This is my personal wishlist as a teacher, Labour member and lead Councillor for Education for the Government to implement this year to help improve education in the UK.
- Fund schools properly (or at least tell the truth on the lack of funding). Our schools have seen per pupil funding cuts of 8% since the Tories took power. Education spending as a % of GDP has fallen substantially, class sizes have risen and sixth form funding in particular has taken a hit. Yet still the Government denies it. A Motion at Full Council from us in October to write to Education Secretary Damian Hinds was not supported by a Tory colleagues. The UK statistics authority repeatedly told off Ministers this year for being less than real with the truth. If they are not willing to spend more on our children’s future, at least say it and justify why.
- Pay teachers properly for their work. The school teachers review body recommended that ALL teachers should receive a 3.5% pay rise. Not just those starting out but those that are experienced and mid pay scale. It is these teachers that are mainly leaving the profession, those with a few years of experience and with time to seek a career change. The retention crisis will only worsen as teachers pay lags behind other graduate professions.
- Ofsted reform. Last year Ofsted said that there will be a new focus on curriculum and less on overall exam success. The new quality of education judgment will supposedly mean that so called exam factories won’t get an automatic outstanding judgment. I cautiously welcome these changes. But wait to see them happen. Schools in tough areas with a tough intake on the whole do such a good job for our disadvantaged youngsters. This doesn’t mean they can’t do more but it does mean schools can’t fix all of societies ills. When these schools are rewarded for their work we can start believing the rhetoric.
- SEN funding. There is undoubtedly a crisis in our education system for our youngsters with additional needs. Up to 4000 have no provision at all, demand is rising and needs are becoming more complex. This has seen tribunal appeals against councils rise and parent stress and anguish increase. High needs block spending (additional spending local authorities can transfer each year with schools approval to SEN funding) will soon no longer be able to be transferred from the main schools budgets. There is also an increasing number of SEN students going into private provision as the state is becoming less able to fund these places. A Tory ploy to privatise this part of education maybe?
- Trust teachers. A long term project this. Teachers in the UK are the most observed, have the heaviest workload, receive less pay and less appreciation than almost any other country in the world. Finland is often held up as a beacon of world education where teachers are given freedom, responsibility, flexibility and are treated with respect and professionalism. This should be our aim in the UK. It would help end the recruitment and retention crisis, provide a better environment for our children and ultimately better outcomes. Finland also has the lowest wage inequality in the EU whilst the UK’s is highest. Our education system won’t be able to sort all of societies problems but it can make a good start.