The Department for Education has been captured by the concerns of teachers at the expense of issues that matter to parents and pupils, one of its former spin doctors has claimed.
Luke Tryl, who was special adviser to Nicky Morgan when she was education secretary, told a Policy Exchange event that the government has made the mistake of being “embarrassed” by its education reforms.
Speaking at an event last night about education and the next prime minister, he said the DfE should be shouting about successful free schools, and the increase in pupils taking core academic subjects.
He said: “It’s been one of my greatest sources of frustration that we have tried to downplay that success and become embarrassed, and what we have allowed the debate to become is much more producer focused than consumer focused.
“So what have you heard us talking about in the education debate over the past two to three years? It’s been things around teacher workload, around school funding – all important things – but they are not the consumer-focused issues. They are not the issues that parents and young people care about the most.
“I think education is one of those areas that is really susceptible to producer capture, and I think by the government not being bold enough in recent years we have allowed that to happen.”
Mr Tryl, who now leads the free schools charity the New Schools Network, warned that the DfE is “becoming distracted by gimmicks”, and said the “classic example” was the proposal to create new grammar schools.
He said that “nothing did more to undermine the government’s education reform programme” that damaged the coalition of support for the DfE’s education reforms, which had included Labour supporters of academies.
He also raised concerns about edtech, which current education secretary Damian Hinds has made a big focus of the DfE.
Mr Tryl said: “The focus on edtech can be a massive distraction because you stop focusing on what pupils are learning and the substance of what they are learning and you get sucked in by gimmicks.”