Burnham unveils Labour's Schools Policy Review

12 Jul 2011

I chaired an event for the think-tank DEMOS this afternoon at which the Shadow Education Secretary, Andy Burnham MP, unveiled the first details of the Labour Party's schools policy review. It was very much an interim report - the broad principles will now go for approval at the Labour Party's annual conference - so hard policy detail is still lacking.

Nevertheless, it was the first indication of where the next General Election's education policy battles might lie and they reveal the thinking behind the new direction of policy.

Perhaps the most significant aspect of the speech was what Mr Burnham did not say. There were no promises to overturn the coalition government's new Free Schools or Academies. This will disappoint some on the left and is significant since, by 2015,  the majority of schools in England could have already converted to academy status.

It seems Mr Burnham is keen to follow the pattern of Tony Blair's first term education mantra: 'standards not structures' (although that was always more of a slogan than a reality, since Blair did bring in City Academies to replace failing schools). 

So what are Labour's themes? I picked out 10, which struck me as the most interesting:

  • Labour's approach will reject the current nostalgia for Latin and rote-learning or what Burnham called the 'back to the future' approach. The EBacc will not be applied universally.
  • The Policy review will take a broad view of education, including an emphasis on creativity.
  • It will seek clarity for those students taking a vocational route.
  • There could be a UCAS-style 'clearing' process for those seeking to enter apprenticeships, with the best opportunities going to those who work the hardest.
  • League tables will be reformed, using Value-Added or Contextual Value-added measures.
  • A minimum entitlement for all pupils (e.g. to one-to-one tuition) is being considered as is an expectation that every student should achieve a grade C at GCSE in Maths and English.
  • Labour will take a more ambitious view of the role of work experience and placements to encourage social mobility.
  • An updated version of Tomlinson will be brought back, introducing a true, broad Baccalaureate.
  • teaching may become an all Masters-degree profession
  • Local Authorities will be given a clearer planning role and a role to encourage collaboration between school.

 There is clearly still a long way to go for the policy review in terms of delivering detail but some awkward questions do arise. For example, if the current Free Schools and Academies policy is not to be reversed, will that make it difficult to encourage collaboration between schools which, in many cases, feel these policies encourage competition for survival?

How will Labour succeed in creating a clear route through vocational education when every other attempt to do so has failed?

Will resources be found to revive Tomlinson when, at present, his Diplomas are being squeezed out by a lack of the extra funding which schools say they need to deliver new courses?

How do you make league tables fairer without making them incomprehensibly complex?




User Comments

info@londonschoolofislamics.org.uk - 12 Jul 2011

Free Our Schools

A man is a product of his culture, language and faith. It is practically impossible for a Muslim child to develop his cultural, linguistic and spiritual identy in a state school with non-Muslim monolingual teacher. A teacher is a role model for a child in his developmental period. It is purely an educational issue.

British schooling is the home of institutional racism and British teachers are chicken racist. A Muslim child is unable to develop his self-confidence and self esteem under the circumstances.

If the Students were doing some music session or Yoga instead of Friday Prayer then nobody would have any Problem, but with Friday prayer people do have many Problems ...So here is the moral of the story:

A man is taking a walk in Central park in New York. Suddenly he sees a little girl being attacked by a pit bull dog . He runs over and starts fighting with the dog. He succeeds in killing the dog and saving the girl's life. A policeman who was watching the scene walks over and says: "You are a hero, tomorrow you can read it in all the newspapers: "Brave New Yorker saves the life of little girl" The man says: - "But I am not a New Yorker!" "Oh ,then it will say in newspapers in the morning: 'Brave American saves life of little girl'" – the policeman answers. "But I am not an American!" – says the man. "Oh, what are you then? " The man says: - "I am a Saudi !" The next day the newspapers says: "Islamic extremist kills innocent American dog.

British schooling has been producing Muslim youths full of anger, frustration and extremism. Majority of them leave schools with low grades. The number of Muslim prisoners is on the increase. I blame the British schooling. Bilingual Muslim children need state funded Muslim schools with bilingual Muslim teachers as role models during their developmental periods. I set up the first Muslim school in 1981. Now there are only 170 Muslim schools and only 12 are state funded. I would like to see each and every Muslim child in a Muslim school and that is my dream and I hope one day my dream will come true. There is no place for a non-Muslim child or a teacher in a Muslim school.

Muslim schools are not only faith schools but bilingual schools also. Bilingual Muslim children need to learn and be well versed in standard English to followthe National Curriculum and go for higher stuies and research to serve humanity. At the same time, they need to learn and be well versed in Arabic, Urdu and other community languages to keep in touch with their cultural roots and enjoy the beauty of heir literatue and poetry. British schooling regards bilinualism as a problem, infact it is an asset.

Culture and race is always a factor in a child's life. To deny the importance of race and culture is not only insulting to Muslim children, it also risks causing unnecessary confusion and distress. Cultural Identity is particuluraly significant for a child. Little attention is paid to the child' cultural background. There is a social and economic pressure on bilingual Muslim children that they must speak English, adopt British values and ditch their religious beliefs, to assimilate into this country rather than maintain their cultural traditions and historical ties. Speaking English does not promote integration into British society and broadens opportunities. The result of such a policy is that British schooling is guilty of producing Muslim youths who are angry, frustrated and extremist. Majority of them leave schools with low grades. The number of Muslim youths is on the increase in prisons. Anti-social behaviour and drug addiction is on the increase. They find themselves cut off from their cultural heritage and are unable to enjoy the beauty of their literature and poetry. Thanks to British schooling.

It is absurd to believe that Muslim schools, Imams and Masajid teach Muslim children anti-Semitic, homophobic and anti-western views. It is dangerously deceptive and misleading to address text books and discuss them out of their historical, cultural and linguistic context. Muslims were already disproportionately being targeted by police with programmes such as the Prevent project. Focusing on Muslim schools for investigation would tell Muslim young people "you are different" and further alienate them. Singling out Muslim schools threatened to add to already "dangerous" levels of Islamophobia, which he compared to the amount of anti-semitism in the 1920s and 1930s.

It is not wrong to teach children that Jews are committing the same cruelty in Palistine what German did to them before or during Second World War. It is not wrong to teach children that anti-social behaviour, drinking, drugs, homosexuality, sex before marriage, teenage pregnancies and abortions are western values and Islam is against all such sins. This does not mean that Muslim schools teach children to hate westerners, Jews and homosexuals.

Extremism, homophobia and anti-Semistism are nothing to do with Islamic teachings and beliefs. Islam does not teach that Jews and Christians are pigs and monkeys. The Policy Exchange Think-tank should concentrate on institutionally racist British schooling with chicken racist teachers. Muslim parents do not want their children with behaviour probems that include unprovoked aggression, promiscuity, violence, eating disorder, bullying and alcohal. According to ATL, teachers believe behaviour is worse than it was five years ago, with even five year olds being disrespectful, intimidating and violent.
Iftikhar Ahmad

Ursula - 12 Jul 2011

Same old, same old

Is there anything in this proposal that wouldn't look out of place in a paper published in the 1960's? Has access to the vocational route been improved since then? Have standards actually improved in our educational system? No, No, and No again. Mr Burnham will have to get more 'creative' than that in order to get into power methinks!

Rebecca Hanson - 12 Jul 2011

Modernising Ofsted

In almost its dying breath, the last Labour government passed legislation which demands that Ofsted adheres to the Legislative and Regulatory Reform Act of 2006, to which our most regulators have been bound since 2007.

Other regulators interpret this law (which was based on the Hampton Review and the principles which came from it) to mean that they should not grade the quality of services where there is no cause for intervention. Grading the quality of provision has been shown to militate against variety and innovation...... Heaven only knows how Ofsted has interpreted the same legislation to justify its current practice.

Ofsted grades, so dubious in their verifiability and validity and so deceptively lacking in objectivity, have become even more powerful and important under Michael Gove. This is totally unnecessary. If a school wants to convert to academy status it should pass the criteria for converting to academy status. If it wants to be a training school it should qualify to be one according to relevant tests and so on. There is no need to use Ofsted grades.

Other regulators drive improvement and seek to understand the organisations they regulate by demanding that detailed self reports and improvement processes and plans are submitted for professional discussion and analysis. This practice conforms with the law which demands that regulatory activities should be carried out in a way which is transparent, accountable, proportionate and consistent. Ofsted's quasi-objective numbers and the use of abstract categories of quality would not be considered to be good practice by other HMIs.

DEMOS should call in the experts from bodies such as the HSE to advise them on the future of Ofsted. If they need further guidance they are welcome to contact me.

Let's have real freedom for teachers and schools to teach and innovate as they see fit.

Rebecca Hanson (currently lecturing at MMU - easy to find on LinkedIn).

Rebecca Hanson - 14 Jul 2011

teaching an all-Masters profession

Who's involved in DEMOS education anyway?

Is it like Reform and The Policy Exchange where the key route to being a director of education is to be confidently and openly deeply ignorant about education and to justify that be espousing that the way forward is to listen to the average parent to dictate policy not to professionals in education?

Could someone please put Elizabeth Truss MP(ex-Reform) and James Groves (The Policy Exchange) in front of classes of disaffected teenagers please. Even just for half an hour. Please?

Any reassurance that there are people at DEMOS who are credible to the education community would be extremely welcome.

Rebecca Hanson

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