Towards a new education agenda for SEA and Labour

SEA believes there is an urgent need for Labour to develop a comprehensive education manifesto which challenges the current orthodoxy. We know we are facing crises in teacher supply and in school places. Curriculum and examinations are wholly unfit for the 21st century and the privatisation of schooling is destroying democratic accountability and enabling an unprecedented level of corruption. Teaching is increasingly driven by the demands of the accountability and inspection regime rather than by the actual needs of children and our wider society. We need to respond to all these issues with a new and radical agenda.

SEA has decided to work towards its own policy statement which we aim to publish around next year’s Party Conference. Our work will be based around these ten themes:

  1. providing enough good school places and providing fair access to them for all in ways that strengthen rather than weaken social cohesion
  2. ensuring there are enough good teachers – covering recruitment, training, CPD and retention
  3. improving the quality and availability of early years provision
  4. reducing inequality in educational outcomes – or should this be a theme which runs through all the others rather than something on its own?
  5. improving provision for those with special educational needs
  6. a curriculum (5 to 14) which adequately prepares young people for their adult lives and an assessment regime which supports learning and does not dominate teaching
  7. post-14 education and training which offers all students a full range of academic and vocational opportunities
  8. ensuring that there is adequate funding fairly distributed, less waste and that resources are properly used for the benefit of young people
  9. restoring opportunities for local communities to determine how their local school system is organised and who schools are run
  10. a system of monitoring and supporting schools which is not punitive and genuinely promotes improvement.

The debate will begin in our Birmingham meeting on 7th January when we will look at issues around the teaching profession and around monitoring and accountability.

We would be delighted to receive ideas from our members and indeed from anyone who is interested in making a contribution. All material received will be available on this website under Resources/ SEA manifesto 2017

The Birmingham meeting will be at the Priory Rooms, 40 Bull Street, Birmingham, B4 6AF. The policy debate will begin at 2.00 pm and all members are welcome.

New issue of SEA’s Education Politics December 2016

The latest edition of the SEA journal “Education Politics” is now available in the resources section of this website.  A key theme in this issue is the grammar school debate including an article by Angela Rayner, a report on how SEA’s motion on selection was passed at Party Conference and an account of the fiasco that is 11+ testing in Buckinghamshire by Rebecca Hickman. There are also reports of Danny Dorling’s Caroline Benn Memorial Lecture and the annual Reclaiming Education conference and a commentary on the development of a new Welsh curriculum.


How to respond to the Green Paper Consultation

The Green Paper, Schools that work for Everyone, contains the government’s proposals for expanding grammar schools, promoting more single faith schools and involving independent schools and universities in the state school system.

SEA believes that these proposals are deeply damaging and need to be resisted.

The consultation period on the Green Paper runs until 12 December. We would urge as many people and organisations as possible to respond.

To support this we have prepared a draft response which can be found here:


It’s really important that as many responses as possible are made so that ministers realise how little support there is for these ideas.

Danny Dorling Gives 2016 Caroline Benn Memorial Lecture

This year’s lecture was delivered by Professor Danny Dorling. His theme was “The Education Shuffle: What will the next two steps forward be?” He explored the impact of comprehensive education, the ways in which that progress has been compromised and what the next steps forward need to be.

You can hear a recording of the talk (below). Danny Dorling is introduced by Melissa Benn.


Forty years ago, Prime Minister James Callaghan gave a speech on education at Ruskin College. It was a landmark statement which changed political attitudes to schooling. Previously politicians had not commented on what happened inside schools. Since the speech they have hardly stopped doing so.

On 17th November a seminar in the House of Lords will explore the speech and its significance. Was this the turning point towards the regime of hyper-accountability and performance tables we now see dominating English education?

Speakers will be Lord Bernard Donoughue, Head of the Number 10 Policy Unit in 1976, Lord David Blunkett, Secretary of State for Education 1997-2001, and Fiona Millar, journalist and broadcaster. Chair Professor Richard Pring, University of Oxford.

The event will run from 1600 to 1800 hours. Full details and booking form and be obtained from – click on the Eventbrite box to book a FREE TICKET.

No Return to Selection: Day Conference 12 November

Kevin Courtney, NUT General Secretary, is joining a high class line up for this year’s Reclaiming Education conference at NUT HQ, Hamilton House in Central London.

He will be joining Professor Anne West from the LSE, Melissa Benn, SEA Vice President, Roy Perry, Leader of Hampshire County Council, Richy Thompson from the British Humanists Association and the Fair Admissions campaign and Jo Bartley from the Kent anti-selection campaign.

Places can be booked at

Danny Dorling to give this year’s Caroline Benn Memorial Lecture

This year’s lecture will be delivered by Professor Danny Dorling. The theme will be“The Education Shuffle: What will the next two steps forward be?” It will explore the impact of comprehensive education, the ways in which that progress has been compromised and what the next steps forward need to be.

It will be held on at 6.00 pm Tuesday 15th November in Committee Room 10 at the House of Commons.

When Professor Dorling’s book “Injustice: Why Social Inequality Persists” was published, the Guardian wrote “Dorling is that rare university professor: expert, politically engaged and able to explain simply why his subject matters. He describes modern Britain as the most unequal society since Dickens’s times, and picks apart the orthodoxies that allow such unfairness. “I’m hardly saying, we want a revolution, we want a utopia,” he recently told this paper. “I’m just saying, can we be slightly less stupid, and we’ll all be better off for it.”

There is no charge for this event and places are likely to be in great demand. To book a place please e mail as soon as possible.

The end of selection moves a step closer as Labour resolves to establish ‘in all areas a genuinely comprehensive and inclusive secondary education system.’

Sarah Williams, SEA

Sarah Williams, SEA

The SEA delegate to Labour Conference 2016, Sarah Williams, proposed an historic motion earlier today calling for the establishment of comprehensive education throughout the secondary education system and an end to selection and segregation. The motion passed today at conference is as follows:

Conference abhors the Government proposal to encourage the creation of more Grammar Schools in England. Conference believes education is a collective good that benefits, not just individual pupils/students but society as a whole. Conference views the recent proposals set forth by Justine Greening MP for Putney to expand grammar schools and to remove the cap on faith-based admissions as divisive. Conference believes that the best interests of all children, and the country, would be better served by providing adequate resources for all schools to match the highest achieving ones. Conference notes that grammar schools fail the poorest students “less than 3% of their students are eligible for free school meals (FSM), whereas the average proportion in selective areas is 18%” and that grammar schools encourage inequality. Since there is no evidence that grammar schools improve social mobility or educational outcomes conference condemns this proposal as a retrograde step. Conference recognises that the purpose of education should be to provide all children, irrespective of background or specific needs, with the skills, knowledge enthusiasm an understanding necessary to lead a rewarding and fulfilling life. Conference therefore commits the Labour Party to opposing any expansion to selective education and also to the establishment in all areas of a genuinely comprehensive and inclusive secondary education system that provides for all children according to their needs as well as ensuring a greater voice for councillors, parents and professionals.

You can watch Sarah giving her speech here or listen to a recording of it here: