It helps every now and then to take a look back at the road travelled. The initial pioneers who set up Headteachers’ Roundtable, meeting at the Guardian Offices on the 12th October 2012, hopefully feel proud of the group they established and the work it has done.
Originally set up to campaign against some of the more extreme education policies of the day; the lack of any effective political opposition meant that the profession had to rally itself.
The group’s roots are in social media, with nearly 30,000 twitter followers and an active blog (when the day job allows). It has expanded from a small meeting in a leaky classroom in York to a conference of two hundred school leaders on the south bank of the Thames opposite Parliament. This would not have been possible without the generous time and commitment of the core group and assistance from Fiona Millar and Alice Woolley, of the Guardian, and Shane Mann and Laura McInerney of Schools Week; thanks to all.
The group is a Think Tank and looks to develop policies. John Tomsett led the writing of the first manifesto – five policy papers – for the 2015 General Election. A summer of writing in 2016 led to the publication of “The Alternative Green Paper: Schools that Enable All to Thrive & Flourish”. It started life as a White Paper. A hastily prepared Doorstep Manifesto in 2017 was pulled together in a week and published in advance of any political party’s manifesto. To what extent the various policy ideas have influenced government or opposition policies we’ll never really know. It would be fair to point out that we’ve also borrowed a number of policy ideas from others including Education Datalab which is led by the hugely influential Dr. Becky Allen. Policy has also been put into practice with the establishment of the National Baccalaureate Trust led by Tom Sherrington.
Meeting with HMCI and various politicians has been another mainstay of the groups work. The old guard tell of a wonderfully frosty meeting between a then Secretary of State and a then HMCI following a weekend of claim, counter claim and much media coverage.
We’ve always taken the view that it is right and proper that politicians should be involved in education. We’ve also been clear that too many politicians have become bedevilled by short term thinking, personal bias and ideological or fad centric policy. Failing to take responsibility for the most significant issues in education: funding, teacher numbers and school places using an evidence informed approach – evidence form respected sources as well as evidence about their own initiatives and schemes – has led to too much waste; funds wasted, workload increased and people unnecessarily burnt out.
There is still so much to do; we meet again as a group on the 13th October 2017 to plan the year and years ahead. The core group is changing and evolving and so must our thinking. We are left with the madness of a high stakes pernicious accountability system that needs changing; young people from disadvantaged backgrounds who are still not being well enough served and deepening funding and teacher numbers crises bubbling underneath the surface.
Look out for information about our Spring 2018 Conference; I’m thinking of calling it “World Class; My A** – So What Next?” but that’s unlikely to get past the marketing people. We’ll also be at the Festival of Education in June 2018. Both events will be used to crowd source and develop policy. Thanks to everyone who has supported Headteachers’ Roundtable over the past five years; here’s to the next five.
Stephen Tierney is CEO of the Blessed Edward Bamber Catholic Multi Academy Trust, Blackpool and the Chair of the HTRT.
He is on twitter as @LeadingLearner