This blog is unashamedly about primary schools. Urgent actions need taking and this is what I’d like to see on day one of a Labour administration.
1. The SATS tests for y6 (KS2) in 2016 to be cancelled.
Why? The current situation in primary schools regarding these assessments is a farce. The switch to the new curriculum and the blatant raising of standards has created an unequal playing field for kids. The problem falls onto year 5 (my year group) the most. Children that were on track last summer to meet a L4b, now find themselves below the standard required of them, through no fault of their own, or their teachers.
Not only that, but (from September 2014 when the new curriculum started) they only have a year and a half to catch up this gap until the 2016 tests are given to them. Contrast that to y4, where they have two and a half years to catch up, or y3 where they have three and a half years. Unfair right? Of course. There is only a finite amount of time to learn new stuff (properly) and this time does not exist for the y5 cohort. You also have the farcical situation whereby the current y2 can meet national standards this summer (they are still on the old curriculum) but when the clock ticks to September (and the new curriculum in y3) they will automatically be behind where they have to be. Added to this is the fact that we have no idea what % or grades are required and there have been no exemplars given for national level writing standards given. We are basically aiming our kids at a test we have no idea about. It needs to go.
2. OFSTED needs serious reform, or abolition
Why? OFSTED is a law unto itself. They walk into a school for two days and then make a judgement about how good that school is. They make high-stakes observations (oh yes they do) and huge generalisations about behaviour etc from limited experience in the school. They provide feedback that you have to act on, even if it is palpably nonsense. This has to stop. While I agree with almost everything Wilshaw says, his troops on the ground are not following his guidance. It smacks of an organisation too large to reform effectively and the ultimate step might need to be taken.
3. Issue clear guidance on children playing under-age computer games
Why? we are seeing an epidemic of children exposed to inappropriate and violent computer games, far different from anything we have experienced before. The behaviour and themes are carried into school and reports of this have come from across the country. Labour need to make clear that if a school is made aware of children playing these games, that a referral to social services will be made. While I sympathise with the pressure they are under, something radical has to be done and soon. This could go hand in hand with a blitz on e-safety, covering the use of websites with an age limit like facebook. Schools should be given the backing to report children in their care for using these sites. At the moment, they act alone.
4. End the free schools vanity project
Why? Less money will be available for all schools during the next parliament, so why give money to free schools, established in areas they are not needed? Its not joined up thinking at all.
5. Cast the net further when looking for primary representatives for panels/commissions etc
Why? Primary representation on curriculum/assessment/
While I am aware more needs to be done (SEN/Academies/Behaviour/Class sizes etc) these are the most pressing concerns as far as I see it from my little corner of the country. Above all, Labour has to trust primary teachers to do their professional duty and provide a great education for the kids in our care. Too often under Gove (who I didn’t dislike hugely) statements implied that trust didn’t exist. This needs to change.