Pupil need over political ideology


Education policy should not be about political ideology – but meeting pupils’ needs, argues Deborah Lawson.

At this point in the political calendar it is rare to open a newspaper, view a social media site or often open an email without receiving a request to support a particular manifesto and urging you to endorse and promote that manifesto to all, especially to politicians.

Voice too has an election statement. It includes, as you would expect, issues of teacher workload, staff pay and conditions, work/life balance for the whole education team, and accountability. 

But how to achieve those goals for the professionals who work in education – for the benefit of their pupils and themselves – is the matter which is of greatest concern.

There is no doubt that the teaching profession and education as a whole have experienced what amounts to a tsunami of change during the current administration.

The teaching profession, indeed the whole education workforce, recognises the need for change. However, the timetable for change has been so short that the time allowed to test, develop, review, implement and realise any benefit of that change has been unrealistic. The result has often been to blame the failure to realise the expected benefits on education professionals.

In order to avoid a continuation of this situation, it is essential that, whatever colour/s make up the next administration, there is a commitment to continued, meaningful engagement with the profession. 

It is through on-going engagement that the teaching profession can contribute to and inform change and how it is implemented. It is in this way that those who know – through their work in classrooms nationwide and their overwhelming wealth of experience of what works and how to apply it to different cohorts as well as to individual pupils – can inform education policy that will work. 

In addition to this, of course, is the need to allow change to become established before testing it. 

Testing change before there has been sufficient time to embed it and realise and celebrate the progress it can produce can result in unrealistic expectations. It has a detrimental impact on pupils, teachers, parents and employers, who question the validity of the qualifications or, at the very least, are confused by the changes.

That is why Voice includes in its election statement a request to all political parties for a commitment to positive, meaningful, continual engagement with teacher and education unions when developing and implementing education policy. 

Education policy has an impact on everyone and everything – pupils, teachers, support staff, parents, further and higher education institutions, industry and commerce. 

Voice believes that change to education policy that is made without engagement with all relevant stakeholders and those who are charged with delivering policy change – especially when done at a pace to meet a political timetable rather than one which is for the benefit of pupils or education professionals – has a detrimental impact on pupil education, progress and achievement. 

Furthermore, the aim of education policy development should not be to fulfil a political ideology, but to meet the development and learning needs of pupils to fulfil their personal, academic, industrial, commercial or artistic aspirations.

There is no doubt that politics is an evil which is necessary to education. It should not, however, be the ruling force. Whatever the make-up of the next administration, we will work positively with it on matters of education. 

We would, however, celebrate any political party or administration that is brave enough to lift education policy development out of the political box and constraints that are currently limiting the profession and pupil aspiration and achievement. 



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