Russell Hobby, general secretary of NAHT blogs about his thoughts and passions and the work of the National Association of Head Teachers.
Riding the roller coaster
The start of 2013 has been a real roller coaster ride. We made an important gain when we secured teacher assessment for the writing score, although we will have to return to the issue next year.
Michael Gove suffered a setback when he was forced to withdraw his plans for the English Baccalaureate Certificate. Sceptics are right to point out that he has retained much of his agenda in terms of linear exams, but the avoidance of a two-tier exam system is important.
The Government’s proposals for accountability at KS4 look interesting too, as they offer an escape from the overwhelming focus on the C/D border. We will be watching for proposals on KS2 accountability with great interest.
Taking us back down the roller coaster, however, was the defeat of our legal challenge to last year’s English GCSE results in the High Court. The judge ruled that although some students were indeed unfairly treated, the regulators acted reasonably. We might want to reflect on the value of a system in which the only reasonable action is to treat people unfairly.
We also received the latest drafts of the National Curriculum, which show some improvements from early drafts – and some baffling changes. Of great concern is the new history curriculum, which packs about 2000 years into KS2.
The Government is facing challenges on nutrition in academies, and on sport, with
Ofsted finding that the disbanded school sports partnerships havie played a positive role in promoting competitive sport. It is typical of this Government, however, to rip up what exists before thinking through its replacement.
It has also come in for increasing criticism over the rhetoric used by some of its special advisers, who have apparently been using Twitter accounts to attack opponents. In doing so, they have lowered the quality of the education debate and weakened the moral credentials of the Government. Its inability to listen to criticism and dissent is one of its greatest weaknesses.
The NAHT was also able to expose some of the less reputable practices of the academy brokers who wander the country making schools ‘offers they can’t refuse’ to convert to academies.
The hard work of our regional officers and the courage of our members has made a big difference here. We continue to run road shows and workshops to give members the facts they need on this.
These ups and downs are yet another manifestation of the dysfunctional relationship between politics and education. It should be noted that one feature of high-performing jurisdictions is the long-term, stable consensus around the vision and values of their education systems.
It is vital that the NAHT plays a role in the debate around professionalism and autonomy that is now under way. A confident profession will crowd out the short term whims of politicians.
We are working hard in this area. Our Assure project, for example, shows that the profession has the resources and will to improve itself.
We are launching a number of initiatives, all characterised by a constructive tone. There will be more announced at Annual Conference, including a debate about adopting our own code of practice and an alternative model of inspections to Ofsted.
We hope you will be able to join us for this debate.
Russell Hobby is NAHT General Secretary