We should take note of Nuffield

26th June 2009 at 01:00

In his analysis of the Nuffield Review of 14-19 Education and Training, William Stewart asks: "Will this major work have any impact?" and implies a negative answer (June 12). Yet most teachers and parents would support the recommendations. So why is it unlikely that policymakers in Westminster and Whitehall will give them serious consideration? Because, essentially, they have stopped functioning democratically.

As the parliamentary crisis unfolds, experts note how our Government is elected by just over 20 per cent of the population; the first-past-the-post voting system gives the winning party a large majority; the Prime Minister acts presidentially; and policy is made by a group of ministers, special advisers and civil servants who usually bypass Parliament and announce policy developments to the media with a spin.

Only teachers whose age is well above The TES readers' average will remember how this trend began. Between 1988 and 1991 the legislation of the Education Reform Acts brought about a great and unprecedented shift in policymaking.

New Labour exacerbated the trend with its crusade to "modernise" the public sector. It convinced itself that measurable outcomes would achieve a world-class education service. It legislated incessantly and created a culture of micromanagement.

Fortunately, the political crisis provides an unmissable opportunity to reduce the democratic deficit. All the teachers' unions, governor and subject associations should take action to challenge our over-centralised system. A good start would be to take note of authoritative independent reviews like that of Robin Alexander and Nuffield, particularly the latter's sensible recommendation that "power and decision-making be redistributed so that there can be greater room for the voice of the learner, for the expertise of the teacher and the concerns of other stakeholders".

Martin Roberts, Former headteacher, The Cherwell School, Oxford.

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