This evening myself and a team of Labour council candidates were out speaking to voters in Thatcham.
One woman (a teacher), quite rightly, pointed out that education policy hasn't been discussed enough in this election campaign.
So I explained some of our plans:
- we'll protect the entire education budget from early years right through to universities, raising it in line with inflation every year
- unlike with this Government's Free Schools programme we won't build new schools in places with surplus places, instead we'll focus spending on areas where schools are over subscribed. We'll allow parents, academy chains AND local councils to open new schools in these areas.
- we'll reintroduce the proper cap on class sizes for years 1, 2 and 3 so they can't go over 30 pupils per class max.
- we'll end the use of unqualified teachers
- we'll offer teachers new career paths and support their professional development. These new paths include specialising in a particular discipline such as behaviour or SEND or in a subject I.e. Science or History. These teachers will then help train and guide newly qualified teachers - sharing their best practice.
- we'll introduce new Directors of School Standards for local areas who will have oversight of ALL schools in the local area whether they are Academies or not and they will have power to intervene when things are starting to show signs of going wrong rather than waiting for a bad Ofsted judgement.
- We'll change the whole Ofsted system to create a new peer-review model of best practice sharing and supportive improvement advice led by head teachers rather than the current system of adversarial data-driven inspections and Ofsted will not make any prescriptions about teaching methods.
- we recognise the huge myriad of reforms undertaken by Michael Gove and the stress that another overhaul would cause teachers so we've pledged to keep the bulk* of his reforms in place and letting teachers focus on teaching
*that said, there are exceptions to this rule where we've seen this that just aren't right and need fixing so...
- We'll stop the decoupling of A-levels and AS Levels so that AS Levels still count towards a full A-level thus expanding flexibility for students and improving the accuracy of university admissions processes
- We'll sort out careers advice with fully funded one-to-one advice for every pupil and we'll bring back statutory work experience in Year 10 with a national body that can support schools in setting up quality opportunities for students
- We'll make sure Ofsted can't rate a school outstanding unless their arts provision is of sufficient quality to make sure that all pupils have access to a broad and balanced curriculum that values creativity alongside core skills like literacy and numeracy.
- We'll improve the citizenship curriculum so young people understand more about the different layers of Government and how these affect them and how they can influence them
I also spoke to an 18-year old first time voter who was surprised when I explained that even though she'll start at uni this September if we're elected she'll still benefit from our student policies. Her first year will cost £9,000 but if we're elected our reforms will kick in for all students from Sept 2016 so her 2nd and 3rd year will be £6,000 instead AND she'll benefit from our extra £400 a year increase in student maintenance grants.
I really enjoy explaining our policies to voters and I understand that so many people are still undecided. Unfortunately I simply can't physically get around to speak to everyone but I'd be very happy to visit you, to talk on the phone or just discuss via email any policy area you're particularly keen to hear both Labour's proposals and my personal views.
Feel free to email me on: email@example.com to arrange.