Response to NPF on Education
Shaming statistics show UK children are amongst the unhappiest in Europe and we need fundamental change in our education system. Pressure on schools, teachers and pupils, to achieve 'results', prevents personal development, growth and wellbeing of young people. An education system for all children rather than a sorting and sifting process for the employment market will require three changes:
• First a review of curriculum and associated standards in which (for example) wellbeing, the arts, physical exercise, diet and nutrition, civics, personal finance, basic economics, democratic processes, critical thinking, poverty, relative poverty, wealth and internationalism are taught both separately and integral to traditional subjects.
• Second, assessment – formative for learners, diagnostic for teachers, evidential for managers will be central but high stakes summative assessment of children should be used sparingly and be based on continuous assessment.
• Third, SATS and League tables must go. They encourage competition between schools where they need collegiality.
Our schools and educational institutions must be representative of their communities. Private education makes this difficult and insulates learners from communities. Private education is anomalous for a party committed to equality of opportunity for all children but there may be unacceptable political risk in tackling it. However, as well as ensuring that state education is funded to provide standards and facilities as good as the private sector it is also time to address some of the privileges enjoyed by private education. We should following Scotland's example and stop business rate exemption based on the notion that private schools are charitable institutions. They are not and should pay VAT. Such an initiative would not be an electoral risk.
There is evidence that state educated children progress faster and are more resilient than privately educated when they move on to higher and further education. There have been successful schemes in which weighting summative assessments in favour of students from disadvantaged areas successfully identifies learners with the most potential. These initiatives should be encouraged and supported.
Educational Maintenance Allowance for 16-18 year olds reinstated.
Local authorities funded to provide schools with a range of support and advice to meet local need.
The 2019 manifesto pledges (eliminating fees and providing maintenance grants, including for lifelong and part-time learners) should be retained.
A properly funded comprehensive system that acknowledges and supports the role schools play in supporting children and young people in addition to educating them, e.g. providing meals, supporting mental health issues, providing clothing, supporting families ...
Particularly relevant is the technology gap. Many children do not have home access to laptops/ PCs nor to broadband. This must be provided for all children in a post-COVID education system.
Re-introduce Sure Start Services.
Recruit high quality teachers from all parts of our communities with attractive, reasonably rewarded and respected careers in which they will be supported and encouraged to be creative, innovative and committed professionals – and not overstretched, understaffed, undervalued social fire-fighters. Treat teachers as professionals, listen to them and trust them to do their job.
Disband Ofsted and introduce supportive inspection.
Jane Holden, Gerry Richardson, Jamie Thompson, Christine Brown, Sam Thwaites, Nigel Williams, Robbie Milor. Individual members of the Heddon and Ponteland Branch, Hexham CLP.