School’s out for summer....

I’ve been thinking about education a lot recently as the end of another academic year approaches. As well as being the director of children’s services (DCS) in East Sussex I’m also a Dad to a hard-working lad sitting his A Level exams hoping to make it to university in September and a husband to a fantastic primary school teacher (I’m not biased, honestly). These different perspectives give me plenty of food for thought, about the pressure heaped on our young people by a high-stakes exam culture, about the huge expectations placed on hard working teachers and the lack of coherence in national arrangements for education.

As a system leader I’m still waiting for the ‘Brexit effect’ to kick in. We often hear that there’s no parliamentary time for wide ranging reforms or new legislation, yet the world of education never sleeps. I’ve lost count of the number of reports, green papers, reviews, calls for evidence and consultations that have come out this year directly concerning education or likely to have some impact on our schools. These come on top of the reforms passed in years gone by that are still bedding in e.g. this is the first year that GCSE results will be entirely numerical, 9 – 1 instead of A* - G.

In the flurry of reviews and reports that have come out in recent weeks some of you may have missed the Association’s new policy paper on this very topic, ‘A vision for an inclusive and high performing education system.’ I hope it offers readers an honest stocktake of the current position we’re in in terms of a shortage of school places, muddled accountability, a crisis in staffing, confusing admissions arrangements, stalling social mobility and insufficient funding impacting on our ability to offer support the most vulnerable learners. At the moment far too many children are being excluded or are being educated in alternative provision when they could thrive in mainstream schools with a little extra help and support for my liking. And, it is abundantly clear that the overall quantum of funding allocated to schools is insufficient when parents and carers are buying not just stationary and books for their child’s school, but toilet roll. The paper also includes some suggested actions, largely for government, to level the playing field and make sure that all children have access to the same opportunities and can achieve their dreams. Some of the asks are significant and we’re ready to play our part in creating a coherent vision for the education system and to help design a coherent and equitable admissions arrangements. We need to get this right.

As DCS, one of the times I look forward to the most (apart from Glastonbury) is the end of the summer term and the wonderful opportunity it offers to reflect on and celebrate the successes and achievements large and small of learners as well as the contribution schools and teachers make to the lives of children and young people living in the county. So, enjoy the summer holidays one and all, we’ll be buying our new pencil cases before we know it.


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