Funding key to new vision
With the three main parties making education their top priority, the Society of Education Officers said expectations of a good deal were high. But it said there was a sense of public frustration at the apparent inability of politicians and educators to get their act together: "The challenge is to create a vision for education that works for everyone."
It has delivered a six-point agenda for action, called Education Fit for the Millennium, which is published today. In it, the SEO warns of a looming crisis in schools over funding, which it claims has only been averted so far by the imaginative action of headteachers and local authorities.
The SEO wants a comprehensive funding strategy for education to specific, publicly acceptable standards, warning: "This cannot go on for very much longer . . . the danger signs are everywhere." And it said the backlog of school repairs, estimated at some Pounds 3 billion, had to be tackled within a specific timetable.
The SEO also wants a recognition from the new government that class size does matter (the Conservatives have maintained that it does not), as does workload and pay.
"Good teachers are at the heart of good education," it says. "Unremitting criticism, contradictory demands and unreasonable scapegoating by press and politicians have undermined the confidence and morale of teachers."
It has called for the celebration of the achievements of teachers in an attempt to restore public esteem and stem the growing flood of experienced staff from the profession.
And it says the effectiveness and status of teaching would be enhanced through a General Teaching Council - a concept promoted by the three main parties.
Its agenda for action focuses on six areas: lifelong learning, pre-school, quality, creating a confident and competent teaching force, technology, and funding.
The SEO also wants support for parents and carers as first educators and says that children and young people must be given support to continue their learning outside school hours.
It believes the country desperately needs to recover a sense of productive interdependence, what it calls a belief in learning together rather than in defensive or competitive isolation.
"The task is to 'grow' people and communities with the knowledge, skills and understanding essential to a civilised and economically successful nation of the future," it says.