Government has left a void in education, teachers and educators must assume responsibility

5 min read

The minority Conservative government is teetering. They have no authority, they have no programme and they have no ideas. The Queen’s speech today was thin, the Conservative General Election manifesto has been ditched. The Queen’s speech intended to allow government to cling to power. So weakened is Theresa May and the Conservative government, it looks like they could collapse at any time.

Since we are without an effective government, it is time for educators to act. We have a duty to provide authority in education, to establish principles, uphold values and implement programmes, in the absence created by an ineffectual minority government. This authority must be assumed collaboratively, deliberatively and democratically, underpinned by scholarship in its broadest sense.

We have been restrained by neoliberalism and disciplined through centralised high-stakes accountability and punitive testing regimes. Consent for this has collapsed. Public acceptance of austerity and neoliberalism has dramatically declined. People want the public services to be well-funded and to serve humanity, rather than serving a few who run them as outsourced business.

Educators now have a new responsibility for their profession and for state education.

For those working in schools, further education and higher education it is time to push back against the economic and intellectual oppression that has characterised the last seven years. It is time to become active within unions and start to organise. We need education to be a democratic, values-based and a community-oriented public service.

In the last few weeks we have seen Tory economic legitimacy crumbling. The need to cut spending and impose austerity has been revealed as a mechanism of exploitation. The yolk of austerity and neoliberalism is slowly being lifted from our shoulders as we come to realise that it has no power to exploit us and exploit our public services.

We need to mobilise across education and demand that schools are properly funded. School funding must keep pace with inflation and increasing pupil numbers. We need to ensure that teachers pay and conditions are improved so that the job becomes manageable, enjoyable and a profession that teachers can sustain long term. This will improve recruitment and retention and ensure that children receive high quality education with teachers who are not overworked, tired and stressed.  We need effective democracy in state education so that teachers have a greater role in school governance, operations and in local and national policy. We need to move away from a system that puts the control of schools and policy into the hands of small numbers of people who are not directly accountable to the communities who they serve and school stakeholders.

This is a time of great change. Therefore, it is incumbent on those working in education to take responsibility and wrest control of education from centralised neoliberalism and give that control to communities, learners and education professionals.

Go now, meet with colleagues, organise and start putting forward your collective vision for an inclusive education, for greater democracy and social justice.

*Update*

Interesting addition to this. Following this post from Geoff Barton.

I recognised the ‘space’ referred to by Geoff as similar to the void I saw develop above.

Rather than trying to respond to Teach Talks in 140 characters, I thought I would do it here, since it reflects the general flavour of this post about the void left by government or as Geoff Barton said, the space created by the Queen’s Speech. I want to address the secondary questions ‘can a weak government lead to greater uncertainty?’ And ‘should we look at a Finnish multi party system?’

The government is weakened and this means that it cannot impose an ideology-driven economic, social and education policy. It is weak in the sense that it cannot set the agenda, it necessarily has to support the democratic demands of the people and show that it is being fair and reasonable in doing this and in managing conflicting interests. It is incumbent on the education sector to define, using deliberative democratic processes, what the range of educational philosophy is and how that will operationalise. This strengthens the hand of the democratic governance of state education. What it is has to be is more defined by what communities and stakeholders (including the teaching profession) want.

In terms of having a cross-party approach, I agree in principle but it is necessary that education has strong democratic governance and is able to negotiate a shared vision for education. The opportunity here for democratic self-governing system can help contribute to this.

There are great opportunities here and organisations like ASCL and the teaching unions will have a pivotal role.

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