The Local View
On 10 March 2016, I attended an Eastleigh Consortium of Schools and Colleges given by Head teachers at Eastleigh College where a number of questions of a political nature were posed. In addition to local head teachers, politicians such as, Roy Perry, the leader of Hampshire County Council, Peter Edgar, the Conservative Cabinet portfolio lead for education and Mims Davies attended. This is the second such consortium and has been designed to inform local politicians of the effects of central government edicts on local education.
The Head teachers’ asked five questions.
- Government has decreed that there must be a new South Hampshire combined authorities model as part of its countrywide programme of devolution. Will there be a local say in education? Roy was the only one present who has been party to negotiations with central Government, he emphasized that the situation was changing by the hour and that we would all know Government’s plans on 16 March 2016. In the days following, it transpired that what Government has an offer is in exchange for a locally elected Mayor of the Solent Combined Authorities, Government will supply £20m to £30m a year for 20 years. The Mayor, whose election is timed for May 2017, will be directly responsible for transport infrastructure and housing. Perversely, with the accent of the negotiations being around devolution of powers from central Government, education is to be taken away from local authorities in 2020, by which time all schools will be transferred to academy status. Government say that they are giving schools flexibility in salaries, staff levels, etc., but what they are not doing is giving schools flexibility in how they teach. It is suspected that this contracting out of state schools will end in privatisation, where state schools will emulate independent schools.
- Maintaining Standards with Reduced Funding – This centred on the difficulty schools are having maintaining academic standards due to the massive cuts in Government funding.
- The English Baccalaureate (Ebacc) – Will the Government introduction of the English Baccalaureate (Ebacc) raise standards?
- Special Educational Needs – Schools face an increasing challenge in respect of students who have complex and severe needs, including emotional, social and mental health concerns, or who appear on the behaviour spectrum, spanning persistent low-level disruption to knife crime and sexual assault. Government demands are putting an extra strain on resources while budgetary pressures on a very costly area of education provision are less than helpful.
- Teacher Recruitment – Has become an overarching issue and that OFSTED’s micro managing of teachers was the cause. It appears that the gripe teachers have is that they are being over managed in an attempt to raise standards. Prior to the 1988 Education Act, the National Curriculum did not exist. Instead, teachers worked to the curriculum of the exam board whose exams were being set at the end of the academic period. The national curriculum has been changed by successive governments since its inception. For the majority of our European neighbours, the school curriculum has remained unchanged for decades and additionally managed by an independent body. The message we were being given is that professionals do not need to be told how to do their jobs down to the finest detail. Doing so takes away their vocation. We were told that teachers are not volunteering to take up extra responsibilities, because of the demands of increased paperwork, even though in some cases it may mean a £10,000 a year increase.
The subject of School governors was also discussed, because if the local education authority is not involved in local education how will there be a standardization of boards of governors across the country?
After the meeting, we were sent a link to teacher, Tim Paramour’s blog, entitled “The Holidays don’t make up for this”. It is one teacher’s story of the teaching crisis. A week later, after the story was printed in the Independent, it has subsequently has gone viral on social media receiving around 120,000 hits due to so many teachers telling similar stories. This is the link we were sent http://timparamour.com/2016/03/07/the-story-of-the-teaching-crisis/