The place to go for all things Education – LDEA’s new website

If you are a parliamentary or council candidate and you want to find out more about Lib Dem education priorities and 2015 manifesto policies, you can now go to the shiny new Liberal Democrat Education Association (LDEA) website.

Whilst we have achieved a lot in this government including £2.5billion of pupil premium, free school meals for infants, a new progress-based measure to replace the A*-C metric and our programme for 2-year olds, many challenges remain. Teacher morale is low, mainly as a result of the Govian years of a lack of trust and respect for the profession coupled with a target-driven, data-led culture which has increased workload substantially. Although standards have risen in some areas, provision in many rural areas and seaside towns is poor. A punitive approach by Ofsted has made the role of headteacher even more demanding and contributes to recruitment challenges for senior positions. Education funding remains under threat, with neither the Tories nor Labour committing to protect the schools budget.

The Liberal Democrat Education Association has worked with our parliamentarians to devise our education manifesto for 2015. Our members include experts on early years, governance, vocational education, school leadership and schools improvement and we both generate policy ideas and act as a sounding board for our MPs. The manifesto is ambitious and includes proposals to ring-fence the education budget from early years to age 19, a tripling of the early years pupil premium, 15 hours of free child care for all 2 year olds, a funded entitlement to CPD for all teachers with a new College of Teachers taking a central role, and a parents’ guarantee that all teachers in state schools will have Qualified Teacher Status.

On our website you will find the latest news on the impact of our policies implemented in government and our policy proposals for 2015. You’ll find case studies on how pupil premium has been spent to really improve the attainment of less advantaged children, an update on the College of Teaching, and David Laws’ recent keynote speech to CentreForum. We also have a blog, where our members give their perspectives on key issues affecting education today. Our ‘Ideas’ section includes discussions across many areas of education including assessment, the curriculum and Early Years.

We hope that you find it useful, and we always welcome new members to the LDEA.

* Cara Jenkinson is Vice-Chair of Haringey Liberal Democrats and PPC for Enfield North

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13 Comments

  • Helen Tedcastle 8th Jan '15 - 9:40am

    Two quotations from the piece: ‘ Whilst we have achieved a lot in this government …’ and ‘ Teacher morale is low, mainly as a result of the Govian years of a lack of trust and respect for the profession coupled with a target-driven, data-led culture which has increased workload substantially. ‘

    The thing is, we were in government when Gove attacked education and teachers – we were there and could have stopped him. We didn’t wake up to him until two years in to coalition after Clegg had embraced Gove’s Education Bill.

    The damage has already been done. Trust has been lost – pupil premium and attacking Gove after the policies were accepted and passed back in 2010/11, is just not facing up to the reality of Lib Dem complicity with Gove.

    I notice there is no mention of the curriculum in the article. No mention of academies but I’ll assume that is covered in ‘governance.’

    This article is too timid. How can the Lib Dems be taken seriously when these fundamental aspects of schools changed by the Tories on our watch, are ignored? Am I just to assume that the most radical thing we are going to do is ensure teachers are qualified? What has happened to this party of education that we have to accept the underlying assumptions of the right (in that I include the Blairites).

    One of the reasons I joined the party in the first place was its commitment to local education and a broad and balanced curriculum, free from elitism. What happened in 2010 to put that principle under threat?

  • Cara Jenkinson 8th Jan '15 - 11:10am

    Helen I would agree with you that we did not stand up as much as we could have done in the first couple of years LDEA member Peter Downes consistently raised objections to the mass-scale academisation at many Conferences from 2010 onwards, and David Laws may remember me challenging him at fringe meetings on why local authorities could not open new schools. The school in Tottenham, London where I am a governor successfully fought off a very aggressive forced academisation process.
    The 2015 manifesto recognises that school structures are of secondary importance – what really matters is the quality of teaching as well as local, democratically accountable oversight. It is clear that academies, free schools and the chains that run them are often not accountable.
    In my own view not everything Gove did was bad. I think that the previous Labour administration accepted too readily that deprived children would not achieve as much due to the disadvantages they faced. Gove, for all his faults, really challenged this. The problem was he did not bring teachers with him – quite the reverse.

  • Helen Tedcastle 8th Jan '15 - 11:33am

    Cara Jenkinson

    Thanks for your response. Having worked as a head of department in a secondary school during the Labour years, I am well aware that Labour constantly tinkered with education and thought up more ways to measure teachers and teaching, as well as re-organise the curriculum and structures. I am no fan of Blairism. Blair bottled the greatest opportunity in a generation to implement the Tomlinson report. We should still be aiming to introduce it.

    However, Gove’s time at education was not the answer to Blair’s vision. In fact, Gove simply carried Blairism in education to its logical conclusion. It is not a matter of that nasty Mr Gove being horrible to teachers. Teachers despise Gove (and Clegg) because of the enormous structural and curriculum change pushed through at breakneck speed without consensus or meaningful consultation with the profession – on ideological grounds.

    Let’s list his and our (by association) ‘achievements’:

    Free schools, the EBacc performance measures which influence options and of course are bolted to league tables to force schools to conform, abolishing all coursework in favour of high stakes exams, measuring success mainly by selective indicators drawn up by the OECD (which was never meant to be a world league table), performance-related pay by ‘results’ etc.., changing the SATs exams to bizarre testing on narrow grammar points, designed to catch out the less able; the focus at A Level on a narrow core of academic subjects, which reduces breadth and ignores the DfE’s own findings that the only A level which was ‘not rigorous enough’ for university entry was maths. The problem at sixth form is the poor advice given to students on degree entry requirements, not a broad curriculum catering for 50% of young people. Of course he also abolished the AS level – another way to help the less able student in year 12.

    All of this and more is why Gove was bad news for education for all. The fact that Lib Dems can actually say that not all Gove did was bad, overlooks and underplays the very real damage he has done – we have to face up to this as a party and our failure to stop him.

  • Matthew Huntbach 8th Jan '15 - 12:30pm

    Helen Tedcastle

    All of this and more is why Gove was bad news for education for all. The fact that Lib Dems can actually say that not all Gove did was bad, overlooks and underplays the very real damage he has done – we have to face up to this as a party and our failure to stop him

    This is just an example of a more general problem.

    Ever since May 2010, Labour and Labour-supporting organisations have been describing whatever comes out of this government as “Coalition policy”, or just using the word “Coalition” where previously the word “government” would have been used.

    When people see the word “Coalition” they think PRIMARILY of us. We are the party which talks about coalition as being a good thing, whose very existence led to there being a coalition. The Conservatives certainly don’t talk in that way about “coalition”.

    Our opponents take a delight in using the words “Coalition policy” for policies coming from this government which I know even the most right-wing LibDem MPs (well, perhaps not Jeremy Browne …) wince at, and most certainly would not enact if they had the choice. The clear intention is to make it seem as if we are all in favour of those policies, when we are not. It’s part of the give-and-take of coalition politics that we have to accept them in return for what we can get out of it elsewhere. We were never in a position to get that much from this coalition, the balance of the two parties prevents that, as does the absolute refusal of our leader to consider playing the only REAL card we have to play – the threat to pull out if the senior partner refuses to compromise.

    I think this use of the word “Coalition” by our opponents is quite deliberate, and is intended to target us. It is intended to put the message across to people who used to support us or who might have considered supporting us that we are enthusiastic supporters of so many policies which actually we are not. Since May 2010, Labour has had just one strategy – and that is to win the 2015 general election by destroying us and taking what were our votes – and has the tacit approval of the Conservatives and Conservative supporters in the Old Pals’ Act in doing this.

    Our leader and those surrounding him and making the party’s national image have played right into their hands. Every tine they go on about how good the Coalition is, what we have achieved out of it, our ex-supporters think “Ugh”, because to them “Coalition” means the extreme-right policies forced through against our wishes by the Conservatives, and not those limited concessions we have been able to win.

  • Helen Tedcastle 8th Jan '15 - 7:27pm

    Matthew Huntbach

    ‘ When people see the word “Coalition” they think PRIMARILY of us. We are the party which talks about coalition as being a good thing, whose very existence led to there being a coalition. The Conservatives certainly don’t talk in that way about “coalition”.’

    I agree totally with your comments on our strategy. It has backfired terribly. There have been some recent attempts at differentiation but decisions taken early on in coalition stuck to us because our leadership appeared to be so wedded to ‘coalition’ over distinctiveness. I guess they wanted to show the country how well a coalition could work but it has blurred our identity.

    Regarding Labour, yes they are very good at sounding holier than thou in opposition and then doing the precise opposite of left-leaning values in government. I take no lessons form them, least of all with regard to local governance of schools. They are nearly as keen to undermine local authorities with their quangos of ‘commissioners’ as Gove was with his private sponsors of academy chains.

    I believe the DfE has now come up with groups of commissioners to oversee academy chains, so Labour and the Tories are as one.

  • As an ex Headteacher who successfully rejected PFI despite heavy pressure… I can speak from the sharp end with considerable credibility. I don’t care whether we’re tarred with the ‘Coalition’ brush or not. We have to a) support long term educational planning b) Reform DFE (see National Audit Office reports inter alia) c) Adopt Brighouse models of educational management d) Expose the shady aspects of Academies (avoidance of school meal nutritional rules would be a start) and ABOVE ALL support – the personalisation of student education AND teachers. The HMI model of support and correction is much better than Ofsted’s ‘slash and burn’ – reintroduce it. Tories and Labour absolute disaster area for educational management. If some LDs want to pussy foot around this – fine. I’ll be campaigning (hard) on the real virtues of a liberal education. Full stop.

  • Cara Jenkinson 9th Jan '15 - 9:38am

    @Helen Tedcastle – I would not disagree with your comments on the impact of rapid, sometimes ideologically driven curriculum and qualification changes – that’s why the Lib Dem 2015 manifesto is proposing an independent Educational Standards Authority free from ministerial interference – an idea supported today by ex-Ofsted chief Sir David Bell

  • Gary Fuller 9th Jan '15 - 10:07am

    Nice looking website, and as ever our policies are the most progressive and sensible of the main parties. Just a couple of sections missing though.

    1) No section on FE.
    2) No section on HE.

    As a 10 year veteran of FE, I was a little bit disappointed to see it didn’t have it’s own section on the site.

  • Helen Tedcastle
    I always read what you say on education even if I do not always comment.
    Like you I think Matthew Huntbach has hit the nail on the head when he said —
    “…..Every time they go on about how good the Coalition is, what we have achieved out of it, our ex-supporters think “Ugh”, because to them “Coalition” means the extreme-right policies forced through against our wishes by the Conservatives.,”

    My daughter has just been offered a place to start post graduate training to be a teacher. In spite of her parents she has managed to steer clear of politics as a student because she is of that generation that loathes all things Liberal Democrat thanks to the leadership of recent years. In the 2010 general election because of Liberal Democrat policy on tuition fees she and her contemporaries all said “I agree with Nick”— — but now they know that he and others at the top of the party always wanted to ditch our policy on tuition fees and that they took the first opportunity in Coalition to do what they always wanted to do.

    So for her and her contemporaries ‘Coalition’ or ‘Clegg’ or ‘Conservative’ or ‘Cynical Liars’ are interchangeable terms. They respond to each with equal venom and distaste.

    She is now also becoming more aware of what the Coalition has been doing to teachers’ pay and conditions and in particular pensions. She is becoming aware of the top down micro management of Gove and others. She became aware of the ridiculous attempt to ban authors such as Harper Lee because they were not True Brits. She questioned what sort of mad men were given responsibility for schools in this Coalition.

    She is starting to learn about the vested interests who are set on making a fast buck out of the covert privatisation of schooling by the Coalition.

    As Matthew says — her response to the Coalition is “Ugh”.

  • Matthew Huntbach 9th Jan '15 - 12:15pm

    JohnTilley

    but now they know that he and others at the top of the party always wanted to ditch our policy on tuition fees and that they took the first opportunity in Coalition to do what they always wanted to do.

    In fairness, I have to say that had Clegg and the other insisted on sticking to the policy on tuition fees, it would have been at the cost of even bigger cuts to other things. It would also have meant that universities, like local government, would be at the forefront of things this government would be making big cuts to.

    I hate to say this, but by accepting the tuition fees system and insisting only on the loans and write-off conditions which in effect makes it a graduate tax, Clegg and the Cleggies have probably saved the university system. As someone who most likely would have been sacked had cuts been made, I have to be grateful for them for that.

  • Helen Tedcastle 9th Jan '15 - 12:35pm

    @ John Tilley
    I wish your daughter well as she embarks on her training. I’m pleased that she has opted to be trained to teach as opposed to being plunged in at the deep end from day one, as Gove would advocate. I believe the clear blue water between us and the Tories at the next election is the ‘hot potato’ of whether a teacher should be qualified to teach or not.

    That’s how far we’ve regressed in five years.

  • Peter Watson 10th Jan '15 - 8:57am

    @Helen Tedcastle “we were in government when Gove attacked education and teachers – we were there and could have stopped him”
    From the outside, as a parent, I agree with this sentiment. Failing to ‘stop’ Gove is forgiveable because there are fewer Lib Dem MPs than Tory ones, but Lib Dems gave the impression that they supported the changes rather than opposed them. When I complain about Coalition policies for messing up GCSEs and A-levels while my own children go through the system, I blame Lib Dem and Tory politicians equally, but it is the Lib Dems that make me angrier because I expected better of them.

  • Will Jackson 12th Jan '15 - 7:19pm

    “Teacher morale is low, mainly as a result of the Govian years of a lack of trust and respect for the profession coupled with a target-driven, data-led culture which has increased workload substantial”…Hold on a minute, teacher-bashing has been going on since Baker, Woodhead etc,, even when my kids were young back in the early 90s. And David Laws has joined in with it too! One way to lose members, Mr Laws. Very clever of you, isn’t it?

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