Back to the Future

We will soon be able to sit down with copies of manifestos and compare and contrast the education policies of each. We already have some of the information but you can be sure that the ‘detail’ that appears in the documents will enable a better contrast between the various offerings.

At this point we are sure to hear loads of criticism from all directions of what actually makes it into print. Lots of “why would I vote for you if I’m going to get their policies”. Now I can understand the frustrations of seeing things change that you would prefer not to change. Just read some of the foregoing posts to see some of mine. But the nature of a democratic system is that things sometimes change in ways you disagree with. Some of those changes will be for the good, some will make no discernible difference and some will be so egregious that they would have to be rolled back as soon as possible.

And that’s where we get to the issue I want to talk about. Sometimes, it’s harder to change something back than it was to have made the change in the first place. This is often particularly true of those things you feel are particularly problematic. A good example of this are academies.

Firstly, let me declare an interest. I’m a governor at a converter academy. And when I taught it was in a grant maintained school. I’m not a huge fan of LA control of schools. I’ve never really felt it added much. Local accountability? In my experience in practice much of this is theoretical. So thats where I come from on the issue of academies.

So when I say that I don’t believe there is any (aggregate) benefit to the education system to devote the immense resources that would be required to convert all the existing academies back to LA control you need to see it through that lens. I do, however, happen to believe that is true. I would much rather the necessary time and effort was spent to ensure that the more outrageous failings of a minority of academies was addressed. I would look to see what limits were required to be put on the size and structure of MATs, I would ensure that there was a better test in place to ensure that Academy Trusts were  run by people who were fit and proper for the purpose. I would introduce a statutory national register of governors. In short, I would finish the job, but to my standards, my ideals and my principles.

I think it is necessary to look at where we are now and assess what is the best place to go from here, rather than trying to get back to where we were before trying to move forward. With this in mind I would suggest that the following are all things that some would like to happen, but applying my test above, won’t and possibly shouldn’t:

  • All academies should be returned to LA control.
  • All free schools should be closed/returned to LA control
  • Ofsted should be abolished
  • All teacher training should be returned to HE
  • Teach First should be abolished
  • Exams should be modular
  • Re-sit exams should count in accountability measures
  • Reintroduce national pay scales and progression

I’m sure you can think of others. All of these things have positives and negatives. Many of the negatives are related to the often poor way in which the ideas have been implemented, which occurred because they were done, in large part, working against the profession (and the clock), rather than seeking out a way of working with it. It would be the wrong approach to continue working in this way, whoever wins the election.

So when I look at the manifestos it will be to see which one does the best job of taking us from where we are to where we need to be and not which one does the best job of taking us back to where we were.

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