The television debates are underway, and the juggernaut of the UK 2015 General Election is now truly starting to gain momentum across the country. With polls predicting another hung parliament, this #UKEdChat session focused on teachers, and what they hoped for from the next government? Do things need to change? Did the last government set UK education on the right track? What should the next government really focus on to help and support teachers complete their job? Which party would you actually trust with education for the next five years?
This free and generic #UKEdChat session coincided with the ITV Leaders Debate, with seven party leaders debating the main election issues on the same stage. Viewing figures proved this was a popular distraction to many people, as this is viewed as one of the most unpredictable General Elections of recent times.
The views from teachers, during the debate, focused on their wishes for education, but had to wait until 90 minutes into the television discussion until schools were finally mentioned. Whilst waiting, the #ukedchat deliberations called for less reform – to give schools chance to embed the changes before deciding they don’t work and making more change. There was also a call for a delay in high expectations of children in primary school, letting them explore! Perhaps start school a year later?
But other considerations called for allowing teachers to teach. “Stop reforms dictated solely by political timing & focus on what matters. Student outcomes” advocated Phil Ruse. Kat Howard also called for “autonomy in education. Trust us to do the best thing for children to learn effectively. Let us choose the journey there.” She continued, “Please don’t allow one of four companies test a four year old child during one of the most unsettling periods of their childhood. It’s cruel and unnecessary. Aren’t schools entitled to an established, knowledge-rich support system that allows them to be effective?”
The perceived meddling from politicians is getting tiring, some claimed, with VJY noting, “They [politicians] meddle constantly just for the sake of being able to say ‘Look, we’re doing something!’”.
A feeling of a lack of trust was raised during the chat, as many feel that the accountability system in place, devised by politicians, is one of the big things missing from politicians towards teaching profession – any change in this regard would be welcomed. Secondary Moderns put the blame firmly on the inspection regime, “Ofsted fails to a) engage with the profession and b) judge and challenge schools fairly/reliably. We need change.”
There was also a plea for a balancing of subject status priorities, with Elani McDonald calling for a “fair distribution of funding and funding for all subjects – Maths & English superiority needs to end! All subjects important.” With many politicians in many countries looking so closely at international comparisons, perhaps this change in status quo is a long held ambition.
Creativity needs a return back into many schools. One notable tweet, that will resonate with many teachers and schools leaders stated, “We [need to] focus on an education system that sets learners up with skills needed for life rather than just being exam factories” (Phil Ruse) – Who can argue with that? LAE Physics concurred, “scrap the arbitrary targets set on students and instead focus on developing their skills in areas most beneficial for them”.
Other issues that were raised included a greater focus on Languages, teachers workload, and resolving the “mess I’m thinking about is the KS2 assessment debacle and ridiculous targets of 100%” (Claire Lotriet). Elani McDonald called for extra “money, to address the following (1) faster response time for referred Ss (2) quality CPD (3) reduced workload (4) investment in equipment for Ss and (5) send Ss on trips outside country.”
Hayley Earl shared the ”Election Toolkit Download” resource from Parliament UK, which helps you run a mock election, enabling teachers and students to get their own election up off the ground and to explore and understand how elections work. Click here to view and download from the Parliament UK Website.
The Leaders Debate finally started talking about education, but people felt it was a damp squib, as they talked about free schools and allowing unqualified teachers, but Rupal Pert found a gem from one of the leaders during the debate, “’Children need a broader education’ – not just exam after exam. Well said @natalieben”. Mike Harrison supported this, “We need an education system that enables and encourages lifelong learning.” The Green Party got some support from their strategy, “Love Natalie Bennett (Green) talking about actual strategy – cooperation instead of competition between schools.”, which was noted by Oli Trussell.
So, the leaders on display on had sound bite educational policies on display for the TV debate, but the manifestoes being released will hopefully start to add more detail to the plans and policies of those vying for votes in the May poll.
The article was written on 3rd April 2015.
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