New Thinking from Labour at last

Roger Titcombe's picture
The Labour pressure group 'Compass' has published its ideas about education.

You can find their report here.

It's pretty good. Here is a sample.

Learn the right things in the best way

• Introduce a developmental approach for early years – from birth onwards – focusing on uniqueness, play, exploratory learning and wellbeing.
• Rebalance national and local funding to prioritise early years and family support to give every child the best possible start in life.
• Introduce a new broad and balanced natural curriculum framework that is creative, but has space for local innovation and professional judgement.
• Introduce a new evidence-driven national council for curricula, qualifications and pedagogy.
• Develop a unified baccalaureate award at age 18–19.

Make decisions in the right way

• The next government must encourage and resource a national conversation about the purpose and practice of education. This should take place at every level of the country and involve all stakeholders to result in a national education covenant between national and local government, the profession, the business community,
governors, parents and students.
• Commit to a diversity of models of planning, management and oversight with freedom to experiment within broad national parameters set following a national debate about education’s purposes, standards and priorities.
• Devolve power and resources from top to bottom – from central government down to the local community.
• Introduce self-managed education institutions accountable to the public through democratically run
education-specific boards.
• The government will focus on a strategic agenda setting and equity role with no more micro-management of teaching and learning.
• Create an integrated department for education and a single funding agency for a coherent cradle-to-grave lifelong learning service, moving gradually to equitable funding regardless of provider.
• The provision of school places will lie with clusters of local authorities – not school commissioners – operating at a scale that supports strategic decision-making.
• Introduce an obligation on publicly funded providers to contribute actively to the design and delivery of local plans.
• Create a new national education council to bring key stakeholders together and report to Parliament.
• Local authorities will take the lead in developing education area plans – alone or in clusters – and be the champion of standards and equality.
• Create new democratic local education-specific strategic bodies – local education boards – to provide strategic oversight.

This has lots in common with the proposals in my book, 'Learning Matters'.

Tristram Hunt is also moving further in the right direction. See this Guardian article.

There is good stuff here including giving Academies the freedom to opt out of Academy Chains.

I have been arguing for a while of the need to target the Labour Party through LSN and everywhere else that we can. It appears to be working.

Let us keep up the pressure and give credit to the new thinking that is emerging.
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John Mountford's picture
Sun, 22/03/2015 - 20:21

You're right, Roger, so many of these ideas resonate with your own as set out in "Learning Matters". It represents a huge improvement on where we are right now and what seems to be on offer from other parties, but so what?? What if the Labour Party is saying this now? How is it going to make a lasting impact on the future of the National Education system? You know my views on this. We will fail another generation of students if we allow the present system of stop-go, all-change education reform to continue unchecked.

Consider the following:

Will this stance by Labour be supported in five years time by the Labour Party of the day? UNKNOWABLE

Will the government formed in May be re-elected in five years time? UNKNOWABLE

How likely is it, in the event of a hung parliament/coalition government, that it will be possible to reach a consensus with potential partners on any, most, some or few of these proposals? UNKNOWABLE

In the event of Labour holding outright power in May, what will happen to those policies seen by the right as 'wrong' if a Conservative government is formed in five years time? UNKNOWABLE

That's a whole lot of uncertainty in my view. However, that is ALL we can be sure of while we allow the present system of education governance to undermine true democracy.

We have wasted astronomical sums of public money on so many failed reforms to the curriculum that it is almost impossible to keep track. We have seen teachers battered by feckless political meddling (masquerading as education reform) and our young people have been burdened with seemingly endless piecemeal reform to the examination system pushed through against the views of a majority of educationalists (labeled as the Blob by the most devious, opinionated and ruthless Secretary of State for Education the system has ever suffered under)

And we all know this is not set to change without massive pressure to re-think the national governance of education.

All that glitters is not gold. Appearances are deceptive and promises come easy, especially at election time.

As things stand, there is no incentive on the part of any political party to address the single most important barrier to the proper reform of education. The only change that will take us out of the present flawed system with any real chance of making reform count over the longer timescale is to set up a National Education Commission. We can do this or we can delude ourselves that somehow, there is clarity and consensus about the future of education and continue to allow ALL the political parties to have their turn at playing national league education football with the same uncertain outcomes for the stakeholders.

Roger Titcombe's picture
Mon, 23/03/2015 - 11:39

You are right John, but all steps in the right direction need to be recognised and encouraged.

One of the proposals is to set up a, "national council for curricula, qualifications and pedagogy".

That could be another name for 'a National Education Commission.

We do have to remind ourselves that these proposals are from a Labour Party pressure group. They are not Labour Policy for the next General Election. However they also seem to reflect the general direction of thinking. I do think we have the much maligned Ed Miliband to thank for this general direction.

What is clear is that anything but a Miliband - led government after May will shut off all such thinking and development.

Leah K Stewart's picture
Mon, 23/03/2015 - 21:15

Thanks for the article Roger, and the debate here. I'm nodding in agreement with everything; both acknowledging comrades where they appear and knowing that there's deeper issues to resolve. Can't add anything else right now... my mind needs thinking time.

Trevor Fisher's picture
Wed, 25/03/2015 - 09:12

compass is not a Labour Party pressure group, and whatever the ideas, which should be taken on their own merits, Compass gave up on the Labour Party some years ago. It abandoned its stipulation (which the Fabian society and Socialist Educational Association still has - they are both affiliated organisations) that a member has to be eligible for membership of the Labour Party.

Compass decided to open its membership to Greens and other parties, and thus lost its insider role within the party. You cannot have a role within Labour and allow membership of other parties as the rules of the Party clearly states. Whether anyone in Labour listens to Compass is problematical - other pressure groups are ignored and there is little evidence Compass has any standing with the Party - but it is not a Labour Party pressure group.

Any evidence that the front bench listens to any expertise would be welcome. I doubt Compass will have any effect, but we have to keep our fingers crossed. They don't operate on the inside track however. That's no longer the case.

Trevor FIsher.

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