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What is the National Policy Forum Doing? The Case of Education

angelaraynerlabconf3The National Policy Forum (NPF) is the body where Labour Party Policy is developed (or so the LP Rulebook tells us). It presents reports to Labour’s Annual Conference each year and these are supposed to be the basis for Labour’s next election manifesto. The first thing to be said is that, if the talk within Labour of getting into gear for an early general election is sincerely meant, then it would have appear not to have reached the ears of the organisers of the NPF or its constituent Policy Commissions.

After 6 years of onslaught on our education service in which the majority of secondary schools have been ripped out of the sphere of local democracy to become state-funded independent institutions, a period in which teacher training has been undermined and in which great strides have been made towards various forms of privatisation of education, what does Labour have to say in response?

Here is the full text (yes, this is really all there is) of the statement from the Early Years Education and Skills Policy Commission for this year’s round of policy development.

The Early Years Education and Skills Policy Commission is tasked with looking at how we can give people the tools that will enable them to reach their full potential. This means giving all children the best possible start in life, making sure young people are given fair access to higher and further education, and ensuring that all people are supported and encouraged throughout their lives to continuously learn and develop their skills.

The Tories’ continued obsession with school structures, opening more academies, free schools and new grammar schools, has come at the expense of concentrating on the things that really do improve standards in education: excellent teaching and exceptional school leadership. The last six years have seen a chronic shortage of teachers, class sizes soaring, spending on schools falling, relentless chopping-and-changing to school assessment, unprecedented cuts to further education and adult skills, and a looming crisis in early years funding and provision.

Under Theresa May many of these issues are likely to get worse. But her only answer is to introduce even more unfairness into the schools system, by reintroducing grammar schools on a large scale meaning a good education for only the lucky few.

Labour cares about everyone, not just a select few. We want to harness all talents so Britain can thrive in the future. We want to build a National Education Service, open to all throughout their lives. We will work to bring about the progressive restoration of free education; and develop high-quality apprenticeships, adult skills and learning.

Paragraph one is merely introductory and mostly waffle that could be said by any political party at any time.

Paragraph two is classic Labour evasion of the issues. It claims that the Tories are “obsessed with school structures”. The sub-text of this is that Labour is not similarly concerned with structures because its focus is on standards. Labour’s mantra on this for years has been “standards not structures”. This implied disconnect between standards and structures is completely idiotic. It is so idiotic that no one has, to my knowledge, ever sought to defend it, as opposed to simply repeating the mantra. Other claims in this section have obvious Tory retorts which are in no way pre-empted.

The Education Black Papers (1969-75) opened an assault on comprehensive schools to which Labour never responded.

The Education Black Papers (1969-75) opened an assault on comprehensive schools to which Labour never responded.

Paragraph three shows how progressive-sounding rhetoric can be used to drown out serious thought. Labour’s problem on education has always been its failure to recognise that for comprehensive schools to succeed they need to be universal. Comprehensive schools which run along side selective systems, or which run internal systems of selection, cannot be said to be comprehensive. Not only has Labour never faced up to this its leaders have actively opposed ending selection at eleven. The demand for this at the last NPF meeting before the 2015 election was quashed on the grounds that it would weaken Labour’s electoral position in Kent (no evidence was produced for this claim). Under Labour’s new left leadership one might have hoped for something better than this. The opportunity for a breakthrough was offered at Annual Conference 2016 for which a motion from the Socialist Educational Association was selected for debate. Among other things this motion called for an end to selection at eleven. In the compositing process Angela Rayner argued for this aspect of the motion to be removed on the grounds that it would make doing deals with Tories opposed to grammar school expansion more difficult. The clause was removed. This meant that Labour current Education Not Selection campaign was based on exactly the same position as that of Blairite New Labour (continued under Miliband) of opposing new grammar schools but accepting the existing ones as part of the educational set-up.

Paragraph four opens with a return to waffle. It then commits to a “National Education Service” which, despite being among Jeremy Corbyn’s ten pledges, exists as no more than a phrase. Labour then commits to the restoration of free education (good, but this is liable to carry little conviction without some indication of costing). It ends with a vague commitment to high quality apprenticeships and adult skills and learning.

Whatever else this is it is certainly not a serious response to the current developing crisis in education. I really wonder about the left-wing members of the Commission. Did they agree with this? Did they argue for something different? Did they ask for a minority view to be expressed or did they ask for different views current in the Party to be outlined.

The point is that if the role of the NPF is to engage the membership in discussion of policy and to lead and inform in that discussion process then this document cannot be regarded as at best entirely useless. My view is that it is worse than useless because it not only fails to make even a basic survey of our present problems but it clings to old New Labour mantras like “standards not structures”. The Labour Party never managed to shake itself free from this nonsense in the Miliband years and it found keen defenders in the two Shadow Secretaries for education that he appointed in his five-year stint (Stephen Twigg and Tristram Hunt). Can we expect something better from Angela Rayner? I would like to think so but I am still waiting for the first signs that there are any grounds for hope about that. Attacking Tory plans is one things. Being clear about Labour’s alternative is quite another.

But what we can say with certainty is that with material like that produced for the NPF by the Early Years Education and Skills Policy Commission we are a very long way from anything remotely resembling a socialist or even a basic democratic perspective. At the very least we should have (1) a commitment to bring schools into a local democratic framework, (2) an end to selection at eleven (albeit one that requires a campaign to win support from local parents and discussion with religious authorities of ways of transferring all faith education to non-compulsory additional hours of school activity), (3) a medium-term aim of making all state supported schools into comprehensive schools that serve their local community, (4) emergency measures with the appropriate resources for any schools deemed to be performing to a standard that is less than good, (5) the opening of a national debate about how to make schools inclusive community assets rather than a means for social differentiation. This would include discussing our examination and testing regimes in the context of the broad aims of education.

Labour must break with its traditional refusal to hold a properly informed debate about school education and the way it is delivered. It should also show an interest in harnessing the large amount of educational expertise available within the Party. We live in a very diverse society and must ensure that our schools are a means by which the diverse elements of that society learn to live together rather than a means of setting up barriers between our children.

48 Comments

  1. John Penney says:

    An excellent article, David. But for all those who hoped that TWO leadership victories for the Left under Jeremy Corbyn would have been reflected in at least some change in the Policy “offer” with which Labour has now lost two General Elections, the utter failure of the NPF to “move on” from vacuous , cynically meaningless, soundbite policy statements, is deeply saddening.

    The only reasonable conclusion I think one can draw from the Right dominated NPF’s now quite blatant sabotage of the Labour policy development process since Jeremy Corbyn’s election, is that this is a continuing part of the Summer Coup against Corbyn and the Left. The Right, and their Centrist allies, will be quite happy for Labour to yet again enter a General Election, by default, on the same policies that lost Labour the last one.

    The utter sabotage of the NPF of the policy development process is simply a “two fingered salute” to all of us on the Left, and the Leadership group in particular. What will Jeremy do in the face of this Labour machine-wide deliberate sabotage of the entire “Left Shift” of the mass of the Party membership ? Mobilise his huge numbers of supporters, particularly Momentum, to take on the Right organisationally, and undertake our own Left policy development ? OR just blunder on for a bit longer, endlessly compromising, and filling up the Leadership Office with cronies ( like the gobsmackingly politically inept appointment of Sinn Fein’s previous Office Manager !), until Jeremy resigns before the next General Election, and leaves the entire “Left Surge” dead in the water ?

    One thing is clear so far, we on the Left are getting NOWHERE in transforming Labour into a genuine Party of the radical reformist Left, and the Corbyn team appear to have been demoralised by the Coup, anmd despite the second Leadership “victory” , have been turned into mere hostages of Right intransigence.

    1. Mervyn Hyde says:

      John whilst I agree that we are still disproportionally in the throngs of the right, that is due to the control they have over the party machinery.

      Clearly we have to remedy that but the real question is how?

      I am perhaps a little optimistic in seeing a new breach in their ranks due to the resignation of Jamie Reed, it might be concluded that this is just another drip, drip, stage managed attack, but in essence it also offers an opportunity to prove that left wing policies are popular.

      A simple message explaining that Neo-Liberalism and the private sector has failed to generate jobs and the importance of the state is vital for the well being of people is not a difficult concept to grasp.

      Since he was re-elected, Jermy Corbyn has had little to no coverage in the media, even the right are loathed to give reason good or bad to him as this gives him exposure, and the more he is exposed the more people like him.

      I have been amazed by life long Tories who have recently joined our local Labour Party, they can’t stand the direction the Tories are taking us in and admire and like what Jeremy has to say.

      I believe the right understand this only too well which is why so many of Jeremy’s critics are now putting themselves on screen keen to express concerns at the publics fears about current events, naturally keeping left wing shadow cabinet members off screen.

      1. David Pavett says:

        Mervyn, in your comments you say nothing specific to education. Had you done so I think you would have seen that the problem cannot be reduced to right-wing control of the party apparatus (which is certainly a factor).

        The point is, I tried to argue, that if the left doesn’t advance clear policies which are plausible, attractive and radical then it is bound to lose the war of attrition with the right. The reason why those policies have not been advanced in education is not because of right-wing control of the apparatus. It is because in detailed policy terms the Party leadership shows every sign of (1) not having a clue what to say beyond very general slogans, (2) not having a basic democratic instinct to call on the expertise available within the LP.

        Let’s not blame left-wing mindlessness on right-wing control of the bureaucracy. We have our own house to put in order and education policy is a flagrant example of this.

        1. John Penney says:

          My Labour Party branch now has three (amazingly well attended) mainly political discussion-based meetings a quarter (plus one all business meeting). At a recent discussion on Education Policy (based on the motion I think you wrote, David) I was pleasantly surprised at just how united all the politically diverse branch membership was on the need to return control of education to local Education authorities, abolish academisation, scrap Grammar Schools, abolish tax privileges for private schooling, provide free education for all, etc.

          This could be because the activists in my branch , like myself, are mostly old enough to see this as perfectly “normal” and not even “Left Wing”, but I strongly suspect that if the Corbyn Leadership team simply took issues like this to the wider membership with confidence , and with a set of very clear proposals, the Right on NPF might well have to reconsider their current “strategy” of doing nowt. But , as you say, where is this leadership from our , only recently decisively re-affirmed by the mass membership, “Left” Leadership team ?

          1. Danny Nicol says:

            Another aspect is that the very creation of the NPF was part of the 1990s neoliberalisation of the party whereby policy-making would become even more the sole preserve of the parliamentary leadership than had previously been the case. Concocting the NPF was merely a veneer to make the shift in power from members to leaders look respectable. Where was the NPF, for example, when Gordon Brown took it upon himself to hand power over interest rates to the unelected of the Bank of England?

            Taking a leaf out of this book, the Corbyn-McDonnell-Abbott leadership could indeed easily be appealing over the heads of this intentionally-useless structure to the Party membership, in order to get its policy positions through. It needs to show firm leadership and resolve. At present, one is left wondering whether the “left” leadership actually feels strongly about left policies at all!

        2. Mervyn Hyde says:

          In general David I agree with your article.

          I do believe as you appear to allude to…. is that we must drive the agenda from the bottom up, we just can’t rely on a few good MPs saying and doing the right thing but take the debate beyond them.

          I have been a victim of the post war grammar school consensus in that I personally received a secondary modern education and it was only when I left school and joined former Grammar school students at Technical College that I realised just how broken the system was.

          I have been an LEA governor of a comprehensive and sent my children there both of whom later went to University, I have watched over a decade or more as to how the political landscape (Neo-Liberalism) has surreptitiously changed the whole idea of education into being the servant of corporate capitalism… which they now dictate what children will learn to suit their objectives, and how business education has taken over the curriculum.

          Without writing an essay on the political reasons behind the Neo-Liberal agenda it is clear that the blame game dictates that there must be winners and losers in the game, and that failure to achieve must rest with ordinary people and not the system designed to keep the few on top and the many fighting each other to climb the slippery pole.

          It can’t be said often enough that comprehensive education works, and the rest do not, as an example when I left school in 1960 the average child left with around two o’ levels to their name. whilst today the system claims that grades and are not high enough, neatly forgetting that they constantly change the parameters which those grades are measured in. Managerial doctrinaire control mechanisms constantly change things for change sake and not to the benefit of society as a whole.

          If we want to change all that, we must force the agenda for change, that means highlighting who benefits from a segregated education system and the majority that are consigned to exist on the crumbs that are thrown their way.

          In short education should be regarded as means for every child to reach their natural potential and not a ticket for the few to escape the enslavement imposed from above.

  2. Karl Stewart says:

    It’d be good to have a few eye-catching populist education policies.

    Such as: Every child is guaranteed a place at their nearest school.

    Restore all school playing fields lost to non-residential development through compulsory purchase.

    Bring back the entitlement to two weeks school time holiday per year.

    Abolish homework for pre-senior school children.

    End compulsory school uniform

  3. David Pavett says:

    Let’s make the NPF do its job

    Danny Nicol (December 30, 2016 at 4:28 pm) says that the NPF was constructed to give a democratic veneer to top-down party management. There is something in this but it is beside the point which is what type of forum do we need to develop party policy on a continuous basis. The NPF is clearly not currently in a state that makes it able to fulfill that function. The question is whether it could be reshaped to do that, or is there a proposal for something better? Danny doesn’t consider the former and has no suggestion for the latter. Instead, he simply dismisses it as “intentionally useless” and suggests that the current leadership should behave in the top down manner that he decries in previous leaders.

    We need a rolling programme of debate with members being given access to all that they need to follow and contribute to discussion. This would require many changes to the NPF and to how the party informs its members and gets their feedback. This could be a useful subject for a future article.

    Meanwhile, my article is about education policy, or the lack thereof. I have no idea what Danny thinks about any of that since he doesn’t mention it in his comment. I don’t think that the problem isn’t whether the leadership “feels strongly about left policies” in education. I am sure that it does. The problem is that they don’t know enough to get beyond general slogans and their democratic instincts don’t extend as far as calling on the educational expertise available within the party.

    1. Danny Nicol says:

      The most desirable system for policy-making, in my opinion, would be if there were a Rolling Programme (RP) which formed a comprehensive statement of Labour Party policy in all policy areas. This RP could then be amended at Labour Party Annual Conference by CLPs and affiliated organisations. (CLPs and affiliates would accordingly have the choice to send an amendment to the RP, or an ordinary resolution, or a rule amendment, to Conference.) Where there were (say) 10 or more amendments to the RP on any one policy area, they would be debated as a composite amendment.

      This would thereby herald a return to a serious Conference overwhelmingly dominated by policy-making instead of the embarrassing USA-style rubbish which presently occupies delegates’ time.

      This system would be superior in terms of participation and democracy compared to the system which Blair introduced in Labour’s neoliberal era, which was merely a cover for leadership dictat on policy. But it would also be better than the system which prevailed before that era, when there were regular conflicts between composite resolutions passed by Conference and (lengthy, unamendable) NEC policy statements also passed by Conference. Parliamentary leaders could normally be relied upon to treat the NEC statements as superior since they tended to embody their stances. The end-result was to negate rank and file decision-making on policy.

      I also suspect such rank-and-file policy-making would produce policy of greater substance than the appalling waffle which David P exposes in his article. Perhaps if one contrasted the passages quoted in David’s piece with composite resolutions on the same subject carried throughout (say) the 1980s one would be compelled to this conclusion.

      Under such a system, there would be no space for an NPF which could therefore be discarded.

      As for the question of leadership, I believe that Labour leaders and ministers/shadow ministers should respect the decisions of Annual Conference on policy as on other matters. But whilst doing so, on the rare occasions when Labour elects a Left-wing leader, I expect strong Left-wing leadership. Mrs Thatcher fought doggedly for her class for more than a decade in Downing Street and I expect socialist leaders to fight for their class and their beliefs with the same persistence. They should also campaign relentlessly for a more democratic Labour Party. That’s the ideal but what has been the reality? There was talk of a grand summit in November to democratise the Party, but this seems to have entirely fizzled out. Likewise there is plenty of scope to develop a comprehensive and radical economic policy whilst respecting the sovereignty of Conference, yet as John Penney shows in his excellent piece, this is not happening either. On party democracy and policy alike, the opportunities afforded by a Left-wing leadership are not being taken, leaving the Party virtually indistinguishable from the pre-Corbyn days. What a waste.

      1. David Pavett says:

        I think that we are too far apart on this for there to be much chance of closing the gap in a few exchanges. What we can do is try to be as clear as possible about the issues.

        I know that the old Annual Conference barnies and bust-ups have nostalgic appeal to some on the left but I don’t think that such a format was ever or ever could be genuinely democratic or effective. In that system everything depends on small groups of activists trying to win CLPs for their postions, then getting delegates loyal to those positions selected and then adding “mandating” requirements to their exercise of judgent. Conference then becomes a trial of strength between opposing camps with fixed positions. There is zero possibility in such a system of any genuine debate or of anyone changing their minds in the light if the arguments during a conference of a few days.

        That is why most of the discussion of different views and proposals needs to take place throughout the year leading to a statement of policy which is likely to be approved by Conference (which would retain the right to reject, approve or refer back).

        I agree wuth you that leaders should lead and that the current Labour leaders could do far more to persuade the oarty, and the nation, why a radical turn in every aspect of politics is necessary. But I don’t think they could or should change things by dictat. Neither do I think that they know enough, for example in education, to do this effectively.

        The solution, in my view is a genuine effort to involve the members in decision making by providing them with the means to judge the various arguments for themselves. And that is something for which the LP has no tradition and llittle experience or expertise. Not only that but we are still counting the cost of the break with socialist traditions of thought and organisation brought about by the combined efforts of Margaret Thatcher and Tony Blair. I am struck by how little most young Corbyn supporters know of those traditions.

        For all these reasons I don’t think that a return to the past practice of using Annual Conference as the main forum for debating and determinig policy could be the way forward. I am even more convinced of this when I think about specific issues like education, housing and defence. These are complicated issues requiring a lot of background argument and information. A national body responsive to members is required to work on the problems throughout the year. The NPF should be reformed to make it into such a body.

        1. Bazza says:

          Yes the NPF in my opinion was just a fig leaf for internal democracy to be ignored by Blair etc.
          I have always argued we should ditch the NPF and elect Working Parties by topic and let’s take Housing as an example.
          We could elect some places say out of 20 per WP reserved for housing academic experts and housing professionals (4) plus places for the experts by experience – some social housing tenants (4) some private renters (4) some owner-occupiers (4), some housing activists and campaigners (4).
          The WP can meet in person and/or engage on-line but they have 6 months to produce (in simple language) one side of A4 (10/12 brief bullet points) which are reported to Conference then once agreed are made available to CLPs, trade unions, affiliates and especially for CLPs to hold Open Community Conferences using the WP’s piece to stimulate discussion.
          These Community Engagement Conferences could be held on Saturdays or Sundays and there would morning workshops where the bullet points could be discussed and possibly amended or added to.
          Then there would be a report back session where again as a whole group further changes could be made.
          A report of the conclusions is then passed upwards.
          Could be quite exciting.

    2. C MacMackin says:

      I wonder if there are any best practices for policy development which we could take from the European left parties. How is it done by Bloco Esquerida, the Red Green Alliance (Denmark), Die Linke, etc.? I know Die Linke is associated with the Rosa Luxemburg Stiftung, which acts as a think-tank for them. Mind you, my impression of Die Linke is that it has insufficient democratic accountability of the leadership. I have no knowledge about how other parties work. Has anyone done a study of this?

      1. David Pavett says:

        Good questions. I hope someone has answers to them. I don’t. I know that Peter Rowlands follows some of this stuff. Maybe he will have something to add on this.

        1. Peter Rowlands says:

          I’m interested in the new left parties in Europe, but I don’t have any detailed knowledge about how any of them determine policy. I shall try and find out though.

  4. C MacMackin says:

    A very good, if depressing, article. Education is not something which I am massively well informed about, so the comments I will make will not be massively detailed.

    I think a left-wing education platform should, of course, call for bringing all schools back under local democratic control, an end to all grammar schools, removing the charitable status of private schools, and ending any religious control over public education. I have no issue with students being taught about world religions, but this should be done in an academic manner, by someone who is not a religious official.

    The left should also think more about the current framework of exams. Standardised tests do tend to lead to students being taught to the test. Why should students’ marks be so dependent on how the perform on just a few papers? Are standardised tests even necessary? There are countries which don’t use them, after all. I don’t know the answer to this question, but I do feel that the current system does place too much emphasis on a few exams.

    David Pavett implicitly criticises internal selection within schools. I grew up in a part of Canada where, until the final two years of school, there was essentially no selection (“streaming” as we call it). However, the way we did it seemed to fail just about everyone. Those students who did well found the classes slow, boring, unengaging, and patronising (I recall being told by a science teacher when I was 13 to stop asking such difficult questions because they confused the other students). Those struggle with school were thrust into a classroom without the resources to help them, at a pace they could not handle, and made to feel stupid in comparison to everyone else. (I should note that there are many other problems with the schools where I grew up which likely exacerbate these issues.) That’s not to say that fully comprehensive schools can’t work–they do in Finland. However, part of the reason why they do in Finland is because it’s considered a fairly normal thing for students to receive extra help in addition to the normal classes, while where I was growing up that had a stigma and there were not enough resources to provide it on the scale of Finland. So, if there isn’t to be any streaming within schools, care will have to be taken to do it right, lest you end up with an even worse system.

    1. David Pavett says:

      There a various forms of differentiation within schools and they must all be judged carefully on their merits. A big problem among educational campaigners is the dogmatic certainty with which opinions are often.

      That said, we should distinguush between streaming (which is based on an overall judgement of ability across the board) and setting (which allows for vatied performance on a subject-by-subject basis). In the 2015 election the Labour candidate for Tonbridge & Malling (Claire Leigh) opposed Government plans for a new grammar school “annexe” in her contituency on the grounds that it was “unnecessarily because the local “comprehensive” school already had a “Grammar Stream” within it. It is that sort of differentiation within schools which I argue that we should oppose.

      When it comes to the finer details of handling different levels of current attainment I think that we should judge solutions in context since these will depend on a variety of factors. The Finish example is important to keep in mind, as you suggest, since they get good results with a fully comprehensive, locally run system with no streaming and (I think) no setting and no statementing either. They do this with a well endowed support system in which 50% of pupils will be given organised support at some time during their school career. A specific backdrop to that achievement is that Finish society significantly is less unequal than that of the UK and of England specifically. Schools cannot escape from the general social and cultural context. Inequality is growing in Finland and this is bound to impact on education there. All of which is to say that while avoiding the reproduction of old educational divisions within an allegedly comprehensive context we should be open minded about the best ways of tackling the issue of iften very different levels of attainment.

      And I should add that Labour is about as far from such carefull and detailed judgement as it is possible to be. It has not yet found it possible to commit running schools within a local democratic framework, to end grammar and the selection at eleven on which they depend. Labour went into the last election saying that it would not seek to change the “educational landscape” of state-funded independent schools created by Gove. It is perhaps now more mealy mouthed about the issue but it has not changed its policies. And that is why the Policy Commission statement is such a pathetically awful document.

  5. Peter Rowlands says:

    A very good post from David, and also a very good response to Danny on policy determination, in line with what I wrote on this about a month ago.At the end of the day nothing will work unless there is a commitment to democracy at all levels, and we have yet to achieve this.The tragedy is that while it is now quite possible to hugely extend the internal debate it is not happening, and no lead is being given in doing so.What is required are comprehensive documents for each policy area, setting out possible approaches,background and associated problems.This should be done for all policy, even though we will not be actually determining most policy this year, although for major policies this should be done and should go beyond what is contained in Corbyn’s ‘Ten pledges’. For education this should include at the least taking back schools into local authority control and ending selection.In other areas we should consider a graduate tax to pay for higher education ( for all graduates, past as well as future), the abolition of socially divisive sixth forms in favour of comprehensive 16 to 19 colleges, and abolition of the A level system which distorts educational attainment.

    1. John Walsh says:

      Re the need for a “commitment to democracy at all levels” and to “hugely extend the internal (policy) debate”, surely, this isn’t just about enacting the ‘new kind of politics’, it would also require radical change in the way that election campaigns are conducted by the Party?

      For example, is it not the case that, in the run-up to elections, policy decisions are tactical (rather than ideological), tested with focus groups and announced at strategic points in the campaign. For this model, the idea of a public debate (within the Party) is anathema and therefore unrealistic without change in the way campaigns are conducted.

      As a new member, that’s how it looks to me, but it’s certainly not what was promised when I joined. However, that’s the reality of it and that’s why organisations like CLPD exist – to change the way the Party conducts its business.

      1. Peter Rowlands says:

        Not necessarily.The manifesto will contain the full policy offer, and the more the membership have been involved in its formulation the greater will be their willingness to promote it. At the same time the membership will understand that in the run up to an election the emphasis and argument will vary and it will not be realistically possible for this to be determined other than by the leadership.

        1. David Pavett says:

          Peter, I agree that ultimately the leadership should lead in determining the final form of the manifesto offer. But where the content is clear it should only be a matter of form. The current problem is that so little effort is being spent on content. If this is left to the leadership, even a left-wing one, in those circumstances, then the temptation to fall back into opaque wheeling and dealing and old half-baked ideas about what wins elections will prove irresistible – and I think that we are seeing clear signs of this already.

          John is right to say that this is not what was promised when Corbyn was elected on the basis that he would put party policy in the hands of the members. I find it difficult to resist the conclusion that the Corbyn/McDonnall leadership doesn’t have much of a clue about how to deliver on their promise.

          1. Peter Rowlands says:

            I am afraid I agree.

  6. David Pavett says:

    COMMENTS FROM NPF MEMBERS PLEASE

    With the previous article by Martyn Cook and this one we are trying to get some serious discussion going about the NPF and its deliberations.

    It would be good to hear from Angela Rayner too.

    So far we gave had no contributions from NPF members. It would be very helpful if we could have their contributions from whatever perspective. This is particularly the case for education since one of the six NEC members elected on a left slate (Christine Shawcroft) is now co-chair of the Early Years Education and Skills Policy Commission. It would be really useful if she and other members of that commission would let us know what they think of this discussion and where they see the Commission as headed. Do they agree that the Education Commission has a dismal track record? If so, what do they think needs to be done to turn it around?

  7. Karl Stewart says:

    DavidP, in your article, you go through the LP policy commission statement par by par, but if you do the same to your own article, you don’t actually advocate a single policy idea until your own par 10.

    Those four policy point you suggest in that section are sound ideas, but the trouble with your overall approach is that the reader first has to wade through nine pars of your grumpy moaning.

    So the Labour Party’s current structures are not to your liking, OK fair enough, but that isn’t going to change anytime soon and it doesn’t really interest anyone.

    Let’s have more ideas and less about internal structures and committees and commissions.

    1. David Pavett says:

      Karl, I am sorry that my attempt to make the shortcomings of current LP work clear strikes you as “grumpy moaning”. I tried to show as forecfully as I could how bad the current situation is. To deal with a problem you must first evaluate it.

      You say that the problems of the LP’s current structures “doesn’t really interest anyone”. I think you should speak just for yourself about that. Your view that we just need idea and should not discuss the way they are handled by the LP is not one that that gets a lot of support from the experience of LP policy development in education.

      Good educational ideas are produced by many organisations in and around the LP (links to some them are on this page). I have tried to contribute to this with many articles on Left Futures. The problem is that up until now the LP has either ignored all this work, and when it couldn’t do that has rejected it for no good reason (see my account of Annual Conference above).

      Another problem is that few LP members, including left activists, follow either LP educational policies or know anything about the work being done to develop better ones. It is generally very difficult to get any sort of debate going.

      1. Karl Stewart says:

        So develop your positive ideas more and shout louder David.

        I was wrong to say “no-one is interested” in committeeitus, of course some people are, but my point was it won’t grab many people’s attention or imagination in the way that some solid and robust policy positions will.

        If someone who’s on the NPF does prick up their ears in response to you, and asks you for some input, what will your response be?

        Will you say: “We have to bring all schools back under democratic control. We must abolish tuition fees and pay for this out of general taxation. Every school leaver will be guaranteed either a university place or a proper apprenticeship. Entering education, every child must be guaranteed a place at their nearest school. Sport and music must, once again be part of every school’s curriculum. Parents will again have the right to two weeks’ term-time holiday with their children. School uniform will become voluntary. And so on…etc…”

        Or will you say to the NPF person: “We must have a better national committee system inside the Labour Party. Policy documents need to be circulated to all local party branches for full discussion. We demand quarterly reports from all NPF policy sub-committees. And so on…etc”

        1. David Pavett says:

          If someone who’s on the NPF does prick up their ears in response to you, and asks you for some input, what will your response be?

          I would say “It is not about me but about a large amount of material developed by organisations such as the Labour’s Party’s own Socialist Educational Association. Why, I would ask, is there no one from that association on the Commission? And then there is the Campaign for State Education, Comprehensive Future, the Anti-Academies Alliance not to speak of educational publications such as Forum and Education Politics along many recent books by educational campaigners. I would ask why the LP has not set up working parties for the Commission onto which it invites some of the many experienced educationalists to work out specific policies.

          What I am saying is that although I would be happy to give my personal opinions (and many of them are available for anyone who wants to know) I want to give institutional substance to the process of educational policy formation. Without that even an unexpected spark of interest in genuine discussion is likely to be extinguished before it has a chance to ignite a real debate.

          On the specifics I think that we badly need to get beyond the stage of simply reiterating “We have to bring all schools back under democratic control”. Of course we do and there is little if any disagreement on the left about that. But there is also gross confusion and lack of necessary detail when it comes to policies that might be implemented to do this. The Compass Education Commission came, for example, up with a set of ideas on this that I disagree with. I want to see schools returned to a local government framework but the problems of doing that are now significant. Most local authorities have run down their education sections and have shed a generation of expertise. How do we rebuild that?

          So, what I am saying is that it is time to go beyond general demands (which we need) and slogans (which can be useful) in order to provide plans which are sufficiently detailed to be implemented by central and local government. That is a task requiring a large collective effort of people who know what they are talking about. Hence my concern for the way debate is organised and the way policy is developed.

          I am happy to state my views and I do that reasonably frequently as publicly as I am able. But I am just one person. And look at how few contribute educational ideas here on Left Futures.

          1. Karl Stewart says:

            Fair and solid points David.

            I’ve been told we start children into formal learning earlier than elsewhere. That in other countries, a child’s school experience from three or four until seven is largely informal, often play and activity based.

            Seven is, apparently, the age when proper classroom education fully kicks in.

            I may be wrong, this is what I’ve heard. And it makes sense to me.

            Over here, we test too much in the early years, and enforce boring classroom study at too early an age. We also burden young children with far too much homework. In my opinion, this shouldn’t happen until secondary school.

            And it infuriates me at the start of every autumn term, to hear stories of ‘nazi’ headmasters sending children home over nit=picky uniform issues. When the question of uniform comes up, schools always say that parents prefer it – so why not make it voluntary so that parents who want to buy uniform can and those who don’t can choose not to? Labour could win strong support on this.

            Term-time holidays are a huge issue as well. Parents used to be allowed two weeks of term-time holiday for their children, but again, this has been lost. Labour could win support for re-introducing a statutory two-weeks for everyone.

          2. David Pavett says:

            I agree that formal schooling at five is an issue which should be discussed – along with universal and free provision of pre-school child care.

            I agree too about excessive fornal testing. Labour has only ever mumbled concern about this.

            Above all Labour should challenge the idea of schools as state-funded “independent” instutions which can be run by private groups and institutions. It needs to be more widely understood that this objective, so energetically pursued by Michael Gove, was first advocated by Labour .

            I am not as concerned as you about uniforms and I don’t follow your argument on this which seems to concede both that they are popular with parents and claims that promising to make them voluntary could win strong support for Labour.

            Term-time holidays can be extremely disruptive. I suggest this is an issue which needs careful discussion. Having children in free full-time education incurs rights but also responsibilities. One of those responsibilities is to make reasonable efforrs to help schools function well. I am not convinced that, for example, taking children out of school to take advantage of off-peak holiday rates shows adequate awareness of parental responsibility.

            P.S. I have written to all the members of Labour’s Early Years, Education and Skills Policy Commission who provide contact details (most of them) to ask them to let us have their views on the above article and the subsequent discussion. That includes Christine Shawcroft whose election to the NEC was supported by Left Futures and James Elliot the LF editor. This is a chance for Commission members to contribute to an open debate on problems of Labour’s development of educational policy – and there are not all that many such opportunities.

  8. Danny Nicol says:

    On the issue of firming up these policy proposals with some actual detailed proposals, see this model resolution worked up by myself and John Penney on Economic Policy. Perhaps you could work up a similar model motion on Education Policy, David?

    http://socialisteconomicprogramme.blogspot.co.uk/

    1. David Pavett says:

      The Socialist Educational Association is working on just such a project. I will play my part. I will also try to find the time to make suggestions in my own right here on LF.

      I hope you are going to offer your paper on the economy, or something based on it, for discussion on LF. I have read and think that would be a good basis for discussion with the aim of injecting some serious economic ideas into Labour’s policy process.

    2. Peter Rowlands says:

      Well done to Danny and John for having produced a motion and corresponding arguments that are very much what is required if it is accepted that a a comprehensive and interlinked plan for the economy is necessary (and unfortunately many on the left do not accept it or do not give it the priority it deserves).Having said that let me make some points.it is clear that much of this would not be compatible with membership of the EU in its present form.That may be resolved by Brexit, or, as I would prefer, a reformed EU.
      The key problem would be how to cope with the first few weeks – indeed, with the first day, and the problem of capital flight, which could only be halted by an emergency freeze on capital movements and other controls over the banks,including the ‘shadow banking’ sector of hedge funds.This should be followed by the establishment of the promised National Investment Bank, which strangely you don’t mention, and the breaking up of the big banks , some into regional entities, so that none are ‘too big to fail’. A sharp distinction must be drawn between investment and retail banking.
      It is essential that we get this right – if not, we may not be in government for long, and other plans would be academic.
      I also believe that your emphasis on public ownership is unrealistic for a first term, and that beyond the railways and privatised parts of the NHS and local government we should reserve this area for subsequent terms, simply because we would otherwise be overreaching ourselves. We HAVE to sort out banking and finance, we HAVE to put the economy on a sound footing, but we don’t have to extend public ownership in a major way in our first term.

      1. C MacMackin says:

        On the subject of the EU, the ultimate question is, what should the British Left do if it finds itself in power while Britain is still bound by EU directives and treaties before the EU has been transformed (assuming such a transformation is possible). Sure, it can campaign for a reformed EU, but in the meantime it has to either follow the rules, in which case it won’t be able to achieve much, or start breaking them, which would probably ultimately lead to some harder form of Brexit.

        We have discussed the timetable for public ownership elsewhere, so I won’t rehash all of my arguments. However, I think it is unlikely that a Left government could get finance under control without public ownership of banks and insurance. The only way I could even possibly see that happening would be the sorts of regulations you describe. However, these would have to be passed almost immediately and would need to come into force almost immediately. If anything, this would be more difficult to implement than nationalisation, as ownership transfers can happen almost instantaneously (exerting effective control would take a bit longer, admittedly) whereas developing the capacity to enforce regulations and splitting up banks in any coherent way would take months, if not years. The popular support needed to achieve your proposed regulations would be very near that needed to nationalise them in any case. Finally, while nationalising banks would be expensive, it would provide the government with control over all lending in the country, allowing the National Investment Bank to be formed from part of the nationalised capital rather than having to borrow to finance it.

        1. Peter Rowlands says:

          Fair arguments, but given enormous spending commitments anyway I would hope to avoid adding to these at the start, although it may prove necessary to do so with the banks, as you say.

          1. C MacMackin says:

            As I have explained elsewhere, nationalisation need not be an onerous spending commitment. It’s a one-time cost and profits can be used to pay off the debt incurred. Furthermore, there are likely ways we could justify not paying full compensation, such as counting any past tax-breaks towards it. Nationalising banks would also reduce spending commitments elsewhere: rather than having government money lent to co-operatives and other private enterprise through the NIB, nationalised capital could be used instead. Indeed, there would be far more of it available. Furthermore, if we are to even begin exerting democratic control over the economy, public ownership of finance is absolutely vital–it is the only way that capital can be controlled and investment decisions made by the people. Past experience has shown us that regulating industries results in less control, often leads to regulatory capture, and simply causes industries to find creative ways to avoid the regulations. All of this is especially true of finance. Much of the deregulation in the USA (perhaps less so in Britain, I’m not sure) was simply closing the door after the horse had bolted. Banks had already found ways to avoid it anyway, such as operating more on international markets or inventing financial instruments that the regulations hadn’t considered.

      2. John Penney says:

        Thanks, Peter. Yes , the creation of a National Investment Bank, as an important sub-set of our few lines on the banking system should have had a mention. Danny and very much see the motion as a “work in progress” to stimulate responses, and provide ideas to local LP branches for their own motions on this topic.

        The wider issue though is that a serious NPF process would be commissioning powerful , appropriately, skilled teams or commissions to do some really serious work pulling together detailed policy documents on this and the other, interconnected, policy topic areas, rather than the slapdash process that currently exists.

        Yep, the “first few days, weeks and months of a radically reforming Left government issue” is a real biggy for anyone serious about transforming the UK for the better. We saw so recently how the supposedly “radical socialist” Greek Syriza government and its initial anti austerity Programme was smashed in a mere matter of months by a blatant series of major acts of economic sabotage and intimidation both by the Troika institutions and the direct acts of “Capital Flight” by the Greek capitalist class itself. Syriza had no “plan B” for its astonishingly naïve strategy of assuming it had serious negotiating power with the Troika powers, just because it had a Greek “democratic mandate”. And that it assumed Greece could stay in the Eurozone whilst avoiding the Austerity programme that that membership involved.

        A radical Labour Government, with a Programme in its first term limited only to, for instance, major housebuilding, renationalisng the railways, and the entire NHS, whilst pursuing an initially modest job-creating infrastructure programme, and refunding local government, would face a hostile Market response, and capital flight, engineered shortages, a mass media propaganda offensive of gargantuan proportions. Plus wide-ranging sabotage and betrayal by the Labour Right – no doubt “crossing the floor” to join the Tories.

        So, yes, a radical Labour Party would need to be very well prepared for this completely inevitable response , and would need to be ready to flood the key ministries, and financial sector organisations with an army of well-trained “SPADS” to oversee the government’s wishes. Is any of this work at all likely from today’s Labour Party ? Nope.

        Which is why the NPF produces , without demur from the new “Left” leadership, bland , vague, “motherhood and apple pie” bromides instead of real policies. and there is no sign whatsoever that the Corbyn/McDonnell Leadership of the ” Labour Left Surge” have any idea of the sheer magnitude of the required task for the Left either.

        1. John Penney says:

          I should have added of course in the “to do list” of even a modest first term for a Left Labour Government, getting the Bank of England , and selected key banks, firmly under control, with outright nationalisation of key banks, being the obvious option.

          1. Peter Rowlands says:

            Yes, I generally agree, and you are right on Syriza.
            On banks I would hope to avoid complete and immediate nationalisation, but emergency controls must be instituted, with, as you say, full political control of the Bank of England, as well as capital controls, breaking up the big banks, promoting regional banks and curbing or eliminating the shadow banking system.
            You will have noticed the latest from the NPF, another superfluous consultation on industrial strategy. We are going round in circles.

          2. Mervyn Hyde says:

            I would like to know why in this the 21st century we still hold 18th century ideas on how money enters the economy.

            In reality the private Banks issue money into the economy as debt, it is this process that has created unsustainable debt mountains for no good purpose other than to serve the interests of Bankers and the mega rich.

            Control of the money supply has been the emphatic doctrine of Neo-Liberalism everywhere, the reasons being obvious, In order to make their profits the bankers need borrowers, if people have high wages they will be more likely to save than spend, the Bankers will then be liable to interest payments, as people are not spending due to low wages, interest rates are low; savers are not receiving proper rates of interest.

            Markets do not serve the interests of people, if we want stability and security then the population at large need a means of earning sufficient money to provide for their basic needs. The private housing sector is used by governments to expand the economy, as that is how new money enters the economy. whereupon lies the catch 22 situation, we need more money in the economy to meet the needs of people and yet can only achieve it through people going into large amounts of debt and fuelling house price inflation in the process.

            The current arguments surrounding this debate are based on government with a hands off approach as outlined by Positive Money, by appointing a commission to direct money where it is needed to serve people, in truth though the government still has control because even the governor of the Bank of England is appointed, so control still lies where it will always lie.

            As a socialist it makes sense to me to nationalise the Banks lock stock and barrel, failing that we stop the private banks printing money out of thin air and only allow them to issue money accrued through their profits. But do I believe even then that we can trust them, the answer is clearly no.

            What should be obvious to anyone in this day and age is that when governments decide to spend in the economy “Money Is No Object” as we saw when Brown bailed out the banks and when Cameron met with the floods in the Somerset Levels (after sacking half of the Environmental workers in that area), or even when Blair decided he would involve us in a war in Iraq.

            The simple truth is ‘Money’ is not the problem in this country, it is who controls the money supply and where it is used.

            That is why we need a Labour Government to take control of the money supply in favour of people, the private financial sector are not concerned with interests of people only their own profits. Debt mountains are currently being propped up by Quantitative Easing both here and in Europe, but when we ask for QE for the people suddenly we are broke.

            German Banks currently own the most debt in Europe, debt is how money enters the economy, if we want to continue being the slaves of bankers we continue in the manner as in the past, whilst blighting all our futures.

            Who’s interest are we serving here,Student Loans, Mortgages etc., private sector provision is all taking money out of the real economy.

            We have all the money we need for our public services and to generate wealth creating institutions, what we don’t yet have is government with the will to do it.

            Josiah Stamp was a Director at the Bank of England before the Wall Street Crash:

            “Banking was conceived in iniquity and was born in sin. The bankers own the earth. Take it away from them, but leave them the power to create money, and with the flick of the pen they will create enough deposits to buy it back again. However, take away from them the power to create money and all the great fortunes like mine will disappear and they ought to disappear, for this would be a happier and better world to live in. But, if you wish to remain the slaves of bankers and pay the cost of your own slavery, let them continue to create money.”

  9. Karl Stewart says:

    How about telling schools that if they insist on compulsory school uniform, then it has to be free of charge to the parents?

    After all, one of the big reasons teachers give for favouring compulsory uniform is that it prepares children for the world of work. Work uniforms are provided by the employer.

    If these headmasters had to put their money where their mouth is, maybe they wouldn’t be so authoritarian – and they wouldn’t get their ‘backhanders’ from the monopoly uniform suppliers any more.

    Politically, this would greatly assist parents, particularly those on lower incomes. As would returning the right to two-weeks term-time holiday.

    Teachers need to be a little less up themselves about this frankly.

    I

  10. James Martin says:

    You have to go back an awful long way to get to a Labour education minister (or shadow) that was remotely any good or who actually understood the brief and had any respect from education workers. In fact you need to go back 16 years to Estelle Morris who only lasted a year.

    I won’t dwell on the assortment of right-wing reactionaries and utterly useless wazzocks that we had to put up with after Estelle (each one seemingly worse than the last) but in many ways Angela Rayner has a lot going for her. She is working class and didn’t go to university for starters and as a result I believe she has a far richer understanding of why education matters to working class kids. She has also showed signs of rebuilding relationships with the only education affiliated to the Labour Party the Socialist Educational Association, something which is long overdue. If Rayner uses the experience and policies available from the SEA then she would be heading in the right direction. She must also rebuild official relationships with all the education unions (both academic and non-academic and in all education sectors) with the proposed merger this year of NUT and ATL to create the very large National Education Union being potentially key to this alongside the Labour affiliated support staff unions in schools and colleges.

    The Tories are very vulnerable in education and we should be making big inroads with it. Funding cuts have hit both early years and post-16 very hard indeed with both mass closures of Sure Start centers and large numbers of redundancies in FE and Sixth Forms in particular and a significant shrinkage of curriculum choice for students. Add that to the virtual removal of working class students from HE and the disaster in England of academies and free schools and you have the basis to really make the case for Corbyn’s idea for a national education service.

    Instead Rayner has chosen to concentrate not on funding cuts and structures but on grammars which are unlikely to be expanded very greatly outside of their existing areas. My guess is that this was a political choice as it unites the party around a policy, unlike academies where there are still supporters of them from the right-wing and Progress. But tactically it is a mistake I think. Most people under the age of 50 outside of the few grammar regions haven’t got a clue what the arguments are really about, having never experienced the 11plus, which in turn allows the debate to be turned against us as we are portrayed as both anti-choice and anti-success for academically bright working class children. It becomes a trap for us that no amount of high street stalls on a Saturday morning will combat and allows the more significant issues of funding cuts and erosion of local democratic oversight (with the semi-privatised academies) to not be heard.

    So while I agree with David about the criminal lack of actual education policies or even debate, a short-term political strategy that could attack the Tories and the ukips in England and the SNP in Scotland (who have made a real mess of Scottish education – Welsh schools are unfortunately a harder political argument for us) and is potentially easy line of attack to put in place. The question is why we are not doing so?

    1. David Pavett says:

      I don’t share your admiration for that early promoter of academies Estelle Morris and wonder what it is based on. I don’t think either that not going to university is a qualification or that enables anyone to better understand why education matters to working class kids.

      You are right that Angela Rayner has shown more regard for the Socialist Educational Association than her predecessors but than didn’t stop her emasculating its motion to Labour’s last Annual Conference. I agree with you that she should harness the wealth of experience and knowledge that is available to her but I am still waiting for some clear signs of that.

      Yes the Tories are vulnerable on education which is why it is so regrettable that the Early Years, Education and Skills Policy Commission has produced such a pathetically feeble document as the one I quote above.

      I don’t think that Angela R has in any meaningfull sense focussed on grammar schools. Labour has opposed new grammar schools but says nothing about the existing one, even in principle. This has been Labour’s position for the last 20 years. Labour’s recent “Education not Selection” campaign was disingenuous because Labour does not oppose selection on grounds of faith or wealth and anyway it was not calling for an end to academic slection but merely for no increase in it.

      If Labour doesn’t make the case for a well run system of local comprehensive schools and give examples of where it works here and abroad then, as you say, it will be beaten with sticks labelled “choice” and “standards”.

      Why is the LP party not holding the discussions and developing the educational policies it needs? Because (1) it is torn by internal divisions, (2) it has no tradition of informed debate and doesn’t know hiw to go about it, (3) the leaders of the left and the right don’t want to unleash discussion among members unless the feel they can control the outcomes, (4) there is very little interest or understand of education in most of the LP, (5) Labour has given into the idea of schools state-financed independent institutions, (6) Labour has next to nothing to say about the content of education, (7) Labour has no philisophy of education, just feeble mantras about giving every child the opportunity to realise their full potential.

  11. Peter Rowlands says:

    CMac. You may well be right, and you obviously have a lot of knowledge of this area, which would perhaps merit an article? Yes, of course you are right that regulation is not a satisfactory long term solution, and that public control of finance is essential. My primary concern though was how to prevent meltdown in the days following May ?2020.

    1. C MacMackin says:

      I don’t know if I have enough knowledge about finance to merit an article. It’s fairly general and comes from reading articles by people who know considerably more than I do. Leo Panitch has been a major influence on me in this regard. See this Red pepper article arguing for public ownership of banks for a simple introduction. A more comprehensive article which I have not fully read (but the conclusions of which I have seen him discuss elsewhere) dealing a bit with regulation is published in the New Left Review.

      On an unrelated note, I am in the process of writing a series of articles on energy policy, which I would consider myself considerably more knowledgeable in.

      1. Peter Rowlands says:

        Thanks for that.I’m sure an article on energy policy would be very useful.It’s one of those areas that people tend to shy away from because of the technical factors involved.

  12. David Pavett says:

    NO RESPONSE FROM POLICY COMMISSION MEMBERS

    I sent an email to every member of the Early Years, Education and Skills Policy Commission who cares to make their email address available (most of them). I pointed out that I was critical of their document in this article and invited them to reply to explain why they agreed or disagreed with the points made to get a good exchange of views.

    Not a single member of the commission replied and not a single one has made a contribution. That includes the left-wing members of the Commission. You can see a list of its members here.

  13. Bazza says:

    Left Futures is great as a ‘Left Speakers Corner’ but brothers (and sadly it seems only occasional) sisters we shouldn’t become a Pessimists Corner.
    I totally support JC but if I was a Left Wing Democratic Socialist Leader (or rather Leader and Facilitator of grassroots members power) I would have public conferences in small workshop style organised by Labour CLPs in every constituency on all policy areas including education.
    But of course we would need a set of brief and simple ideas as a stimulus- response brief to encourage debate rather than just one line statements, so here are my ideas on education:
    Scrap SATs and let young children learn by also having fun and let the teachers teach.
    Bring schools back under the democratic and accountablec control of local authorities and make them DEMOCRATIC SCHOOLS plus let whole local communities in catchment areas elect the school governers.
    Have free FE and bring back the EMA plus have more community workers skilled in the ideas of Paulo Freire to help empower the ‘Left Behind’.
    Promote the concept of Lifelong Learning and Day and Perhaps Week Release.
    Have free HE (make Big Business pay – they want everything for free) and massively invest in Widening Participation to get diverse working class kids into university where they belong.
    And kick out the private sector from HE and re -democratise universities giving all staff a say as well as a living wage (and 50/50 male/female representation on all senior committees and a 50/50 ratio of VC applicants selected to stand by senates and elected by all university staff and with their pay linked to LA rates).
    But HE may not be for all but whichever choice young people make HE or vocational we need to introduce critical thinking elements into all courses to nurture the critical citizens of tomorrow.
    And end all tax subsidies and tax reliefs on private education including public schools and surely as we enable the often upper class/general middle class parents to stand on their own two feet they won’t object to market forces for them when many of them often vote Tory for market forces for us?
    Education under capitalism is functional, it is to produce a Wheat and a Chaff – a tier to manage (but not to particularly question – Grammar schools help here) and a Chaff to do the often mundane if not soul destroying (but vitally important) work to help create the wealth and make societies work.
    But there is no such thing as intelligence – GCSE Exams etc are but elaborate memory tests and I believe the best way to learn about developing human beings is through continuous assessment by teachers and in this you offer constructive feedback to highlight what was done well but also highlight what could be done differently to reach a higher standard.
    Although having working in HE for most of my life (after coming from working class poverty and working in a range of clerical and manual jobs in the private and public sector and being he first in my family to go to university) I also worked in adult education for a number of years and if I could count the number of times diverse working class students would say they were “thick” but I would like to finish with a recent true story – and life is about stories, hearing them, sharing them but most importantly learning from them.
    Last year I heard that a senior male manager at a local institution was quite rightly not happy at the state of the toilets in his institution and he took another manager (with the responsibility for estates) into them to see them first hand.
    But the problem was this other manager was a woman and they didn’t think to put a note on the door!
    By chance a few weeks later I went to the institution’s Open Day and whilst in the bar on the evening I got talking to a woman (with my friend who works with them promoting courses) who worked there as a cleaner (my mother in her later years was a cleaner) and this cleaner kept telling me that she of “low intelligence” – I told her she wasn’t and I told her the tale of the two managers visiting the toilet and asked her what she would have done?
    The cleaner said she of course she would have put a note on the door (unlike the 2 managers with qualifications coming out of their ears!)
    So diverse working class people you have never been thick and it is all a capitalist con – you may have great ideas to address climate change or global and/or local poverty etc. but sadly some may think their ideas ideas will not be valued or even that they may be laughed at.
    So come to our CLP public conferences and your ideas will be welcomed and perhaps together – working people including the progresive middle class, facilitated by JC we can transform society and with others the World!
    As Pablo Neruda said: “Rise up with me (us) against the organisation of misery!”
    Solidarity!

    1. David Pavett says:

      Bazza, as far as I am aware there is no pessimism shown in this article, or the thread that follows it. I tried to show, with evidence that Labour has currently made little progress on its educational offer beyond slogans and that there is an urgent need to do so.

      All your points about democratic control are fine but they are not Labour policy and on the current trend of policy development are not likely to become so.

      I tried to show that the Policy Forum is grinding ahead in the same dull, vacuous way that it has been doing for years and that there is as yet no sign of a significant change in its modus operandi as a result of the election of a left leader. That, as far as I can see, is the reality. I point it out because I know that a lot of people on the left are unaware of this situation and I want to contribute to pressure for change. So that is pretty much the opposite of pessimism.

      I don’t think that happy-clappy lefty evangelism, which pretends that everything is on course when it obviously isn’t, is in any way helpful.

  14. Bazza says:

    Oops long day!
    VC candidates should be 50/50 male/female.

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