Kevin Courtney

Education policy in turmoil

Kevin Courtney
Education policy in turmoil

Kevin Courtney, General Secretary, National Union of Teachers, reports on a stunning victory against academies.

Education Secretary Justine Greening has abandoned the last vestiges of Nicky Morgan's Education Excellence Everywhere white paper. This is a stunning victory for parent and teacher campaigners. 

In the summer, Nicky Morgan was forced to drop her proposal to legislate for all schools to become academies by 2022 - but she said she would legislate to convert all schools in local authorities that had reached a so-called tipping point - if a certain percentage of schools had voluntarily converted. Justine Greening has now abandoned even that proposal. This means that no school should now feel pressurised into converting to an academy on the grounds that it is ‘inevitable‘ - which opens the door to local campaigns against academy conversions. 

It is also good news that plans to undermine qualified teacher status have also been abandoned. This has been a concern not just of teacher unions but also of UCU. 
And earlier this month plans to carry out SATs re-tests in year 7 were also dropped. 
All this shows that government education policy is in turmoil. 

But abandoning bad policies isn't the same as implementing good ones. So it's important for parent and teacher campaigns to continue to defend and improve educational opportunities for all our children. 

Together with the ATL, the NUT is launching a new website that we believe will be a powerful campaigning tool on the subject of school and college education cuts, cuts which are leading to increased class sizes and reductions in subject choices in many schools - This website shows cuts at individual schools and we hope parents and teachers will use it to stimulate demonstrations and local anti cuts meetings. 

But it's not just funding that's a problem in our schools at the moment. The assessment of primary children is a real mess, with nearly half of 11 year olds told they hadn't reached the ‘expected standard’ last summer. Together with a range of parent and professional bodies, the NUT are building for a real alternative to the current dysfunctional systems of assessment of primary children and we are calling for SATs tests not to go ahead next summer. We'd very much like primary parents and school governors to get in touch via the More Than A Score website - just google it! We believe that in building for a better education system we are best placed to resist the siren calls for an expansion of selection at 11. 

The NUT has many members working hard and doing an excellent job in the existing grammar schools and the secondary moderns that surround them. But evidence points to comprehensives as the best way to educate our young people. 

We want to work with Labour in campaigning not just against segregation at age 11, but also against the school and college cuts and for a better education system for all our children. 

is General Secretary of the National Union of Teachers