The unexpected result of the General Election two weeks ago defied all of the pre-election polls. The much-anticipated continuation of a coalition, albeit with a possible change of hue, did not materialise.
Nicky Morgan has now been retained as the secretary of state. Education priorities should, by the time you read this, also be known – with an indication of any intended future policy changes.
But what does all this mean for the profession? What difference will it really make to teachers and in the classroom? What difference will it make to education policy?
During the election campaign, it was apparent that, with some notable exceptions – including whether all teachers should hold qualified teacher status or not, and the level of influence of politicians over what actually happens in the classroom – there was a lot consensus across the political spectrum.
It was recognised that, after five years of rapid and significant change, a period of stability is what is needed for pupils and the profession, along with an acceptance of the necessity for time to allow newly implemented policies to “bed in” and fulfil the promise of improvement.
Curriculum reform introduced by the last government will therefore remain and continue. Regardless of whether the reforms are the right ones, what is evident is that the time and resources invested by teachers and schools to implement them were significant and therefore should not be lost on a future political whim.
We know that teacher workload is at an unbearable pitch and that the last thing teachers want is more change. Teachers are time-starved and further significant change would rob yet more time from the primary and important role of teaching.
What we now need to know is whether this government will provide the resources to empower teachers do what they do best – teach. And we also need to implement education policy where it will make a difference – in the classroom. Recent experience indicates, as did Conservative election campaign speeches, that politics and politicians will remain significant in education policy development. However, that does not mean that we will desist from campaigning for education policy to be developed and informed by the profession. We believe that it is only with such engagement that the best outcomes for pupils and the profession will be achieved.
A number of factors would contribute to ensuring that there is a period of stability for teachers, not least the provision of adequate funding.
Meanwhile, restoring trust in the profession is fundamental to progress and the provision of high-quality teaching.
The political stranglehold on education has resulted not only in change in the classroom but in the erosion of the status of the profession and individuals. The apparent urge to distrust the professional judgement and ability of teachers and schools must be eradicated.
Teachers and schools are held accountable through an onerous system that currently obliges them to spend a disproportionate amount of time on recording and providing evidence, much of which is to the detriment of teaching and learning.
What is evident is that the culture and accountability process that has developed as a result has also been used to deflect criticism away from those responsible for policy to those who, having had it imposed on them, are charged with executing it in the classroom.
So as well as a period of stability in terms of education reform, we also need a willingness not only to tackle the drivers of excessive workload and accountability, but to actually take action to restore trust in teachers and their professional judgement and reverse this trend that is damaging the profession.