Five months and counting – what will the election mean for education?

“we have the best teachers ever – but we burn them out”
“teachers are seriously afraid”
“there’s more openness about extending your house than there is about opening a school”
“schools have learning difficulties; universities have profound and multiple learning difficulties”
“governors are allowed to act with no local accountability”

With less than six months to the General Election, the fourth Reclaiming Education Conference last Saturday focussed on the how to influence the parties in the direction of evidence-based , progressive policies for education. The focus for the day was the 7 point plan drawn up by the conference organisers – they can be found at http://socialisteducationalassociation.org/ and at http://www.pickingupthepieces.org.uk/index.html

A series of speakers gave us their priorities – there’s not room here to give a full account of their ideas but the key themes from a set of inspiring presentations were:

Tim Brighouse focussed unashamedly on structures not standards wanting change in local governance, admissions, inspection, exams and pay and conditions. He held up the example of Scotland as a system “with more hope and less fear”.

Laura McInerney highlighted the lack of transparency – the DfE consistently refuses to provide information about academies and free schools that any local authority would routinely provide. She called for a coherent approach to place planning, admissions and a recognition that the government is doing too much too fast.

Navin Kikabhi gave a devastating critique of how the system treats disabled children and the many ways in which the mainstream system denies access to such children. He argued for the dismantling of the segregated system and identified universities as sometimes the worst offenders.

Richard Hatcher argued for the need to restore local governance of education – not just local accountability but a local vision for what the community needs. He identified the Local Education Panels proposed in the Blunkett report as a positive proposal but urged too that there needs to be active participation at a more local level through such initiatives as Children’s Zones.

Mary Bousted urged delegates to get out of their comfort zone and “find friends in unusual places”. It’s important to start from what children and families want and need and the ATL manifesto seeks to do this. Like others she called for the radical reform of Ofsted and for “collaborative not compliant workplaces.”

There was a strong feeling in the conference that education seems to be taking a back seat in the developing election campaign. An analysis of what the different parties are currently saying showed a range from “back to the 50’s” with UKIP, more privatisation and fragmentation with the Tories and only a fairly modest set of counter proposals from Labour.

There was a lot of support in the room for all the ideas put forward by the speakers. The final stage of the day was to challenge everyone there to identify what they could do to raise the profile of education in the election and to get the parties, especially Labour, to adopt more ambitious policies.

Delegates recorded their personal commitments. These included:
work to set up a local Education Forum
• Set up a petition through 38 degrees
• Use freedom of information to get information
• Get local parties to support the 7 key policies
• Lobby prospective candidates
• Learn to tweet
• Support the NUT “Stand up for Education” campaign
• Demand better coverage of education from the BBC
• And much, much more….

The conference was promoted by the
Alliance for Inclusive Education,
Campaign for State Education
Comprehensive Future
Forum Journal
Information for School and College Governors
Socialist Educational Association

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One Comment on “Five months and counting – what will the election mean for education?”

  1. David Pavett says:

    Audio files of the main talks given at the Reclaiming Education conference are now available on the SEA website.