We have a wholly unnecessary general election to get distracted by. Talking to a colleague the other day, we agreed that there is now no mainstream party that represents either of us politically. I have lost my faith in the Labour Party to be able to take us anywhere at all, though I am reluctant to abandon them completely. A new vision for social democracy that works is badly required and we do not have a Labour leader who can do the second of those two things, as much as he might have a good plan for the first. As a social conservative and a political leftist, it is hard for me to fit into any political category right now. I filled in one of those “who you should vote for” online surveys at the last election and it told me I was oscillating between UKIP and the Green Party. Does that not describe just about everyone? The Tory party are playing “cuddles with the workers”, but only, I suspect, to haul them off further to the right of the spectrum once they (inevitably) win this coming election.

So what do schools need from the government. Here is a statement from Russell Hobby, current (and sadly retiring) general secretary of my union, the National Association of Headteachers:

We believe it’s crucial that parliamentary candidates listen to the concerns of school leaders in the run up to the election, and beyond. That’s why we’ve laid out five priorities for all political parties to take note of. They 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.

You can find more information at www.naht.org.uk/generalelection.

This is an excellent summary of the main areas of need. I strongly welcome the government’s recent Primary Assessment Consultation that is strongly influenced by the work of our association, and which represents a real victory for us. We will look at this as a leadership team later in the term and I will publish our views here once we have done that. However, we do not yet know what use the DfE will make of the data in terms of accountability (schools have a much bigger problem with simplistic accountability systems than they do with assessment per se), but it is a step in the right direction. In this respect I want to honour the work that the DfE have done so far to meet the demands of concern No 3.

But all the other areas are areas of ongoing pressure for each of us, particularly numbers 1 and 2 – resources and recruitment. We have just clawed back a funding deficit (year on year) of £65k by making some difficult decisions that directly impact children’s learning: we were 3.5% worse funded this year, in terms of money coming from MK council, than we were last year. This is all grist to the mill, a useful exercise, and we are aware that we are considerably better off than many schools, but still. How does the DfE’s settlement to MK support their intention that schools improve?

These questions are not ones that the Labour Party have to answer, because it is inconceivable that they will be in power in June. They are questions that the Conservative government would have to answer whether or not they decided to hold an election.

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About Huw Humphreys

I am a headteacher in the city of Milton Keynes, where I have been since April 2011, looking to make education effective for the whole child and keeping a distant relationship with the powers that be and their narrowing approach to education... but most of all I am looking to find out what it means to be both a follower of Jesus Christ and a passionate educator in the midst of an unsettled community. I am also a part time musician, part time linguist and lover of history and literature...committed both to freedom to learn and depth of learning for all our children. The views on this blog are all my own, and not in any way those of the school I lead!

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