Mon, 11 December 2023

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ATL comment on Conservative Party manifesto

ATL | Association of Teachers and Lecturers

4 min read Partner content

Dr Mary Bousted, general secretary of the Association of Teachers and Lecturers comments on the Conservative party manifesto

Commenting on the Conservative Party's manifesto, Dr Mary Bousted, general secretary of the Association of Teachers and Lecturers (ATL), said:

"The Conservative's manifesto totally fails to mention the imminent crisis in school places, presumably because they do not want to highlight a crisis entirely of their own making. It is this, combined with teacher shortages, which will be the most toxic legacy of the Conservative's education policy."

On converting failing secondary schools into academies:
"Converting schools into academies is not a panacea for school improvement. What does work is collaboration between schools, underpinned by effective inspection."

On Ofsted:
"The Conservative's pledge to reduce the burden of Ofsted inspections on schools is not supported by any firm proposals. Teachers and heads need more than warm words about Ofsted because its inspection regime is driving teachers and heads from the profession and contributing to the recruitment and retention crisis."

On childcare hours:
"Providing additional school nursery places, led by highly trained, qualified, valued and supported early years staff would be more valuable to children than simply giving extra hours of free childcare."

On the curriculum:
"The Conservative's fixation with STEM subjects demonstrates a staggeringly narrow understanding of the broad knowledge and skills that children need from a 21st curriculum.

"We question where the Mandarin teachers will come from in the midst of a teacher supply crisis?

"Forcing 11 year olds who do not achieve "the required standard" at the end of primary school to re-sit SATs in secondary school displays an astounding lack of understanding about how children learn, and will label thousands of children as failures as they start secondary school. It suggests the Conservatives care far more about testing than teaching children."

On qualification reform:
"We want qualifications to be academically rigorous, but by rushing through implementation of the new GCSEs and A-level exams, without time for piloting or evaluation, the Conservatives are treating the young people taking these untested exams as guinea pigs.

"Exams should test whether pupils can apply the skills they have learned, not just how well they can regurgitate facts. And ironically, by de-coupling AS levels from A-levels and cutting funding for 16-18 year olds' education, the Conservatives have made it likely that many young people will study fewer subjects at sixth form."

On teachers and teacher training:
"In their five years in government, the Conservatives have presided over demoralisation of teachers, a recruitment crisis and increasing numbers of teachers leaving within the early years of their careers.

"The manifesto fails to address the looming teacher crisis and the Conservatives' role in creating an increasingly unbalanced system of teacher training and recruitment which is leading to critical shortages in crucial subject areas and particular regions.

"Teachers and heads will now need to be convinced that a College of Teaching will be truly independent and avoid short-termism and evidence-free, ideologically-driven policies."

On education for children with special educational needs and disabilities (SEND):
"The manifesto talks of supporting children and young people with SEND, but in practice the availability of support has been severely weakened by cuts to local services. Changes to SEN funding have meant a shortfall for many schools, and pupils with SEN are now beginning to suffer as their support is cut because schools are having to make hard financial decisions."

On further education (FE):
"The Conservatives' promise to replace lower-level classroom-based further education with apprenticeships, on top of their planned 24% cuts to the sector, reveals their aim to dismantle FE. How can the Conservatives guarantee that employers will be able to will offer high quality apprenticeships to the 40% of 16 and 17 year olds currently enrolled on vocational courses in FE colleges? And how would this be funded? The Conservatives' plans will severely limit the opportunities for young people by eliminating the huge range of options currently available at their local FE College."