Ensure education is properly funded, tackle teacher recruitment and stop talking schools down, headteachers have told politicians.
In its general election manifesto, published today, the Association of School and College Leaders points out that the UK’s education system is “highly regarded by other countries.”
“We must stop talking ourselves down,” it reads. "Education has been used as a political football for far too long, with one side denigrating the system in an attempt to disparage the record of the other side."
ASCL general secretary Geoff Barton urged politicians not to play schools off against one another during the election campaign.
He said: “We call upon politicians of all persuasions to mind their language in the general election campaign and, in particular, not to indulge in the corrosive practice of extolling one type of school over another type of school.”
General election: 'Don't play schools off against each other'
ASCL has put forward a list of priorities for the education system that it wants politicians to focus on instead:
- Education cuts to be reversed in full and the introduction of a mechanism to ensure the education budget increases annually at least in line with actual school and college costs.
- More effort to attract and retain teachers, including tackling the “punitive accountability” system of school performance tables and Ofsted inspections.
- School performance tables which encourage collaboration and inclusivity, and a more supportive approach to dealing with schools rated by Ofsted as "inadequate’"
- No more costly and distracting structural reform, and instead a focus on encouraging collaboration between schools.
- A fairer GCSE system that better supports the "forgotten third" of students who currently fall short of at least a grade 4 in English and maths.
- Reform of Sats for 11-year-olds to make them fairer on children and fairer on schools.
- Ratcheting down the pressure on students taking reformed GCSEs, which are harder than previous specifications and cause too much stress and anxiety.
- Making teaching about same-sex relationships mandatory in all schools, including primary schools.
- A review of the curriculum to ensure that it matches the needs of students, employers and the nation in the 21st century.
Mr Barton said: “We have a very good education system in this country, and many excellent schools and colleges which do a fantastic job for our young people, day in and day out.
“But this often seems to be achieved against the odds and whoever forms the next government has to get to grips with the priorities we have set out in our manifesto.”