Mark Baker, the incoming president of the Association of Teachers and Lecturers (ATL), has voiced his concerns about the fragmentation of the education system and the dangers of basing education policy on “the survival of the fittest”.
Mr Baker took up his post on Monday (September 1) and will lead the union for the next year, representing some 170,000 teachers, headteachers and support staff in schools, colleges and universities in England, Wales and Northern Ireland.
He said: “More and more children will lose out if education policy continues to be based on the survival of the fittest, with school pitted against school, staff against staff, and parent against parent.
“If schools are encouraged to act like businesses they are likely to see education as an industrial process with children as the products which have to generate returns for the business.
“You can’t then be surprised if schools focus on children in the middle because the least resources bring the greatest returns in terms of exam grades and a good position in the school league tables.”
Mr Baker, who trained as a geography teacher, started his teaching career in 1981 at Alderman Kay Special School in Rochdale, which became part of Redwood Secondary School in 2007, where he is still based.
The new president has also warned that parents could lose out under the SEN reforms, which came into effect this month.
He continued: “While in theory it sounds reasonable for SEN funding to follow the child, the reality is that children whose parents lack the expertise, time, ability or motivation to fight for them are likely to lose out.
“Just as children whose parents don’t have the time or skills to play the admissions process have less chance of getting into the most popular schools, colleges or universities.
“Parents are being encouraged to fight for their own child, even though this is often at the expense of the other local children. And, as always, the most vulnerable end up with the short straw.”