LABOUR EDUCATION POLICIES compared with the NATIONAL UNION OF TEACHERS’ MANIFESTO FOR OUR CHILDREN’S EDUCATION
Comments by Michael Bassey (MB)
'Education-policies-Labour-and-NUT" is a discussion paper (13 March 2015) that examines the education policies of the Labour Party and those put forward by the National Union of Teachers. To date the Conservative Party has not said anything of note about future education policies. My comments are in italics.
I LABOUR EDUCATION POLICIES
The following statements in parentheses are taken from the above document.
"The power of education to change lives - its ability to deliver social justice and equal opportunity - has always been a defining belief of the Labour movement."
MB: Yes, but this is pale compared to what Labour said in 1945: “above all, let us remember that the great purpose of education is to give us individual citizens capable of thinking for themselves.”
MB: I would like to take that statement further, like this: "The great purpose of education is to enable individual citizens to be capable of thinking for themselves, moral beings well equipped with the many and varied attributes that they learn in their years of schooling, and able to continue to develop and learn purposefully throughout their lives in the pursuit of worthwhile life, liberty and happiness."
"Yet during the last four years we have seen these values and the public character of our education system come under sustained assault from a Coalition government hellbent on its destruction."
MB: To say that the Coalition has been “hellbent on its destruction” is absurd. Yes in our judgement they have damaged schooling but that’s not their intent.
"We believe we need to raise the aims and aspirations for English education."
MB: Since the “aims and aspirations” are undefined this seems to be a pious statement of little moment.
"We believe that unleashing the moral mission and collective endeavour of teaching is the best way to improve our children’s life chances."
MB: I hope this mean freeing teachers from government edicts and allowing them to make their own collegial decisions on what is taught and how.
"And we believe we need to launch a crusade against social circumstances defining destiny to deliver an education system that truly works for all".
MB: This sounds like the dangerous expectation that schools can correct for the ills of society. It is improving the “social circumstances” of the economically impoverished that is needed – and that is outside the education ambit.
"Michael Gove may have moved on but his failing Free Schools and unqualified teachers and unqualified teachers policies are still harming our children’s learning."
MB: Mudslinging, however justified, should have no place in a policy statement. An end to “unqualified teachers” is a clear statement, but “unqualified teachers (sic) policies” is not.
"Labour will drive up standards with an education that works for all children and young people."
MB: Does this mean more (and unacceptable) pressure on teachers – or is it just a vacuous statement?
LABOUR PARTY MANIFESTO INTENTIONS FOR A LABOUR GOVERNMENT
(My headings. These points are taken from the bullet points on the policy statement )
“End the free schools programme.”
CHILDREN AND PARENTS
“Put early intervention and Sure Start at the heart of our early years strategy.”
“Update “Every Child Matters” to reflect the challenges of childhood in the 21st century.”
“Pledge 25 hours free childcare for working parents with 3 and 4 year-olds.”
“Guarantee access to wraparound childcare for primary school children from 8am to 6pm.”
“Make sex and relationship education compulsory in all schools.”
“Encourage schools and colleges to nurture young people’s character and resilience as well as their attainment.”
SUPPORT FOR SCHOOLS
“Make all private schools enter partnership with state schools.”
“Build a collaborative schools’ system with strong local accountability.”
“Ensure all teachers in all state schools become qualified.”
“Introduce new career pathways to keep our best teachers in the classroom.”
“Support teachers by prioritising regular, high quality professional development.”
“Prioritise vocational education with high quality apprenticeships and a gold standard rigourous (sic) technical baccalaureate".
"Deliver excellence in further education with new institutes of technical education.”
“Insist that all young people take English and mathematics to 18."
"Reform careers services in schools.”
II NUT MANIFESTO STAND UP FOR EDUCATION 2014
PREAMBLE (by NUT General Secretary Christine Blower) www.teachers.org.uk/manifesto
"Politicians should listen to parents and teachers. The general election in 2015 will be a watershed moment for education in England and Wales. Parents and teachers have a golden opportunity to use the time before the general election to pressure politicians."
MB: Yes. Parents want the best for their children, teachers for all children: but politicians, at election time, want the best for their party! At present it looks as though a Tory win would lead to the privatising of more of the education system while a Labour win would do little to ease the undue pressures on schools.
"The NUT believes that every child and young person should be valued – that’s why we argue for action to tackle child poverty and to create a flexible and inclusive curriculum that’s accessible to every learner."
MB: Every child should be valued – of course. But it is those where linguistic and cognitive poverty of experience in the earliest years is rife that need prime support and at present tackling that is outside the remit of primary schools. Which is why, elsewhere, I have argued for strong links between primary schools and Sure Start centres.
"We believe the role of teachers should be valued – that’s why we argue for teachers with the right qualifications in every classroom."
MB: Yes. Teachers need to be properly qualified and also to walk tall in society.
"We believe the vital links between parents, schools and communities should be valued – that’s why we argue that local authorities should be responsible for schools, not a remote Secretary of State."
MB: Absolutely. Local authorities should be properly financed in order to co-ordinate and monitor (not control) the work of their local schools and support local inservice training. If they are found to be ineffective they should be re-vitalised, not abolished.
"The education policies set by the Westminster Government have a major impact on what happens in classrooms. Current policies are taking the education system in the wrong direction."
MB: Sadly and potentially catastrophically this is true.
"Our manifesto makes recommendations for priorities and policies to benefit all children. We are asking that the next government adopts them."
MB: Yes. This manifesto has been prepared by people with thorough understanding of the present situation in schools and offers solutions to many of the deepest problems.
NUT MANIFESTO POLICIES TO BE URGED ON THE NEXT GOVERNMENT
MB: My headings, some editing. I have omitted policies which are in the Labour policies at www.teachers.org.uk/manifesto
"Stop the forced academies programme immediately".
"Stop all further privatisation or outsourcing of education services and schools."
"Stop league tables and replace by national sampling."
"Stop any idea that state schools could be run for profit."
CURRICULUM AND ASSESSMENT
"A new national council for curriculum and assessment should be established to bring together teachers, employers and parents to develop an exciting vision for education"
"A coherent 14-19 qualifications framework is needed, which unifies all learning routes, both academic and vocational."
SCHOOL EVALUATION AND INSPECTION
"There should be a new approach to evaluating schools that involves teachers, parents and local communities. Local authorities should inspect schools to ensure that school self-evaluation is accurate and valid."
"Take action to reduce workload, in particular by cutting bureaucracy and ending excessive accountability measures."
"Restore a national pay structure for schools and academies – and professional pay levels for all teachers."
"Recognise that it is not in the interests of children for teachers to have to work until they are 68."
"Give supply teachers access to the same pay and pensions as other teachers.'
"Restore financial support for post-16 students to stay in education."
"Restore the role of the local authority as the democratic local organisation responsible for education with the legal powers they need to plan and provide enough school places in their local areas."
"Return oversight of all state funded schools to local authorities – whilst maintaining appropriate levels of autonomy on curriculum and assessment. Each local council should have a Director for Education to ensure consistency and equality and a good local school for every child."
"Commit to an expanded programme of school building and improvements."
These fifteen excellent NUT policies would vastly improve the education of our young and the tasks of teachers in providing it. In particular the proposals for a new national curriculum and assessment council and a rethink of the education of 14-18 year olds are so obviously something that Labour should espouse now.
Why the Labour Party has not all ready embraced most of these is a puzzle. Nearly everyone in the education world – teachers and academics – recognises their value and would welcome their implementation. The only reservation might be that some entail additional expenditure. But a statement like “to be implemented when funds are available” would at least show intent.
While national politicians seem to have an aversion to local authorities they should recognize that they are the best democratic arena for ensuring that all the young in their area have access to good education. The mishmash of academy governance by academy chains spread across the country is ridiculous and needs to end.
So why can’t the Labour Party simply add these points to its present proposals?
Originally displayed on the Labour Party's YourBritain site. Posted here (with minor amendments) 13 March 2015