Today I learnt that even the best political commentators can get it spectacularly wrong. I doubt even David Cameron thought he’d today emerge the leader of a majority Conservative Government. Who would have guessed?
So, Mr Cameron, let’s see if you can deliver on the education promises you made in your manifesto. You promised to:
- Maintain the amount of money that follows each child into school
- Ensure there is a good primary school place available for every child with zero tolerance for failure
- Turn every failing and coasting secondary school into an academy
- Lift the cap on university places
- Create 3 million new apprenticeships
- Train an extra 17,500 Maths and Physics teachers
- Open at least 500 new free schools
- Commit £18 billion for new school buildings
- Recruit and keep the best teachers by reducing the time they spend on paperwork
The Conservatives are planning to introduce ‘tough new standards’ for literacy and numeracy in primary schools. They are expecting 11-year-olds to enter secondary school knowing their times table off by heart, able to read a book and able to write a short story with accurate punctuation, spelling and grammar. I’d certainly like to see all of my year 7s joining with these skills – what a great foundation upon which to build – but it is not clear how the Tories intend to make this happen. I know that my primary school colleagues are already working flat out trying to ensure that their pupils are leaving primary school with the skills they need for success. The Conservative manifesto suggested that if children do not reach the required standards in their exams at the end of primary school, they will resit them in year 7 to ‘make sure no pupil is left behind’. As if testing students again is the way in which you raise student achievement…
There will be less flexibility for our GCSE students to study the subjects that they want to. The Conservatives will require that secondary school pupils take GCSEs in English, Maths, Science a language and History or Geography. And if schools don’t deliver this? The threat that Ofsted will be unable to award its highest ratings.
The Conservatives will also expect every teacher to be trained in how to deal with low level disruption. I don’t deny that this is an issue in schools (Ofsted chief Sir Michael Wilshaw raised this in September) but the number of times I read ‘discipline’ in the manifesto was a concern to me. I think there are other things that would have greater impact on improving achievement: smaller class sizes, investment in quality CPD and more PPA time for a start. In turn these things would reduce low level disruption.
Despite being advocates of entrusting our children’s education to unqualified teachers, they apparently want teachers to be regarded in the same way as other highly skilled professionals. You might think this would involve better pay for teachers but, instead, they intend to support the creation of an independent College of Teaching to ‘promote the highest standards of teaching and school leadership’.
Time will, of course, tell but I can’t help but feel a little blue (pun intended) at the 2015 General Election results.