Nicky Morgan: now very best identified for the expansion of grammar schools. Photograph: Graeme Robertson for the Guardian
The initial six months of a government cannot entirely predict its future, but this is when ministers set out their stalls for their time in workplace. So we can now make a very good guess about what is in store for schools over the subsequent 4-and-a-half years.
Ministers have crafted a clear message about their priorities. Their wish to increase education is evident and I welcome some of their actions – the commitment to the pupil premium, maths hubs and some of the perform on specific requirements – but beyond that, 3 a lot more significant locations of activity are emerging.
Very first, there are measures made to remedy errors from coalition days. Take the pressure on schools to join chains or multi-academy trusts: 5 years ago, the language was of independent schools and standalone academies, but this led to also many schools isolating themselves and opting out of school partnerships, which give essential challenges and assistance. Now the message is that no college should go it alone and each and every 1 need to be element of a group.
Then there is the boost in energy for regional school commissioners outlined in the bill now ahead of parliament. 5 years ago, ministers believed they could run each and every school from Whitehall. Now they are making an army of civil servants in the regions to share the load. It could be a lot more delegation than devolution, but it is an acknowledgment that some sort of neighborhood presence is crucial.
The second area is the policies the government has decided to drive through the system come what could – irreversible modifications that it hopes will characterise its time in office. So we have much more legislation to convert a further group of schools into academies and new targets for the number of young individuals who will be anticipated to take the English baccalaureate. Collectively with the new emphasis on finish-of-course exams, you can see the endgame: a standard, narrow curriculum, assessed in a traditional, old-fashioned way.
Third are the locations of inaction. Essential issues appear to be just off the agenda, attracting little ministerial attention or leadership: the arts and creativity sports and early years the growing pressures on schools from growing kid poverty, cuts in funding and expanding teacher shortages.
What does it all add up to? Some will see the pursuit of much more academies, cost-free schools and a greater emphasis on a conventional curriculum as a strength. However, there is a point when determination turns into obstinacy. My overriding sense is of a division that is increasingly adrift from the wider mood.
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The contact from numerous parents and some employers is for a bolder, broader, braver vision of what makes a excellent education: one that understands the importance of creativity, exploration and citizenship, that gives pupils space to develop the skills they will need to have. That is not to say these things are not to be discovered in our schools. They are, and often in these schools that are most productive, but this is regularly in spite of ministers, rather than due to the fact of them.
A division with a closed thoughts stops questioning the assumptions that underpin its actions and a narrow group of priorities increasingly monopolise the time and sources of a government’s educational leadership. I worry that is exactly where we are. I’m left questioning how the Nicky Morgan who was brought in to enhance the connection with the public and profession, and champion a broader education agenda, has morphed into the Nicky Morgan whose very best-identified choice is to approve the expansion of grammar schools.
The attain of ministers is not such that all schools reflect their image, but their leadership does set the tone for our school method – and on this count there is trigger for concern.