Schools policy: where next for Labour? NASUWT fringe at Labour Party Conference

The NASUWT, the largest teachers’ union in the UK has urged the Labour Party to seize the opportunity to develop a coherent and distinctive narrative on education.

Speaking at an NASUWT fringe meeting at the Labour Party Conference in Brighton, NASUWT General Secretary Chris Keates condemned the Government’s policies which have stripped away the fundamental rights of children and young people to have access to educational opportunities.

Chris Keates told delegates how the Coalition, and now the current Government, has squandered the legacy of 2010.

The fringe also incorporated a discussion on the idea of a National Constitution for the Schools System, which would introduce a set of minimum entitlements for children, parents, staff and the community.

Also speaking were Lucy Powell, Shadow Secretary of State for Education and Olivia Bailey, Research Director at the Fabian Society. The fringe meeting was chaired by NASUWT President Graham Dawson.

Chris Keates, NASUWT General Secretary, said:

“The Government is continuing many of the flawed educational policies of the previous Coalition and cannot be allowed to close down the debate on the future of schooling.

“Indeed it makes such a debate more critical.

“Since 2010 there has been an obsessive focus on structural change and increased autonomy for individual schools and providers, which has compromised the values and ethos of the public education system.

“Fundamental to our great public services, including education, is that they provide entitlement for all children and young people.

“Labour must avoid getting dragged into the obsessive focus on structural change and be clear that Labour in Government would require any school receiving public money to deliver these entitlements.

“Labour should ensure that education is a top priority and that our public education service delivers equality and social justice.”

Shadow Secretary of State for Education Lucy Powell said:

“Schools now come with all different labels. By 2020 the vast majority of secondary schools and significant numbers of primary schools will be academies.

“I’m not trying to go backwards and rename these schools but this system, where schools are in effect managed directly by the Secretary of State; I think that’s unsustainable.

“We have to have more local oversight and local accountability.”

Olivia Bailey, Research Director, Fabian Society, said:

“Schools should not be exam factories.

“Schools should be public institutions and champion equality, shared ownership and should work in collaboration and with transparency.

“We believe in a national constitution for the schools system where we have rights and responsibilities, which can be consulted on by each individual school which can then draw up their own individual constitutions.

“This is about parents, teachers and pupils coming together behind a common ethos for their school.”