Political Manifestos & Pantomimes by @LeadingLearner


This article was originally printed in the December 2014 edition of UKEdMagazine

Click here to freely read the full version

After the next election I may be taking an oath or having a quick MoT. Suddenly, politicians no longer want to kick me to death. In fact, they’re taking a rather unhealthy interest in my workload. I’m now being accused of working too hard as opposed to being a wastrel, card carrying member of the Education Blob.


It would be great to see a total rethinking of the accountability system[/pullquote]As we move into the pantomime season it’s easy to confuse what we see happening on the Parliamentary stage and the theatre stage. However, if Aladdin met Parliament met Education and you were given three manifesto wishes, what would you wish for? I’ve gone for some specifics to underline where I think we need to go next.

It would be great to see a total rethinking of the accountability system. Rather than looking at symptoms, such as workload, the political parties need to dig down to the root cause. The current pernicious effects of our over inflated accountability system are creating a fright, flight or fight approach in too many schools. Recruiting and retaining high quality people in some of the most disadvantaged areas, with high numbers of “hard pressed families”, is becoming a problem. There is a need to rethink our approach and move towards a peer accountability model, which in the first stage of its development is quality assured by the best HMIs. This would be my first wish. It’s what the countries with great education systems have moved to.

My second wish would be to rethink our approach to the recruitment, training and pay of teachers in the early years. We need to make teaching such an unbelievably attractive career option that we can select the most able, emotionally literate and capable graduates. We want the best people to be teachers. I’m a fan of a blended and balanced Higher Education and work based route into teaching - understand the deep theory and learn how to apply it is a coherent twin track approach. The theory must be rich and relevant and the coaching in the classroom of the highest order. If this means needing two years to acquire QTS then that might be no bad thing. I would also have everyone on the two year QTS route being paid a salary. These are wishes after all. No education system can outperform the quality of the teachers within it. The supply of teachers is already highly variable around the country. We need to act now if we are to avoid a shortage crisis.

A work life balance for teachers and the great support staff who work in our schools. I don’t mind working hard, education is my passion. However, my family need a part of me and my time. Not the part left over when I’m shattered and in need of recovery. I worry some staff return from Christmas more exhausted than when they left in December, if that is possible. Workload and balance will move up our collective agendas. I wish the politicians good luck with the consultation.

For a number of people reading this, already in senior leadership and considering headship, you will be entering some of the prime years of your headship by 2020. The 2020s must be the decade we commit to moving beyond good, as an education system, and becoming great….

Click here to continue to read this article freely in the December 2014 Edition of UKEdMagazine.

Stephen is on Twitter as @LeadingLearner and his blog can be found at leadinglearner.me. Formerly Headteacher of St. Mary’s in Blackpool for fourteen years, he is currently Executive Director of the MAT consisting of two primary and a secondary academy - Christ the King, St. Cuthbert’s & St. Mary’s Catholic Academies. He chairs the SSAT Vision 2040 Group.

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