Changes? We've had enough

28th July 2006 at 01:00
Not everything that went wrong for schools over the past year can be blamed on Ruth Kelly - it just seems that way. As headteachers shut up shop for the summer, they will be hoping for calmer times on their return now that Alan Johnson is Secretary of State.

And they deserve better times. The year started appallingly, with threats of strikes and an exodus of heads over the teaching and learning responsibility (TLR) points. With the new reward system set to leave some teachers Pounds 10,500 worse off, no one was happy.

Things got worse as heads' unions warned that hundreds of their members were being driven out of the profession by impossible pressures from Ofsted. Ms Kelly's response was to say schools that failed to improve within a year would be put under new leadership.

The new Ofsted framework promised to ease the stress. There would be less notice of visits by inspectors, who would take a "lighter-touch" approach and allow more school self-assessment. It soon became apparent, however, that many schools were far from ready for self-assessment.

Even worse was to come when Ms Kelly was pilloried by the press for approving the appointment of a suspected paedophile as a PE teacher.

Everyone blamed everyone else, as she seemed increasingly out of her depth in her efforts to institute a better system of checks on those wanting to work with children.

What next? There have been some notable gains such as improvements in the proposed reforms to pensions, a more positive approach to curriculum reforms at key stage 3 and 14 to 19, and a more sensible approach to the revision of performance management systems.

But, with Alan Johnson at the helm, let us hope for no more change. There is, of course, the Education Bill, which should be through Parliament this autumn. But few expect that the reforms proposed will really make a difference. As Labour approaches its tenth year in office - 10 years of constant change - let us hope that it decides enough is enough.

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