While we at Lexonik, like those across the nation, have been watching intently to see who would walk into the vacant Number 10 post, it is hardly surprising that we would be most interested in who will be our next Education Minister.
There’s no escaping the fact that schools across the country are facing a perfect storm.
To be in a situation where we now witness a fifth Education Secretary since July, is, to say the least, unhelpful.
What the world of education needs right now is focus, understanding, and a commitment to put arms around (and money into) schools which are understandably fearful, frustrated and in need of help.
Let’s look at just a handful of some of the key issues which face the arena right now:
- Budget deficits are a harsh reality for so many schools and academy trusts. It’s a grave situation when headteacher after headteacher is sharing stories of having to cut from one aspect of their budget in order to make other day-to-day functions possible. It hardly seems plausible that we could be in this situation in 2022.
- Sadly, the ugly footprint left by Covid on the world of education remains ever present. What Covid has left behind is a mixed picture of individual and organisation-wide troubles. Namely, we have too many children still lacking confidence to return to the classroom, those battling with mental health issues brought about in the pandemic, or others struggling academically after losing valuable teaching time. And that’s to say nothing of the ongoing fear we may see more of with the return of Covid rates in the winter, which could have a bearing on attendance.
- Families are struggling with the cost of living crisis, which has a bearing on daily school life – from children being well fed and clothed, to the capacity to get additional educational support for children who are most in need. Naturally schools want to help. But where is the money to make that possible? Where is the teaching resource? Again, more sacrifices will be the only option – and no teacher or school leader wants to have to make such desperate judgments.
- Recruitment and retention...it’s suffering. Yes, of course the profession continues to have wonderful and dedicated teachers. But, in light of all the economic uncertainty, and against a backdrop of feeling that they are witnessing such a desperately sad time in their working environment - unable to help the very children they most want to – is it any surprise we see teachers turning their backs on the UK, or on the profession altogether?
Again, it’s where a fix is needed. Without it, we also risk putting off an entire generation of future teachers. Why would young people head to university to train to teach, if the costs are high and the likely resulting environment appears to lack the right rewards?
- Getting experience of all schools…you have to see every angle. Of course, all schools strive for excellence, but contextually that excellence can look different from region to region, town to town. You must breathe, see and experience the reality of all schools from all corners of the UK, not just a selection of chosen destinations. It will be uncomfortable, but it matters…hugely.
We see all of these issues – and more – perhaps most starkly in the North East (the region in which our core delivery team is based).
It’s time now, for the new Education Minister to hear from the likes of us, from other teachers and education leaders. It’s time for a commitment to turning the tide.
We cannot afford for the Minister to delay.
Our children, their families and our sector full of exceptional teaching professionals, deserve more.
Please Gillian Keegan, don’t waste a minute in engaging with the world of education and producing a plan you can deliver on at pace.
The time is now.