In the school staffroom, I’ve been overhearing my colleagues’ disappointed reactions to Labour’s "flagship" charter for their National Education Service.
Shadow education secretary, Angela Rayner, has gone for too broad an approach, which lacks in specifics or clear direction. She didn’t touch on academisation, despite the increasing numbers of schools that have been forced into takeovers with little evidence of improvement to show for it. Why no talk of abolishing Ofsted or stemming the endless flood of targets, data collection, and initiatives? Reducing the overwhelming pressure on teachers and students? Labour had a rare opportunity to lay out an ambitious programme for schools to equip our country for the 21st century and they fell well short.
Teaching faces a crisis in school funding, staff retention and recruitment – and an increase in poor mental health among staff and students. It feels as though parents and politicians are losing any authority they had over the schooling system as it slips further into the hands of private companies. Right now what we need are bold ideas and specific policies.
Politicians need to move beyond simply moving the pieces on the chessboard and actually look at the purpose of the game we are playing and how best to structure our strategy. We need to develop an education system, which will nurture a desire to learn throughout life, a system that inspires and nourishes.
We must refocus our primary and secondary schools away from constant testing and back into independent exploration and a love of learning by abolishing Sats exams and high-stakes testing. Ofsted should be replaced by a system of local accountability using continuous, collaborative assessment of schools working closely with local authorities. League tables, which give an inflated impression of some schools, must be ended. Multi-academy trusts, which administer dozens of schools separated by hundreds of miles across the country, must have their schools taken back into local authority control, democratically run by the communities in which they are based.
These are clear, tangible policies the Green Party have been promoting for years. As a classroom teacher and a parent myself, I know these values are shared by many thousands of professionals and voters across the country.
We do not require a National Education Service to deepen the level of centralisation and government intervention in our schools. Our politicians need to let kids be kids, put them as individuals at the heart of a new system of education, and build their confidence.
We must explicitly trust our teachers as professionals, our communities as knowledgeable, and our young people as citizens of tomorrow and provide them with the freedom to build an inclusive and exciting education system, free of the unbearable pressures of statistical performance.
Labour should be more determined, more specific and much braver in tackling the huge challenges our schools are facing on a daily basis. Their 10-point charter is a missed opportunity to be truly ambitious and overturn the politicians’ failures of the last thirty years.
Vix Lowthion is the Green Party's education spokeswoman and teacher