When creating my blog last summer, I indicated that I would be resisting the temptation to write from a political perspective. This was in part because I genuinely believe that it would be of great benefit to our profession and more importantly our children, if there were to be a greater degree of separation between the worlds of education and politics in this country. I will continue to avoid writing in terms of passing judgment on individual politicians or parties, because to do so, would leave me open to accusations of having a particular “political axe to grind” and I genuinely wish to connect with all parts of our educational community irrespective of wider political views.
However, 2018 marks thirty years since the introduction of the National Curriculum. Over that period there have been sixteen different politicians (with varying job titles) placed in charge of education policy. One does not need to enrol in a Singapore maths course to work out the average tenure of this post.
It is reassuring to know that the education of our country’s children matters to so many people, so much so that politicians feel the need to connect with the electorate about it. But, with politicians from all parties predisposed to attack or defend policy based on which is the party of government rather than on what actually works, it would seem that the teaching profession and the children we serve are at the mercy of people who have a totally different agenda from those of us focused on adapting to the needs of our children in a rapidly changing world.
In the school where I’m head teacher, we work to a range of time scales. We work as a supportive community to establish a shared long term vision. We work as a senior leadership team to establish a subsequent three year plan of development, implementation and embedding. As you’d expect, we also have a single year development plan which is contributed to by a variety of people in senior and middle leadership roles. As part of all of this, there’s an understanding that some adaptations may need to be made in response to a variety of as yet unknown factors. As such, there is an overall sense of control, calmness and above all direction about what we are trying to achieve.
My question to all politicians is, “How can you expect to make sustained progress when at the heart of any government the person in the key role is not given enough time to develop, implement and embed a coherent approach to the education of our children?”
Education research needs to be apolitical. It needs to be allowed to focus on the needs of a generation of children rather than a biannual merry go round. Most importantly, politicians need to listen to those working within the system on a daily basis.
I accept that there are those within the education sector whose default position is to always oppose change of any kind and put the needs of adults within the system before those of the children. But the vast majority have no interest in wearing any political rosette. Instead we are just focused on discovering how we can best serve our pupils.
Who is in post as Education Secretary should be decided on what’s best for our children rather than what’s best for an individual’s career or a party’s fortunes.