If I Were Secretary of State for Education …

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This article was written for a forthcoming publication for The Festival of Education and is also currently appearing as a regular feature in the fabulous newspaper, @SchoolsWeek.

“If I were the Secretary of State for Education, I would review how the education budget is spent. According to the Association of Colleges, “the Department for Education (DfE) will face a large budget shortfall after 2015 because there will be:

  • More people of school age.
  • Increased teacher pay and pension contributions.
  • Costs associated with new policies.

This shortfall forecast will be £600 million in 2015-16, rising to £4.6 billion by 2018-19.”

The school budget (for 4 to 16-year-olds) has been ring-fenced by the Coalition Government between 2010 and 2015. Even with the absence of a national funding strategy, lack of investment will make it even harder for schools to address recruitment and workload.

Ignore for the moment, the undue pressure fashioned by Ofsted, or the rapid-pace of change instigated by the DfE; the full-time classroom teacher still teaches 90% of a 25 to 30-hour timetable day-in-day-out, every week. A mere 10% of time allocated to complete two, yet fundamental aspects of the role remain on the teacher’s to-do list: planning and marking. There is no time set aside for reflection, action research or professional development.

TMLondon @TeacherToolkit Ross McGill
Speaking at TMLondon

It will take a brave Secretary of State to revise funding in order to reduce time teachers spend in the classroom to one-third; or at least alter what is currently set aside to fund education initiatives. It will be expensive, but this is what teaching needs:

“a radical solution to stop the endless workload rhetoric and recruitment crisis.”

Current investment arrangements, contact-ratios and infrastructure place an incredible burden on the 10% of time remaining for teachers to plan and mark. This restriction ensures all these types of tasks are often completed ‘after-hours’. This is not sustainable if we wish to attract graduates into the profession and drive up standards of education to ensure all students leave school, literate, equipped with a range of qualifications.

If we wish to enable our students to become effective contributors in society, and if I were the Secretary of State for Education, I would lead government policy, tackling the workload issue sooner rather than later, using a systematic and current classroom teacher’s perspective. This would revolutionise the way teaching is currently structured and transform the profession overnight. It may not happen in my career as a teacher, but I remain optimistic that oneday, teachers will be free to plan and mark during their normal timetabled day.”


@SDupp Cartoon Politics


In 2010, Ross Morrison McGill founded @TeacherToolkit from a simple Twitter account through which he rapidly became the 'most followed teacher on social media in the UK'. In 2015, he was nominated as one of the '500 Most Influential People in Britain' by The Sunday Times as a result of being most influential in the field of education. He remains the only classroom teacher to feature to this day ... Sharing resources and ideas online as @TeacherToolkit, he has built this website (c2008) which has been described as one of the 'most influential blogs on education in the UK', winning the UK Blog Awards (2018). Read more...

11 thoughts on “If I Were Secretary of State for Education …

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  • 22nd April 2015 at 11:20 am

    I’m optimistic too that that one–day teachers will be free to plan and mark during their normal timetabled day… if it’s important, it’s important. Right?

  • 22nd April 2015 at 1:30 pm

    It saddens me when I read that teachers all over the world struggle with the same issues. These issues that impede us from doing our basic teaching duties. When did our time get so devalued? Why is it that educators in the profession, a profession about teaching and learning, are rarely given the opportunity to grow and develop professionally? We have so many expectations and so little time in which to make anything happen.

    It would be nice to have a policymaker who truly understands that educators need to be given the the time to plan, learn, and grow.

    I say you should give that job a try. 😉

  • 22nd April 2015 at 10:49 pm

    I am not sure it would work for primary but I think that most definitely we need accountability without the never ending paperwork and sensible marking policies. If ever are Ed Sec maybe you ban knee-jerking in education!!

      • 23rd April 2015 at 7:25 am

        I know – if only – but the fact that you are doing something about it is a very positive thing. It is always great reading your posts – you want the best for the students and the staff and I think that is possible!!

  • 23rd April 2015 at 10:31 pm

    If I were secretary of state for Education I would make councils provide schools with a list of supply teachers and ban agencies. How much do these agencies cream off education without any real benefit to students, schools or a decent wage to a supply teacher? Like academies, it feels like private agencies and their directors are taking money out of education.

    • 24th April 2015 at 6:41 am

      Lyn – totally agree. I could expose so much nonsense from my end (booking daily supply), it’s frightening! Maybe I will …

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