Latest post on Left Futures

Responding to Labour’s Education Consultation

Labour’s consultation on its draft policy statements for the the 2015 manifesto is under way. There are eight documents statements which should be read along with One Nation Society and One Nation Economy. Amendments are required by 13th June. We must do our best in this ridiculously short time.

The consultation is said to be a “bottom up” process in which Party members determine policy. Another view is that it is sham to make it look as if pre-determined policies have come from ordinary members.

We should respond to this exercise through our CLPs and affiliated organisations while calling for openness and transparency. All the amendments sent in should be made available (e.g. on the Your Britain website) to make the selection process transparent. I commented on the education document in a previous article. Below are some key points on which amendments could usefully be based. Details of individual amendments must be worked out by each body proposing them.

(1) Local democracy and schools. Labour should reassert the role of local communities in education through local government. It should set out plans for increasing the openness and democracy of local government processes which, in the past, have often been too inaccessible. Further detail here and here.

(a) Bring all state-funded schools under the control of reconstituted local authority Education Committees and or regional Committees (which sometimes may be based on more than one authority). The key is increased democracy. The best way to develop local democracy is through local government and not by setting up new organisations. Elected Police Commissioners show the way not to go.

(b) All publicly funded schools must operate on the same legal basis and must be open to all children in their vicinity. Selection at school level should be banned. It leads to elite publicly-funded schools for well-to-do parents.

(c) End the private sponsorship of state schools and close down academy chains.

(d) Rebuild education support systems which have withered under the Coalitions policy of removing local government from education. Also schools should not be left to negotiate contracts with suppliers when this can be done more effectively using the clout of a local authority.

(e) Labour should restore the Educational Maintenance Allowance.

(2) Teachers. Labour says that it wants to “re-professionalise” by requiring teachers to be qualified and that’s right. But conditions and pay are also professional matters and teachers should be fully involved in determining these. Teachers need the time and the responsibility for the development of new materials and approaches and also to inform each other about subject and pedagogical research. They’ve done it in Finland. So should we. Read this detailed article by John Harris for background and sources.

(a) Commit to nationally negotiated conditions for teachers in all publicly funded schools.

(3) Apprenticeships. Labour proposes “gold standard” vocational qualifications. We need details. Good that Labour opposes the fake apprenticeships that have developed under the Coalition and that it wants a minimum length of 2/3 years including of-the-job training. But given their poor track record it is worrying that Labour wants to hand over the standards and finances for training to employers.

(a) The standards for vocational training should be in the hands of a national body including government and local authorities. The finances should be controlled by the bodies that provide them. Apprenticeships are costly and that is why it should not be left to individual employers. A training levy should be raised and finance given when employers provide good apprenticeships. The voluntary approach has served business and the nation badly.

(4) Further Education. The Husbands Report on vocational education suggests that Labour is thinking of a split of young people into vocational and general streams at the age of 14. There is even a suggestion that they should attend different institutions. No such change should be introduced without a thorough national debate. For now, what we want from Labour is details on its vocational education proposals. These are not provided by the Husbands Inquiry, which Labour set up. Labour’s proposal to create “specialist Institutes of Technical Education” could be yet another half-baked panic measure and needs proper consultation

(a) Labour in government must launch a well-informed national debate involving all interested parties in how to best provide high quality vocational education. Simply wrapping existing qualifications together and calling the result a Technical Baccalaureate is insufficient.

(b) The proposal to continue maths and English education to 18 is welcome but without clear guidance could be a waste of time and money. GCSE retakes are very ineffective. New approaches are needed rather than simply repeating what already has not worked. We need an informed discussion about what maths and what English young people need and why so many do not achieve proficiency in these subjects.

(5) Curriculum. Curriculum debate has become absurdly political. It needs to be taken out of the hands of politicians. Teachers’ organisations, employers, central and local government, parents’ organisations and other interested parties need to be brought together for a calm national debate on the content of education.

(6) Inspection. Despite recent tension between Ofsted and Government the organisation has proved itself too willing to act on behalf of government. Its criteria include requiring schools to implement performance related pay. The organisation has lost both its sense of independence and its sense of educational criteria.

(a) We need a thorough review of Ofsted with the aim of restoring its complete independence do that it has the confidence of teachers, head teacher, parents, employers and the general public.

(7) One-nation education. There cannot be a “one nation education system” while the children of the rich go to separate private schools. A first step to changing this would be to remove private schools charitable status. Religious schools are a divisive factor within state-funded education. As a first step they should be required to better reflect their local communities. Ultimately Labour’s objective should for children of all social strata and ethnic/religious backgrounds go to the same schools.

Comments are closed.

© 2022 Left Futures | Powered by WordPress | theme originated from PrimePress by Ravi Varma