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Speech to the ATL Annual Conference

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Thank you for inviting me to address your Conference today.

 

As a former Primary School teacher I was delighted to accept my appointment to the position of Shadow Minister for Schools last October.

 

I believe it should be the duty of all Governments to provide the best education for every child.

 

Yet for our current generation of young people, social mobility is reducing not increasing.  

This is the result of an unfair education system, a two-tier labour market, an imbalanced economy, and an unaffordable housing market.

 

That is not an accusation from myself as an opposition spokesperson, but the conclusion of the Government’s own Social Mobility Commission.

 

We go into teaching because we believe in the value of education.

 

We believe in its power to create social mobility.

 

We believe in its ability to create ambition for all.

 

I know the difference a good teacher, with the right support and resources can make to a child’s attainment and aspiration. I have seen it from the coalface.

 

And I’d like to take the opportunity of today’s conference to start a conversation with you about how we create a world class teaching service that delivers the social mobility for our children that we all strive for.

 

But first I have to address the issue of resources.

 

In their manifesto the Conservative Government stated:

 

“Under a future Conservative government, the amount of money following your child into school will be protected. There will be a real terms increase in the schools budget in the next Parliament.”

 

That pledge was repeated by the last Prime Minister and he was very clear about what it meant. He said: “I can tell you, with a Conservative Government the amount of money following your child into school will not be cut.”

 

But all of us in this room know that they are not keeping their promise to the British people. Under this Government, schools are facing the first real terms cuts to their budgets in nearly 20 years.

 

The National Audit Office has revealed that, under the current spending settlement, there will be

“an 8 per cent cut in pupil funding” between 2015 and 2020.

 

That same conclusion was reached by the Institute for Fiscal Studies.

 

This means that schools in every region, every city, and every town will lose money because of the failure of this Government to protect funding for our schools.

 

The so-called fair funding formula will simply redistribute a sum of money that is already inadequate to support our schools and provide our children with the excellent education they are entitled to.

 

The National Audit Office have said that the Department for Education is expecting schools to find a total of £3 billion in savings over the course of this Parliament, yet they have failed to communicate to schools how they can achieve this;

 

While I of course support the principle that all schools should receive fair funding.

 

The answer is not to take money away from existing schools and redistribute it when budgets all across the country are being cut.

 

The solution is to invest in education to help every child to receive an excellent education.

 

The Government’s stated aim in revising the schools funding formula is fairness.

 

There should be fairness in the funding formula and there are good things in it - such as an emphasis on high needs, a deprivation index - albeit using a crude measure - and a focus on prior attainment.

 

Why would we not welcome those things?

 

However, there is nothing fair about a proposal under which funding will be cut from high-performing schools in deprived areas.

 

A fair approach would take the best-performing areas in the country and apply the lessons from those schools everywhere.

 

It would look objectively at the level of funding required to deliver in the best-performing schools, particularly in areas of high deprivation, and use that as the basis for a formula to be applied across the whole country.

 

Let’s hope that Justine Greening is truly listening in the consultation process.

 

Let’s hope she is hearing the voices of schools, teachers and parents across the country.

 

If not – as 70% of school budgets is staffing - I fear the cuts will fall most on staff and inevitably have a knock on impact on every child.

 

We are already seeing the highest rate of teachers leaving the profession in a decade.

 

The Government have failed for the fifth year in a row to reach their own target for new recruits

 

Yet if we are to achieve a universal high quality school system, we need to focus on our most important resource - our teachers.

International OECD data shows teachers in the UK work longer hours, have lower salaries and have fewer opportunities for professional development than their counterparts around the world.

This research shows our teachers are now working more than 48 hours a week - which is significantly more - 19% more - than the average elsewhere.

 

And, it suggests, one in five teachers are working in excess of 60 hours in a typical week.

The data also shows new teachers in the UK are paid less than their OECD counterparts, with starting salaries 16 per cent lower than the average reported in the survey.

And the findings support evidence that too many are leaving the profession - with only 48 per cent of UK teachers in the survey reporting more than 10 years experience.

I believe that the most effective way to improve our schools is to focus on the teaching experience; valuing the staff we have and ensuring education is an appealing profession for our highest achievers.


We know that last year the teaching profession in the UK shrank by 10 per cent, with one in four new teachers leaving the profession within three years.

 

And headteachers now point to teacher supply as one of the biggest barriers to success.

If we are to stem the tide we need to return teaching to a high status profession.

 

We need to invest in good teachers, we need to select from the highest achieving students and we need to ensure training salaries make the profession an appealing choice.

We need to establish an increased entitlement to professional development and we need to introduce an appraisal system that rewards teacher contributions, in and out of the classroom.


But if we are to really raise the status of the profession we also need to review the training pathways into the classroom.

There are currently too many routes into teaching and I would like to see a return to a single university training route, befitting teaching as the profession that it is.

So there is the start of our conversation.

 

I hope that you will work with me to bring about the change of hearts and minds needed in Whitehall to develop policy to:

 

Recruit the brightest and best

 

Give them academically rigorous training and

 

The respect and autonomy that professionals deserve in the workplace

 

Then you can really make a difference in our classrooms and help every child reach their full potential. 

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