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A lot has changed since Headteachers’ Roundtable first conceived the idea of writing an Alternative White Paper in April 2016. A new Prime Minister, a new Secretary of State for Education and a level of uncertainty about which elements of the original White Paper, Education Excellence Everywhere, if any will be retained and implemented following the publication of a Green Paper, Schools that Work for Everyone.
In writing this paper, our group of experienced and diverse headteachers and school leaders, never sought to respond to Education Excellence Everywhere nor Schools that Work for Everyone rather to demonstrate there was another way. The alternative way proposed is rooted in our collective experience and knowledge of the school system further informed by evidence from a range of sources and expert advice. Both the recent White and Green Papers missed the point; they largely addressed political imperatives rather than the educational necessities of creating a school system that enables all to thrive. By all we obviously mean the children and young people but also the teachers and support staff who are critical to the system and the quality of education offered.
The commentary and policy proposals below provide for a different approach; one in which our children and young people can thrive and flourish. If this is to happen we need to retain and recruit the very best teachers and school leaders. The days of political diktat, from on high, followed by crushing and multiplying accountability measures have to stop; the damage is becoming too great. Accountability needs to become more valid and holistic if we are to collectively improve the school system for all pupils.
Central to our proposals is the need for political imperatives to be replaced by policies focused on pupils’ education; the need for every pupil to have a high quality education irrespective of social class, ethnicity or geographical location. This can only be achieved by focusing on what matters most. Changes to the school system – local authority maintained to academy or comprehensive to selective – are matters of preference not ways of improving pupils’ education.
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. It is within this 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.
Thank you to all the people who attended our Think Tank event at Sheffield Institute of Education in July 2016 and contributed their ideas and perspectives. Special thanks to the following people who critiqued this Alternative White Paper and offered their expert advice:
Dr. Becky Allen, Education Datalab
Professor Robert Coe, CEM, Durham University
Professor Christine Merrell, CEM, Durham University
Dave Thomson, Education Datalab
Professor Samantha Twistelton, Sheffield Institute of Education
The conversation will continue at our Summit at the ETC Venues, County Hall, London on the 2nd February 2017. It would be great to see you there.
Chair of Headteachers’ Roundtable (@LeadingLearner)