Tories desperately try to cover-up the extent of teacher shortages

The Government is resorting to desperate measures to try to mask the extent of their failure on teacher recruitment. They have:

o Stripped out undergraduate trainees from their target number for trainees, so that the target appears lower overall.

o Included Teach First trainees for the first time in the number of postgraduate trainees recruited, to give the appearance that they have hit a higher percentage of their target than the year before – this is not the case.

o Refused in Parliamentary written answers to publish the combined target for both undergraduate and postgraduate trainees for 2015/16, which would allow the data to be comparable to previous years, claiming that the information is “not available”. Yet, the target for the following year has already been published.

o At the last minute, brought forwards the publication of the data to the week before it was originally scheduled.

New analysis shows that for every year under the Tories the number of trainee teachers recruited has fallen. The total number of trainees recruited for 2015/16 is now 7,000 fewer than for 2009/10.Despite this, the Tories are intentionally misleading the public, claiming that the number increased in the last year.

Lucy Powell MP, Labour’s Shadow Education Secretary, said:

“This is desperate stuff from a Government that is storing up huge problems for our schools with their failure on teacher recruitment and retention. Whilst half of all schools had unfilled positions at the start of this year, it is obvious to both parents and school leaders that the situation is extremely serious, and yet Ministers are now trying to pull the wool over peoples’ eyes. All the while, standards are being threatened as schools are forced to turn to unqualified staff, temporary supply teachers, non-specialists, and larger class sizes to cope with the chronic shortages in the profession.

Ensuring that there are enough excellent teachers in our schools is fundamental to ensuring that all children get a great education. The Government’s failure on this extremely basic issue is risking the education of our young people.”

The Truth about our Schools

The Truth about our Schools is a new book co-authored by our Vice President, Melissa Benn in collaboration with Janet Downs. It will be launched at Goldsmiths College, London on Tuesday 19th January from 5 to 7 pm.

The Truth About Our Schools is a blistering attack on the myths perpetuated about our schools by successive governments and the establishment.
Fiona Millar, the Guardian columnist and educational journalist, will introduce the night’s speakers. The Truth About Our Schools – which will be available to buy on the night – was written as part of a campaign mounted by the website (founded by Melissa, Fiona, Janet and Goldsmiths’ Francis Gilbert) to promote inclusive schools.

Columnist, author and activist Owen Jones described The Truth About Our Schools as “a superb, crucial, blistering expose of all the myths about our education system that are all too often used to attack it … Melissa Benn again proves why she is one of the country’s most formidable education campaigners – and why the powerful should fear her.”

The book calls for us to urgently and articulately challenge unquestioned myths about state education, as Benn and Downs meticulously build an argument for its still enormously vital role.

Full details are at

SEA meeting in Birmingham

1. An important focus of the recent SEA meeting in Birmingham was the enquiry launched by the Education Select Committee on the aims and purpose of education. This enquiry represents a significant challenge to the narrow vision for education that has been promoted by Gove and Morgan. There is the opportunity to lay the groundwork for a national debate and a new consensus about what kind of future we want for our young people.

SEA members were clear that education is not just a private commodity designed to enable individuals to benefit in a competitive economy. Crucially education has a social purpose – it’s a vital part of how we build a cohesive society in which every member is able to make an active contribution. Nor is education just about academic knowledge – that has its place but needs to be accompanied by the development of skills and personal qualities and attitudes. Continue reading

Educational Apartheid in Lincolnshire: selective education as a catalyst for driving inequalities

Sadly, comprehensive schools of the 1950s and 1960s never reached South Lincolnshire. I went to a “red brick” secondary modern school in Louth while my better-off counterparts attended the local grammar school, the history and traditions of which go back to at least 1548, supported by the Church and local guilds. On leaving school in 1976 I was conscious that university wasn’t an option. None of my peers left school to go to university because we didn’t have a sixth form, which meant there were limited opportunities to combine O-Levels with CSEs and no opportunity to do A-levels. There were, and, still are, inequalities within that town that are symptomatic of selective education dividing social class. There are still demarcations across housing and income as to which schools serve particular parts of town. It is a popular misconception that secondary modern schools went away. In Lincolnshire we retained this type of secondary school designed for the majority of students – those not in the so-called top 25% ability-range of the 11-plus. To confuse matters still further, most secondary modern schools are now academies, some offer A-levels while others don’t; grammar schools offer A-levels but are selective. Lincolnshire does not have a comprehensive education system due to the sporadic nature of its school structures. Secondary modern schools and grammar schools maintain the 11-plus status quo, while academies complicate matters further. Continue reading

SEA meets in Birmingham on 9th January

The next SEA meeting will be on Saturday 9th January. It will be held at The Priory Rooms (Quaker Meeting House) 40 Bull Street, Birmingham B4 6AF.

As usual, the Finance and General Purposes Committee will meet at 11.00 am and the Executive at 12.15 pm. The open meeting for all SEA members will begin at 2.00 pm. Ian Austin MP, a member of the Education Select Committee will join us at 3.00 pm.

In the current issue of Education Politics, Martin Johnson refers to the coming select committee enquiry into the purposes of education. He writes there: ” As Professor Susan Robertson pointed out (in the Caroline Benn Memorial Lecture), the neo-liberal answer, to serve the labour market, is impoverished, but how often do we have the opportunity to challenge it? The left now has its moment: its task is to lift the hearts and clear the minds of the Select Committee by explaining the higher aims of educators, and in so doing to strike at a narrow curriculum, over-testing, worn out exams, and the rest”

This meeting will be one opportunity to explore some of these issues. I hope to see as many of you as possible there.

Socialist Societies meet Tom Watson MP

Sheila with Tom Watson MP

Sheila Dore and Tom Watson MP

On Monday 30th November 2015 John Bolt, SEA General Secretary and Sheila Dore, SEA Chair attended an official reception for the Labour Party Socialist Societies at the House of Commons.

It was hosted by Tom Watson, Deputy Labour leader. Not surprisingly in the circumstances there was much discussion of the current situation in the Party and its position on action in Syria. There was also much discussion amongst members of all Societies about changes required to make the process more democratic and the policy more reflective of the views of grassroots members, CLPs and Socialist Societies in particular.

Continue reading

Whose Education is it Anyway? A crisis of equality?

Keith Lichman reports on the Reclaiming Education Conference held on 14th November.
Wilkinson and Pickett’s now well-known research showing that income inequality adversely affects every aspect of civil life, whether between countries or within countries, set the stage for a review of the state of education in England at the Reclaiming Education Alliance conference. Key-note speaker, Richard Wilkinson demonstrated a wide range of correlations between high inequality and poor educational outcomes. This underlying theme gave a sharp context to the current crisis that has developed across the board in English education, every aspect of which can be laid at the door of government policy. And in every case, though everybody suffers, it is the children of poorer families who suffer most.

Richard Wilkinson’s presentation can be accessed here: Continue reading