here http://schoolsweek.co.uk/lets-move-towards-graduation-at-18/.

      • Janet,

        Thanks, but let’s not quibble about the niceties of the different types of national schools. The question is whether Labour will retain national schools and what it means for their support for democratically elected local authorities oversight of education in their area.

        John Howson

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