My end-of-year report? Education could do better

School budget cuts, recruitment and Ofsted - at the start of the holidays, Colin Harris finds little to be cheerful about

Colin Harris

With school budget cuts, teacher recruitment trouble and Ofsted, there's not much to be cheerful about as we start the school holidays, writes Colin Harris

At the end of another year, exhaustion dominates, and the hot weather just makes the last few days difficult. But the summer holiday beckons...

But what about the past 12 months? Can they be viewed in a positive way? We may have been promised a pay rise in the past few days, but this feels too little, too late after the years of below-inflation rises, or no rises over the past few years at all.

But has education moved forwards?

School funding cuts

Yet again, the year has been dominated by Brexit. It would appear, in fact, that there is nothing else important in our country. In education, despite a new education secretary, little has changed.

The continual cuts in budgets have really cut deep into the profession. I doubt if it will recover for years from losing the quality staff it has had to offload over the past few years.

For SEND children, already a vulnerable group, the cuts have seen their needs not being met to any acceptable timescale – if at all. Sadly, they have felt the full force of the financial cuts, and those in their ivory towers should bury their heads in shame.

Teacher recruitment problems

This year, there also has to be a recognition that education as a profession does not now entice our most talented young individuals. People no longer yearn to be teachers. Long hours, poor pay and in many cases difficult working conditions have meant a huge outpouring from the profession. I can't see this changing in the foreseeable future either. Yet again, the losers are our children.

Supposedly, 2019 was going to be the year that teachers’ workload was addressed and tackled. It was meant to be a national focus and strategy. Ask any teacher and they will tell you that little has changed.

This was also to be the year that multi-academy trusts were held more accountable and reined in. Again, sadly little has changed on that front.

Little faith in Sats

Sats still dominate schools in 2019, and there is still little faith in them. Perhaps next year they will make them so hard that no one can finish a paper in time.

And there has been little change in the curriculum. Little tweaks, yes, but that hasn’t addressed the overriding issue of a national curriculum aimed at making sure children pass Sats, and little else.

Ofsted still controls education, and this is still not positive. The changes to the inspection framework from September may make a difference to this, but we will have to wait and see. I think not.

Public support for teaching is almost at an all-time low, and the distance between the haves and the have-nots could not be any greater.

So, all and all, a pretty dire year for education on the national stage. And yet every school I visit retains its vibrancy, because of the quality and professionalism of the staff putting the children first. They maintain their positivity for the children, no matter what the government chucks at them, and for that they fully deserve the holiday that lies ahead.

Colin Harris led a school in a deprived area of Portsmouth for more than two decades. His last two Ofsted reports were "outstanding" across all categories

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