Dear Bridget…Education Needs Changes - A Letter To The New Education Secretary

Bridget phillipson

As the new Labour cabinet begins its first full week in office, we’ve been considering what we might say in a letter direct to the Education Secretary, Bridget Phillipson.

Given we’re into a new era as a country, and that it presents an opportunity for educational priorities to be assessed, we’re very much hoping that we might see literacy becoming a central strand.

Here are the 9 core features of our request to Ms Phillipson:

  1. Please be a listener and a committed observer of what the sector is truly experiencing. Be prepared to be led (or informed by) the people at the chalk-face. Treat these professionals with dignity and hear from all corners of the system, cognizant that you cannot create a one-size-fits-all approach. Don’t make the sector your territory for PR activity and fleeting handshakes, but for genuine insight and learning.
  2. Don’t stop at speaking to schools and teaching environments. Speak too to businesses – those that serve the sector, and those that are naturally impacted by the ability to turn out students who are well educated and appropriately literate. We play a vital role in the economy.
  3. Be long-term focused, not merely quick fix or headline grabbing. What works in TODAY’s society, in light of what we’ve been through in recent years and decades. We can’t long for a system that once was. We need to have education as a landscape appreciative of how covid affected our young people, conscious of new ways of learning. All those things play a part. Perhaps it’s time for a major shift, for example, in just how long summer holidays should be?
  4. Move toward a minimum expectation that students leave school with a reading age of 14 years+. At the very least, you and your cabinet should have a goal of halving the number of students with a reading age less than their chronological age.
  5. Focus on workload and flexibility for school staff, rewarding longevity and experience. We know practise leads to mastery so we need to retain and promote experience in the classroom.
  6. Help the sector encourage curiosity among our teaching professionals. Don’t just say you’ll recruit thousands more. Keep them inspired and engaged. Think about such things as a sabbatical scheme to allow for extended education research, where that then goes back into the school to improve outcomes.
  7. Urgently look at a mental health review to ensure students are ‘fit to learn’. They need quick accessible support within and outside of school.
  8. We need to see an accountability framework and structure that aims to coach and develop practitioners and not berate. There should be a ‘guide on the side’ who is there as a critical friend and can signpost specific targeted support. In time, parents will see this as the way, not the ‘outstanding’ tag on a school.
  9. Keep progress 8, or similar and/or bring back contextual value added, as a progress indicator and place high value on it. A school’s job is to progress students. What were their starting points and how well did the school do in moving them on and up. The contextual element allows parents to see how schools within a specific area are doing as well as seeing that schools are truly progressing them. Attainment scores are not an indication of progress and can mask a coasting or inadequate school.

We think that should keep Ms Phillipson busy.

What else would you add?

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