The teaching profession is being “infantalised” by targets and data, the leader of the Liberal Democrats has said.
Sir Vince Cable used an interview with a Tes reporter, recorded for a Lib Dem podcast, to outline ambitions to re-establish his party’s credibility on education issues.
The former coalition government business secretary said: “Traditionally, we regarded education as our number one domestic issue. We still do.
“We want to rebuild our credibility in that area and the market, if you want to use that language, is waiting for a champion.”
He criticised the reliance of data to hold schools to account, and called for more trust to be placed in teachers.
He said: “I think there should be much less targeting, and if you have less targeting you need less data, and there should be much more trust in what teachers actually do in the classroom.
“You are getting an infantalisation of the teaching profession because they are being told what they have to do and there are lots of targets built around it.”
Last month, Lib Dem education spokesperson Layla Moran raised concerns about “needless competition” between schools, and raised the idea that everyone had to go to their local school.
Asked whether this marked a break from the emphasis on parental choice and academisation introduced during the coalition, Sir Vince described it as “a change in emphasis”.
He added: “A degree of school autonomy, treating headteachers and their teams as grown-ups rather than have councillors leaning over their shoulder has been healthy, but I think the balance has gone the wrong way”.
Sir Vince called for local authorities to have a greater power to prevent schools “pursuing their own individual ratings at the expense of the wider community,” and said councils should have a role in setting the pay of academy chief executives.
He said: “As far as people abusing academy status are concerned, that is an argument for re-balancing accountability at a local level towards local authorities, and I would support that, but the idea of someone sitting in a ministerial office deciding on what pay should be in academies or car factories or universities – this is really regressive stuff.”
At the Liberal Democrat’s conference last month, some activists raised concerns that the party’s messages on education during this year’s general election campaign were too similar to those made by Labour and the Greens to attract support from voters.
Asked what made his party distinctive, Sir Vince said: “In terms of differentiation from the Labour Party, it will be in terms of how realistic people think the programmes are in terms of the ability to raise money to fund better quality school education.”
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