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Government must end its 'bull in a china shop' approach to school improvement, NAHT president demands

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The government has taken a “bull in a china shop” approach to school improvement that limits children’s achievement, the new president of the National Association of Head Teachers union has said.

Speaking at the NAHT’s annual conference in Liverpool today, Tony Draper said it had taken him and his team five years to “turn around” the school he leads, Water Hall Primary School in Milton Keynes.

“Everyone deserves that kind of opportunity,” he said. “Instead we have a ‘bull in a china shop’, quick fix, here today, gone tomorrow approach that destroys careers and limits what our kids can achieve.”

He said Water Hall Primary School had improved “without the need for forced academisation, without a change of leadership, and without unhelpful political interference”.

This was because staff “learnt how to take educated risks” and “focus on what matters most”, he added, saying many schools were “not given enough time” to do this. 

He said school leaders should “fight forced academisation, wherever we see it”.

Mr Draper said academies could be “great schools”, but added: “So can any other, with the right leadership, the right teachers and the right plans in place.”

During his speech he also said schools had become “the A&E departments of communities”.

Family life was under threat, he said, because public services had been “slashed” and because for many families two incomes were “not enough to make ends meet”.

“These days we’re not just educating children, we’re supporting mums and dads and putting neighbourhoods back together,” he said.

Research by the NAHT, published yesterday, revealed schools were spending £43.5 million per year on basic support such as food, clothes and showering facilities for children living in poverty.

Mr Draper said the research showed a “vague promise to protect education spending” was of little use when other sources of support for families were “disappearing”. 

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