As you might expect, Angela Rayner’s speech to the Labour Party Conference was strong on rhetoric, but short on real substance.
Take the following extract:
Our National Education Service will not only reverse the cuts but tackle the inefficiency of the Tories’ school system and take power from corporations and hand it to communities.
Might there be just the hint of an ambiguity there? What will be national and what will be returned to communities?
A promise of a national supply agency to extend the Conservative’s National Vacancy Service that is already competing with the market.
For local authorities, … we will allow them to build schools, create new places and take back control of admissions from academy trusts. But, nothing there about funds for local inspection and advice services and local coordination of teacher training places to ensure sufficient supply. Presumably, that will remain a national function not delegated to local authorities.
Then there is a bit of a muddle
So we’ll allow academies to return to local authority control. We’ll end the scandal of individuals and companies profiting from schools they are involved in, stopping fat cat pay for bosses and restoring fair pay for staff.
And we will use our time in government to bring all publicly funded schools back into the mainstream public sector, with a common rulebook and under local democratic control.
Will Labour create a fully locally governed system of schooling and at what level of government? Why create new cooperative schools, except that it sounds good, when a reshaping of the system with just two classes of state funded schools; maintained and voluntary. The latter being able to form groups of schools, along the model of diocesan schools. What happens to control of post-16 further education. Will colleges remain under national control or be integrated into a more local framework?
Missing was anything about the future of selective schools. Will Labour plan to reform them if it came to power?
Curiously, given the fact that Labour want to offer seats on the board to workers, there was no pledge to ensure staff could sit on governing bodies and no suggestion of how local policy development would need to involve governors, teachers and voluntary school operators. Is the old Education Committee model the way forward, or does Labour have any fresh ideas for local governance of education? Not yet clear, at least from this speech. Presumably, a work in progress?
Where does Labour stand on the curriculum, on testing and on inspection? Or aren’t these important enough matters to highlight in a speech aimed at applause rather than a blueprint for the future.
Missing also was any reference to how education will need to help young people face a world that will be very different from that of today. I know how important structures are, but I want an Education Secretary that can deal with those issues in a paragraph at the start of a speech and then provide a vision for the future that is more than a return to a ‘national service locally administered’ that is what yesterday’s speech seemed to promise.
(For readers that don’t know, it is right that I declare an interest as a Liberal Democrat Councillor on Oxfordshire County Council with the spokesperson role for education.)