Saturday 11 January 2014

The Green Party's Education Policy offers a real alternative

Tristram Hunt's proposals on licensing teachers ignited a furious Twitter firestorm last night with teachers declaring that this was the last straw: there was no one on their side and no party they could vote for. A surge of support for Labour amongst teachers recently recorded in polls looks like evaporating quickly.

There is a party that rejects the centralising and privatising educational agenda of the three neo-liberal parties and that is the Green Party.  Labour started the process of academisation and it is their granting of unprecedented powers to the Secretary of State that Michael Gove is now utilising. Tristam Hunt's proposal should really not come as a surprise.

The Green Party's Spring Conference will be considering a series of amendments aimed at strengthening education policy  which will result in a real alternative which will be attractive to teachers and parents.

Starting from first principles we would state:
The Green Party believes that education should provide everyone with the knowledge and full range of skills they require to participate fully in society and lead a fulfilled life. The Green Party rejects market driven models of education that see its role only in terms of international economic competitiveness and preparation for work
We want to develop an education system that will nurture a desire to learn throughout life. We will do this through a child-centred approach to learning which builds on the skills and interests of each individual child.We will therefore end the current testing regimes and rigid age related benchmarking.
Education should be at the heart of communities and for communities, and should promote equality, inclusivity, social and emotional well-being and responsibility and be democratically accountable to them.
 The Green Party believes that the early years is a unique educational stage in its own right and not just a preparation for school. We recognises the great variance in children's development in the early years and the importance of a developmentally appropriate  provision which includes the important role of play in early learning
These principles lead on to

Education is a right and an entitlement and should be free at the point of delivery to people of all ages.Education is social rather than market provision and we oppose any attempt to privatise state-funded schools or to enable them to become profit-making.  

Free schools and academies, although publicly funded, currently lack local democratic accountability and oversight. We will reintegrate them into the local authority school system.
 In order to do this we have to strengthen local authorities and reduce the powers of the Secretary of State:
The Green Party recognises the key role of Local Authorities in the planning and provision of new school places, establishment of fair admissions policies, ensuring of equality of access for Looked After Children and those with disabilities and special needs, and the provision of School Support Services. We will therefore strengthen local authorities through adequate funding and seek to enhance their local democratic accountability. We will review and reduce the powers of the Secretary of State.
In schools we will tackle the dominance of testing which leads to teaching to the test rather than real education:
There is currently too much emphasis on national tests and fulfilling marking schemes, which can oppress teaching and learning and create a great deal of unnecessary pressure on children as young as 5. Teaching and learning are too often dominated by meeting targets and ticking boxes both for teachers and for pupils. The Green Party will abolish external SATs nad the Year 1 Phonics Test.
We tackle the increasingly politicised role of Ofsted by proposing a new body:
 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 LAs. The National Council would be closely affiliated with the NFER
Accountability will be important:
 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
Secondary and college students will have a right to attend meetings of the Governing Body of schools 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.
 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
Inequality is entrenched in our school system, often through admissions systems and we will tackle this issue: 

Currently there exists a range of inequality within our education system. This can often stem from unfair admissions processes, particularly in private schools, grammar schools, faith schools, free schools and academies. These processes often serve to work against already the most disadvantaged young people in our society (such as those from poorer backgrounds or ethnic minorities). In order to provide an equal opportunity for all young people then admissions must be as balanced and fair as possible.

Selection by aptitude, ability, or social class runs counter productive to creating a high quality education system for all students. Excellent all-ability schools with balanced intakes are the best way of ensuring that every child receives a first-rate education
 The local authority will determine admissions arrangements for all local state funded schools. Ideally young people will be placed at their local schools. However currently, due to the social and economic characteristics of different areas, placing children in their local schools can be a source of segregation and inequality. Therefore local authorities should aim to provide schools (particularly secondary) in their local area with a balanced, comprehensive intake as far as practically possible.
 The Green Party recognizes that the current mix of local authority, private, faith, grammar, academy and free schools reinforces social and ethnic divisions in society. A truly comprehensive intake and mixed ability teaching, coupled with equitable funding based on need, will extend equality of opportunity. We will therefore create a system that facilitates and encourages greater integration.
The recent attacks on teachers conditions of service are clearly a major concern and risk an exodus from the profession:
Teachers are the key resource within the education system. They need first class initial preparation, continuing professional development and appropriate salaries.

Every child should be taught by a teacher with Qualified Teacher Status and Principals and Headteachers of state funded schools should have QTS.

 A Green government will work with the teaching unions to reverse the process by which teachers have gradually been deskilled and their professional autonomy eroded and will review pension arrangements and retirement age with them.

 The Green Party opposes the introduction of performance related pay in education.
The amended policy having stated why we are opposed to academies goes on:
  The Free Schools programme is similarly democratically unaccountable with even more power handed to the Free School providers to decide the curriculum, admissions policy and whether to employ unqualified teachers or headteachers/principals with no formal teaching experience or qualifications
 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 back into the local authority school system. In the short term, where Academies are in operation, we would instigate a maximum 25% voting rights for sponsor appointees to ensure proper democratic and community representation on Academy boards.
Unlike other parties Conference is the Green Party's supreme decision making body and there is extensive pre-conference discussion of motions and a workshop at Conference before a motion is debated. Motions are prioritised by a ballot of members so I urge Green Party members to vote for this motion as first preference. It is a long motion and needs proper debate and a high place on the agenda will ensure there is sufficient time to debate it.

The prioritisation ballot closes at 23.59 on January 15th. Follow this LINK to the ballot.

The current Green Party Education Policy can be found HERE

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