I would ask to stay in my job for the rest of the government’s term and in that time seek to make myself largely redundant. I would start off with a big conversation about the purpose of education, with a view to recognising that it should make the world a better place.
I would consider what teachers need to do their job well; recognising, for example, that marking matters and that it takes time, so is probably best not done at midnight. I would ask that the directed hours of a teacher include the aspects of the job that are required to do it well. Great teachers spend a lot of time planning and a lot of time marking, so let us think about how we could fund timetables to allow more time for both. I would consult great headteachers, such as John Tomsett, about how reducing contact time has impacted pupil progress and staff well-being.
Great teachers are well read and informed, both about their subjects and about child development and pedagogy. I would make schools provide well-resourced CPD tailored to the needs of the learning community and not to the whims and fancies of the Department for Education or Ofsted. By listening to experts — those in classrooms as well as scientists, psychologists and philosophers — I would hope to become better informed. Then, instead of cherry-picking snippets of research that accorded with my own world view, I would set up a College of Teaching to ensure that the profession itself might promote that which may have most impact.
Most of all, I would recognise that human capacity is multifaceted and that children are capable of developing a whole range of talents. I would not privilege one subject over another. I would recognise that the arts have enhanced human experience and are a vital form of communication. I would give them equal status to other important areas of human knowledge and endeavour, including maths and science. I would look again at whether or not exams are the best ways of assessing our young and explore options based on professional trust.
I would talk to parents about how important it is that they and their children respect the people trying their best to deliver a future of hope and possibility. And then I would sit back and have a cup of tea and let the professionals get on with it.
Debra Kidd is the author of Teaching: Notes from the Frontline (Independent Thinking Press, 2014)