Sunday, 12 July 2015

Verdict on leadership candidates` Guardian interview on education

At least there was no mention of ridiculous oaths, re-licensing and Performance Related Pay, all of which perhaps explain why Labour`s election campaign "failed to project a strong radical message" on education, but there were some serious omissions in the leadership candidates` proposals (And so, leadership candidates, what`s the devil in the detail? 07/07/15). Whilst all four rightly condemned Gove`s narrowing of the curriculum with the "compulsory Ebacc", only Burnham seemed aware of the "unjustifiable" nature of the former Education Secretary`s damaging assessment reforms. They do support more responsibility for local authorities, and most stressed the importance of "investing in the early years" of education, but there was no mention of solving the problem of teachers` workload of around 60 hours a week. No mention, either, of solutions to the profession`s recruitment and retention problem. Corbyn regretted the amount of "pressure" on teachers, and Cooper admitted "teachers are not being listened to", but if "Labour`s education policies in the past were timid", where is the evidence for change? The fact that there was no mention by any of the would-be leaders of the role of teacher unions speaks volumes.
     Timidity was evident, too, in the views on "cracking inequality" and increasing social mobility, with no candidate writing about ending the dominance of the privately educated in the senior ranks of politics, medicine, the law and journalism. As 7% of pupils attend private schools nationally, couldn`t the same proportion be the maximum of privately educated undergraduates at any university? Surprisingly, the term "coasting schools" was nowhere to be seen, despite the Education Secretary`s recent definition of them as "those that fail to ensure 60% of pupils get five good GCSE grades" (Education secretary raises the bar with new "coasting schools" criteria,30/06/15). Where is the candidate with the knowledge and courage to say that there are some brilliant schools, with hard-working staff and pupils, with results nowhere near 60%? 

     I would have thought, too, that with the recent fuss about the party being insufficiently "aspirational", Jeremy Corbyn would not be the sole candidate wanting to "bring back the Education Maintenance Allowance", whatever the cost.

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