Schoolzone blog: 100 days of agony to come

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27 Jan 2015

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On this much trumpeted "100 days before the election" I take metaphorical pen to figurative paper to lament the state of a political messaging as evidenced from a piece of junk mail which I found on my doormat yesterday. In an effort to sound politically neutral, I shall refrain from mentioning which party produced said junk, however, it prompted me, so bad was it, to email the candidate named and shamed by the circular. Here is the section of the email which covers the internal two pages which I assume is common content for all this party's candidate’s circulars, so will undoubtedly appear on your doormat too, if it hasn't already. Open it, read the bit on Good Schools (not Outstanding, we notice) and you will see for yourself that whoever wrote it seems to be ignorant of the facts regarding education:

  • All pupils currently study the core subjects at GCSE (or a more suitable alternative).
  • There is an anticipated shortfall of school places nationally. Unfortunately, Gove’s academisation process has removed the local authorities’ power to meet their legal requirements to provide school places or even to regulate them. Projected funding is vastly inadequate to meet the need, whether for buildings or staffing.
  • Your “creating more excellent school places” statement is simply unfounded. Government policy has created more Free school places - with no heed paid to whether they are needed in their areas. Excellent? Read last week’s press about the problems these schools are creating.
  • The status of the teaching profession has not been raised. Nicky Morgan’s Workload Challenge has revealed the pressures which government policies have placed teachers under. Teachers do not think, “well we may be under too much pressure from the government, but at least everyone thinks well of us”. There are high hopes that a new College of Teaching might result in this being the case, but as yet, it’s not even officially launched. The government hasn’t commissioned any research into this since 2007, so there is no reliable way of ascertaining the basis of this claim.
  • The Commons Education committee will publish a report on Wednesday which shows that Gove’s reforms have had little or no effect on school improvement, so your "one million” more places in high quality schools figure cannot be attributed to current government policy.
  • More first class teachers aren’t being trained. More first class graduates may be being incentivised to try teaching, but that’s a different thing altogether. Teach First, for I imagine that’s what this refers to, costs us £76 million a year to pay extra cash to teachers with high degrees, but there is no evidence that these make better teachers. Also, according to Teach First's own figures only half of them stay on as teachers. Also, it was a Labour government initiative. Teach First is almost certainly a positive thing for schools, but it does not mean more “first class teachers are being trained”. In fact, according to DfE figures, 32,500 people started teacher training courses last term, compared with a target of 34,890.
  • £18 billion for schools buildings. You fail to mention that the £18 billion is over the past five years: no mention of future spending. The Priority School Building Programme, to which this refers had, in December, begun work on only 63 of the 261 “priority” rebuilds promised with this £18 billion. Again - no mention of that in this Election Report.

Of course it's easy to pull apart political spin (see our post introduced with "Government reforms to GCSEs are helping reverse the decline in the number of pupils taking rigorous academic qualifications" says yesterday's press release from the DfE. But GCSEs haven't been reformed yet), but this particular nonsense plumbs new depths. God help us all if we're to suffer another 99 days of this.




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