An Educational Responsibility

Reading Time: 2 minutes

If we could reduce ministerial power, what responsibilities would you take away?

It’s not the Minister’s policy, but the Minister’s power.”

Instead of Campaigning against the latest directive from the Secretary of State for Education, we should campaign for the powers they have to be reduced.

Change After Change:

For 30 years there has been a stream of directives from the Department for Education.

  • SATs are on, and then off, then, maybe, on again.
  • Schools should be specialist, then academies, then free.
  • GCSEs should be modular, then linear. Remember the Diploma?
  • A-levels are split into two parts, then re-united.
  • Schools can let students choose their GCSEs, then we get EBacc.

Every time a minister claims they are trying to help students’ learning, we get a new initiative. Teachers (and unions) complain, campaign, sweat, get stressed, and consider resigning …

Ministers education uk composite

Image: (an amalgamation of) Google and Wikipedia

Ministers are not evil people; they genuinely believe their own thoughts. All the evidence, campaigning and resigning that teachers do, simply reinforces their belief that they have to make the change because teachers are resistant to the ‘obvious’ benefits of the policy.

shutterstock_284804657 a politician speaks to the public with a set of masks

Image: Shutterstock

Remove Powers!

So, perhaps we should stop campaigning on individual issues and get to the nub of the problem.  The Secretary of State for Education has not always had these powers.

Could we agree on a political objective which would remove the powers and give them to an independent body (perhaps modelled on the Office for Budget responsibility?

Here is an extract from an NAHT document Owning what is ours: a manifesto for education’. (July 2014)

“How we change the system is almost as important as what is being changed. Too often change is chaotic and hasty, which limits our ability to make it stick. The profession and government become distracted by conflict over principles rather than engaged in discussion around implementation. What we propose is an ‘office of educational responsibility’.

Proposal:

This office will go beyond existing proposals for evidence collection into planning and managing a five-year reform programme.

This programme would be agreed in advance and subject to rolling review. New proposals for change will need to be submitted to the office for analysis against three tests:

  1. evidence of impact,
  2. value for money and
  3. capacity to implement.

It needs to be difficult for ministers to depart from the programme. A high-profile chief education officer, coming from the profession could lead the office.

Politicians would set principles, policies and outcomes. The profession would determine methods and, subject to representation via the office, be able to implement defined and tested policy in good faith.

Perhaps time to move slowly?

shutterstock_230502118 finish line winning of a snail with the colors of England flag

Image: Shutterstock

Time to Change?

Brian Lightman, departing ASCL leader, asked for “an independent body to make decisions about the school curriculum and called for the end of schools having to follow the personal “whims” of policymakers”. (Mar 2015)

If a number of teaching organisations could agree what we wanted, perhaps we could persuade the present Secretary of State to close the door on future (rapid) changes to existing policies, by creating such a body and handing over her powers.

Dreaming? Why not?

Unless we can get these powers changed we will be stuck with a continuous round of ‘initiatives’ as new ministers make their mark on the job.

It’s time to make to a change!

shutterstock_268598132 Revolution Poster, workers raising fists with text it's time to make a change, vector

Image: Shutterstock

Written by Mike Bell for Teacher Toolkit.

Mike taught secondary science for ten years and have spent five years studying the evidence about what works in education (and why). You can follow him at @EvidenceTeach.

(EBTN) Evidence Based Teacher Network

Mike Bell Evidence Based teacher Network

@TeacherToolkit

In 2010, Ross Morrison McGill founded @TeacherToolkit from a simple Twitter account in which he rapidly became the 'most followed teacher on social media in the UK'. In 2015, he was nominated for '500 Most Influential People in Britain' in The Sunday Times as one of the most influential in the field of education - he remains the only classroom teacher to feature to this day ... Sharing online as @TeacherToolkit, he rebuilt this website (c2008) into what you are now reading, as one of the 'most influential blogs on education in the UK', winning the number one spot at the UK Blog Awards (2018). Today, he is currently a PGCE tutor and is researching 'social media and its influence on education policy' for his EdD at Cambridge University. In 1993, he started teaching and is an experienced school leader working in some of the toughest schools in London. He is also a former Teaching Awards winner for 'Teacher of the Year in a Secondary School, London' (2004) and has written several books on teaching (2013-2018). Read more...

One thought on “An Educational Responsibility

  • 25th February 2016 at 8:00 am
    Permalink

    It would be useful to send them on a sabbatical where they learn about education! Only Estelle and Gillian had any educational experience. The power should stop at designing strategy. The experts should create vision and suggest structure based on empirical, proven, research.

    Reply

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.