Education Bill

Memorandum from Sarah and Ian Maynard Smith (E 103)

The Importance of Teaching

1. We are teachers of seventeen years standing with a proven track record of good results, good classroom management and are seen in good standing by other professionals, students and parents. We currently teach in a state funded secondary school, which has an age range of 14 – 18. We teach the core subject of Mathematics at Entry Level, GCSE, AS and A2. We wish to raise the following concerns about the proposals in the White Paper.

2. State education as a free market.

i. Creating a state of competition between schools will not drive up standards in any positive way. GCSE students will be put under intolerable pressure to achieve C grades. This already happens as one school vies to do better than another in the league tables. Unreasonable demands in terms of lunchtime, before school, afterschool, weekend, and holiday working for students is already becoming the norm. Some students are also strongly advised to drop other subjects of study to concentrate on core subjects. As professionals we are already concerned about the pressure put on young people and their mental health. If good results mean a business does well rather than failing more pressure will be put on teachers for results which inevitably will passed on to students.

ii. It is stated in the White Paper that good schools will prosper while others will fail. In terms of a free market fail means ‘going bust’. What will happen to children if their school fails? Is there any safeguard for them? In Leicestershire secondary schools there is a situation of falling rolls. In an LEA maintained system school closure due to falling roles will be managed, in a free market it will not be. It is conceivable that where rolls are falling ‘free schools’ coming into the market will force good schools into closure. What will happen to their pupils?

iii. Allowing free schools into the market in unmanaged education system will adversely affect the rolls of existing schools. It will, therefore, be impossible for established schools to plan effectively in terms of pupil intake, staffing, infrastructure or local demographic changes.

iv. A free market in education will further relegate children’s needs to below other considerations for those in charge of schools. Most people involved in education already feel that this is happening too much at present.

v. This White Paper allows the monopolisation of schools by large academy umbrella organisations, that absorb large amounts of public money.

3. Free Schools

i. We are incredibly concerned about the notion of self-regulated schools. Self –regulation is not proven to work and we are talking about the safe-guarding of children.

ii. We are incredibly concerned that teachers in free schools will not need QTS. Indeed if no qualified teacher is required on a governing body and staff do not need QTS, could schools become teacher-free zones?

4. Ofsted

i. The notion of some schools, no matter how good they are, being exempt from inspection is senseless. It surely cannot be in the interest of safe-guarding children.

5. Curriculum

i. The "English Baccalaureate" will encourage schools to restrict pupils’ access to a curriculum that dates back 100 years. In the 21st Century, how is it sensible that Ancient Greek may carry more weight in a school curriculum than Business Studies, Technology or social sciences?

ii. Whilst over the past ten years or so, many schools have cynically exploited some less rigorous vocational qualifications (ITQ, ALAN, etc), the proposals in this White Paper effectively force every student down an academic route. The proposal to impose an 80:20 ratio of academic to vocational study (Wolf Report) is inappropriate for a significant minority of pupils. This is made even more unsuitable if Entry Level qualifications in Maths and English are deemed as vocational subjects, which clearly they are not.

iii. The White Paper seeks to eradicate "teaching to the test". Increased competition between schools will encourage even more cynical "teaching to the test" than is currently seen, and even less focus on education in a broader sense.

6. Pay and Conditions

i. The adoption of a free market in education, where teachers pay and conditions are not protected, will have the effect of encouraging schools to employ teachers and other staff at the most favourable rates of pay and conditions that they can. This will have the consequence of driving down the pay of well-qualified and dedicated staff. Some schools will choose to employ more newly qualified staff at the expense of experienced staff, which is often not good for students. Alternatively, experienced staff will be offered the same rates of pay as newly qualified staff, which will serve to demotivate the workforce and encourage good teachers to leave the profession in times of economic prosperity. It could also lead to a culture of sycophancy in education, which is not healthy.

7. Summary

i. This White Paper will adversely affect the provision of free comprehensive education in this country.

ii. The creation of a free market between schools will foster a culture of selection. What will happen to those children who no school wants?

iii. The proposals of this White Paper will put children at risk:

a. lack of planning of school places

b. increased competition leading to increased pressure being brought to bear on children in terms of admissions and results

c. safeguarding of children in a system where some schools are self-regulated and uninspected

d. an inadequate complaints procedure that is limited to the school and governors, followed only by direct appeal to the Secretary of State

March 2011