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NAHT lays out its General Election priorities
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NAHT lays out its General Election priorities

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NAHT has laid out five key priorities for the main political parties to include in their General Election manifestos.

Russell Hobby, NAHT general secretary said: “Education is near the top of the national agenda at the moment – as it should be. Our five priorities reflect the real challenges affecting schools and young people right now. Parties hoping for the support of parents, teachers and school leaders need to have something to say on these key areas. These will underpin future success."

NAHT’s #5priorities are:

  1. To fund education fully and fairly, reversing the £3bn real terms cuts that schools are facing and providing enough money to make the new national funding formula a success. 

  2. To put forward a national strategy for teacher recruitment and retention that recognises teachers as high-status professionals and guarantees enough teachers for every school.

  3. To adopt fair methods to hold schools to account, recognising that test and exam results are only part of the picture when judging a pupil’s success or a school’s effectiveness.

  4. To value a broad range of subjects in the school day so that pupils’ opportunities are not limited and they are properly prepared for adult life.

  5. To make sure that schools are supported by health and social care services to allow schools to fulfil their role to promote pupil wellbeing rather than making up for cuts to other services.


Below is an extended explanation of NAHT's #5priorities, detailing our expectations for each area.


2017 Election: Make or Break For Education. Our #5priorities

NAHT is at the forefront of education policy, representing the views of our 29,000 school leader members as they strive to deliver a world class education to the nation’s children. Whilst significant improvements and gains have been secured, we now face some serious challenges that threaten to undo what has been achieved. Many issues still need urgent attention. The 2017 election is make or break time. We urge all political parties to place these priorities at the front of their manifesto for education.


1. To fund education fully and fairly, reversing the £3bn real terms cuts that schools are facing and providing enough money to make the new national funding formula a success.

The National Audit Office has confirmed the scale of the cuts facing schools by 2020. 72% of NAHT members in our ‘Breaking Point’ survey believe that their budget will be completely untenable by that point. Without more funding, the future of the education system is at risk. 

A new national funding formula is the right thing to do to ensure that schools are funded to meet the needs of their pupils, and that children and young people receive the same entitlement to education wherever they live, but no school can afford to lose even more funding under the formula at a time when school funding is in crisis.

All empirical evidence points to the fact that early years education is the most critical stage in which to improve the life chances of pupils from disadvantaged backgrounds, so that funding for early years education, including in high quality maintained nursery schools, must be protected and pupils in the early years must have the same access to the pupil premium as those in primary education. 

Pupil premium is a key funding tool to close the attainment gap for pupils but relies on parents coming forward to claim the entitlement for their child, so that many pupils miss out. Local authorities already hold the data about family benefit entitlement and should be allowed to share this data with schools to automatically register pupils as eligible for extra support.

2. To put forward a national strategy for teacher recruitment and retention that recognises teachers as high-status professionals and guarantees enough teachers for every school

NAHT’s Recruitment Survey confirmed the scale of the recruitment challenge, with members reporting that they had struggled or failed altogether to recruit posts in 79% of cases. The DfE’s own data paints a bleak picture, with recruitment targets to initial teacher training missed year after year and 30% of teachers leaving the profession within five years. Our pupils deserve the best teachers, motivated and enthused to work.

We cannot address this challenge without tackling the issue of workload in schools, both in terms of long working hours, of 54 hours a week for teachers and 60 for school leaders, and the pressure of a punitive accountability system where one set of results or one Ofsted visit can cut short a career. Constant change arising from government policy changes over the last few years have also been a significant driver of increased workload. There needs to be a firm commitment to reduce workload for all school staff, and government must commit to stability in the education system to support this.

Whilst pay and conditions of service are not the only driver to attract and retain teachers, they provide a clear message about the status of the profession, and that message has been compromised by an 11.5% real terms cut in pay since 2010. As we see graduate recruitment recover from the recession, we must redress the balance, as well as ensuring that salaries later in a career continue to provide appropriate compensation. The profession needs a full and complete review of pay scales if we are to meet the recruitment and retention challenges facing us.

The government’s model for planning and allocating initial teacher training places across the country is flawed: it fails to take into account regional shortages and the increasing number of teachers teaching a subject they are not qualified in. The model must be revised to address the challenges we are facing. With bursaries in limited subjects, others contemplating the profession face the prospect of student loan debt that will probably never be repaid.  With both current challenges and the risk that Brexit could threaten the 20% of European Union teachers who currently qualify each year, the time has come to rethink student loan incentives to encourage graduates to join and remain in the profession.


3. To adopt fair methods to hold schools to account, recognising that test and exam results are only part of the picture when judging a pupil’s success or a school’s effectiveness..

Too much significance is attached to the numerical pupil outcomes published in performance data in judging school performance. School leaders should be held accountable and sustained under-performance should be challenged with support, not sanction. However, systems of accountability must be improved to value the achievements of every child and provide an accurate assessment of school effectiveness.   

Progress, rather than attainment, is a fairer accountability measure for schools but the methodology used to calculate these measures needs to be improved to create valid data which does not disadvantage particular schools or groups of pupils. A single year of any data is meaningless; school results vary from year to year due to differences in the cohort. There must be a commitment to take account of a minimum of three years of data when looking at school performance.

Judgement of a school’s success or failure on the basis of performance data alone is unjust and unreliable. It is essential that all stakeholders understand that data is only a starting point: it does not provide the answers as to why something has happened so should not be used to draw simplistic conclusions. It must be accepted that this data is merely a useful indicator of a need for further discussion and investigation of the context and story behind it. 

Further changes to structures, like the expansion of grammar schools, simply complicate accountability measures, driving perverse incentives, gaming and a range of unintended consequences right across the school system. The overwhelming weight of evidence demonstrates that academic selection at eleven makes outcomes worse for the majority of children in an area. Accountability measures must be based on a level playing field for all schools – it is simply not fair to adopt a policy that segregates those pupils with higher prior attainment, and punishes non-selective schools whose pupils are disadvantaged by a selective system. 

To improve the educational experience for all pupils, the current high stakes nature of testing and examinations, the punitive accountability system and sanction driven approach to intervention must be addressed.


4. To value a broad range of subjects in the school day so that pupils’ opportunities are not limited and they are properly prepared for adult life

Schools should have the freedom to determine the right curriculum to engage, inspire and motivate all learners. That curriculum must also support the learning, progress and success of all pupils, but it is currently distorted and restricted by the external pressures of testing, examinations and accountability. Too great a reliance on pupil outcomes in performance data has a negative impact on pupils and leads to a narrowed curriculum.

In primary schools, the government must deliver on assessment reform to create a more proportionate system, reducing the number of high stakes tests and ensuring that the progress of all pupils is valued. The high stakes nature of tests in English and Maths means that other subjects are being squeezed out of the school day.

It is important to ensure that the curriculum and the assessment system that surrounds it meets the needs of pupils of all abilities, and is fully inclusive of pupils with additional needs including those working below the level of the national curriculum. A new government must keep the commitment to deliver the recommendations of the Rochford review into assessment frameworks for these pupils.

Secondary schools must be freed from the arbitrary target that 90% of pupils take EBacc subjects and must be enabled to put the interests of their pupils first. It is right that schools should be able to personalise the curriculum for their pupils, particularly as those subjects currently included in the EBacc are not the only subjects which are rigorous, demanding and offer preparation for later life. If schools are to develop a curriculum to enable all pupils to be successful, they need a flexible qualification framework and accountability system which supports them to do this. 

In addition to the traditional curriculum, a broad and balanced curriculum promotes the spiritual, moral, cultural, mental and physical development of pupils and prepares pupils at the school for the opportunities, responsibilities and experiences of later life. Schools must have the curriculum time and resources to provide this aspect of pupils learning. 


5. To make sure that schools are supported by health and social care services allowing schools to fulfil their role to promote pupil wellbeing rather than making up for cuts to other services

The vital role for schools is to contribute significantly to promoting good mental health and emotional wellbeing amongst pupils of all ages. This includes a whole-school approach to promoting good mental health, the promotion of a positive school ethos that enhances belonging and connectedness, and the introduction of a statutory framework for PSHE for all pupils in all schools to enable pupils to understand and explore the issues around mental wellbeing. 

All school staff should receive high quality CPD throughout their career to allow them to promote good mental health and emotional wellbeing, and ensure that they are well placed to identify emerging mental health needs of pupils and can support and manage pupils with mental health needs in the school environment. 

Schools are most successful as places of learning when they work together with high quality social care, health and other services to meet students’ needs. The government must invest further in health and social care services that support the mental health needs of children and young people, including Child and Adolescent Mental Health Services (CAMHS), to increase the capacity to meet the growing demand from schools and pupils and to reduce waiting times for this support.  

NAHT is clear that schools have a role to support the mental health and wellbeing of children but that there can be no expectation on any school to provide health and social care services funded from the school budget. The duty to directly address pupils’ mental health needs ultimately rests with health and social care services. 

NAHT does not support the development of additional accountability measures which seek to measure a school’s effectiveness in supporting the mental and emotional wellbeing of their pupils. The work which schools do to support pupil wellbeing cannot be reduced to data; to attempt to do so risks reducing that work only to what can be measured easily. Accountability should be focused on qualitative methods; with schools developing their own plans for improvement based on the individual nature of their schools context and its community.


It’s Make or Break for Education 

To avoid the mistakes of the past, government and the profession need a better working relationship. It is right for elected politicians to challenge, but they should respect the expertise of the profession. It is their duty to create the context for schools to succeed - high quality places, talented new recruits, fair expectations and sufficient money. It is not appropriate to micro manage the classroom. 

For our part, if the profession wants control of its own destiny we need to do two things. We must take responsibility for each other and we must take back ownership of standards. The people who are most ambitious for the children of this country are the people who have dedicated their careers to working with them. As soon as parents hear a clear compelling and honest vision of the future, they pay attention and we can work together on the long hard path to a better education system. 

NAHT has produced several reports, detailing the current challenges facing education and suggesting NAHT’s solutions:

Breaking Point: report on the school funding crisis

Redressing the Balance: Assessment Review Group report

NAHT Recruitment Survey

Fair Funding: essays on the National Funding Formula

Balancing Act: report into deputy and assistant heads

Children’s Mental Health Week report with Place2Be

Aspire: NAHT pathway to school improvement

Instead: alternative inspection through peer review

Page Published: 26/04/2017

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