Estelle Morris: Education’s really hot topic has not been discussed in this election

Writing in the Guardian, former education secretary Estelle Morris says the most important debate – about schools helping each other – will only restart after the election…

However history describes this general election, it is unlikely to say education has been at its core… The big education policies of recent elections are taking a back seat…

So the new battle of ideas is how to rebuild the fabric of a school system that has been seriously fragmented and the new thinking is about how schools can be both independent and part of a wider schools network.

This debate has been led by Labour – it is the focus of the Blunkett report, the party’s main schools policy document produced in opposition – and the Conservatives have grudgingly moved on to this ground with the appointment of school commissioners. Important though this may be, it doesn’t have the political sex appeal of the debate around autonomy – “Freedom for heads”, or “Let parents run schools”, sparked much media and public interest. “Let schools help one another” isn’t going to appeal so much to headline writers…

I don’t know whether education will rise up the election agenda in the next 10 days, but whoever is sitting in the Department for Education after the votes are counted will still find themselves in charge of one of the most important areas of policy – and the debate will resume.


It has certainly been a strange election from an education perspective.

The debate over funding seems to have been deliberately fudged by all main parties who would probably prefer no one to know the realities of the real likely consequences of their plans. 

And nothing much else has got any traction or been the catalyst for debate – despite the significant ongoing interest in schools and education in the media away from the election.

However, is Estelle Morris right to suggest the real big issue facing schools now is working out how they can operate both independently and as part of a network? 

Your thoughts and reactions? Please share in the comments or via Twitter…


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  1. Anfieldexile

    SchoolsImprove It’s the way forward in Birmingham with BaronessMorris in the BEP chair. Watch this space

  2. TW

    It’s not a battle of ideas, it’s a battle between bright ideas from the likes of Estelle and her liblabcon mates (- including Blunkett, the worst ever Education Secretary, so bad he made Estelle seem not too bad) and people involved in education who actually know what they are talking about.

  3. When competition is injected into education, as the Coalition has done with its ‘choice’ agenda, then cooperation declines.  Schools are more likely to cheer if a neighbouring school gets a poor Ofsted rather than offer support; free schools are set up on the premise of being ‘better’ than local alternatives.  Hardly an atmosphere conducive to cooperation when WeAreSoBrilliant free school sets up after claiming local education was inferior.

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