A Critique of Green Party Education Policy – all that glitters is not gold! (What I would have said)

We were greeted by the news today that Tristram Hint thinks Green Party Education policy is “total madness” as the Labour Party have woken up to the Green threat in marginals around the country.

From The Guardian. "22 key Labour battlegrounds (including a few seats the party already holds) where the potential for red to green defection is highest."

From The Guardian. “22 key Labour battlegrounds (including a few seats the party already holds) where the potential for red to green defection is highest.”

Of course these attacks on different political parties are to be expected as the election draws closer, especially since no government since 1945 has ever come back from an election defeat to regain office after only one term and the YouGov/Time poll yesterday had both Labour and Conservatives at 32%. Those on twitter will have noticed a change in tone from some of the prominent Labour tweeters to attacking Green Policy.

Green Party Attacks Green_Party_attacks

Therefore it comes as no surprise that Tristram wants to criticise Green Party Education Policy, however, there are different attacks he could have made. This is what Tristram criticised:

  • Green Party policy on delaying children starting school until they are 6.
  • Ending the use of standardised achievement tests in schools
  • Restricting data that would allow the publication of school league tables
  • Abolishing the schools inspectorate Ofsted
  • Ending the status of academies and free schools.

Tristram must be aware that some of these policies are very attractive to teachers – but how true are these statements above when compared to actual Green Party policy.

 

All that glitters is not gold.

All that glitters is not gold.

 

Early Education

I completely agree with Tristram that stopping children from starting school at 4/5 is madness. From a party that prides itself on ending inequality this policy is madness. “ED031 It will continue to be compulsory for all young people to be educated between the years of 7-16.” All the evidence shows that early intervention works, that it helps children from the most deprived backgrounds more than any other!

“Our analysis of recent research and evaluative evidence provides strong and convincing evidence of the qualities and features of successful early intervention programmes, and in particular, effective early education programmes.  This evidence provides useful guidance for the further development of early education programmes to enhance their capacity to boost early achievement for less advantaged children…There is now little doubt that early education for low income and ethnic minority children can contribute importantly to combating educational disadvantages if certain criteria are met.” Research paper for Ofsted’s ‘Access and achievement in education 2013 review’

This is why Labour created sure start, this is why Labour promoted the Early Admissions policy, this is why Labour introduced free nursery places and have promised to extend the number of free hours available to twenty five! Labour supporters should be shouting and celebrating all the work we have done on early intervention, that is why Labour are committed to saving SureStart. Now, I do not think that Early Education should be formalised and in fact the Ofsted paper states “A didactic or academic approach in a negative socio‐ emotional climate may do more harm than good.” Which is why I support the Too Much Too Soon campaign:

The members and supporters of the Save Childhood Movement’s ‘Too Much Too Soon’ Campaign believe that children in England are starting formal learning too early, that the value of their creative and expressive play is being undermined, and that they are subject to developmentally inappropriate pressures that are damaging to their long-term health and wellbeing. 

They believe that there is no evidence to support such an early start and a great deal to suggest that it may be detrimental not only to their wellbeing but also to their learning dispositions and later academic achievement.

As both a teacher and a parent I hope that Tristram will come out against this version of early education, dismiss the basline testing and continue to promote the good practise we have in EYFS. Crucially though Green Party policy to stop children starting school until they are 7 is wrong. They state “That does not preclude those who wish to enter their children into school earlier from doing so” but my fear is that it will be the middle class parents who will push their children to start school and the children who need early education/intervention more than any other group will be left further behind.

Ending the use of standardised achievement tests in schools

Green Party policy:

ED057 Where pupils’ attainment and progress is reported as part of a school’s holistic report to parents and the wider community it will include assessments, including value-added, moderated by the National Council of Education Excellence and the Local Authority’s School Improvement Service as well as the school’s own self evaluation. (nb, my bold) Source

Before teachers start celebrating too much, stop. When Labour moved away from standardised testing in Primary schools they birthed the hated APP. This one change contributed to a huge increase in teacher workload. What the Green’s are suggesting is that assessments still continue and schools will still be judged on their value added. Is this levels by another name?  Despite saying league tables will go they still want the results presented to “parents and the wider community.” So how would this work in reality and do they think the local press/parents wouldn’t use this data to compare schools? That schools wouldn’t feel under the same pressure?

This policy is an uneasy compromise between the desire for parents to know how a school is doing and the idealogical commitment to ending league tables. I do think league tables should go and I agree with this from the NUT “League tables are however a dreadful way of measuring success. By their very nature there will also be someone at the bottom and they do not reflect the differing environments schools operate within.” They dictate far too much of what happens in school and limit pathways for pupils but, if they you agree they should go why reinvent the wheel with another hated and equally destructive alternative?

Abolishing the schools inspectorate Ofsted

Ofsted has a new name?

Ofsted has a new name?

“ED056 The Green Party will instate a system of local accountability using continuous, collaborative assessment of schools. We would replace OFSTED with an independent National Council of Educational Excellence which would have regional officers tasked to work closely with Local Authorities. The National Council would be closely affiliated with the National Federation for Educational Research (NFER).” (nb my bold)

ED078 The Local Authority and National Council of Educational Excellence will be involved in monitoring the structures to ensure there is consistency of standards and level of involvement and to help to share best practice.”

Now I haven’t even started on the chaos and cost of these policies (just wait until I get to the part about school sizes) but surely we can see that this is Ofsted by another name? They want regional officers, working with the Local Authorities to monitor schools. I’m sorry but aren’t they called HMI?

There are a lot of encouraging noises coming from Oftsted at the moment, I particularly enjoyed reading the Myth Busters document done in collaboration with my union, and I do think that there should be accountability for schools but one without fear. In the same way as grading lessons makes teachers perform in ‘unusual’ ways because the price of failure is too high so does the fear of Ofsted. Please don’t think that I am supporting Ofsted in its current form but nor does Tristram!

We need to reform Ofsted. Deciding on a school is a big decision for parents and Ofsted’s seal of approval is often a first port of call. Quite rightly, schools wear their Good or Outstanding badge with pride. But with too many headteachers now arguing that Ofsted can be a barrier to success, we need to be more radical about the future of inspection.

Ofsted has to move beyond box-ticking and data-dependence. Too much teacher workload is the product of preparing for an inspection. Yes, Ofsted must confront mediocrity, but it must also start to allow heads the space to innovate and develop a richer criterion of school achievement. So it’s time for greater stability in the inspection framework, more consistency between inspectors and an end to any prescribed system of teaching. source

all that glitters

Ending the status of academies and free schools.

ED134 For these reasons the Green Party is opposed to creating more Academies and Free Schools and will support community, school and parent campaigns that share this aim. The Green Party will integrate Academies and Free Schools into the Local Authority school system.

Tristram missed an opportunity here to highlight that he too is against creating any more Free Schools, that he too has pointed out the failure of many free schools around the country. “Hunt has said that he will end the Tories’ “ideological experiment” with free schools.”

Free schools labour

My reasons for liking this Green Party policy are not idealistic but because:

  • LA could ensure enough school places
  • (I’m being completely honest here) they would ensure facilities time for TU officials.
  • They allow teachers to move whilst retaining continuity of service.
  • It makes it easier to negotiate school policies when only dealing with one organisation.
  • There is huge waste of money with some academy chains. “Some academy chains including EAct and the Education Fellowship Trust have previously faced criticisms for paying large salaries and allowing expensive foreign trips using taxpayers’ money.” Source Also see “Nearly half of academy trusts paid millions to ‘dubious’ contacts.”
  • National Curriculum that is not national.
  • Inequality of Funding

Politically, it is always easier to talk about reform rather than ‘going back.’ Realistically, how could Labour condemn the academies programme when they introduced them?

Labour are promising reform.

  • Tristram has stated that schools will only be allowed to be opened in areas of need.
  • All teachers must have QTS whatever school they work in.
  • Tristram has said he will look at “unfair’ education spending” across the different regions and make private schools share resources if they want to keep their business rates relief.

I don’t expect Tristram personally to comment on facilities time but this was added as an amendment to Labour Policy Forum “support for trade union education and facility time.”I am waiting to hear if the National Curriculum will be applied to all schools.

Rather than dismiss this policy as nonsense Tristram could have acknowledged the reasons why some people want a return to LA and highlighted how Labour are already starting to address these issues.

Freedom what freedom?

Illusion-of-Freedom

“ED142 We will encourage mixed ability learning in all schools as far as possible.

ED079 The Green Party will encourage schools and colleges to set up Parent Forums or Parent Councils to enhance the school’s accountability and improve communication and collaboration over issues such as curriculum, provision, homework, attendance and behaviour management.

ED076 Secondary and college students will have a right to attend meetings of the Governing Body and members of the elected School Council will have voting rights. Governing Bodies in primary schools will have the duty to regularly consult with the elected pupil School Council.

ED041 Therefore the National School Curriculum will be replaced with a set of learning entitlements…Practical life skills such as basic cooking, Do It Yourself (DIY) skills, First Aid and managing of bank accounts…the agenda for Citizenship will not be determined by central government but instead by an independent body (such as the Politics Association)…cooperative and participative learning including group work in all areas of the curriculumpupil-centred learning, will cater for and encourages different learning styles.” (nb my bold) Source.

Breaking this down we have a political party deciding pedagogy in schools! So the Green Party would dictate to teachers not just what they teach but how they teach!

No thank you. I want to be able to teach in the way that suits me and my class so do all teachers!

Teachers are professionals and should not have pedagogy dictated.

Teach_own_way teachers_free_to_chose

It surely is madness for at the same time as Ofsted say they have no preferred teaching style to have a political party telling us the way we should teach. Surely this sounds like the wrong way around?

And Finally…School Size Pipe Dream

“ED100 In the long run we would work towards class sizes of 20 at both secondary and primary level.

ED101 We would also work towards having smaller schools with a maximum size of 700 for secondary schools.”

Sorry but here I get a little irritated. Yes we would all love small classes and yes, whatever the research might say, I know that smaller classes reduces the workload for teachers which results in less stressed teachers and a better education for children. And, while I’m at it, if schools sizes were not so important why do Private Schools use small class sizes as a way of selling their schools?

But, come on! Is this realistic? Should having secondary schools with 700 pupils really be a priority when the NHS is in drastic need of funding and reform? Are we really suggesting that this is what we should spend our money on? Does it work? Does it improve education? This policy has no credibility. Even if we had the funds I wouldn’t argue that smaller secondary schools are more effective.

My secondary school (Market Weighton) had about 650 pupils when I attended. I left at 16 to attend Wyke College in Hull because it was able to offer me the courses I wanted. Since then the sixth form at Market Weighton has closed. By enforcing this you are limiting the choices that pupils have to study the courses they want.

And, I’m sorry but what? “ED122…This highlights the need for the state to fully represent the diversity in our education system, for example by increasing the number of state-funded boarding schools.” No, we really don’t need this!

Conclusion

careful_what_wish_for

worst nightmare

Unfortunately, as with many Green Policies the sums just don’t add up. But, if you still don’t believe me watch this:

 

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4 thoughts on “A Critique of Green Party Education Policy – all that glitters is not gold! (What I would have said)

  1. Alexander Cameron

    “how true are these statements above when compared to actual Green Party policy.”

    It’s not clear, since your analysis is incomplete. For example, you select one single statement about school starting age, but fail to refer to the whole section about early years education. For example, “ED023 We will move towards a system in which early years education extends until the age of 6. This will mean that academic learning is not introduced until the age of 6. That does not preclude those who wish to enter their children into school earlier from doing so.”

    You also make assumptions about what might replace Ofsted – hardly surprising, since Green policy does not give much detail on this, and we’ve all become so brainwashed by the Inspectorate that it’s difficult to see round it. However, I would assume that replacing inspection with ” a system of local accountability using continuous, collaborative assessment of schools” would look and feel quite different. It is, in fact, what some local authorities and school collaboratives are already doing. A national inspection regime is totally unnecessary, and it’s dismaying that Labour can’t see beyond a ‘command and control’ instinct.

    Reply
    1. emmaannhardy Post author

      Thank you for your feedback and adding to the discussion.

      As you will have seen I linked to everything so people were able to read the original documents – checking my stats I can see that this is something they have been doing.

      It would be interesting to have more information on the replacemenr for ofsted.

      Are the parts about telling teachers how to teach here to stay? That does seem such a shame because gaining the freedom to teach in our own way was a long fight.

      As I’ve said before, I don’t hate Green Party Education policy but it is not perfect and, as with any policy, it should be challenged and questioned. I hope I’ve added to the debate.

      Thanks again for your comment.
      Em

      Reply
  2. Julian Michael

    To be fair to Natalie Bennett, Andrew Neil is (possibly deliberately) missing the point about the Citizen’s income, comparing incomparable numbers to try to ‘expose’ some of the Greens’ more sensible policy.

    However, on education you are precisely right. If only you were Shadow Education Secretary.

    Reply
  3. Pingback: Why I’m standing for #Labour’s National Policy Forum (#NPF) | emmaannhardy

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