The speech by Education Secretary Nicky Morgan to the NASUWT conference had a ‘relatively polite reception’, Schools Week writes. But a few jeers were heard and laughter erupted when Morgan urged unions to ‘step up’ and help the Government with its education policies.
Morgan trotted out the same tired data:
She described points of supposed agreement. She hoped delegates would ‘agree we should strengthen the teaching profession by supporting it to become vibrantly diverse.’ I’m unsure what ‘vibrantly diverse’ means. Is it diversity which oscillates rapidly? Quite possibly, if measured by teacher turnover. And the proposal to dumb-down teacher training so teachers can be accredited by a single head after a few months is not the way towards strengthening the teaching profession.
‘None of us can – or should want to – deny that the education system is in much better shape than it was 5 years ago,’ she claimed. Except it isn’t. Teachers are punch drunk with changes: exam reform introduced too quickly; confusion with Key Stage 2 tests; creative subjects being squeezed out; the need for extra school places poorly addressed; teacher recruitment in chaos; millions upon millions wasted on changing school structures resulting in a fragmented education system.
Morgan wanted to debunk myths. While marking, planning and data collection were vital, they had ‘become an end in of themselves’. That’s true – particularly inputting numbers. But it’s a blunt tool like RaiseOnline which screams for data not just school leaders who, in case Morgan's forgotten, have to provide data to governing bodies so they can hold schools accountable for results. And the reason ‘lesson plans are reinvented every year’ isn’t ‘because school leaders think that’s what they should ask for’. It’s because curricula, exam syllabuses, test specifications and assessment criteria keep changing. This is worsened by the Government requiring more of schools: extend school time, engage with Prevent, promote British Values, teach ‘character’ (that’s ‘grit’ and ‘resilience’ enlivened by a dose of military discipline).
Just in case there’s any doubt where English education is headed, Morgan made it clear. The proposed Ofsted reforms will ‘focus on outcomes and pupil achievement.’ That means test results – nothing more. The excessive emphasis on exam results in England which the OECD warned about nearly five years ago has now become the sole focus of education. So why bother with Ofsted? Just judge schools by looking at a spreadsheet.