Guardian readers including Martin Lennon, head of policy for the Children’s Commissioner for England, come up with a variety of ideas for improving schools after reading The Guardian article ‘Let teachers sack their boss’: What else should be in a National Education Service?, 4 September.
Head of policy, Children’s Commissioner for England
Given the calibre of the contributors, I was disappointed in the scope of the responses to the Guardian’s question about what the priorities should be for a National Education Service. Only one response mentions what or how children are taught. Instead, most of the contributions focused on two issues: school oversight and tuition fees. These questions exhaust education debate in the country, but have little impact on what children achieve.
Part of this is about our failure to connect what goes on in the classroom with what happens to children outside. For vulnerable children the support needs to be seamless, but for most it is anything but. To address this we need to connect education, health and social care. Many children failing in the education system have in turn been failed by the child and adolescent mental health services system.
We also need to face up to difficult questions about how we allocate resources across the early years, schools, further and higher education. For generations early years education has been the poor relation, despite overwhelming evidence that this is when interventions can be most effective.
But the first issue for our education system is what we do about the hundreds of thousands of children missing out on education in this country. This includes young children not getting potentially transformative early years education, school-aged children marginalised from mainstream schools and children dropping out at 16 (despite the new leaving age of 18).
Quite clearly, the job has to be more attractive, with much more money paid to classroom teachers, and the workload seriously reduced. That means smaller classes, more teaching assistants and more support for welfare and behavioural issues; the recent furore over exclusions highlighted problems that have blighted state schools for years. Marking has to be reduced, with parents having to accept that not all work can be assessed and commented upon. Reports have to be decreased in size, with more reliance on effort and attainment grades, and only underachievement requiring detailed comment.
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