The Foundation of Our Future
The aim of a 21st century education system must be to create engaged and empowered individuals, who know they have purpose and value. Education is the key to social mobility, equipping people with the skills, passion and ambition to improve themselves, their lives and the lives of those around them. Such a system must be founded on the basic principles of fairness and opportunity.
An Expert-Led Profession
Yorkshire’s education system is facing a crisis of high stress levels, low teacher morale, and staff recruitment and retention. Between 2010 and 2015, Yorkshire saw the greatest increase in the proportion of secondary teachers leaving the state-funded school sector, with 23% of secondary schools reporting at least one vacancy. As a result, many schools have become reliant on unqualified teachers. Frequent policy changes have led to education becoming a political football and has had a detrimental effect on education outcomes. Changes to education should follow a ‘slow-policy’ approach, taking time to actively engage with and learn from practitioners, education researchers and those currently in education.
- Depoliticise education policy making by placing policy development in the hands of practitioners through teacher-led commissions and a Yorkshire Education Challenge in order to stop education being used as a political football.
- Reduce the number of unqualified teachers by expecting all full-time teachers in state-funded schools, including Academies and Free schools, to have Qualified Teacher Status and provide funding for continued professional development courses and collaborative ‘teach meets’ to share best practice and instill a culture of ongoing growth and support.
- Place a moratorium on the creation of new Free schools until their effectiveness can be better analysed and an evidence-based coherent policy approach agreed.
- Reimagine the role of Ofsted, or its successor, as the guardian of a broad curriculum and gatekeeper against unnecessary workload.
A Yorkshire Assembly with responsibility for education should seek to ensure the training and retention of highly-qualified teachers – inspired by their vocation and empowered by their profession. The role of government should be to ensure Teachers’ Standards are upheld, but not to micromanage how these are fulfilled.
Reimagining Assessment and Accountability
One of the most cited reasons for teachers leaving the profession is unsustainable workload. While the school accountability system has played a crucial role in exposing underperformance and driving educational improvements over the last 25 years, a high-stakes: low-trust culture now pervades the current education system. This has resulted in a narrowed curriculum and some schools gaming the system to move up league tables. High pressure testing not only has a negative impact on staff retention, it is also having an increasingly detrimental impact on pupil progress. We must reimagine how assessment and accountability can be shaped to develop a high-quality: high trust culture throughout the education system.
- Reweight league tables to measure entry-to-exit pupil progress and include the result of all pupils who attended a school, even if they left before completing their GCSEs. Pupil results should be allocated to the schools they attended in proportion to the amount of time they spent on-roll to tackle ‘off-rolling’ of lower attaining pupils.
- Withdraw the ‘right’ for schools to act as their own admissions authority to end the manipulation the admissions system to select high attaining pupils and excluding or ‘managing out’ harder to teach pupils.
- Convene a practitioner-led regional commission on school admissions to look at how best to ensure a school’s scores cannot be boosted by gaming the system rather than improving the quality of teaching.
- Make school performance data more reflective of pupil achievement by incorporating existing ‘destinations data’ – information about what students go on to learn or earn after leaving school – already collected by the Department for Education.
- Ensure schools have time to implement outcomes from external evaluation – to build a constructive relationship with evaluators.
- Make school self-evaluations more diagnostic and constructive by making Ofsted’s assessment training available to school leaders and offering continued professional development to share best practice.
- Abandon Reception baseline assessments and KS1 and KS2 SATs as measures of school performance in order to tackle staff and pupil stress levels and return responsibility for diagnostic assessments to teachers.
- Establish a teacher-led commission on assessment to enable teachers to embrace ‘genuine formative assessment by embedding regular, highly specific, low-stakes testing in their practice for purely diagnostic purposes, with the emphasis on providing useful feedback and identifying helpful next steps’.
- The commission on assessment should give consideration to the future of GCSE and A level qualifications through a collaborative, slow-policy approach to ensure any changes are made with the support of schools, colleges, universities, employers and students.
Assessment and school accountability should be driven by the benefit to pupils. The devolution of authority for education to a Yorkshire assembly should be an opportunity to re-evaluate how assessments are used and to strive to empower a network of self-improving schools across Yorkshire.
Yorkshire Education Challenge
To create a society founded on fairness and opportunity, we must strive to ensure equality of opportunity for our children. In the late 1990s, London schools lagged behind those in the rest of England, yet within two decades, schools in the capital were regularly outperforming those in the rest of the country. One of the significant factors in this transformation was the instigation of the London Challenge. However, Yorkshire continues to perform poorly. In 2016, 26% of schools in Yorkshire and the Humber were rated ‘requires improvement’ and 5.9% ‘inadequate’ for teaching, learning and assessment, compared with 7.4% and 1.6% of schools in London. The issue is exacerbated by a disparity in education spending. In 2017/18, the ten highest funded schools in the country were all in Greater London, receiving between £6,003.47 and £6,965.12 per pupil per year, whereas schools in York received only £4,162.98 per pupil. A Yorkshire Assembly with responsibility for education make addressing educational inequality a priority.
- Devolve education to a Yorkshire Assembly with powers over taxation, expenditure and the ability to direct investment to areas of greatest need.
- Demand fair funding for Yorkshire schools to address the regional disparity in education investment.
- Establish a Yorkshire Education Challenge to provide governance, direction and guidance on the provision and conduct of all Yorkshire’s schools. The Yorkshire Education Challenge will be overseen by a teacher-led commission, with a small, fast-moving taskforce to connect existing middle tier structures and plug gaps, and understand the varied, specific needs of schools in Yorkshire.
- Create a Yorkshire Education Challenge Partners network to act as a critical friend to schools, trial improvements and rapidly spread successful practices across the rest of the network.
- Ensure ring-fenced funding for SEND and more able pupils to guarantee provision for pupils with special educational needs and disabilities (SEND) and advanced learning for gifted and talented pupils both in mainstream and specialist settings.
A Yorkshire Education Challenge, accountable to a Yorkshire Assembly but removed from direct party politics, should seek to provide fair funding for schools and create the strong middle tier between schools and government needed to monitor standards and provide timely challenge and support to schools.
Creating a Culture of Lifelong Learning
The burden for transforming educational achievement in Yorkshire should not be placed entirely on schools. That three out of ten children in Yorkshire live in poverty and that 50,000 children, reliant on free school meals during term time, are at risk of ‘holiday hunger’ is unconscionable. Eliminating child poverty must be an imperative. The first three years of a child’s life play a hugely significant role in future development. We must therefore support parents and ensure the highest standards of early years education. From this foundation, we must create a culture of lifelong learning through which children and young people can take pride in their local area, empowered by the knowledge that they have purpose and value.
- Reinvest in Sure Start and similar programmes – which are practitioner-led and designed with parental input – to empowering parents and enabling children in Yorkshire to thrive.
- Reduce the cost of training for early years staff to increase the number of staff with knowledge of early years methodology, leading to a positive impact on children’s learning.
- Establish standard minimum wage for practitioners qualified with Early Years Teacher Status to boost recruitment and retention of high-skilled practitioners.
- Support private, voluntary and independent (PVIs) early years providers to ensure consistently high-quality of early years provision across all sectors, without higher childcare fees being passed on to parents.
- Increase investment to ensure additional school-based early years provision, particularly in areas of greatest need, to address fragmented provision across Yorkshire.
- Work in partnership with education providers to implement regional development proposals, in line with the Department for Education’s Early Years Workforce Strategy, to incentivise practitioners to continuously improve their skills, gain higher qualifications and progress their careers.
- Foster grass-roots projects between schools, local businesses and a sustainable voluntary youth sector and champion successful community partnerships through the Yorkshire Challenge.
- Support pupil vocations by giving all pupils access to good-quality careers education alongside work awareness, readiness and experience placements.
- University tuition fees should be replaced with a time-limited graduate tax – ensuring it applies to students even if they move abroad following graduation – and in due course move towards enabling free further and higher education.
Education should be a route to self-improvement. It should encourage us to question, investigate, learn and explore. Only by instilling those values from an early age and continuing to deliver on the promises of fairness and opportunity will we be able to engage and empower children across Yorkshire with the skills and passion to improve themselves, their lives and the lives of those around them.