Concerns that recent Government papers on education fail to address key issues facing schools has led to a group of Headteachers producing their own policy paper. The Alternative Green Paper, Schools that Enable All to Thrive and Flourish, published in Schools Week today, consists of a range of proposals aimed at ensuring every child has a great education.
In writing the paper, the group of experienced and diverse headteachers and school leaders utilised their collective experience and knowledge to address current and deep rooted issues that really matter. Between them Headteachers’ Roundtable core group members cover the whole spectrum of English education, from early years up to post-16 including primary, secondary, special and all-through school leaders, from academies and maintained schools.
Robert Campbell, Headteacher of Impington Village College and Executive Principal, Morris Education Trust, Cambridge reflecting on the Alternative Green Paper (AGP) added, “All of us want the very strongest education system we can achieve; it’s why we all became Headteachers in the first place.” Quoting the Department for Education’s Headteachers Standards in which school leaders are called ‘the guardians to the nation’s schools’ he added his hope that “the government and all those involved can rally behind the ideas in the AGP, on accountability, on recruitment and on structures, and put their faith and trust in the hands of those who are, along with governors, responsible for our schools.”
A number of possible policy proposals were crowd sourced through a Headteachers’ Roundtable Think Tank event at Sheffield Institute of Education in July 2016 which attracted two hundred attendees. The final paper was further informed by evidence from a range of sources and expert advice.
Caroline Barlow the Headteacher of Heathfield Community College in East Sussex was clear about the future direction of educational policy development, “We need a move away from education policy that is driven by the personal experiences and preferences of a few. What we need is a real dialogue with those who know and understand the profession as it is now; engagement with the wealth of evidence around what works, in what circumstances and why and commitment to a long term, adequately resourced solution for education that ensures challenge and high performance for all.”
In writing Schools that Enable All to Thrive and Flourish, the group focused not only on the children and young people in schools but also the teachers, leaders and support staff who are critical to the quality of education offered.
Keziah Featherstone, Headteacher of the Bridge Learning Campus, was pleased to have been part of the group who put together the Headteachers’ Roundtable Alternative Green Paper. She felt it provided a stark contrast to the one released by the Government last week, “At a time of a recruitment and retention crisis in education, it is extremely sad that there is not one clear policy in the Government’s Green Paper that addresses this massive issue. It was an ideal vehicle to respond to the profession’s concern. There is also very little to be gained from debating selective education or independent schools. Neither debate will benefit the three year olds or the sixteen year olds in my school nor the more able or those with special needs.”
The central message of the paper is the need for political imperatives to be replaced by policies focused on necessities for improving children and young people’s education. In short, great teachers, school leaders and support staff recruited, retained and rewarded so that every pupil has a high quality education irrespective of social class, ethnicity or geographical location.
Clearly frustrated by the contents of the government’s recent Green Paper ‘Schools That Work for Everyone’ Jarlath O’Brien, Headteacher of Carwarden House Community School, a special school, noted, “It is shocking that there is absolutely no mention whatsoever of children with special educational need. The life outcomes for these children are dire, they work less and they die younger. This appalling situation will persist if government continue to produce policy papers with ill-thought out proposals such as increasing selection. It’s great that Headteachers’ Roundtable is striving for schools that work for everyone.”
Binks Neate-Evans is Head teacher of West Earlham Infant and Nursery School and identifies the most notable part of the AGP as “the cohesive nature of the policy around reducing social inequality. This policy identifies the barriers within communities and for learners including detail such as overcoming speech language and communication paucity, which we know to be a critical indicator of future educational achievement. It is the first time I felt that the issues are understood and this is reflected in long term cross phase and multi-agency/ discipline approach.”
The group maintains that proposed changes to the school system – local authority maintained to academy or comprehensive to selective – are matters of personal or political preference not ways of improving education.
Jon Chaloner the CEO of GLF Schools focused his thoughts on the growing and substantial concerns around funding and unnecessary changes to the school system, “We must stop the long running saga of changing school structures when we should be prioritising our attention and sufficient resources on giving all children the best possible education from the outset. If we succeed at the earliest possible age then the character developed in such children will last through the secondary years too. We must not let the Government’s White Paper and Green Paper of 2016 disguise the funding issues facing state schools by 2020. The academy programme and the proposed grammar school programme are not going to make schools work for everyone if there is insufficient funding across our primary, special and secondary schools and sixth form colleges.”
They call for the days of political diktat followed by crushing and multiplying accountability measures to stop as the damage to children and young people’s education is becoming too great. They call for accountability to become more valid, holistic and proportionate to ensure all schools collectively improve the education of all pupils.
Stephen Tierney, the current Chair of Headteachers’ Roundtable stated, “Government has pressing issues to address in terms of significantly increasing teacher numbers to respond to the substantial rise in the number of pupils, projected to be in schools over the coming decade. Fairer funding needs to be underpinned by sufficient funding for all schools. It is within this challenging context I’m delighted to present the Headteachers’ Roundtable Alternative Green Paper. It is a paper we hope will encourage debate as we collectively seek a way forward focussed on the issues that really matter.”
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