The Optimus blog

The blog that inspires leaders in the UK education sector

The Optimus blog

The blog that inspires leaders in the UK education sector

Alex Masters

What would happen if Labour won next year?

From Ofsted and curriculum changes to pay rises and extremism, shadow education secretary Tristram Hunt recently gave a detailed and intriguing interview with the TES. Here, we offer a breakdown of the key themes and links to our own relevant information and advice.

On Ofsted:

We are not going to abolish Ofsted; Ofsted is good at identifying underperformance and getting [schools] to a better place. Ofsted has more challenges in how to assist schools in getting from good to great. We need some stability in the Ofsted inspection criteria. I want to see a great collection of organisations [such as] teacher/school alliances and school leaders with Ofsted working in a brokerage role, rather than wholesale reform.

On curriculum changes:

We will continue another two years with existing A/AS structure. In September 2017 it will be the same structure (keeping A2) but a new curriculum. We will continue with the GCSE curriculum and the curriculum changes at primary level so there is a period of stability in the system.

On academic selection at 11:

There will be no new grammar schools under Labour but we will not abolish them.

On the Ebac:

We will not abolish Ebac but we think the move to Progress 8 is the right direction.

On ringfencing school budgets:

I will argue for it very strongly and we will have the announcement ready for our manifesto. Labour has supported and invested in education and I would be surprised if Ed Miliband didn’t do the same.

On pay rises:

There will not be space for big pay rises. We’re going to face very tight financial constraints.


Leadership of schools needs to value, support and find space and time for CPD. We need to identify more effectively what is good CPD.

On hard-to-staff areas:

Local authorities play an important role in this. They need to provide infrastructure; single schools can’t support this on their own. We also have to think carefully about the career progression of teachers – you need to improve the capacity for professional development.

On the teaching licence:

The licensing idea (together with a college) is to ensure professional development, which is fundamental - we need to give teachers support to grow. We believe there are too many unqualified teachers in the system; it will harm the standards and outcomes for young people. Under Labour, every teacher will be qualified or working towards QTS. It’s a symbol of how we value the profession by raising the bar.

On meritocracy:

There will always be inequality but we must close the attainment gap and give those without privilege the best opportunities possible. We need more collaboration between school types, including the private sector.

On private versus state sectors:

Private school success is due to selection, high-quality resources and class sizes. Once you remove these, the quality of teaching is better in the state sector. That doesn’t mean that both sectors don’t have things to learn from each other – my job is to break down these barriers.

On collaboration:

We will not force the ‘academisation’ of schools [but] will devolve decision-making about school type and structure – there will be directors of school standards and local school commissioners. However, there are times that external intervention is needed for schools that have failed multiple times.

On special schools:

We think special schools can be better served. We are dealing with a period of flux in terms of the children and families bill. We need to do more to support PRUs – we’ve had a major piece of legislation in this area; we need to see how this develops. This is cross-party i.e. a piece of public policy. Is it delivering the innovation and joined up thinking we want to see? We’ll see how it pans out.

On extremism:

Schools do have responsibilities and lots are taking responsibility. But it goes beyond just the school; it involves relationships with local authorities, police and places of worship. British values can be part and parcel of that.

On the teacher oath:

It is not a status- imposed model; it should be voluntary. It’s about teachers celebrating their profession and outlining the contours of what they want to achieve and what we should expect from them. It’s about raising the status and standing of the profession. We want more of a conversation about it.

On technology:

Digital technology provides the capacity to deliver more information to parents and we can use the internet to inspire. We need tailored curricula through digital technology.

On ‘character’:

Character is the ability to cope with failure, to dig deep. It’s about attentiveness, self-control, building confidence and focusing on techniques in terms of critical reasoning and critical thinking. Co-curricular activity (e.g. art, drama and music) is the place for building character. We also have plans for afterschool childcare, breakfast, afterschool and chess clubs – all areas that build resilience and character. We need a broad and balanced curriculum.

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