Return to blog

Six proposals towards a great education system

A blog post image

Brian Lightman is the general secretary for ASCL. In this guest post, he shares the organisation’s thoughts on what the next five years should hold for the education sector. 

The votes are in, the ballots counted, and a new Conservative government is now in place – and throughout the country, teachers are wondering what this means for education.

But instead of waiting for stone tablets to be issued from on high, why not seize the agenda and work with government to reshape the education system ourselves?

A bold proposal perhaps, but a proposal that is not without merit. After all, there is a finite limit on what governments can achieve by prescribing change: and we at ASCL believe this limit has been reached. It is the right time to make a good education system into a world-class example – and to that end, we need a brand new approach.

We propose a self-improving system, which allows continuous improvement because it is driven from the ground up by the teaching profession, rather than top-down by the government.

Our Blueprint for a Self-Improving System, endorsed by reappointed education secretary Nicky Morgan herself, has all the ingredients for a sustainable, valuable and in-depth education overhaul.

So how do we start, and what do we do?

We believe there are three ways in which teachers and school leaders may affect change, so that in future:

Teachers continue to learn throughout their careers, and groups of schools work together to support their learning.

We support the creation of a new Royal College of Teaching, to lead the continuing professional development of teachers and advance the highest standards of educational practice- as per the examples in professions such as medicine and law.

We are working with our colleagues in the National Association of Head Teachers and the National Governors’ Association to establish an Educational Leadership Foundation, which would ensure school and college leaders are trained to world-class standards.

Curriculum is developed by schools, so that students are equipped with broad but in-depth knowledge, qualities and skills.

Schools and colleges develop systems of accountability for the parents and communities they serve, and provide them with accessible information about the performance of the institutions.

Similarly, there are three ways in which the government can help create the conditions for a self-improving system. It should:

Establish a National Fair Funding Formula which ensures all schools and colleges receive sufficient, sustainable and equitable per pupil funding to end huge geographical variations.

Reform the inspection system. A robust independent inspectorate is an essential part of public accountability – whether or not it is called Ofsted – but it needs a sharper focus. Instead of telling schools how to teach, it should scrutinise what schools achieve for their students.

Change the supply model. Schools and colleges need a reliable supply of high-quality teachers to ensure high-achieving students, and the current model is in urgent need of change.

These six proposals are central to our vision and an excellent start, but our Blueprint contains many more for a radical and far-reaching transformation of our education system.

What’s more, now is the right time. Blueprint garners support across the political spectrum, including from the education secretary, who said at the March 2015 ASCL’s Annual Conference that it was a direction to which she was wholly prepared to commit.

Even so, the government and the profession will not agree on every issue, and discussion and debate is very welcome (also in the comments!). However, on one thing we all agree: all children deserve an education that allows them to achieve their full potential.

For them, we must not let this chance for change slip through our fingers.

What would an 'independent Ofsted' actually look like? And would it solve teacher woes? Laura McInerney explores these questions here. If you're more intrigued by Brian's call for continuing professional development, take a look at our article on developing a CPD programme in your school (log-in required). It includes advice from a couple of The Key's associate experts and top tips from leaders of teaching schools. 

Sign up for our news briefing

The Key's weekly education sector round-up, delivered to your inbox every Friday.

Get weekly news briefing