The Prime Minister's new proposals are eye catching but impossible to implementby Laura McInerney / February 2, 2015 / Leave a comment
David Cameron has set out his education stall today and what he’s selling is soundbites. Big, juicy, quite good sounding ones, but people in education will be tearing their hair out over their truthfulness.
A “war on mediocrity”—which Cameron is promising—is a great phrase. Who wants their child’s life to be average? Hours lost to boring geography teachers or stifling maths lessons is a pain most parents want to avoid for their offspring.
Hence Cameron has promised that if a school is “coasting” then he’s not going to have any more patience—he’s going to get in there, sack the leadership and bring in an academy chain to resolve it. After all, his party have said, the schools who’ve already completed their academy transformation are now improving faster than “other schools.”
Good soundbite, right? But that vague notion of “other schools” is a menace. Comparing the improvement rate in failing schools to all other schools is plain unfair. Bad schools are always likely to improve faster than already great ones; just like my tennis serve would improve rapidly if I started practising tomorrow, whereas Andy Murray would struggle to notch it up even slightly.
And who is supposed to take over from the leaders in these schools labelled by the school inspectorate as “requires improvement”—of which there are about 3,500? Last time anyone looked, there weren’t 3,500 headteachers stuffed down the back of sofa somewhere just waiting for the opportunity to take over a difficult school.
In fact, teachers are leaving the profession at an alarming rate. And stating, as Nicky Morgan did at the weekend, that leaders who fail to get 100 per cent of their children to learn times tables could face the chop, isn’t likely to help. Cameron’s call could be the final nail in several would-be leaders’ coffins.
Next up in Cameron’s speech were grand claims about free schools—normal, state-funded schools opened via a central government process in which Ministers decide who gets to start one, and where it will be, even if it overturns local planning decisions. Originally opened by parents, many of the later cohorts have…