Stephen Twigg claims this week’s Ofsted Annual Report along with the announcement that the UK has the sixth best education system in the world show the success of Labour’s school improvement programme. He does, however, believe there is too much variation in quality across the country and says the way to improve further is focusing on the quality of teaching and leadership. This is from the Huffington Post…
While we should never lapse into complacency, two major reports out this week show how a major public service – in this case education – can be transformed through sustained reform and targeted investment.
The Ofsted Annual Report shows the success of Labour’s school improvement programme, including academies and bringing in high quality teachers and school leaders. Half a million more children are in good or better schools thanks to 13 years of a Labour Government. And the Pearson Learning Curve analysis uses data from the OECD, analysed by The Economist to show the UK has the second best education system in Europe, and sixth in the world.
Both these reports scotch the myth promoted by Michael Gove that school standards fell under Labour. The Education Secretary should stop running down our schools and our hard working teachers and pupils and instead build on the many success stories.
However, while there have been improvements overall, the Ofsted report does show serious issues in our education system in two areas – firstly, there is unacceptable variation in school quality between different parts of the country. And secondly, the quality of learning at some of our Further Education colleges still needs further improvement.
How can we address these major challenges to better prepare young people for the rigours of the modern economy?
Michael Gove suggestion is to create more free schools. While some of those schools may be good, you only have to look at Sweden, which created free schools, and brought in profit making schools, which Michael Gove advocates. They lie down in 21st place in the international league table, a full 15 places below the UK. Changing schools structures doesn’t guarantee success.
What matters more is the quality of teaching and school leadership. That’s why I believe we need to improve training and on-the-job development for teachers, expand schemes like Teach First to attract more high quality graduates into the profession, and look at ideas such as providing a rebate on teacher tuition fees if you agree to teach in a challenging school or a poorer part of the country.
I warned in a recent speech that an ‘Arc of Underachievement’ is holding back too many young people in some parts of the country. Ofsted has today confirmed this.
Even in the Prime Minister’s own backyard of Oxfordshire, there are too many coasting schools. We need to learn from success stories like Wigan and Darlington to understand why other areas, like Derby and Doncaster, are less successful.
While Michael Gove is only interested in helping some types of schools, Labour want to ensure no school is left behind. That means strong schools working with weaker ones.
This approach happened with Labour’s London Challenge, and the City Challenge in Greater Manchester, where standards rose. We need to learn the lessons from these programmes – which were about better school collaboration, targeting academies at areas of underperformance, and attracting better teachers and heads to challenging schools.
We should extend that approach to those parts of the country where too many schools are struggling.