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NAHT respond to Liberal Democrats schools reform package

Paul Whiteman, general secretary of school leaders’ union NAHT said: “Education was an agenda-setting issue during last year’s General Election, so it’s encouraging to see one of the major parties continuing to place a high level of importance on education policy.

“The future success of the education system depends upon full and fair funding. All parties should commit to this. Currently 91% of schools face real-terms budget cuts compared with 2015/16.

“The system also needs high quality staff in every school. Currently, the recruitment pipeline is leaking at both ends, with too few new applicants and too many experienced teachers leaving prematurely.

“Much of what the Liberal Democrats are saying echoes the thoughts of NAHT and its members. We recognise that school accountability needs a shake-up, so that we get a system that everyone can have confidence in.

“Test and exam data are only part of the picture when judging a school’s effectiveness and a pupil’s success. Those who hold schools to account need to value more than just data.

“We have argued that there is too much testing in the Primary phase of education. The government has already committed to removing Key Stage 1 SATs. We would favour a well-designed start and an end measure in Primary, leaving more time for teaching and learning and affording schools with a true measure of the progress that pupils can make from reception to year six.

“We have long lobbied for statutory status for PSHE, as the most effective way to teach young people the life skills they will need to be happy and settled citizens. The present government must commit to this without further delay.

“The government’s mental health green paper is a step in the right direction but as we have already said, the scale and pace proposed by the green paper for vital improvements to mental health provision is simply too slow.  Many of our members report a system in crisis, where unsupported pupils are at best struggling to learn and at worst are at serious risk.

“We support the notion of a mental health lead professional in schools, but they should not be expected to fill in the gaps left behind by cuts to other essential services. Schools are places where good mental health can be promoted, where young people with needs can be identified and supported. But ultimately, young people with mental health needs must be able to access high quality expert services outside the school.”

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