What to expect from Party Conference season: Part 2
As the annual conferences of the major political parties kick off, DYT’s Policy Executive, Dan Baynes looks at what the education sector can expect from the governing party in Part 2. (Read about the Lib Dems and Labour in Part 1)
All eyes will turn to Damian Hinds as he makes his maiden speech to the Tory faithful. Hinds’ occupation of the Department for Education has so far seen him try to build bridges with the teaching community, he has prioritised teacher workforce retention through offering solutions on training and workload.
However, a party conference is a different animal, Cabinet Ministers will often play to the audience. It would be no surprise to see Hinds run through the list of reforms and achievements the government has made since 2010 such as England’s progress in the PIRLS survey and the creation of a raft of new free schools. It is also be likely that grammar schools will get a mention, which will no doubt get a cheer from more ideologically right-wing spectators (read our warning here).
Two areas that are on the lips of the edu-community but unlikely to be addressed by the Education Secretary are accountability and funding. The Institute for Fiscal Studies’ annual report on education states that school spending is suffering a real-terms cut and the NAHT has called for an overhaul in the accountability system. Both of which give Hinds a real headache. He has so far been unable to win over the Treasury for more education spending and faces pressure on the role and remit of an ever-expanding Ofsted.
I expect him to pull the wool over the eyes on these issues by focusing on two areas that he has made clear to be his policy priorities. The first is Hinds’ main passion – social mobility, where it is likely that extra funding announcements will be made, potentially building on money already earmarked to improve early years language and literacy teaching. The second has been identified as a key part of the government’s post-Brexit strategy – adult education. Hinds has recently been on a “fact finding mission” to Germany and the Netherlands to discover how they achieve such high-quality technical and vocational education. With T-Levels being introduced in 2020, skilling up the British workforce is top of Hinds’ To-Do list and I can see his speech in Birmingham being the launch pad to this effort.
Any mention of improving literacy is of course welcome but we’d like to see this taken further with an approach that encompasses all learners to be able to flourish to their best. This has been an area that has received his attention in recent weeks, a very positive development considering many previous Education Secretary’s have overlooked SEND.
We hope that Hinds will build upon his speech to the ADCS and letter to the CDC which explored ways in which Ofsted will inspect SEND in schools and introduce higher levels of accountability to reward schools for good SEND provision and call out those who are falling short. This has been a DYT recommendation since 2015 so further detail would be welcome. We also hope the opportunity arises for Hinds to further look to embed SEND in teacher training, CPD and target funding to help make a systemic change to the lives of those young people who struggle with literacy.
Overall, Hinds has a difficult job in his speech. He will want to set out how he will ensure Britain has a workforce ready for post-Brexit arrangements less than six months away, whilst having to balance the demands of the education community and his own party. We hope that any announcement made will benefit learners who struggle with literacy.
Look out for Dan and Karen’s updates from the party conferences via twitter and our post-conference round up blog.