Tristram and Schools – What can we expect in government?

Tristram things can only get betterThe People’s Parliament organised by John McDonnell MP recently held a meeting on education under the title Re-thinking schooling: class & education. The panel of speakers included Christine Blower, the General Secretary of the NUT and Diane Reay, a Cambridge university sociologist specialising in questions of class. The contributions were excellent and were followed by an hour long discussion with questions and points coming from the audience. You can find a report of the meeting and audio files of the main contributions on the website of the Socialist Educational Association (SEA).

Frustration with Labour’s policies on education and a lack confidence in Tristram Hunt were both evident in the contributions of virtually everyone (panel and audience) who spoke about them. It was mentioned more than once that the only party with educational policies anywhere near matching what most campaigners for inclusive and comprehensive state education want is the Green Party. Some members of the audience even said that they had left the Labour Party because of its abandonment of progressive educational ideas and policies along with its embrace of neo-liberal marketising concepts. Continue reading

Has Labour abandoned education?

we don't need no educationEducation is like apple pie and motherhood: everyone agrees it is a good thing. The problem is that “education” refers not to one thing but to a wide range of different arrangements serving very different social needs. A highly stratified hierarchical society is likely to have a similarly differentiated hierarchical system of education. A society committed to democracy and to making citizens equal, not only in terms of formal opportunity, but in the reality of their material circumstances will, of course, need something very different.

So, Tony Blair’s “Education, education, education” quip in response to a request for his top three priorities might have sent off caring signals and a desire to better everyone’s lives but, a closer look reveals something different. Such a look has been taken by Clyde Chitty in his unfortunately priced (£50) book New Labour and Secondary Education 1994-2010. Continue reading

Preparing for Labour’s conference: schools policy

Labour’s national policy forum (NPF) report 2013 for this year’s party conference is now available for all to read. Education is dealt with in the section devoted to the annual report of the Education and Child Care Commission on pages 70 to 76 and in a policy paper on childcare on pages 78 to 80. The discussion of schools and 16-19 training and education is found in the annual report and it is that section which is considered below.

The policy substance in this Report of just over 3000 words is slender. It can be summarised as follows:

  1. Labour’s approach to schools is based on “three key themes: Freedom, Devolution and Collaboration
  2. Labour would give all (state supported) schools the same freedoms such as freedom over the curriculum
  3. Where freedoms are damaging they will be removed Continue reading

Book Review: Progress in Education from New Labour’s Action Man

A long-term campaign has been conducted against comprehensive education through the mass media. It’s themes are well known: “failing comprehensives”, “falling standards”, “left-wing teachers”, “teachers’ unions”, “local authority bureaucracy” and many other negative tropes. These are all found in abundance in Andrew Adonis’s book Education, Education, Education – Reforming England’s Schools. Continue reading

Guess what Stephen Twigg is up to on Academy Schools

The GMB has drawn our attention to what Stephen Twigg is up to on Education policy. And you won’t like it.  Remember Liam Byrne? Now that he’s got no job to go to in Birmingham, we’re stuck with him “running” the policy review until the next reshuffle. Buried on Liam’s Fresh Ideas website is an education policy consultation document – Devolving Power in Education — School Freedom and Accountability. The key thrust that we and the GMB object to is this:

Labour has no desire to turn back the clock and return powers from schools to Local Authorities. Nor do we want to see a reduction in the autonomies we gave schools through academies, trust schools and federations. In fact, although school autonomy is not the focus of this consultation, I want to see more schools get the freedoms that allow them to serve their pupils and communities most effectively.” Continue reading