As speculation about the forthcoming election mounts, I just want to make it clear that I won’t be standing. Most of you will, I’m sure, be surprised to learn it was ever a possibility but, in fact, I did seriously consider it for several months. Why? Well, it seemed to me that no one was putting forward the kinds of policies which I, and I’m sure, many teachers, wanted to see. In the end, I came to realise that it would be an expensive vanity project. Without a party behind me, the cost would be several thousand pounds, to enable me to publicise the shortcomings of current political thinking about education, to a few thousand people, with the chance of garnering, at best, a couple of hundred votes and thus have zero impact.
I did actually get as far as drafting a manifesto and, yesterday morning I awoke to find that David Laws had, in the jargon, ‘run off with my clothes’. Coincidence, of course, since no one has ever seen my draft manifesto, an example perhaps of ‘great minds thinking alike’, except that I am too modest to claim such an accolade for myself and I have always found Laws so obnoxious that calling him something so complimentary is a complete anathema. Still, ignoring the nerve of him attacking th very notion of politicians meddling in education (this from a meddling politician), I find myself in agreement.
I called the body I would set up a Standing Commission, and it would go further than Laws’ idea, to have a remit covering all aspects of education, not just curriculum. Laws has quite rightly seen that experts should be involved, who can look over a longer timeframe than the two or three years that a politician needs to operate within. I would go further. I’d have experts, certainly, but also representatives of employers, trades unions, parents, governors. It would be a massive undertaking and progress would, inevitably, be slow. As a commission they could ‘commission’ research and take evidence from anyone. This ought to eliminate the introduction of crackpot ideas that are flavour of the month, or systems that have been introduced elsewhere and seem to chime with the current political ideology (I’m thinking here of the Swedish ‘free school’ idea).
If any political party was far-sighted and statesmanlike enough to introduce this, in a decade or so I think we’d be the envy of the world as we would be running a system based on evidence not political whim or ideology.
Fat chance, I know, but we need to recognise that there is another way compared to the system that has left our schools in a bewilderingly chaotic state.