The Importance of Teaching

This publication offers interesting insights into the future direction of the English school system. There is I think much to reflect on in terms of the relevance and likely impact of some of the proposals it contains.

The White Paper begins by confirming that “the first, and most important, lesson is that no education system can be better than the quality of its teachers” but notes that while the system is improving, it is not matching, nor keeping up with, the performance of other countries. It says that “our school system performs well below its potential and can improve significantly”.

The White Paper outlines wide-ranging and significant strategies that will be taken to deliver the required improvement. For example, there is a commitment to:

  • free teachers from constraint, ”helping them to learn from one another and from proven best practice, rather than ceaselessly directing them to follow centralised Government initiatives.”
  • free schools from external control and “hold them effectively to account for the results they achieve”
  • reform teacher training by increasing the time spent in classrooms, focussed on core skills
  • develop a network of “Teaching Schools” to lead teacher and headteacher training
  • “Sharply reduce the bureaucratic burden on schools, cutting away unnecessary duties, processes, guidance and requirements, so that schools are free to focus on doing what is right for the children and young people in their care.” 
  • Increase teacher authority to search pupils, issue same day detentions and use “reasonable force where necessary”
  • review the National curriculum to reduce prescription and allow schools to decide how to teach
  • ensure that exam standards meet the highest international standards
  • raise the age of participation in education and training to 18 by 2015
  • help every school who wishes to enjoy greater freedom to achieve Academy status, to support schools as “autonomous institutions collaborating with each other on terms set by teachers, not bureaucrats”
  • reform OFSTED inspection, “so that inspectors spend more time in the classroom and focus on key issues of educational effectiveness, rather than the long list of issues they are currently required to consider.”
  • end the current centralised target-setting process, increase the number of head teachers of excellent schools committed to supporting other schools – and develop Teaching Schools to make sure that every school has access to highly effective professional development support.
  • Radically reform the funding model to make it more transparent, fairer and progressive

Lots of interesting ideas to discuss in our staffrooms!