TES Pre-election debate 2015 - Part 2

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Conservatives - The Rt Hon Nicky Morgan MP, Education Secretary

Liberal Democrats – The Rt Hon David Laws, Schools Minister

Labour – Tristram Hunt MP, Shadow Education Secretary

Please see the previous post for a summary of what each party had to say in their five minute address. This post summaries their responses to questions put to them by the audience, which cover a number of key issues:

Early Years & baseline assessments

Conservatives - Committed to the (somewhat controversial) baseline assessment in Reception.

Liberal Democrats - Support baseline testing.

Labour - Support baseline testing in Reception in prinicipal, but reservations about it in practice.

Faith schools

Conservatives - In favour of faith schools.

Liberal Democrats - Won’t ‘get rid’ of faith schools, but say need to be careful about how we grow faith schools in the future.

Labour - “Do I want more faith schools? I want to devolve decisions about [all] new schools down from DfE” to local authorities, via Directors of School Standards.

Reducing teacher workloads

Conservatives - Reduce data collection and share best practice.

Liberal Democrats - Stopping needless curriculum and exam reform within key stages – changes to be based on evidence. Classroom practice should be informed by the needs of pupils and not the need to satisfy Ofsted – inspections cause “unnecessary fads and unintended workloads”.

Labour - End “endless initiativeitis”. Ofsted should be “returned to an independent schools inspectorate” and “not used as a political tool.” Advances in technology may help to reduce the burden.

Qualified vs. unqualified teachers

Conservatives - No intention to reverse the policy allowing Academies and Free Schools to employ unqualified teachers.

Liberal Democrats - Obligation of QTS will be extended to every teacher, including Early Years – “you can’t rely on enthusiastic people with good subject knowledge”.

Labour - QTS will be mandatory, but this is only a “licence to teach” – system wide change in CPD architecture.

Free schools

Conservatives - More Free Schools and Academies – heads and staff ‘relish’ the freedoms these give. 

Liberal Democrats - Although not against Free Schools, it is wrong to pick an arbitrary number (500) and fund them from the basic needs budgets of the other 24,000 schools before identifying what is actually needed.

Labour - Will end Free Schools programme, but maintain existing Free Schools. New schools should be built in areas of need, with Las allowed to compete to open new schools. 

Compulsory English and maths to 18

Conservatives - Young people should be given the repeated chance to gain English and maths GCSEs.

Liberal Democrats - Important that all young people master the basics, but for some this might be better suited to a vocational setting, not just resitting GCSEs over and over again.

Labour - Labour will develop a post-16 level 2 qualification for core English and maths to avoid endless resits.

Teacher recruitment and retainment

Conservatives - “We need to be more vocal to attract teachers into the career.” Need more women in senior leadership roles – learn from other sectors e.g. part-time and flex working. Defended Schools Direct model, as training for teachers within a school environment is “very important”.

Labour - Stop the “progressive elimination” of higher education from teacher training and strategic placement of teachers in areas of highest need.

Decoupling of AS and A2

Conservatives - Supports decoupling – says students she has spoken to are ‘open-minded’ about the changes.

Liberal Democrats - AS-levels need to go as there’s a risk of turning the last four years of compulsory education into an “exam factory”.

Labour - Would not go ahead with the decoupling of AS-Level this September – they are a good indicator of ‘potentiality’ of students for universities and provide access to HE too – good universities accept disadvantaged students on AS scores. 

Teacher pay

Conservatives - Government to make announcements very shortly on pay. Would not say anything more.

Liberal Democrats - Claim Osborne has been blocking teacher pay rise – wants full recommendation of the STRB report to be implemented

Assessing achievement and progress

  • All three parties agreed that there needs to be an improvement in destination data after KS5.

Should training for governors be mandatory?

Conservatives - Good quality training should be available if required, but mandatory training could scare off potential volunteers. The importance of governors and their responsibilities are often overlooked.

Liberal Democrats - Would also not advocate mandatory training, but need to help governors hold heads to account – echoes Ofsted’s suggestion that Chairs of Governors could be paid.

Labour - Improving governance is a “huge challenge”, but cautious about mandatory training.

Collective worship

  • Both Hunt and Morgan support compulsory collective worship in schools

Liberal Democrats - Recognises compulsory collective worship as being ‘out of date’ – up to schools to decide.

At the end of evening, all those in attendance were asked to vote for their preferred party using the red, blue and yellow cards on our seats. It was heard to tell which party's policies won most approval; there was quite a mix of coloured cards at the end suggesting that there was no consensus.