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Russell Hobby

NAHT: Time to take the politics out of education

Following the recent political party conferences, Russell Hobby speaks out about the education debate

Posted by Stephanie Broad | October 09, 2015 | People, policy, politics

In the past couple of weeks we have seen and heard what the Westminster parties have to say about education. There has been precious little to cheer. 

It has been disappointing that most of the talk is still about accountability and structures. These are the challenges of yesterday. What we should be hearing by now are firm plans and policies to deal with the growing problems of teacher recruitment, a vision to provide enough places for the one million children expected to reach school age over the next five years, and a commitment to school funding that means school leaders can compile their budgets for the coming years with confidence. 

Instead, the debate is stuck. Politicians just aren’t listening to people who work in education – people who have the clearest view of where the challenges lie and what the solutions might be. 

The Education and Adoption Bill will force more schools to become academies, despite a lack of evidence that this change is the surest route to improvement. The Bill will silence any voice in the community that raises a legitimate concern about this process.

Measures announced this week to dock the benefits of families whose children are missing school will only drive a wedge between parents and teachers and make the young person's life harder.  

Further cuts to public services will hit poor families before many of the measures they might rely on instead come into force. The next phase of benefit cuts begin in May 2016 yet the detail behind the proposals for 30 hours of free childcare are still being worked on and the provision won’t be a reality until September 2017 at the earliest. A firm commitment to fund Universal Infant Free School Meals has yet to be given. 

At a time when education funding is falling in real terms, schools are spending more of their core budgets on measures to support the poorest families. We put this figure at £43.5m last year and there’s another £12bn of cuts to come. 

NAHT - along with other expert voices in education - recognised this lack of vision long ago and is already delivering constructive alternatives to the challenges in our schools.
We created Aspire, which is helping dozens of schools in the Requires Improvement category reach a Good Ofsted rating. We believe that the government should recognise Aspire as a credible pathway for school improvement. 

School leaders and others working in education today will have been disappointed by the rhetoric that they’ve heard lately, particularly as it glosses over the fact that we already have a world class education system in this country. It is time to let the professionals back in, to let them lead from the front, to do what needs to be done to keep it that way.

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