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Russell Hobby

Russell Hobby

Russell Hobby, general secretary of NAHT blogs about his thoughts and passions and the work of the National Association of Head Teachers.

Fair Education Alliance recognises need for unity in fight against education inequality 

The Fair Education Alliance launches today with NAHT as a core member alongside many prestigious organisations and charities from Teach First and the Princes Trust, to the CBI and Save the Children, to the National Literacy and Numeracy Trusts. 

I was attracted to the alliance's mission because it builds on something the NAHT has been discussing for some time. We can only achieve lasting and meaningful education reform if the profession and sector leads it. When government imposes change, it risks becoming superficial, transitory and fragmentary. We've had too much of that. 

Leading change means building alliances, because nobody can do it alone. It means being honest about the challenges we face and recognising the gaps while keeping a sense of pride about our achievements to date. It means coming up with solutions rather than complaints. All the polls suggest that teachers are trusted and held in high regard by the public. But parents and employers need to hear them talking honestly and enthusiastically about their own vision for education. Too often we leave a vacuum for others to fill. 

There are three projects within the alliance that excite me particularly. The first is to focus on early years. This is both the most important and the most neglected sector of education. If we can get it right here, everything else becomes so much easier. I think this must mean a highly skilled and high status workforce as a starting point. 

The second area is the focus on literacy at 11 and particularly a focus on reading well and for pleasure. This is the key that unlocks everything else. There are few areas of education that will not open to a fluent reader. With the right vision, this is something that every primary school can get behind enthusiastically. It is not just about technical skills, but about finding meaning and loving stories. 

The final area is employability. I do believe that academic abilities, particularly literacy and numeracy, are the ultimate vocational skills but we also need to prepare young people for life with a wider repertoire of attributes. The home environment, sporting activities and our general culture have a big influence but so do schools. It is no use being a theoretically brilliant problem solver if you give up at the first sign of difficulty or struggle to communicate your insights to others. Once again, I think schools at every level can unite behind a conversation about how we build resilience, optimism, confidence and perseverance with and in young people. 

The alliance has been welcomed by ministers and spokespeople across the main political parties. I also hope they can see their way to clearing some space to allow the alliance to operate. The initiative belongs with the profession and sector to show that it can take ownership. But we also need politicians to 'retreat' gracefully in the face of such initiative. It is, after all, exactly what they have been asking for.

For more information on the Fair Education Alliance, follow this link


20 June 2014