Education for some, disruption for all

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14 September 2016 by ATL
Ralph Surman, ATL's National Officer for Policy, examines some of the issues raised from the ATL fringe at TUC2016 in Brighton.

One thing that those working in education understand more than most is the challenge of continuous and endless change. So what will the future set out by the Education for All bill hold for education professionals - yet more disruption?

Teaching should be seen as a highly desirable professional career. but instead we face a growing recruitment crisis, with the DfE missing its targets for filling training places over the last four years.

Increasing the number of teachers training on the job and making headteachers responsible for deciding when trainees are qualified, as the bill proposes, will do nothing to tackle this.

What is needed is a national strategy to monitor numbers of trainees and the quality of the training they receive. But there isn’t one in this bill. Instead, there is an ideological  clear attempt to divorce teacher education from being a graduate professions and removing any involvement of universities in teacher education.

Under these proposals, links between initial teacher training, continuing professional development, career progression and a national pay and conditions framework will all be swept away.

As set out by Theresa May and Justine Greening, proposals for a new generation of grammar schools are intended to tackle the crisis in school places and support the most disadvantaged. In fact, the opposite is true: the majority of education experts agree that grammar schools do nothing to promote social mobility and equality.

This retrograde step  for our education system needs out and out opposition both in and out of parliament: ATL will work with partners across education to oppose the policy as it develops. It will need the kind of joint campaign that brought at least a temporary halt to the automatic conversion of every school to become an academy earlier this year.

And what of the academies programme? It is still the stated ambition of the DfE and the regional commissioners to take all schools in England out of local authority control by 2022.

Yet research shows that LA-run schools offer the best value for the public purse: 50% of multi-academy trusts are performing below the national average for value added at key stage two, and 54% at key stage four. An astonishing £1.1m of tax payers' money has been spent on 21 free schools that have never opened.

School funding continues to be a real terms issue. Efficiency savings have been made, teaching assistant posts have been lost and teachers made redundant: yet schools are still facing severe financial strain.

The Institute for Fiscal Studies has confirmed the biggest real terms cuts to per pupil funding in a generation are looming. We need investment, not cuts. Working together, NUT and ATL have a vision for a well-funded education system with enough school places and qualified staff working in learners’ best interests.

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Tagged with: 
Educational reform