In election year, change looms large

8th January 2010 at 00:00
Teachers face policy and funding upheaval in 2010, whichever way they vote

Every January education pundits are able to predict, with confidence and without fail, that the next year will be an eventful one for schools, such is the level of constant change now imposed by politicians.

But 2010 could produce even more upheaval than usual. Everything will depend on the outcome of a general election that can be held no later than June 3.

Of the two opposition parties, the Liberal Democrats have often seemed the more prepared to take over at the Department for Children Schools and Families.

Detailed, funded education policies such as infant class sizes of 15 and a pupil premium - giving schools a financial incentive to take on the most deprived pupils - have been on the stocks for months.

The Conservatives have been harder to pin down, with details on their version of the pupil premium, for example, still scant.

But despite recent wobbles they are still looking the most likely party to win power. Belatedly we have started to get more idea of what a Tory administration might mean for schools, teachers and the institutions that support them.

Huge organisational change at every level of the education system seems inevitable. Quangos such as the Qualifications and Curriculum Development Agency, the Young People's Learning Agency, Becta, Ofsted and the Training and Development Agency could all face the axe or major cutbacks under David Cameron's party.

Then there is central Government itself, with the sprawling DCSF created by Gordon Brown for his loyal lieutenant Ed Balls, likely to pared back with a tighter focus on education.

This could prelude a change for schools, with less emphasis on the wider goals of Every Child Matters. But heads are likely to have even more pressing matters to contend with. Much of the coverage of Conservative education policy to date has focused on academies. Right-wing pundits have been wowed by the idea of Scandinavian companies and parents' groups setting up their own schools and solving the perceived problems of the comprehensive system at a stroke.

But it is the Tories' plans for existing schools that would make a bigger immediate difference. They would all be able to bid to become academies, with schools rated "outstanding" by Ofsted given automatic pre-approval. At the other end of the scale schools in special measures for more than a year would be automatically turned into academies by 2011.

And these policies are not restricted to secondaries; shadow education secretary Michael Gove and his team want to see primary academies as well.

An education bill, already being drafted and slated as one of the Tories' first pieces of legislation, would set out a fast-track process for creating the new academies.

Their introduction would also have major repercussions for local authorities, which would lose large amounts of their education money to the publicly funded independent schools.

Because academies are be free to set their own staff remuneration, the expansion could also effectively bring to an end the national system of teachers' pay.

In any case shadow chancellor George Osborne, has said he will freeze teachers' pay for one year starting from 2011.

The education bill would also be used to scale back the national curriculum. But there would be the inclusion of a new "narrative" history of Britain and a push from Tory ministers for even greater emphasis on the use of synthetic phonics in primary schools.

Of course none of the above will happen if Gordon Brown manages to upset the odds and retain power. So what would an historic Labour fourth term bring for teachers?

It could finally mean the end of one of their biggest bugbears - national testing.

That might not have been Ed Balls' intention in November when he announced the publication of teacher assessment alongside key stage 2 test results from this year. But it could well be the logical conclusion of the change, particularly after 2011 when external moderation of the teacher assessment is introduced.

It was the NUT and the National Association of Head Teachers' (NAHT) campaign this year to have Sats abolished that prompted Mr Balls' shift on teacher assessment. Their threatened boycott is likely to colour much of the run-in to the election as far as primary schools are concerned.

This month should see publication of the first guidance on the new primary curriculum, due to be introduced from September 2011 and likely to dominate Inset days in many primaries next year.

The Conservatives have big reservations about the proposals made by Sir Jim Rose, former chief primary inspector, to move from a subject-based national curriculum to one arranged in six areas of learning plus religious studies.

But in a poll of heads by The TES and the NAHT at the beginning of the school year, only 18 per cent said they would delay preparations until after the election.

A review of the early years foundation stage curriculum has been pledged for this year, just two years' after its introduction. And for nurseries and primaries with nursery classes, the biggest issue of 2010 is the proposed introduction of the early years single funding formula.

The summer should see the beginning of the new Masters in Teaching and Learning for newly qualified teachers, though a Conservative government would make big changes to the scheme aimed at improving the quality of the profession.

This will also be the first year for the new A* A-level grade designed to help universities select from the increasing number of A-grade pupils.

In many ways 2010 will have a slightly artificial feel. Everyone knows spending cuts are around the corner, but they may not really kick in until 2011 when the current comprehensive spending review finishes. Much else will remain up in the air until the public have had their say, leaving schools uncertain of their future for the rest of the academic year.

2010 DIARY


6-8: North of England Education Conference, The Royal York Hotel, York Minster and the National Railway Museum in York

7-9: Association of Science Education Conference, University of Nottingham

13-16: BETT Show, London Olympia

27: Holocaust Memorial Day

30-Feb 6: National Storytelling Week


21: International Mother Language Day

24-25: Building Schools Exhibition and Conference, ExCel, London

22-Mar 7: Fairtrade Fortnight

27-28: Conservative Party Spring Conference, Brighton

28-Mar 6: Eating Disorders Awareness Week


1-3: Society of Heads of Independent Schools (SHMIS) Annual Conference, Reading

4-6: The Education Show, NEC Birmingham

4: World Book Day

5-7: Association of School and College Leaders Annual Conference, London Hammersmith Novotel

10: No Smoking Day

12-14: Liberal Democrat Spring Conference, Birmingham

12-21: National Science and Engineering Week

16: Independent Schools Council Annual Conference, London

19-21: Sport Relief

21: World Poetry Day

27: World Theatre Day

29-31: ATL Annual Conference, Manchester


2: World Autism Awareness Day

2: International Children's Book Day

2-6: NUT Annual Conference, Liverpool

2-5: NASUWT Annual Conference, Birmingham

24: Voice Conference, Derby

24: Astronomy Day

30-May 2: NAHT Annual Conference, Liverpool


National Share-a-Story Month

2: International Dance Day

4-6: Boarding Schools' Association Annual Conference for Headteachers, Torquay

8: World Fair Trade Day

14-16: Museums at Night Weekend

18: International Museum Day


16-18: National College for School Leadership Conference, ICC Birmingham

21-25: Design and Technology Week


19: A-level results

26: GCSE results


1-4: British Educational Research Association Conference, University of Warwick

8: International Literacy Day

13: Roald Dahl Day

18-22: Liberal Democrat Conference, Liverpool

26-30: Labour Party Annual Conference, Manchester

28-Oct 1: Conservative Party Conference, Birmingham


Black History Month

International Walk to School Month

International School Libraries Month

4-7: The Headmasters' and Headmistresses' Conference Annual Conference, details TBC

4-10: World Space Week

5: World Teachers' Day


15-19: Anti-Bullying Week.

Log-in as an existing print or digital subscriber

Forgotten your subscriber ID?


To access this content and the full TES archive, subscribe now.

View subscriber offers


Get TES online and delivered to your door – for less than the price of a coffee

Save 33% off the cover price with this great subscription offer. Every copy delivered to your door by first-class post, plus full access to TES online and the TES app for just £1.90 per week.
Subscribers also enjoy a range of fantastic offers and benefits worth over £270:

  • Discounts off TES Institute courses
  • Access over 200,000 articles in the TES online archive
  • Free Tastecard membership worth £79.99
  • Discounts with Zipcar,, Virgin Wines and other partners
Order your low-cost subscription today