The election campaign has begun in earnest, targeting education as an early battleground, with the Prime Minister “waging an all-out war” on standards and headline-grabbing tough talk from the Education Secretary of simplistic and unrealistic targets, replacing headteachers and forcing schools to become academies.
On the anniversary of Winston Churchill’s death, perhaps the Prime Minister should recall his predecessor’s famous notion about “jaw-jaw” being better than “war-war”, although, as politicial parties recycle old policies and platitudes, most of us will soon weary of the “jaw-jaw” of their sound-bites.
Academies have been promoted by both the previous and current governments as some sort of panacea that can magically transform education. However, as we have said many times, changing the way schools are organised and governed is not a guarantee of success or better education.
The key to the success of a school is the quality of leadership, along with investment and a positive ethos and relationship with local communities.
While there are many excellent academies, a rushed, forced academisation programme can have a negative impact.
The Education Select Committee recently found that there was no clear evidence to show that “academies raise standards overall”, called for more evidence on their impact and challenged the Government to:
“be less defensive and more open about its implementation of the academies programme, producing a range of clearer and deeper information about the performance of academy schools, chains and sponsors. It should also review the lessons of the rapid conversion of secondary schools to inform any future expansion.”
Chair Graham Stuart commented that:
“It’s still too early to know how much the academies programme has helped raise standards…. Current evidence does not prove that academies raise standards overall or for disadvantaged children.”
“Education has been a political football for too long. It is time to take the party politics, the personality politics and the confrontation out of education.” (Deborah Lawson, Voice General Secretary)
Sir David Bell, Vice Chancellor of Reading University and former Permanent Secretary at the Department for Education (DfE) and Ofsted Chief Inspector, commented recently that efforts to improve England’s education system were being undermined by short-term political pressures, and that strategy for schools should be set by an independent body.
What education really needs is a collaborative approach – “jaw-jaw” with all stakeholders – not a politicians’ battleground – “all-out” “war-war”.
Do let us know your thoughts…
Voice is an independent trade union that is not affiliated to any political party and does not endorse any party.