Hey (all) politicians, leave them schools alone

Hey (all) politicians, leave them schools alone

There are some truly horrific schools out there and that needs to change. But constantly moving the goalposts and interfering isn’t going to help. Let the teachers get on with the teaching.

One of the biggest stories to come out of the fallout of the latest budget has been the Government white paper titled Educational Excellence Everywhere. The core principal of the 128-paged paper is that every school is to become an academy by the end of 2022. Relevant to this is the fact that I was sat in a school staffroom at the time the budget was being announced. What I saw and heard during the education-focused announcements were a range of emotions from a number of different people; most of them not particularly positive. In essence, this announcement was one in a long line that has impacted the education system in this country under governments of all colours and political persuasions. Are the current government harming education? Maybe. However, every government has sought to impact the way in which children are educated in a variety of ways.

Every School to become an Academy

As previously mentioned, the main story to come out of the education white paper is that every school is to become an academy. It certainly wasn’t the only story, far from it, but it is the one that has caused the biggest debate and conversation. Interestingly, the school I was in at the time of the announcement is an academy; a high-achieving and well-run one at that. What was interesting to me was the fact that the announcement wasn’t met with all-round positivity by the members of staff in the room. In fact, many disagreed wholeheartedly with it.

I certainly don’t disagree with the idea of academies in principle. There are a number of very good academies out there who do a fantastic job where the model and structure that academy status facilitates absolutely works for them and their pupils. However, I have a problem with this notion that every school should become an academy. Personally, I think that such a process a) devalues what academies represent and, more importantly, b) monetises the education system. Ask any teacher or parent and they’ll almost always say that they’d rather they had a headteacher running the school instead of a chief executive. Having a local ‘business czar’ running a school doesn’t necessarily make it better. It may well do, but not every time. Similarly, surely parent governors are far more practical and informed than local ‘community governors’ who may never have had a child go through this particular school?

Politicisation of education

Going back to an earlier point – this is aimed at all political parties. Every political party interferes in the education system at one point or another. I firmly believe that this simply exacerbates the situation. If politicians care about the future of the education system then they should create a cross-party panel to control the Department for Education. Arguably, the same should be done for the Department of Health. Education is a precious commodity. What we learn and how we learn at school impacts our entire future. It’s above politics.
For example, I was in a year nine maths lesson last week where I was literally teaching a group of 14 year-olds how to draw a straight line with a ruler. The simple fact that a 14 year-old cannot draw a straight line with a ruler shows that there are cracks in the system. One in five British school children leave primary school without being able to read or write. These are big problems. You simply cannot get anywhere in life these days without GCSEs in maths and English. I’m not saying these issues are a result of political mismanagement of the education system but they become background noise when ‘bigger’ issues come up. Surely attaining a necessary level in English and maths is the biggest issue?

As somebody who is looking to start teacher training in September, the current education playing field is certainly an uncertain one to be stepping into. Most people go into teaching because they love their subject and/or they want to have an impact on shaping the minds of future generations. Nobody goes into teaching because it is all short days and great pay – it’s really not. Therefore, it’s no wonder that teachers get annoyed with the constant changes that successive governments make to the system. Don’t get me wrong, the system is far from perfect. In fact, there are some truly horrific schools out there and that needs to change. But constantly moving the goalposts and interfering isn’t going to help. Let the teachers get on with the teaching. The students deserve it.

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