The results are in! So what does a Conservative majority government mean for education?
Since 2010 the Conservative led coalition Government made quite a few changes to Education policies in this country. Now we look ahead to a further 5 years of Tory government and what it means for the teaching profession.
Ask any teacher what has stood out for them in the last 5 years and words like ‘Gove’, ‘Academies’, ‘Ofsted’, and ‘Workload’ will be mentioned.
Michael Gove, former Education Secretary, was not widely liked among the education community, and according to one poll (by Ipsos Mori) the former Education Secretary is by far the most unpopular politician in Parliament, with a net likeability rating of minus 32!
Introducing Academies and Free Schools
One of the most significant changes in the last 5 years was the continuation of the Labour introduced ‘academies’ with the passing of the 2010 Academies Act. This change in the law allowed for all schools to become academies, giving them the power to choose their own curriculum while remaining publically funded.
The act also saw the creation of Tory ‘free schools’, schools funded by private sector or community investment which follow the same rules as newly-created academies. In a new Conservative government this school initiative is set to continue as before, with free schools, funded by the state but run by parents, teachers or third parties outside council control, as the centre of Tory thinking on schools. The Telegraph reports that at least 500 extra free schools will be built by 2020, whilst any primary or secondary school rated as “requiring improvement” or “inadequate” by Ofsted, could potentially be given new leadership and converted to academies, affecting one in five schools and potentially over 1 million students.
Power to schools
Another significant change with the last Tory government was the implementation of the Education Act of 2011, giving teachers new controls on behaviour and greater power to schools on the searching and policing of pupils. However the Act also granted new powers to Michael Gove, the Education Secretary at the time, to intervene to close under performing schools.
Even though last summer saw the end of the Gove era, and Nicky Morgan stepped up as the new Education Secretary, stating she would try and counter the Gove “toxic” legacy in the run up to the election. Although she has been in her position for nearly a year there hasn’t been much noise around Morgan, and she has ploughed on with Gove’s policies yet trying a softer approach and appearing to be more in touch with teachers.
So what does the next 5 years look like for teachers?
The most significant initiative from Nicky Morgan in the last year was giving 44,000 teachers the chance to tell her how overworked they were. In response to calls to ‘alleviate workload’ and ‘give teachers more time to focus on teaching and strip away a lot of the additional burdens’ she devised ‘an action plan’ by promising to give a year’s notice in future of any significant changes to the curriculum and qualifications. They also pledged not to make changes mid-course to qualifications. Watch this space…
The Conservatives have pledged to protect the spend per pupil, with David Cameron stating in his election speech that “The amount of money following your child into a school – that will not be cut”. He also pledged there would be no budget cuts, ensuring all schools will be properly funded. Yet when pressed later on Cameron stated that while the budget is not cut, it would not raise with inflation, representing a cut in real terms.
Slightly better news in regards to teaching salaries, Nicky Morgan, has signed off a pay rise of 1% for state school teachers in England and Wales for the coming year – with a 2% increase for more experienced teachers to head off a growing recruitment crisis in schools.
Training and qualifications
For the next generation of teachers, The Guardian reports that Nicky Morgan is to back a new independent College of Teaching, to place teaching on an equal footing with high-status professions like law and medicine.
School standards and results
Not only are the Tories looking to clamp down on school performance, but also the performance of pupils, with a zero tolerance for failure. This will mean all children by year 6 will have mastered the basics of reading, writing and maths or will face re-testing. Nicky Morgan, is drawing up proposals to reform the teaching of English and Maths in state schools so that every child masters the essential skills of the “three Rs”.
Other key Conservative education policies
- Every 11-year-old must know their times tables and be able to do long division.
- Children who fail to reach level 4 in their SATs in year 6 will resit at secondary school.
- The “EBacc” subjects (English, maths, science, a foreign language and either history or geography) will be compulsory.
- At least 500 more new free schools will be created by 2020.
- All good schools, including grammar schools, may expand.
- All schools judged to be failing or coasting will become academies.
- A real-terms increase in the schools budget in the next parliament.
- An extra 17,500 maths and physics teachers trained in the next five years.
- The creation of 3 million new apprenticeships.
Do you think the new government will live up to pre-election pledges? Do you think the 1% pay increase is enough to solve the recruitment crisis? Have your say…