What would you do if you were Secretary of State for Education?
It takes a brave Secretary of State to make their mark on the education system. Michael Gove was the last notable person. Gavin Williamson did too, for a raft of other reasons…
If I were Nadhim Zahawi, here’s what I’d do to restore the respect of teachers.
Teacher workload has improved prior to the pandemic, yet teachers still work on average 50 hours during term time despite being contracted to 32.5 hours a week. This is largely made up of marking and entering data onto an MIS.
2. Planning and Edtech
Pull a few strings and fund schools (in real terms) in line with where they were in 2010. Then, if you want a truly world-class education system, reduce teacher contact ratio in the classroom to 80% and protect more time for all teachers, not just early careers, to mark and plan lessons during working hours.
If I were Nadhim Zahawi, I would ensure all schools are equipped with free cloud-based software.
3. Teaching and Learning
Stipulating things such as silent corridors and banning mobile phones are all fine and dandy in some schools, but not everywhere. Keep personal opinions about what should happen in the classroom to yourself and let schools decide.
If I were Nadhim Zahawi, I’d visit ‘requires improvement’ state schools to broaden the perspective of all SoS…
4. Teacher Wellbeing
Keep pushing the Teacher Vacancy Website so that schools continue to save costs on recruitment. This will help alleviate some stress for schools that are strapped for strap cash and who struggle to recruit.
If I were Nadhim Zahawi, in all public engagements, including television appearances, I would always speak up teaching.
5. Student Mental Health
As you are the first non-white education secretary in history, please raise the profile of diversity across education. This will do so much for student (and teacher) wellbeing in terms of having a role model.
If I were Nadhim Zahawi, I would do everything in my power to curb social media platforms and protect young people.
6. Behaviour and Exclusions
Overall, exclusions have been increasing year on year, with a 40 per cent rise between 2013 and 2017. Although the exclusion rate remains low (0.1%) overall, this equates to about 40 children excluded every day (DfE, 2019e).
If I were Nadhim Zahawi, I would insist that Ofsted reports on every school that is off-rolling their pupils.
7. Supporting SEND
Educational health care plans across England have been on the increase each year between 2010 in 2019 (roughly 354,000 EHCPs). Teachers tell me that this is the most challenging aspect of their entire role as a teacher. Gone are all local community police officers, school nurses and designated social workers and psychologists from our schools…
If I were Nadhim Zahawi, I would support local authorities to help improve the educational health care plan process.
There has been an explosion of curriculum reform across the UK, not just in England. Please give new policies time to embed and insist that future Ofsted curriculum consultation factors in more primary and early years settings.
If I were Nadhim Zahawi, I would review the current English Baccalaureate policy and targets.
9. Education Research
Scrap performance-related pay and insist the performance management policies/targets are research-driven.
If I were Nadhim Zahawi, I’d avoid cherry-picking research like Nick Gibb did for the last decade.
10. Teacher Education
Provide schools with sufficient funding and facilitate them to protect 1 per cent of their overall school budget for staff professional development. Perhaps the remaining 20% non-contact time could be one day of CPD, per week!
If I were Nadhim Zahawi, I would pause the current Initial Teacher Training market review as the consultation period has been rushed.
Zahawi voted against feeding vulnerable young people throuhgout the pandemic. I’m not confident we’ll see much chnage in DfE ideology…
All these issues I discuss in my research, Just Great Teaching which unpicks the successes and challenges of UK schools.