More than 50 headteachers have this week signed an open letter to education secretary Nicky Morgan claiming her government has plunged the education system into chaos.
The heads have put forward six key proposals to improve the education system.
Steve Hitchcock, headteacher of St Peter’s CofE Primary School in Devon, who helped organise the letter, outlines the key points.
It is time for teachers to end their compliance with the government’s agenda, and make their voice known to parents and the Department for Education (DfE). Teachers have a “superhero” mentality, which means they will try and tackle any initiative, challenge or problem that comes their way.
However, the time has come to stop our acquiescence with government demands – we are overloaded – and it is damaging our education system.
Poor political leadership, lack of a clear vision, cuts to funding, increased expectations on schools and more testing inflicted on young children have resulted in low morale in schools. All of this has led to a huge increase in teacher workload, which is dramatically affecting recruitment and retention.
As a group of schools from Devon, Plymouth and Torbay, we have written a letter to the Department for Education (DfE) explicitly stating our concerns, with solutions that would better serve pupils.
1. Re-assess the approach to initial teacher training allocations
We want the government to apply the following criteria when allocations are made:
– Quality of Ofsted grade
– Demonstrable capacity to recruit allocated numbers based on previous three-year recruitment level
– High employment rates over a three-year period
– A partnership agreement between a viable number of schools
– Allocations made for three years to increase business viability and planning
2. Acknowledge and address the serious teacher recruitment crisis and the reasons for it
– Commission an independent review of teacher pay and conditions to redress the recruitment crisis
– Incentivise a higher proportion of high-performing graduates into teaching
3. Reassess the vision for pupil assessment and testing
– Treat 2016 as a pilot year for the new curriculum. Ensure data from these tests is not reported nationally or used to create league tables. Individual results should be reported to parents only
– Listen to schools about a more appropriate level of expectation in the core curriculum, allowing us time to teach to fewer objectives more effectively
– Review SATs testing and the whole primary assessment system. Teachers should be trusted to assess children using teacher assessment systems
– Abandon all forms of centralised baseline assessments for four-year-olds. Teachers should assess children using their own methods and not subject pupils to tests in their first months at school
– Do not introduce any more tests
4. Address the current funding crisis, which is threatening to undermine the quality of our provision
– Replace this proposed redistribution of an inadequate and dwindling education budget with a proper assessment of the funding needs of our schools. All schools will be losing staff, cutting back on resources and training budgets. Parents will want to know why
– Recognise the impact of the current funding crisis on small schools and make informed and transparent decisions which acknowledge how your policies will affect their future
5. Prioritise the development and delivery of high-quality support for pupils with special educational needs
– Revitalise support services so our children and families have access to the help they need to address their mental health, social care, financial and housing needs, thus enabling us to focus on our core business of teaching and learning
– Recognise that the progress of children with additional needs does not run parallel to that of children without additional needs, and that judging attainment against standard “age-related” expectations, or relative incremental improvements, will invariably marginalise these children and penalise inclusive schools
– Address the constant battle we currently have to engage in (via reams of paperwork), in order to access the funding and support our children are entitled to after changes to SEND systems
6. Acknowledge and respect the expertise of educational professionals across the spectrum
– Ensure the DfE’s protocol, which promises a year’s lead-in time for Government initiatives, is properly applied and ensure all policies undergo a rigorous workload impact assessment
– Go further than just developing an independent College of Teaching and instead devolve full responsibility for national policy to those who know education best. Processes and policies should come from schools, which is the antithesis of the current approach
– Do more to deliver workload solutions for the profession. This would show you respect and acknowledge the work we do. The three reports released this spring will not make the inroads into teacher workload that are necessary. We already try to adhere to the recommendations made but we currently have insufficient funds for adequate non-contact time and for the resources needed to plan properly for each lesson.