Education is at a crossroads. With changes to the qualification framework and expectations of both institutions and learners, it is essential that the right path is followed.
In 2005 the Subject Learning Coaches Change Management Programme, fully funded and supported by a Labour government, provided innovative support and professional development training to colleagues across the entire education sector. This initiative offered free qualifications up to Level 7, national and regional support networks, subject-specific resources, workshops and practitioner-led training in peer-led coaching.
Although aimed at improving performance and ultimately achievement, the subject learning coach model established a framework of supportive coaching, reflection, peer development and mentoring rather than the traditionally accepted Ofsted framework of external judgment linked to evidence indicators.
I worked on this revolutionary initiative for four years as the national lead for adult and community learning and through first-hand experience of coach led training watched colleagues grow in confidence and actually be allowed to teach.
Education has changed beyond all recognition over the past 20 years. The demand to work everyone towards achieving an unrealistic baseline figure is destroying confidence, creativity and ultimately opportunity. There is no longer a need for educating and controlling a mass workforce, as this type of large industrial work practice no longer exists - yet the current government persists in adopting this restrictive model.
Current society doesn’t need achievement determined by an exam – it requires change and adaptability driven by free thinkers, social and economic reformers and community focused entrepreneurs. Teachers deserve time to establish positive professional relationships in order to actually get to know their learners and find out what they bring as well as what they want and need.
The expectations placed on teachers and learners alike, particularly in Further Education, borders on the cruel with financial and professional implications being placed on GCSE resits in English and Maths affecting both morale and future opportunities.
Like the Subject Learning Coaches programme, we need to establish a culture of support, trust, and belief across the sector. Lifelong learning must be owned and led by all, and not just driven from the top for business purposes. Education isn’t a pure science – it’s a lifeline for the future, and without this lifeline then we have no future.
-- Mike Smith-Clare
Mike Smith-Clare is County Councillor for the Yarmouth Nelson and Southtown division, a qualified teacher, Ofqual consultant and director of a local community training provider for young people.
Read more about Labour's plan for a National Education Service...
When it fails, it isn’t just the individual that is held back, but all of us. When we invest in people to develop their skills and capabilities, we all benefit from a stronger economy and society.
At a time when working lives and the skills our economy needs are changing rapidly, governments have the responsibility to make lifelong learning a reality by giving everyone the opportunity to access education throughout their lives.
To meet this responsibility, Labour will create a unified National Education Service (NES) for England to move towards cradle-to-grave learning that is free at the point of use. The NES will be built on the principle that ‘Every Child – and Adult Matters’ and will incorporate all forms of education, from early years through to adult education.