With two weeks to go Labour education policy gets a sharper edge.Posted: April 23, 2015
When I woke up this morning, something rather unexpected was happening. Alongside “milifandom”, Tristram Hunt was trending on Twitter. Not it would seem because he’s a sex god to rank alongside his leader, but as a result of a Guardian interview which moved Labour’s education policy forward in ways that met with almost universal approval.
The headline was that we may see the back of GCSE in ten years. What lies behind this is the first solid commitment from the leadership to a unified 14 to 19 baccalaureate framework incorporating both academic and vocational qualifications. This involves recognising that 19 not 16 is the age that matters and that the curriculum and the assessment framework needs to build up to that point in a consistent and coherent way. As Hunt says about GCSE in the interview:
“you would not have a suite of exams based on you leaving school when you would not actually be leaving school”.
Hunt is clear that this won’t happen overnight. He recognises that schools can’t cope with more huge upheaval and that any new system needs to be based on a consensus. It would be pointless to get so far in five years and then see everything overturned by a new government. What is needed is to build a head of steam behind changes to the point that change becomes irreversible. This has to be a more mature approach than Gove’s “bull in a china shop” style.
Elsewhere in the interview, Hunt returns to his familiar theme of broadening education beyond the acquisition of knowledge to include the development of skills, qualities and broader cultural capital. he is absolutely right to identify that supporting disadvantaged pupils is about much more than bashing them through a few tests – giving them access to a wide range of experiences and engagement with more adults is essential.
Finally, tucked away at the end of the article, is the first attempt to link schools with the emerging pattern of devolution in England. It envisages “groups of local authorities such as greater Manchester, Sheffield or Nottinghamshire assuming responsibility for school education”. They would appoint Directors of School Standards with responsibility for commissioning schools and maintaining standards. This represents a significantly more definite commitment to local democracy than anything we’ve heard before.
All in all a distinctly more specific and radical set of proposals then. It’s a shame that we’ve had to wait until so close to the election before hearing them but it’s important that the message gets out that there may a greater appetite for change after May 7th than some thought.
The Guardian interview is at http://www.theguardian.com/education/2015/apr/22/labour-ditch-gcse-10-years-tristram-hunt