Parents, especially of primary-age children, are concerned about the introduction of new and revised tests. Teachers are concerned about workload, curriculum changes and changes in pay and conditions. Headteachers are concerned about forced academisation, high-stakes accountability and the recruitment and retention of teachers. Other stakeholders, for example, school governors, the local community and education academics all have concern about the rate of reforms in schools. And out of these reforms no one is really quite sure where state education is headed: is it privatisation, as critical commentators suggest? Will schools be accountable to the communities they serve? Can parents, pupils and teachers have any say in curriculum, pedagogy and assessment? It seems the answer to these questions is “no”.
Schools are increasingly being directly funded by and accountable to the Department of Education (DfE). As more schools become academies this will become widespread, ubiquitous even. State education will take the form of an outsourced service, parents could end up with the same kind of relationship with their children’s school as they do with their broadband provider’s customer service department. Even when headteachers set out to engage with parents and the community, they are, in many cases, as a result of narrow accountability measures, restrained.
Thankfully there is growing opposition. National campaigns about testing such as, Let Our Kids Be Kids, are gaining attention as a result of – in the case of LOKBK – parental anger and concern about testing in primary schools. But parents have different views to say teachers, and most certainly parents will have different views among themselves. In fact each stakeholder group will have its own perspective and concern. But at the core there is a sense of powerlessness; groups have little or no say in how their school is run. It seems as time goes by, there is an increasing democratic deficit in our education system. Communities have little chance to influence their school’s philosophy, aims and mission.
The Cambridge Campaign for Education has been established to address these concerns, to campaign on issues like testing, and in the longer term to campaign for a more democratic approach to education. It is a campaign group where parents, teachers, headteachers, educators and students can organise in order to have a greater say, together, in how our schools are run.
It was initiated and convened by the National Union of Teachers (NUT) and Association of Teachers and Lecturers (ATL) and has held two public meetings, so it is in its infancy. While the emphasis has been on schools and tertiary education, the discussion in the two meetings has included higher education, prompted by the possibility of higher tuition fees. The following campaign themes have emerged from the meetings:
- the need for campaigns on particular issues, for example primary testing, baseline tests and SATs.
- To provide a forum for stakeholder groups parents, teachers, headteachers, governors, advisors, academics and students to openly discuss different perspectives, develop expertise and build solidarity.
- To build a movement for change, for democratically run local education services.
- To design and support local democratic and mutual approaches to school organisation.
If you want to know more please get in touch.