There’s a lot you can achieve when a large group of positive people come together. Headteachers from across the United Kingdom who have met to discuss the progression of an alternative education white paper have urged the Government to make the recruitment and retention of teachers its number one priority.
Following the publication of the controversial education white paper earlier this year, the first Headteachers’ Roundtable (HTRT) Think Tank has taken place at the Sheffield Institute of Education to discuss a response in the form of an alternative version.
The meeting, which was attended by more than 200 headteachers and senior education professionals, focused on the question, “What should the education system be like and look like in 2020 and beyond?”
Keynote speeches were delivered by a number of the HTRT’s Core Team, with following workshops focusing on the key themes of accountability, structures, and retention and recruitment. We aim to use the content gathered on the day to create an alternative white paper. The alternative paper will focus on developing coherent policy ideas focused on key issues facing schools. Due for publication in September, the policy ideas will be widely circulated by the HTRT’s experienced Core Group to a number of key education decision makers, including senior politicians and civil servants.
Jon Chaloner, a member of the Core HTRT Group and CEO of GLF Schools Multi Academy Trust, said: “The recruitment and retention of teachers is an issue that is affecting all regions of the UK. With a new education secretary expected in September, now is the time to open a deeper dialogue and change the culture of recruitment in our wonderful profession – the HTRT Think Tank and alternative white paper is about achieving exactly that.”
Key to achieving this will be the HTRT’s proposals on a more humane accountability system that puts the right ‘moral drivers’ in place to ensure all schools provide a high quality education for their pupils and an enriching and sustainable school culture for their staff.
Stephen Tierney is the Chair of the HTRT and Executive Director of the Blessed Edward Bamber Multi Academy Trust (Christ the King Catholic Academy, St. Cuthbert’s Catholic Academy, and St. Mary’s Catholic Academy). Stephen said: “We now have a significant body of work from which to start writing a progressive and realistic alternative white paper, created by those at the very coal-face of the education sector. For too long school leaders and teachers’ voices have been ignored or only partially listened to when education policy is being developed. It’s one of the reasons why too many policies are ineffective, waste precious public money and fail to benefit the children in our schools.”
Sally Hamson, Headteacher at Woollaston Community Primary School, said: “There is a general feeling that the assessment system is too narrow – particularly in primary education – where the focus is on reading, writing and maths, even though the curriculum is much broader than that. As a result of the pressures to perform in these core areas, the children aren’t being taught well enough across the whole curriculum.
“The HTRT event has been a really helpful exercise for looking at alternative solutions. The range of delegates – from parents and governors to teachers and headteachers – has helped inform those alternatives and we now have to take these forward.”
Tom Sherrington, Headteacher at Highbury Grove School has led on the National Baccalaureate, since its inception, as part of the HTRT’s response to the flawed E-Bacc Certificate. Speaking at the conference he outlined the formation of the National Baccalaureate Trust, now Supported by the SSAT(UK), to provide a “wide enriching curriculum offer within schools”.
Sam Twiselton, director of the SIOE, hosts of the HTRT Think Tank, said: “As one of the largest providers of School Direct and ITT in the country, we felt it was vital to understand the perspectives on offer from many of our partners and express our own concerns about the white paper.
“Excellence in ITT, including the best partnership working of which we saw many examples of in the Carter Review, must be protected by Government. As things stand ITT providers – both school and HEI-led – have no security or medium term financial data from which to plan.”
The event trended on Twitter and the hundreds of tweets (can be seen here) give you a flavour of what happened.
Huge thanks to our partners, without whom this event could not have happened: Institute of Education in Sheffield (thanks Sean), Summerhouse Events and Schools Week (thanks Shane).
The next major HTRT event will be a Summit on the 2 February 2017, at a Central London venue, to further its work aimed at ensuring schools are able to offer all their pupils the chance to thrive. We hope you can make it.