Election Manifestos: The Centre for Education and Youth’s priorities

by

1st November 2019

MPs have backed the PM’s call for a general election after months of Brexit deadlock. Political parties are pulling their manifestos together and gearing up for what is likely to be a frenzied 5-week campaign.

This blog sets out a summary of recommendations in four key areas which we think the parties should focus on in their election pledgs.

Over the next few weeks we will be releasing a series of blogs examining policy changes in these areas in more detail.

Accountability

All political parties should commit to the following changes to the accountability system:

1. Shift published league tables to three-year rolling averages.

This will:

  • Reduce teacher workload and pupil stress due to the disproportionate pressure on exam year groups and their teachers.
  • Offer schools some respite from ultra high-stakes, short-term accountability. School leaders can then take decisions and construct curricula that are in their pupils’ long term interests, rather than focusing on quick wins and protecting themselves from rapid-fire dismissal.
  • Provide a more meaningful and valid picture of performance by reducing year-on-year volatility and statistical ‘noise’.

Of course, the DfE, Ofsted and schools could still receive the year on year data to use with caution where more granular analysis is necessary.

2. Abolish the Ofsted “Outstanding” grade.

As we have previously argued, this will:

  1. Recognise inspections’ limited potential for identifying and promoting excellence
  2. Leave space for peer-led school improvement.
  3. End battle to do whatever it takes to secure an ‘outstanding’ banner on the school fence.

Instead, Ofsted should inspect schools on a simpler “pass/requires improvement/special measures” basis. This would secure intervention where necessary and provide parents with the information they need and deserve, whilst leaving professionals in the driving seat when it comes to pursuing excellence.

These changes are urgently needed. Our work highlights the problems school accountability creates for staff and pupils across the country. For instance, Testing the Water showed that assessment often serves managers and accountability systems’ needs rather than those of teachers, parents and students.

Meanwhile teachers painted a stark picture of how high stakes accountability affects their wellbeing and long-term career plans during our panel events with the TES and as part of our Why Teach? report.

What does @TheCFEY want to see on school accountability in election manifestos? Three year rolling averages and an end to "Outstanding". Click To Tweet

Special Educational Needs and Disabilities

Local Authorities do not have the capacity to deliver effective services for young people with SEND. Political parties must therefore commit to:

1. Creating a new body that provides statutory assessments of SEND. This would leave Local Authorities responsible for funding the services specified in Education Health and Care Plans without conflicts of interest.

Currently, the system for awarding and funding EHCPs is messy and ineffective, as the Education Select Committee pointed out last week. Although this is not the only problem in the SEND system, we agree with the Select Committee, as well as practitioners such as Nancy Gedge who argue that the current system leads to LAs refusing support that young people with SEND are entitled to. This creates inequities in access to specialist assessments of SEND.

Local Authorities do not have the capacity to deliver effective services for young people with #SEND Click To Tweet

School exclusion

Permanent exclusions are on the rise and vulnerable young people are disappearing from the system.

Any new government should therefore:

1. Establish a reducing exclusions fund providing access to additional funding before young people are excluded.

2. Implement the long-promised pledge to hold schools accountable for all pupils performance, including those who are excluded or who have an unexplained exit.

3. Ensure sufficient funding for Alternative Provision (AP) for pupils ages 16-18. 

These reforms would:

  • reduce unexplained exits
  • provide a more accurate picture of schools’ performance
  • ensure schools secured the best possible provision for their pupils when they moved on
  • ensure all pupils are supported adequately until they are 18.

Perversely, schools and parents are sometimes pursuing exclusion as the only means of securing the funding and support their most vulnerable learners need. We therefore want whichever party wins the General Election to provide funding to support young people before they are excluded and believe this would save money and deliver better outcomes in the long run.

Meanwhile the recent Select Committee report on AP pointed out that for many pupils who have been excluded from school, high quality AP at 16-18 may be more appropriate than a return to mainstream settings in schools or colleges, yet funding for AP currently only supports pupils younger than 16.

What does @TheCFEY want to see on exclusions in election manifestos? An 'avoiding exclusions' fund and funding for post-16 AP, plus greater accountability for excluded pupils' results Click To Tweet

Teacher recruitment and retention

We want all three main parties to foster more diversity in the school workforce, particularly in school leadership. Policy-makers and politicians should do this by:

1. Ensuring system and school leaders have access to support and training in inclusive recruitment and retention practices.

2. Ensuring all staff have access to training and development, rather than this depending on recommendation from individual senior leaders. 

Our work has highlighted that Black, Asian and Minority Ethnic teachers often have less access to professional support and career advancement opportunities compared to their white counterparts. Our research shows that increasing access to these opportunities could improve recruitment and retention of BAME teachers, this could happen by ensuring teachers can apply to leadership development courses independently of their current managers patronage.

What does @TheCFEY want to see on recruitment and retention in election manifestos? Greater diversity in the school workforce, particularly in school leadership Click To Tweet

More broadly, CfEY has provided evidence-based recommendations on teacher recruitment and retention for a number of years, firstly in Why Teach, then in Building the Leadership Pool, and recently in The Talent Challenge. The situation remains critical, with government statistics consistently indicating that teacher retention rates are worsening.

 

Over the next few weeks, CfEY will be publishing a series of blogs exploring these recommendattions in more detail.

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