Today, Labour are setting out their stall on education. Here’s what to look out for:
The past 13 years has seen significant rises up the international league tables in reading and maths thanks to focused and evidence-based reforms. England is outperforming the other nations in the U.K. in maths - including Labour-run Wales.
And we’ve just been declared the “Best in the West” for reading thanks to our phonics reforms. We came 4th in the world in the recent PIRLS league table.
So a key question for Labour is do they have answers on school standards? Are they committing to phonics? Will they follow our reforms to maths mastery? Or do Labour still ideologically oppose evidence based reforms, as they did when we brought in phonics: https://protect-eu.mimecast.com/s/U5GwCZY7Jt5nWKP0FzkkoT?domain=theguardian.com
Beyond the basics of literacy and numeracy, Labour have other challenges to grapple with. In England, Ministers are - rightly - under pressure to recruit enough teachers. In England we have 27,000 more teachers than 2010. In Wales, there are fewer teachers than 2010. Beyond agreeing that we need more teachers, does Labour actually have a plan?
Labour’s announcement will be peppered with language familiar to anyone who remembers education policy in 2007. Today, we will hear a word-soup of ‘creativity’ and ‘critical thinking’. Magically, children will gain these ethereal skills - distinct from content.
But how can you think critically about science, for example, without a deep knowledge of the subject? Wishing children to be creative or think critically without engaging in the evidence of how you deliver that outcome is the original Rousseauean fallacy - "Man is born free, and everywhere he is in chains".
The conceit is that children left to their own devices will embrace their innate creativity and critical thinking. The perverse consequence of this philosophy is it denies children the crucial ingredient - the core knowledge - to enable critical thinking and creativity.
So will Labour’s curriculum and assessment review eschew knowledge? Will we see the proportion of children studying GCSE science and humanities fall back to 2010 levels - meaning the poorest children missing out on this vital knowledge?
Today is a big day for the country. Will Labour have the answers to the key questions?