ASCL conference: Time of major change is now over, says Nicky Morgan

Education secretary Nicky Morgan promised school and college leaders today the time of major upheaval in education has come to an end.

Speaking at the Association of School and College Leaders conference she said now focus will turn towards the Government’s recent reforms to be given time to “bed in”.

She said: “I want to reassure you about what that means in practice, it doesn’t mean five years of constant upheaval or constant change.

“What it does mean is ensuring that the impact of those changes reaches every part of the country, every child, every family and every community.

“Both the Prime Minister and I are very clear that the changes we’ve made need time to bed in and take root. ASCL’s blueprint calls for an accountability framework that has been in place for the term of the Government, a vision that I share.

Speaking after the speech, she added: “We’ve had five years of huge achievement, my next focus is to make sure that excellence is spread right across the country.

“We’ve said in response to the workload challenge we wouldn’t introduce major change in the middle of a course and we would try to give more notice of major changes. I don’t see at the moment things that need further major change, but we always keep an eye on the system.”

She also touched upon the workplace challenge during her speech, adding: “As you know, we’ve announced some important actions in response to this – such as a commitment to give schools more notice of significant changes to the curriculum, qualifications and accountability.

“I hope these will go some way to eliminating the bureaucracy and duplication of work that’s taking teachers away from teaching.

“I know the results haven’t pleased everyone, some were clearly expecting a silver bullet that simply wasn’t there.

“But what I am clear about is that this is very much the start of the journey- not the end- and we will continue to listen and work with you to tackle these issues.”

Ms Morgan pledged to introduce a national fair funding formula, but when questioned did not commit to when. “I really would like to get on with this as quickly as we can,” she said.

But Ms Morgan added there would be issues and she was wary of creating more uncertainy over funding in difficult economic times.

She added: “I remain convinced that school leaders are best placed to come up with assessment systems which work for them, and their students – and crucially are understandable for  parents.

“We know that assessment levels often weren’t trusted by secondary schools because they didn’t really reveal what children knew and forced them to move on to new material before they were ready, resulting in serious gaps in their knowledge.

“So I’m pleased that we’re moving to a system that schools are free to develop their own systems of assessment of “real” things – like how well a child can read and the specifics of what they know and can do in maths. Things that can inform better teaching and provide clearer, more incisive evidence of attainment and progression.”

Labour MP Tristam Hunt this week called for regulation of the schools admission process to be beefed up, following calls from campaigners for a national review.

When Schools Week asked Ms Morgan whether she would back this, she said: “National reviews cause more change. We’ll always keep things under review. The whole thing about this conference and our plan for education is an autonomous system, and I think it’s right those decisions are made at a local level.”

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