The seven organisations which comprise the Reclaiming Education Alliance were out in full support of the ‘Reclaiming Education Bill 2015’ at a meeting in the House of Commons on Wednesday 25th February.
John Edmonds, in the Chair contextualised much of the prior work and activity that had preceded the evolution of the draft bill. As he pointed out, we were now at a critical time for education and the preservation of what remains of a national public service must be our top priority.
The keynote speaker was Guardian columnist Warwick Mansell who delivered a very thoughtful and incisive analysis of the state of education as perceived by the wider public. He outlined in crisp detail what had happened to the former democratically accountable relationship between the education service and the Secretary of State and how, in the face of opposition by 98% of parents in one school, academisation was forced through at the stroke of a pen by the unelected Lord Nash. He also highlighted the secrecy which surrounds the decision making in the DfE. In terms of three key principles, equality, inclusion and democracy the current administration had comprehensively failed.
Former NUT senior solicitor, Graham Clayton, who had drafted the bill in front of the meeting took us through how the now well established ‘seven principles’ could be enacted in law. The bill, though written in parliamentary language, showed clearly how in practice the principles could be converted into policy and underwritten by law. The bill was accompanied by some very lucid explanatory notes.
In the discussion that followed several other important issues were raised. Among these topics were Early Years education, changes to the exams system and the necessity or otherwise of the National Curriculum. Questions were raised to about the omission explicitly of grammar schools and whether we should refer specifically to faith schools. John Edmonds was clear about how the process had required clear prioritisation and acknowledgement of the fact that all seven organisations were not going to agree on every issue. Hence the focus on the seven most important areas of common agreement. The meeting ended with a clear determination by those present to campaign for the ‘Reclaiming Education Bill 2015’ in the remaining weeks before the general election.
Hear the main speeches and some of the contributions
1. Opening remarks by John Edmonds
2. Opening speech by Warwick Mansell
3. Introduction to the Draft Bill by Graham Clayton
From the discussion
1. Q&A on faith schools (with response by John Bolt – SEA General Secretary)
2. Eddie Playfair (SEA Vice-Chair) on the draft Bill and democracy
3. Sheila Doré on (SEA Chair) Labour, local authorities and schools