This is part 2 of my free eCourse based on the Politics in Education Summit on stakeholder perspectives about politics in education covering the teaching profession, those with special education needs, businesses and academics.
The Teaching Profession by Chris McShane
Chris McShane didn’t wait for a platform for teachers, instead, he co-created the Headteachers’ Roundtable through Twitter. This is an extract from the 2015 Manifesto: The thinktank grew out of frustration regarding educational policy and the Opposition response to it. Its origins and subsequent growth are down to the power of Twitter as a tool for connecting people to try and bring about change where they feel it is needed.
An opening joke from Chris McSchane:
“It’s been quite an interesting debate already this morning and it reminds me of the Irish joke about the German tourist who turned up in Galway looking to get to Scarborough and asked a local how they would get there. The local thought for a minute and he said, “Well if you want to get there I wouldn’t start from here”. And that kind of IS the education debate.”
The pace of policy change:
“I just made a little list, and it’s by no means an exhaustive list, of some of the things throughout my headship career that we have been involved in. We have had…
*floor targets* *national strategies* *national challenge* *14-19 diplomas* *eBacc* *primary curriculum redesign* *early years resign* *secondary curriculum revision* *three full Ofsted revisions* *innumerate revisions to those* *changes to teacher recruitment* *academisation* *free schools* *pupil premiums* *connections in* *connections out* *GCSE revision* *Woolf report* *changes to vocational education* *phonics* *new GCSEs gradings* *British values* *prevent* *citizenship* *community cohesion* *shift away from the criteria referencing GCSE to non-reference* *Progress 8*
…Just some of the things that have been part of policy in education in a little over seven years.”
Who is Chris McShane?
15 min video: Chris talking to Governors uploaded January 2015. Look out for mentions of CBI (we’ll hear from them below) and the College of Teaching (represented in the next part)…
Official Summary of Chris McShane’s Politics in Education Presentation, Representing the teaching profession and school leadership.
Chris courageously stepped up to speak when Ros McMullen had to pull out. He began with concern around public services being used as a tool by career politicians creating a pace of policy change that confuses the profession, leading to anger and certainly fears. Narrowing the curriculum is necessary to meet EBacc targets, though he called for the teaching profession to act as a safeguard. Parents don’t feel informed or part of the discussion and are no longer sure what to do for the best. An image problem has created a teacher recruitment problem, leading to a problem for students; our major stakeholders. Core budgets are not being protected and political interference, instead of support, has become normal. Despite these challenges, Chris described the richness of ‘life without levels’ debates and expressed hope we’ll not rush to answers, but take time to consider where we are, what we’re doing and what we want to achieve.
Special Education Needs by Brian Lamb
Considered the godfather of sustainable political policy change for Special Education Needs (SEN), Brian Lamb is not a Politician, but a Policy Influencer none the less. In this video from 2013, Brian introduces himself (2 min):
Some advice for us Brian?
“In 2005, if we said, ‘Oh, we’re going to take ten years doing this‘, we wouldn’t have got any political traction. It may have taken ten years, but we didn’t say that at the start.
What do we need to implement this policy?
- We need to know what the media’s saying; am I going to be eviscerated when I go out with this?
- What does my minister actually want? Ed Balls had visions of what he wanted. Michael Gove had visions about what he wanted out of the system. I’m sure the current minister does as well.
- What’s the clear message I can go and tell the country about these reforms and what I’m going to be doing about them?
- What’s my narrative, and does it feel right and reasonable?”
Who is Brian Lamb?
Debs put it this way in the Special Needs Jungle blog: If any of you have had chance to meet Brian, you will know how inspirational and passionate he is about the value of parental engagement. One parent came up to me after listening to him and said “wow, he really does get it, doesn’t it?” followed by; “Let’s hope everyone took notes in there!”
An opening quote from Brian Lamb:
“I actually want to start with a quote from Sir Keith Joseph that I don’t often quote, but I was reminded of it this morning in terms of, he said when he became Secretary of State for Education that he’d spent 30 years trying to get his hands on the levers of powers and having got his hands on them he realised they weren’t connected to anything! …he would find now, I think, if he came back that they actually were far more connected to various levers (than they thought), they just weren’t the ones people always thought they were.”
Setting the scene on SEN Education in 2005
“Parental confidence in the system was low, but there was a powerful SEN lobby with support on both sides of the House… I do think without state intervention we would still very much be in that position.”
Insights on Government time-frames
“I spent a lot of time managing research. I still work in a research institution, I’m not against research and policy formed evidence around research. The trouble is the research culture is one where scientific thinking and methodology look for a proven empirical fact. It’ll be theoretically and potentially abstract, it often has caveats and is nuanced in terms of what research does and will often be conducted over long time periods. As a lobbyist my problem in using all of that with government has been that policy makers and people advising politicians have short to medium-term timeframes. Often, we have to get something done, we have to get it done now “500 free schools!” we want that by the end of a term -I’m sure there is lots of thought that’s gone behind that, but necessarily you’ve got to drive a short-term agenda.”
Evidence vs Narrative
“The research questions and the political reform question often don’t always match and so you need to try and find a way that you can bring the two together. A trap around this is just to assume that as soon as you’ve got the evidence, look at Finland and the presentation about Finland, it’s fascinating, there was a narrative around Finland that didn’t actually match with the evidence at the time. The narrative won. It’s still winning. I know Finland’s not like that because Steven Ford does work in Finland on their SEN children, because they’re falling behind with those as well, but what was the narrative?”
Politics in Education?
“When my report was published it was called the Ed Balls Report. I went to the new coalition government when they came in and said, “Well, I expect you’re not very happy with a lot of this,” and they went, “No, dear boy, we’re absolutely delighted with the report, rubbishing it before the election was just politics”. And I think that’s the difference, we don’t want the politics that’s simply the political advantage partisan politics, but actually, underneath, they bought the consensus.”
Official Summary of Brian Lamb’s Politics in Education Presentation, The challenges of creating consensus for reform.
Brian won our attention with the startling fact that until the 1970’s, SEN children weren’t considered educatable. He introduced Warnock’s Government led inquiry which changed that, although it went wrong; Select Committee inquiries, an Ofsted review and various think tank reports led to a green paper supporting SEN aspiration and only 3 of Brian’s 51 recommendations were about legislation, the others were about culture. Related to that, he shared the home truth that political traction would not have happened if he’d said at the start the work would take 10 years. To change policy over successive Governments, Brian advised, we need to know what media is saying, what the education minister wants and have a clear, reasonable narrative about our reforms. Once moving, successive Governments went slowly on SEN reforms -deliberately- to keep parental and lobby groups on board, while maintaining cross party consensus. Of course, the sector didn’t like everything the Government did, though an impressive amount of agreement made it possible.
Businesses by Neil Carberry
Neil and his team at the CBI (Confederation of British Industry) campaign for its members on labour market & skills issues, including; employment law, employee relations, equality & diversity, pay, pensions, education, skills & in-work learning, immigration, health & safety and human rights.
Opening Statements from Neil Carberry
“Does the education system serve business and industry?” is such a weary title. I’m going to talk about something, hopefully, that’s a bit more consensual. How do we build a system that gives young people a great path into a great adult life? Because, actually, the corollary of that is that our members at the CBI’s needs are met, because they’re finding these young people. And that’s why education matters to the CBI.
…by definition, as businesses, we should be engaged with the education system, not taking some sort of client-esque view of a system that exists to meet our needs and then whinging without recompense when it doesn’t deliver, or indeed failing to acknowledge when it does.”
Politics in education?
“Let’s be clear, you can’t take politics out of education, nor would you want to. We are a democracy. Having said that, what we can aspire to is greater long-termism in political thinking about education, about the system that we want to build.”
Who is Neil Carberry?
“As a vice chair of governors at a primary academy, one of the ones incidentally that isn’t supposed to work because we’re completely freestanding, we have found the support that we get from our peer primary schools around us five to ten times better than anything we ever got from the local authority. And the professional links that that is building is really helping us engage in our local community.” Here’s a short video on Neil’s views about Student Assessment from m2014 (2 min):
Quick points from Neil:
- We know it’s important that head teachers are the primary movers in running their schools
- We know we need an accountability system that doesn’t instil fear in schools, but instead instils confidence
- We need quality vocational education and I truly welcome the commitment on both sides of the House to delivering that
- We should talk about the community, about parents, about the third sector, about businesses; schools that are successful must be community hubs, not places we send our young people to to do education
- Teachers have a critical role to play in that, but we can’t expect them to do everything, they can’t deliver everything that we want a school to deliver; more robust partnerships are essential to deliver choices for young people
“…so you can expect the CBI to continue to be noisy on these issues into the future.”
Official Summary of Nail Carberry’s Politics in Education Presentation, How do we build a system that gives young people a great path into a great adult life?
Neil began by dismissing his title to ask this, instead: How do we build a system that gives young people a great path into a great adult life? He expressed the importance of businesses no longer engaging in any guilt free whinge about education before shattering two myths; (1) businesses do not have a dim view of young people and, in fact, young people are the most impressive employees according to CBI members and (2) businesses do not want automatons which, he proposed, is a political argument against businesses that dare to speak on education. Neil calls us to aspire to long term political thinking on education and accountability that doesn’t instil fear in schools, but confidence. He suggested strategy via things like accreditation, rather than tactics such as reforming exams as a better way forward. In the future, Neil hopes for individualised learning plans for every secondary student and to see schools transformed into community hubs.
Academics by Andrew Pollard
From Andrew Pollard’s Wikipedia: As a former school teacher, Pollard’s research interests include teaching-learning processes and learner perspectives, as well as the development of evidence-based classroom practice. He is responsible for a popular series of textbooks and support materials on reflective teaching within primary and secondary schooling. He has worked extensively on the effects of national and institutional policies on learning.
Hear Andrews take on the idea of coherence (a term introduced to the summit by Tim Oates) and creatively playing the cards dealt, to get work done (6 min):
Insights on the National Curriculum expert panel:
“My account of some of the things that happen, for instance, around the recent reform of the National Curriculum, is different than Tim Oates has offered you. I, as Tim said, was a member of the expert panel and he didn’t mention that two of that panel, two of the four, actually resigned in the middle of it, and why did they do that?
Well, the reason was that the evidence which we had been accumulating, and gathering from a consultation process, the procession of subject experts and practitioner who’d come from the department, was in our view being ignored.”
Going into more depth on Social Science:
“The principles underlying this were first to recognise that there are different sorts of evidence and there are different legitimate forms of social scientific knowledge…
…I suppose really in a sense the people behind this reckoned that social science could not produce categoric facts. It could produce insights. It could produce all sorts of forms of understanding. And indeed it could produce forms of knowledge which one would expect should be taken seriously. And different forms of research would produce evidence which you’d take seriously to different degrees and in different ways, but it recognises the complexity of teaching, learning and the social world generally.
And it is relatively modest about the claims it makes, and that’s why it uses the term “evidence informed” rather than evidence based, because it recognises that the role of research is to produce knowledge which can be considered by practitioners and policy makers.”
…and in relation to the primary education, which is my particular field, I would still say that the evidence is perfectly clear, that a broad curriculum is associated with better results, and we are left with a narrow curriculum. All the drivers are forcing it to be narrow and, in terms of children’s learning, you need to have flexibility to respond to their needs and we have a very linear curriculum.”
Research on Education Research:
“I want to share with you some thoughts about researchers as stakeholders, and in particular how they can make a contribution to the education system and the use of evidence within it…” In his presentation, Andrew shared findings of the ‘Strategic Forum for Research in Education‘ (SFRE) he co-chaired from 2008-2010 to explore how countries in the UK can improve the creation, mediation and application of evidence about education.
Politics in Education?
“Now, developmental work and practitioner enquiry are absolutely vital for the improvement of particular contexts and they cannot be replaced by other forms of research. Similarly, there are some sorts of research, randomised controls you might say, which have a unique quality for answering particular sorts of questions. And so we have a wide repertoire of different research approaches which have different strengths and weaknesses, and the argument that we advanced is that you need all of them because they have these different strengths and you use them for different purposes. And a wise government would consider whether it has adequate provision across its system, in each of its sectors, to nurture and support research of all these different types. That really doesn’t exist, I’m afraid at the moment. And you can see that’s the recommendation, that government should think about provision; do a little audit and see what enables and constrains the development of these different types of research.”
Official Summary of Andrew Pollard’s Politics in Education Presentation, What might a research informed education system look like?
Andrew launched with this question; how effectively do different elements of research process deliver a product? The education researchers he described recognise the complexity of teaching, learning and the social world while also holding true that social research can produce important insights, forms of understanding and knowledge we ought to take seriously. We have an underperforming school system, not because of any lack of goodwill or expertise, but because we lack knowledge mobilisation. The haphazard nature of research means few look ahead strategically. Andrew’s work showcases the strengths of many sorts of research, including practitioner enquiry. A wise Government, he suggests, would consider whether it has adequate provision across the system to nurture all types of research. In all, he hopes to inspire more open-mindedness to evidence from policy makers and influencers moving forward.
Perhaps by now, you’re getting a sense of how colourful this discussion is! Disagreements between the titans; each dedicated to the bettering of education, each pushing their block towards the centre. Interesting, isn’t it?
This content makes me question the hell out of my own assumptions, over and over. Do you see hope in the content of this session. If so, where?
In part 3 of this free eCourse, we’ll explore where the power is shifting.
If you would like to go deeper into this, the full original transcripts and power-point slides are available. To request more information on these, just ask from this contact page.