An education system not run for profit, a contractual right to CPD, and an end to our “exam factory” culture.
These core principles are at the heart of an education manifesto launched by the Association of Teachers and Lecturers (ATL) at the House of Commons last week.
The document outlines six key demands that the ATL, which represents around 170,000 teachers, headteachers, lecturers and support staff across the UK, wants to see included in education policy.
They touch upon school accountability, teacher training, pay and conditions, CPD, careers advice, and qualifications.
The document calls for public money for education never to be used to help private companies turn a profit. The manifesto states: “Evidence shows nearly
£80 million has been spent on legal, accountancy, recruitment, property services and other consultancy fees connected with academy conversions.
“The coalition government has also diverted at least £637 million from the education budget to set up free schools which educate fewer than 22,000 pupils.”
ATL calls for an end to schools being run for profit “either directly or indirectly”. Launching the manifesto, the union’s general secretary, Dr Mary Bousted, said: “The government must stop making schools and colleges behave like rival businesses, with teachers and heads pitched against one another competing for pupils and resources. When schools and colleges work together they are better able to raise pupils’ attainment.
“Children are not products like tins of baked beans; they are individuals with different skills, abilities and interests. And taxpayers’ money intended for education should not be creamed off in profits by private companies or individuals involved in running schools or colleges.”
Elsewhere, the manifesto calls for an end to England’s “exam factory” culture. The phrase is taken from First steps: A new approach for our schools, the 2012 report from the Confederation of British Industry which called for education to become more “rounded and grounded”.
The ATL manifesto adds: “So many exams are taken that the system is creaking. Schools have lost faith in the ability of exam boards to award the right grades and appeals have risen.
“Yet the coalition government’s return to an over-reliance on testing through final exams which will assess just a small part of pupils’ achievements and its drive to promote a narrowly academic curriculum will ignore the skills and attributes young people need to live fulfilled personal and professional lives.”
The ATL calls for qualifications that assess both “academic knowledge and its practical application”, including a focus on the skills employers need such as communication, analytical skills, IT, creativity and resilience.
The manifesto also calls for the restoration of careers advice services, as well as funding such as the Education Maintenance Allowance, to support young people in continuing their education.
Furthermore, it wants to see teachers given a contractual right to CPD, including dedicated time to research their subject and to work with colleagues and experts in their field.
The manifesto also blasts the current Ofsted accountability regime and calls for a local system where schools are required to work together to share good practice and support one another.
It states: “Ofsted is no longer trusted to make accurate and reliable judgements on individual schools and requires radical reform. As a nation we are spending over £157 million a year on an inspection agency which has endemic internal quality control problems.”
At the manifesto’s launch, Dr Bousted called for politicians to ensure that their policies are based on evidence. She said: “Young people need education policy to be based on sound evidence, and not on ministers’ whims or pet projects.
“The best performing education systems have coherent education policies and long-term goals. They carry out proper consultations with a range of stakeholders including parents, employers and education professionals.
“We also call on politicians to stop interfering in the detail of how young people are taught and leave this to the judgement of the professionals.”
ATL says the manifesto is based on discussions and surveys of its members over the past year and its aim is to influence political parties as they plan their policies ahead of the General Election in May 2015.
Dr Bousted added: “It is vital our schools and colleges offer the highest quality education, and are led by the best and most experienced professionals.
“But something urgently needs to change because currently nearly a million young people are not in education or employment, 40 per cent of NQTs leave in the first five years, and schools have increasing difficulty recruiting new heads.”
The ATL Education Manifesto
1: We want young people to gain qualifications which assess both academic knowledge and its practical application. We want to develop and assess the skills that employers say they need: communication and analytical skills; IT skills; creativity; interpersonal skills; resilience; a strong work ethic; and empathy.
2: A new deal for young people so they have a productive future in our society. We want to restore financial support and careers advice so young people understand education is the most powerful route to improving their life chances.
3: An end to schools, colleges and universities being run for profit, either directly or indirectly. We want publicly funded education institutions to be democratically accountable to their local communities with fully transparent funding and governance structures, including a register of interest to prevent indirect profit-making by private companies and individuals.
4: A return to a nationwide system of teacher training where students gain a professional qualification awarded by an institution which is focused on giving trainees the broadest preparation for a career in teaching. And teachers to maintain their skills and knowledge through a contractual right to CPD with some control over its content, dedicated time to research their subject, to learn with expert colleagues and to feel free to innovate – all to the benefit of their students.
5: The restoration of a consistent national pay structure for teachers so they can plan their future in teaching, with sufficient local flexibility that enables heads to manage their schools fairly. As part of the education team, we want support staff to have a national pay framework and we want an end to exploitative conditions such as term-time-only contracts.
6: A local accountability system where schools are required to work together to share good practice, and local partners provide support, with a new role for Ofsted to evaluate these local arrangements. Further informationYou can read the manifesto at www.atl.org.uk/manifesto