Prioritise the low achievers
Founder of the independent National Commission on Education
The secretary of state, in the first years, should not be diverted in too many directions but should focus on three or four of the most crucial areas which would help under-achieving schools and pupils.
My priorities would be first to ensure resources were available to improve the appalling buildings which many children have to go to school in, and improve the financial conditions of the teaching profession, particularly in the middle range of their careers, and especially to attract the best of them to the most-needed areas.
I would see nursery education provided for all four-year-olds, and not through the voucher system. And I would bring primary school classes down to 30.
I would add one other: teacher training needs a fresh look. I would want to find ways of getting the universities back into the framework rather than the way they have been marginalised.
I would urge the secretary of state not to spend too much energy on further curriculum changes. I would leave alone the rather ridiculous debate on whole-class versus progressive teaching, and I wouldn't worry too much about selection, home-school contracts or homework.
I would move towards abolishing assisted places in due course, but I would focus first on the things that would really make a rapid impact for the youngest children. Over five years that would be a fantastic programme - you can become more sophisticated after that.