To deliver the best possible education for all children we need motivated, well-paid and respected teachers. School budgets must be sufficient to meet the needs of every pupil and our children deserve to be taught by qualified teachers.
The current curriculum is not encouraging critical or creative thinking, particularly at primary level where the succession of tests can lead to unnecessary stress and pressure from the age of five.
We need a curriculum that makes learning the vibrant, relevant and exciting experience it should be. Such a curriculum should be mandatory in all schools, with assessment in the hands of the profession.
Ofsted has lost the trust of the profession and is no longer fit for purpose
As a priority I would overhaul the inspection system. Ofsted has lost the trust of the profession and is no longer fit for purpose. Teachers approach inspections with a mixture of fear and weariness. Of course there needs to be accountability in schools – teachers recognise this. Overwhelming evidence from research and practice demonstrates that evaluation by schools themselves must be at the centre of school inspection and support. Trust must replace fear. We need a complete change from this destructive system.
I would recognise that as the secretary of state it is essential to listen to the profession when considering changes or implementing initiatives. Too much of what is happening at present is ill thought out and devised by people who have never been in a classroom. Equally, I would recognise that rushing through endless changes is neither practical nor desirable.
Addressing the school place crisis would be another priority. We need a coherent and logical planning programme for new schools overseen by democratic local authorities. I would stop the chaotic and expensive academy and free schools projects that have cost the taxpayer billions, much of it wasted on management and brokers’ fees.
Teacher recruitment and retention is perilously close to crisis. The causes are without a doubt government policies. A ludicrous workload, the introduction of performance-related pay that simply does not work in schools alongside a punitive accountability system is driving teachers out of the profession. As secretary of state I would address the causes. Failure to do so not only lets down teachers but children, young people and society. If graduates are not attracted to teaching and those with experience are desperate to leave, where will that leave the education of the next generation?
Christine Blower is general secretary of the National Union of Teachers