The 'Politics in Education' Summit Calls to Action Summary

Leah K Stewart's picture

Firstly, thank you to Janet for her prompt reviews of the Politics in Education Summit. See part one here: and part two here. As soon as the 90 page transcripts came out (they took nearly a week to be produced) I was on them to create the event summaries that would be sent with the transcripts to attendees, education policy makers and influencers. The transcripts are densely packed with some incredible insights. It was a labour of love to condense them into something accessible in terms of length, while keeping the original meanings and tones of the speakers and delegates. What I came up with was the best I could do in the time available and can all be found on this page. Here I'd like to share with the LSN the 1-page summary that I eventually created to capture, in as small a space as possible, the essence of this event... POLITICS IN EDUCATION SUMMIT CALLS TO ACTION To ask what education is for is to ask what society is for. This became the powerful, perceptive message of the Politics in Education Summit. Among repeated calls to lift education out of political cycles were carefully constructed proposals for the best role the UK government could play and what we could do, as citizens and influencers, to contribute in partnership towards current and future developments of our state education system; the cornerstone of any hopeful, purposeful society. The importance of stability was a recurring theme in the presentations and panel debates. The creation of a Chief Education Officer, in line with other Government positions such as the Chief Medical Officer, was discussed as a fair way to bring back a professional voice to the Department of Education, lost in 1992 with the creation of Ofsted. The role of Ofsted was discussed little, except to acknowledge how contested its existence currently is and to suggest it becomes an organisation to confirm a school’s base standard as acceptable or not, rather than continuing as connoisseurs of education. We explored the moral responsibility of any democratic government, as the only body answerable to every person in the state, to uphold the right of all citizens to access the concepts and subjects they are entitled to. Our Government, across several parties, stepped up to this role by developing the provision of Special Education (SEN) beginning with the 1978 Warnock Report to the recently founded ‘Achievement for All’ charity. This work was presented as a case study of the thinking and strategy required to bring about cross party, embedded reform. Technological advances have exposed our lack of structures for mobilising existing research knowledge. This was called out as, arguably, our most significant limiter to informed system improvement right now. The Education Endowment Foundation and grass-roots movements such as ResearchED were held up as good models on which to develop an Education Evidence Centre, independent of both Government and the teaching profession. In contrast, the College of Teaching will be dependent on the teaching profession and aims to introduce a new standard, normal across hundreds of other professions; the Chartered status. Alongside thoughtful debates, this Summit revealed an uncomfortable truth about the wider state of state education. Deep questions of worthiness, frustrations around representation, fear to speak and apathy for all the good it might do are running through our system. What are the consequences to this debate, so central to society, when people feel their background or way of expression excludes them, rather than simply signalling hope for an invitation, some patience and empathy in conversation, to partake and learn what’s necessary to become part of this important national discourse? State education is personal, affecting our lives and the lives of those we love. How imaginative can we be in helping each other develop the courage for true expression, to inspire moral dialogue, leading to intellectual reasoning and thoughtful action? Speakers stressed the importance of understanding perspectives of key stakeholders, including the Government and media in order for us to move forward with any coherent vision on education. Interestingly, this recasts our Government as a lever we can learn to understand and use effectively, rather than the provider of a service we critique. Teacher retention and recruitment remains an urgent problem already affecting students. Given the big picture context and space provided by the Politics in Education Summit, this urgent problem was diagnosed as a symptom of underlying problems we’ve neglected, while short-term policies swept the system. Longer term thinking, longer term goals and longer term policies are the recommended treatment now. #PoliticsInEducation

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Guest's picture
Tue, 08/12/2015 - 18:24

Leah - I'm not on twitter and having left FB several years ago, have no desire to change either decision. Perhaps if I had an email for you ... :-)

Roger Titcombe's picture
Sun, 06/12/2015 - 11:13

Absolutely right Leah, well said and well done.

Guest's picture
Sun, 06/12/2015 - 19:57

While I wholeheartedly support creating a situation wherein both HMCI and Ofsted are actually totally independent - including the ability to take opposing views to the SoS Educ and DFE - I do not agree that an equivalent of the CMO role either necessary or appropriate.

I say this because a comparison of the CMO job description with that of HMCI highlights that the former has less power and influence than the latter:

One is directly answerable to parliament and the other - CMO - does not appear to be.

The thrust of my comments on "Has HMCI ... revealed a personal and professional alignment ...", that neither HMCI nor Ofsted are doing what they say on their tins (i.e. website statements do not match actions) come to the fore here. There is no need for a radical restructuring but rather for HMCI to fully commit to his stated role and responsibility irrespective of pressure from those around them. SMW has shown he can do this in the past when disagreeing with Gove but seems to have lost the edge and lacks mettle to continue to the end of his tenure.

All it takes is for the new HMCI to stand their ground within the job description.

What is crucial is radical - almost revolution in education - move to attack GERM and this is where the latest Education Select Committee can play a significant part in initiating the necessary actions.

Leah K Stewart's picture
Tue, 08/12/2015 - 15:54

Hi Guest (wish I knew your name, your comments are so thoughtfully put- thank you!) ...I've just tweeted John Dunford who brought up the idea of a 'Chief' position in the 3rd Session of the Summit. I've asked him to look at this thread and comment on what you're bringing to the table. I hope he does. You bring up good points and I'd like to know what John would say. Here is the tweet:

Leah K Stewart's picture
Tue, 08/12/2015 - 19:11

Oh yes, no worries. I'm hoping John will comment in this thread - in which case you'll get an email with his comment. If he writes in twitter I planned to post his reply in here to keep it in the thread- so you'd get notice then too. You're also welcome to message me directly form my contact page: and I'll email back.

Barry Wise's picture
Mon, 07/12/2015 - 09:26

What are the consequences to this debate, so central to society, when people feel their background or way of expression excludes them, rather than simply signalling hope for an invitation, some patience and empathy in conversation, to partake and learn what’s necessary to become part of this important national discourse?

I must say I felt rather excluded from the Politics in Education Summit by the £300+ per ticket price tag.

Guest's picture
Mon, 07/12/2015 - 10:56

Barry - Agreed. Added to this is yet another London-centric event, which for many of us who are not in the SE lifts the costs closer to £400 with travel and £500 with accommodation.

Leah K Stewart's picture
Tue, 08/12/2015 - 16:30

Please go to education conferences! Or conferences in whatever field you care about. They are so important for learning and connecting and are everywhere ranging in ticket from price from 'free' to £X00's. Festival of Education was great last year and early bird 2-day pass are now available till December 31st for £100, ResearchED events are super - the last one I was at cost £10 and was in Swindon. Comprehensive Futures was last month, £10. Northern Rocks as Janet says, Leeds and £30. WomenED £25/day. Most tickets are sold via Eventbrite now, so if you click on this link - - you'll see education events in the UK and can narrow your search based on date/rice etc. Hope this helps.

Politics in Education is one of many, many things happening. In order to have the edgy impact this has had (like the Select Committee opening an enquiry into the 'Purpose' of education, for example) the venue, speakers, and equipment for transcript recording all needed to be top quality. Plus, the establishment weren't exactly climbing over themselves to sponsor or promote an event so blatantly questioning the status quo.

However, if you want to know every word that was said -at your own convenience and comfort- the transcripts for this event can be purchased here for a measly £25 (we've ditched the £99 price tag that usually comes with materials like these). If £25 is too much please explore the summaries I've created through a full week of intensely studying the original 90-transcripts. My summaries are all available for free on that page.

At the start of the final session I got on the stage (because I asked) and said this: "We all hope, and I really hope that the conversations that have started here don’t end here, but that we each go and we invite other people in to this big dialogue and to share all the ideas that are *really* up for debate, so that this continues." and I mean that.

Janet Downs's picture
Mon, 07/12/2015 - 11:11

Guest and Barry - a far less expensive option not focused on London is Northern Rocks, Saturday 11 June 2016 in Leeds, cost £30.

Guest's picture
Mon, 07/12/2015 - 11:22

Janet - Thank you I was not aware of this conference. Just a shame it is solely about pedagogy and lacks the edgy debate relating to politics in education.

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