Towards a National Education Service

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The Labour Party’s National Policy Forum (NPF) recently issued a draft document on the development of a National Education Service (NES). The SEA would like as many people as possible to get involved in developing a radical alternative to the Tory government’s divisive, underfunded and fragmented policies. You can access the document as a member via the Party website and then upload your comments. The SEA would also like to hear from you at:

Please join us in in responding to these questions contained in the document:

• What should a National Education Service be for and what values should it and the draft charter embody?
• What amendments, if any, should be made to the principles outlined in the draft Charter for the National Education Service?
• What additional principles should be considered for the Charter of the NES?
• What barriers currently exist to cooperation between education institutions, and what
steps can be taken to remove them and ensure that cooperation is a central principle of
our education system?
• Through which channels and mechanisms should the public be able to hold educational
institutions to account, and how should this vary across different educational bodies?
• What steps can be taken to reduce the fragmentation of the education system, and to
move towards an approach that is integrated and promotes lifelong learning?
• What steps can be taken, in particular with relation to qualifications and staffing levels, to improve the quality of early years education?
• What steps can be taken to achieve genuine parity of esteem between academic and
vocational/technical education, and to improve outcomes for those young people who
do not choose to follow what is seen as the traditional academic route?
• What steps can be taken to ensure that the NES has the staff it needs, in particular with
reference to the ongoing crisis in teacher recruitment and retention?
• What steps can be taken, at both the training stage and during continuing professional
development (CPD), to ensure that teachers and support staff have the knowledge and
resources they need to teach the whole curriculum? For instance, with reference to
mandatory, age-appropriate relationships and sex education (RSE) and personal, social
and health education (PSHE).


  1. A Labour government could free the school system of academies and grammar schools for good – let’s campaign for it now inside and outside the Labour Party.

    Labour has published its plans to create a National Education Service. The Labour Party Manifesto Towards a National Education Service and the 10-point Charter for the National Education Service promise not just individual reforms but a transformation of the whole education system ‘from cradle to grave’. But to achieve that two structural obstacles in the school system needs to be removed: academies and grammar schools.

    We have won the argument about academies – their results are no better than comparable local authority schools, and the lack of public accountability has led to enrichment and corruption by those in control. The 10-point Charter says

    “Labour will not waste money on inefficient free schools… We will …oppose any attempt to force schools to become academies.”

    “Labour will ensure that all schools are democratically accountable, including appropriate controls to see that they serve the public interest and their local communities.”

    This establishes the principle of a local democratically accountable school system. But it needs strengthening. There is no commitment to abolish academies and free schools and return them to a Local Authority system. But Jeremy Corbyn as Labour leadership candidate in 2015 said: “I am not a supporter of the principle of free schools and academies, and I would want to bring them all back into the local authority orbit.” (Guardian 7 July 2015). In a speech to Labour councillors in Nottingham on 3 February this year Jeremy Corbyn, speaking against the privatisation of public services, said

    “it’s about time we acknowledged a truth we all know – when it comes to running public services it’s the public sector that works best, that delivers for the many, not the few, accountable to the public and acting in the public interest.”

    Now is the time to apply that policy to the school system by building a movement both inside and outside the Labour Party to commit it to abolishing academies and free schools.

    Four key policies to abolish academy status

    There are four policies which the Labour Party could adopt now and begin the process of implementing immediately on taking office as a Labour government:

    1. To introduce legislation in the short-term to restore the control of state-funded schools to their duly constituted governing bodies, which shall include a majority of elected representatives of parents, staff and the local community.
    2. To remove all powers over the governance of schools by academy trusts including academy chains and MATs.
    3. To introduce measures to transfer control of school premises by academy trusts to the relevant local authority.
    4. To integrate all state-funded schools into a reformed local authority system which is democratically accountable to its local electorate and which is properly funded and staffed to enable it to carry out its functions of monitoring schools, providing appropriate support to schools, parents, children and young people, connecting the local school system to other relevant agencies and sectors, and promoting progressive policies, while respecting schools’ independence. (It may be advantageous for smaller local authorities to collaborate together to provide some of these functions.)

    Many schools have collaborated together in various ways, including as MATS, and Labour should encourage schools to work together as appropriate, including forming voluntary partnerships, provided that ultimate control remains with individual schools’ governing bodies.

    Some schools may have received support from external academy organisations which they would wish to continue. Schools are of course free to purchase the provision of support from any external organisation and that should include ex-academy trusts if they continue to offer it. It is a matter for the school governing body to decide.

    Those are the policies which a Labour government should adopt. What legislation would the Labour government need to put them into practice? Some important legal precedents were set by the Coalition government soon after it came into office in 2010. They used new legislation to override the funding agreements with academies that they had put in place. One concerned appeals against permanent exclusions, another enabled academies to be named in SEN statements. David Wolfe, the expert on academies and the law, wrote on his Can of Worms website “Crucially, these statutory provisions will specifically override funding agreements … that sets a notable precedent in legal and political terms.” They mean that a Labour government can abolish academy status simply by terminating the funding agreement of each academy, cancelling the lease and handing the school’s land and premises back to the local authority. This would need to be a carefully managed phased process to ensure that there was as little disruption to the schools as possible and that local authorities had the capacity to fulfil their additional responsibilities.

    Time to abolish the grammar schools

    Academies are not the only key structural issue, the other one is the grammar schools. Abolition of selection and the creation of a fully comprehensive school system should be a basic Labour Party policy but there is no mention of it in the 10-point Charter for the National Education Service. A new point five needs to be added to the four about academies above:

    5. In order to achieve a fully comprehensive state school system we call upon the Labour Party to commit itself to abolishing selection by ability for admission to state-funded schools and integrating such schools into a fully comprehensive local authority system, and to take the necessary steps to begin to implement this policy immediately on assuming office.

    What we need now is a campaign inside and outside the Labour Party to strengthen its programme for education by adopting these policies.

    Richard Hatcher
    Birmingham SEA group


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