Education reform: A cunning plan or a load of old balls?

18th December 2007

This week the Schools' Secretary Ed Balls unveiled the Government's ten year Children's Plan.

Last time I spoke in the House of Commons on the subject of education reform I commended the Schools' Secretary for his commitment to improving special needs education and support for disabled children and their families since being elected as an MP.

But his Children's Plan is a patchwork of eye-catching initiatives which may make good headlines but which nevertheless fail to display the initiative which our schools so desperately need.

It's on occasions like this that we realise that the Government is stuck in a time warp and resorting to rapidly aging rhetoric.

Despite huge investment in schools, results are not coming up to scratch and our hard-working teachers feel increasingly strangled by targets and red tape. But the Government's response to this dilemma is to introduce yet more targets and to focus on vague aspiration instead of concrete action.

The proposed little red book for recording children's progress may not be Maoist but it does smack of yet more red tape.

Nevertheless, the provision of more nursery places is real progress, as is the reform of the primary school testing regime. But there is a danger of overburdening schools by entrenching the requirement that teachers deal with both education and social issues.

And the plan is silent on the need to give teachers the power to enforce discipline and to give parents the right to transfer their children out of failing schools.

Two key statistics now weigh heavily in the balance against the Government. First, is the failure to make any dent in child poverty. Indeed, last year saw the number of children living in poverty increase by 200,000.

And second, we have to confront the scandalous finding in an OECD report last week that Britain has plummeted in the international league tables for reading, maths and science since Labour came to power.

After ten years of incumbency, and with the first generation of school leavers to have been educated entirely under a Labour Government, it's time for the Prime Minister to drop his tired dependence on blaming previous Governments for the challenges that we still face today."

CSJ Homelessness Report

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Housing First Report

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Centre for Social Justice