Schoolzone blog: Back off, says Sir David Bell

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09 Jan 2015


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For Nicky Morgan to ask teachers about workload, is a bit like the mythological eagle asking Prometheus why he has a pain in his liver. (Except that teachers haven't stolen anything.)

The government is too much involved in schools, Sir David Bell will tell the ASE conference today. It doesn't need to interfere so much and should trust heads and teachers to do the best for their children. There won't be many teachers who would disagree that schools are too often victims of political interference (hello Mr Gove!) and that change is stacked on change before anything beds down. There's, essentially, your answer Mrs Morgan.

Sir David is calling for a moratorium of change for five years, to let the changes bed down. I must admit, I thought the Morgan appointment was going to give a few months' peace at least, but even she can't resist some fiddling before the next election. But whoever is in power in May, they should be thinking about how their new Ed Sec can do less, not more.

Whether schools have converted to academies or not, whether they follow the national curriculum or not, whether they offer GCSEs or vocational qualifications - all the things politicians sticks their noses into in fact - it all comes down to the quality of the leadership and teaching in schools. All that schools really need, I would suggest are the following inputs from the DfE:

  • adequate funding
  • fair qualifications
  • adequate funding
  • Ofsted (in fact, preferably free of DfE influence)
  • adequate funding.

Heads want nothing more than to do the best for their children and if that's not true for individuals, Ofsted, via governors, should take care of that. Give them something to aim for (qualifications) and the means to do it (adequate funding) and someone to check that they are doing the best for their children (Ofsted) and then trust schools to deliver.

So, following Sir David's general direction of travel, let's say for starters:

  • Let the qualifications reforms run their course then leave them be for the next two governments at least
  • Forget the National Curriculum, at secondary level at least (lots of us effectively have anyway) and use the awarding bodies to lead on content and skills
  • Provide a fair funding model that means that academies, free schools and LA schools are treated equally
  • Reform Ofsted, so that schools see it more as a support and less as a bully
  • Give heads more of say in any future policies, not just those who have beaten the DfE drum loudest (see New Years Honours list)

The government hasn't caught up with the fact that state schools actually provide a really good education nowadays. As the Tatler (ha!) and David Cameron have demonstrated this week, you don't need to send children to private schools. It's time for politicians to back off, butt out, and leave schools be.

And provide adequate funding.

 

 

 

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