Hunt speech ‘may appeal to those concerned about pace of change in schools sector’

Anthony Collins Solicitors recently hosted a table at a dinner organised by the West Midlands Labour Finance and Industry Group. The guest speaker was Tristram Hunt, shadow secretary of education.

Here is a short summary of the main points from Hunt’s speech:

  • One of Labour’s key priorities will be the provision of affordable childcare, with ‘wrap-around’ facilities in schools between the hours of 8:00 and 18:00.
  • There also be a sharp focus on the ‘forgotten 50 per cent’, with much greater emphasis on technical and vocational education and the provision of apprenticeships. As regards the latter, this ties in with the recent announcement made by Ed Balls concerning how Labour will fund apprenticeships over a five-year time frame.
  • As an aside, Hunt mentioned a recent freedom-of-information request to the Department for Business, Innovation & Skills revealed it had but two apprenticeship places currently.
  • Further-education colleges will be encouraged to concentrate on the local labour market.
  • There will be new plans for a 14–19 Baccalaureate, which will be broad and challenging, underpinned by personal development and learning outside the classroom.
  • There will be a ‘push-back’ against rigid curriculum demands.
  • This will be coupled with a broader view of the outcomes to be delivered by the education system, with greater emphasis on aptitude and attitude.
  • There will be a rebuilding of the careers advice and guidance function in schools.
  • The focus will move from structural change for schools to the delivery of excellence in the classroom.
  • This will involve a continual up-skilling of teachers and the promotion of the role of ‘master-teachers’ and mentors.
  • The emphasis will be on local rather than central oversight.
  • There will be a renewed promotion of partnership challenge and local collaboration.

There is nothing especially controversial in any of the above. However, this may well appeal to those who are concerned about the pace of structural change in the schools sector and its impact on the broader education of our young people.

Interestingly, according to Anthony Collins, while Hunt’s focus was on the delivery of teacher effectiveness in the classroom, there was no talk of trying to undo any of the reforms introduced by the current government.

‘Academisation’ appears to be here to stay, the law firm said. However, a quieter agenda on the structural change front may well provide a much needed opportunity for existing academies to get to grips with how best to use their new-found freedoms.