This is my public declaration to the PM and the Secretary of State for Education. You are dabbling with schools again. This time I cannot stay silent. Here is my ten point School Manifesto.
1. Education is too important to leave in the hands of politicians. Appointing a Secretary of State for Education who is not steeped in education and schooling is like appointing brain surgeons on the grounds that they have done a fair bit of slicing and stitching in another job and could easily make the transition to this form of cutting and mending. Our local butcher would qualify as a top surgeon if that were the criterion.
2. Grammar schools did not create a sense of failure in those who fell in the 11+ steeplechase. The disappointed judgemental reaction of parents did the damage. That reaction was created by a society that judged anything less than grammars as inferior and by not providing anything that was at least on a par with the grammars in the public perception. In the interests of the pupils, anything other than a grammar is better if it is the type of school that best suits the learning, aspirations and capabilities of that child.
What would happen if Elite Sport selected potential Olympic champions by a test that asked every 11-year old to run a hundred metres, then ride a bike, row a boat, attack another pupil using feet as well as hands and throw long sharp things into a field? Gold medal winning paralympians who came late to their sport will give you the best answer to that question.
3. Selection at 11+ should be about identifying aptitude for a type of learning, a type of school environment and educational activities that match the individual’s profile. It should not be about measuring ability against some dodgy intelligence scale. The armed forces use aptitude identification to the benefit of the individual and is the foundation for the armed forces preparedness to defend the country.
Selection at 11+ should be about opening up the best routes to the type of education giving most benefit to the individual. It is not about switching the points on the track so that from this time on the individual goes down one track that never meets, joins with or crosses other tracks.
4. Create parity of esteem for types of school and their outcomes among parents, society and in the thinking of all teachers and pupils.
5. All pupils should arrive at their key years of deliberating about and choosing their preferred learning route (ages 12 and 13) with experience of different types of learning and having had their aptitudes properly assessed by expert professionals and those who work with children on a daily basis.
6. Restructure the school system into a single continuous unit from Early Years through to 18+. Run all schools in an area as an interconnected, collaborative system with a central leadership and management team to create the widest range of options and deploy expert professionals to give the best teaching and learning for the benefit of the children in that area.
7. Measure the teachers not the pupils, but not in terms of how many pupils achieve some variable and arbitrary benchmark. Peer review with dialogue as a central element will solve any problems with that suggestion. Ask your doctor who is the best cardiac surgeon in the area and you will be given an informed answer immediately.
8. Save the money wasted on the indulgences of Free School vested interests and Academy management pay and perks and invest it in Early Years and primary schools.
Early Years and primary schools cover the critical years. Pour generous funding into that part of the system to procure the best teaching and learning personnel, to equip them with the resources they need, to extend family support, to enrich the personal context and the wider learning environment of children, to focus social care on those families where the situation has gone wrong, to give access to international and outdoor education that will broaden the life view and experience of children.
9. No one in a school or the area central management team should be paid more than the best teacher. All management, leadership, ancillary, clerical, cleaning roles should be defined as support roles and paid according to the value they add.
10. Any member of staff who does not measure up to the highest standards of delivery and task achievement should be replaced quickly, justly and effortlessly. The future of too many children is at stake to waste time on bureaucratic routines of removal for ineptitude or incapacity to improve.
Teresa and Justine, please listen to teachers if you want to know how to make these points a reality.