On 8th April over a hundred people packed Committee Room 14 at the House of Commons to talk about the kind of education policies they want to see on offer at next year’s election. The meeting was hosted by Kevin Brennan MP (Shadow Schools Minister) who introduced the session.
The keynote speaker was Peter Mortimore, former Director of the Institute of Education and author of “Education under Siege”. He began by saying “we want a new government to challenge the cosy consensus that politicians have more or less got it right and that their ideas, right-wing, ideological, neo-liberal ideas are the only show in town”. He went on to present a challenging analysis of the strengths and weaknesses of English education and some radical proposals for change (see the reference to his presentation below). His challenge to the politicians was “that political parties seem to lack the courage to really challenge many of these big ideas. They're doing their best but they seem to lack the courage to go the full hog and really challenge and say:
“This is not the way that we want our society to develop. This is not the way that we want our education system to serve it.
Everyone present was then invited to identify their personal priorities for education policy after 2015. A lot of people made verbal contributions and everyone left a written summary of what they wanted to see happen. The result was a remarkably consistent set of messages which were brought together at the end of the conference by Kenny Frederick, former Headteacher of George Green’s School in East London.
What people were saying can be summarised like this:
1.The National Curriculum should be what it says – a curriculum for all children in all English schools.
It should be an entitlement, as originally promised, broadly based, balanced and with clear room for creative and imaginative subjects and personal, social, health and relationship education.
2.Inclusion and equal opportunities need to be at the heart of education provision.
This is about SEN and disability but it’s also about meeting the needs of all kinds of children.
3.A fair admissions code should operate for all schools
in a geographical area and should be implemented by a locally elected education service. No school should be its own admissions authority.
4.All schools should have the same responsibilities and powers
and receive funding according to a common formula that enables them all to fulfill their responsibilities on an equal basis.
5.All schools within a clearly defined geographical area should co-operate and share best practice
with the support and guidance of a suitably resourced democratically elected local education service
. Educational planning and service delivery that meets the needs of all children resident in an area requires a properly resourced service locally based and with good local knowledge. Best practice should also be shared between education services.
6.The inspection and monitoring of English education must become supportive
and be capable of focusing on school improvement when necessary. Standards should be agreed through a national consultation process and inspectors should be trained to help schools attain them.
7.All front line staff in children’s education should have qualified professional status.
Continuing professional development should be an entitlement for all staff and those currently without qualified status should be given appropriate training to obtain it.
These then are the issues we want to see at the heart of the 2015 election campaign. All the evidence is that current government policies have little public (see the ICM poll in the Guardian
this week) or professional support. We hope there will indeed be politicians brave enough to challenge the “cosy consensus” and to develop an agenda for a truly democratic, inclusive and high quality education service.
There is a sound recording of the meeting together with Peter Mortimore’s presentation here.
The meeting was organised by the Reclaiming Education Alliance which is made up of the Socialist Educational Association, the Campaign for State Education, Comprehensive Future and Information for School and College Governors