No Ofsted, teacher-led curriculum, Master's-level CPD and professional trust? A vision for education in 2040

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A bold vision for our education system that places ‘equity, quality and agency’ at its heart has been published by a group of leading teachers. Pete Henshaw reports on the SSAT's Vision 2040 project

A vision for schooling in 2040 – inspired out of the frustration at short-term and damaging education policies – has been published by a group of leading teachers.

The document envisages an education system in which teachers are responsible for the design of curriculum and assessment, as well as pedagogical development.

It also outlines moving to a new shorter inspection process from September 2015, with the axing of overall grades and the introduction of “narrative reports to assist school improvement”.

Ultimately, it says that Ofsted could be “retired” by 2020 with pilot programmes being launched of “externally validated peer-to-peer quality assurance”.

The Vision 2040 group was formed in 2013 through the SSAT and has been working to articulate what education could and should look like in 2040 – and how we can get there.

The document, published last week, calls for a system-wide focus on “collective moral purpose, high professional capital and self and peer-evaluation and challenge”. It says that three core values of “equity, quality and agency” should be placed at the heart of education.

It says that  “all current curriculum, assessment and wider policy changes” should be reviewed to determine which should be abandoned or delayed.

The vision also includes the establishment of a Royal College of Teaching, with a timeline and resources to set up regional Royal College of Teaching “research universities” by 2020. 

These institutions will then offer Master’s degrees in research and leadership and, by 2025, could take responsibility for Master’s-level training of all new entrants to the profession.

Elsewhere, over the next decade, the vision says we should move towards geographical families of schools with simpler governance structures. 

The 66-page document sets out its vision through the eyes of a teacher starting at the chalkface in 2015. It is intended, the authors say, to start a “constructive debate”.

In the narrative, the hypothetical teacher relates how a shortage of secondary school places, “a pernicious accountability culture and excessive workload”, a recruitment and retention crisis, and a continuing long tail of underachievement for disadvantaged children, led, in 2020, to “a watershed for the relationship between government and the profession”.

After the 2020 General Election, a moratorium is called on educational change and policy and all inspections are suspended. A Royal Commission is set up, taking four years to investigate and report.

Ultimately, the report leads to a shift in how we evaluate the effectiveness of schools, with three broad strands being agreed – educational outcomes, personal outcomes and social outcomes. Ofsted is “retired” while the expertise of the HMIs is used to move the focus onto “high-quality self and peer-evaluation and review”.

The secretary of state is stripped of hundreds of powers and a “decentralised, regional model is built to co-ordinate and share best practice” between the geographical families of schools.

Teaching is slowly changed to become a “two Master’s” profession – a qualification in subject expertise and pedagogy and then training to become a researcher in the classroom, leading to a second Master’s.

The hypothetical teacher concludes: “Equity, quality and agency are interdependent, mutually supportive values which produced a positive spiral of improvement. 

“They form the key values on which our education system has been built and they permeate the life of our schools. These values guided our direction of travel towards 2040. They are the touchstones of policy-making at a system and school level.”

SSAT said that the idea for the publication was “born out of frustration at the short-termism of policy cycles and their damaging impact on schools”. The authors state that this short-termism “so often stifles long-term strategic thinking and the profession’s ability to agree on a shared purpose for education”.

Sue Williamson, SSAT chief executive, said: “This is a potentially game-changing statement of intent. For far too long, teachers’ professionalism has been compromised – forced to be technicians, delivering top-down policy initiatives. What this publication shows is that teachers are ready and willing to lead their own direction to ensure all young people get the education they deserve.”

The Vision 2040 document has been published alongside the SSAT’s policy recommendations for the new government. Read both documents at www.ssatuk.co.uk

Time-travel: The Vision 2040 document sets out an ideal for how education should evolve over the next 25 years (Photo: iStock)


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