‘Teacher recruitment and retention must be a priority for new education secretary Damian Hinds’

It’s likely Damian Hinds will focus on flagship Conservative reforms – but these can only happen if there are teachers and leaders in schools to implement them, writes EPI director Natalie Perera in Tes.

Judging by the reaction on Twitter, Justine Greening’s forced departure from the Department for Education is unpopular amongst the teaching profession, unions and most opinion-formers.

Indeed, Greening was the only education secretary to have delivered a new national funding formula for schools. Despite the promises of her predecessors, she was the only one to have actually taken on the political minefield and delivered a formula that allocates money more equitably across the country, yet remains progressive.

And while she quietly cracked on with tackling many important issues in education – the role of mental health support in schools, reforming technical education and attempting to boost social mobility in some of the most deprived, forgotten parts of the country – the flagship Conservative manifesto promises were sidelined. Even without a majority in Parliament, many Conservatives would have expected the education secretary to stretch the existing grammar expansion rules to their absolute limit, remove the cap on faith-based admissions and continue to expand and accelerate the free schools programme.

Greening’s commitment to evidence-based policy and her ability to engage with the sector (her consultation on reforms to qualified teacher status was developed in close partnership with some of the unions) may have secured credibility from the profession, but it failed to convince her own colleagues.

Her successor, Damian Hinds (who served on the Commons Education Select Committee between 2010 and 2012), is therefore left with a tough task. The sector will be campaigning for him to continue Greening’s work on QTS reform, social mobility and mental health support. There is little appetite from the profession to make further structural reforms.

But his party will be expecting him to get the DfE closer to where it was under Michael Gove – with a radical reform agenda and a shift back to more traditional Conservative policies. As well as focusing on structural reforms – including the expansion of grammars and faith-based admissions (Hinds called on government to lift the faith schools admissions cap back in 2014) – Hinds may also attempt to deliver other manifesto pledges, including a review of school admissions and exclusions and a review of tuition fees (which Greening is rumoured to have blocked back in the summer). If he wants to score maximum points with his backbenchers, Hinds could also amend the national funding formula so that, from 2019, more money is allocated to Conservative heartland areas.

Read more ‘Teacher recruitment and retention must be a priority for new education secretary Damian Hinds’

Please tell us your thoughts in comments or via Twitter ~ Tamsin

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  1. The Guardian today has an article headed “Union warns teachers are suffering mounting epidemic of stress” (11 January). This is something for the new Secretary of State to reflect on.

    How is it that schools are subject to such pressure from government that teachers are collapsing?

    My grandparents, my parents, myself and my (now grown-up) children were taught to read, write, do sums, lead moral lives, and much else by teachers untrammelled, as now, by government edicts of what they should do. Myself and my children followed schooling by university, again without our teachers being directed by government.

    The function of government should be to ensure that there are sufficient school places around the country for every child, that the schools are well equipped, and that sufficient teachers are being trained. Fullstop. Teachers, committed, trained and professional as they are, should determine how, when and what happens in their classrooms in the light of their close awareness of the needs of their pupils.

    Schools are not factories. They are not sweat shops. Their heads are teachers, not chief executives. Their prime purpose is to educate citizens as intelligent, moral people, prepared for earning a living and supporting a family, and able to contribute to and enjoy the many facets of modern life.

    A start would be to get rid of school league tables and the mischief of inter-school competition and to encourage parents to see the local school as the best school for their children to learn to become good citizens.

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