Good to see teaching professionals raising their voices in the national education debate

Members of the Headteachers' Roundtable meeting Neil Carmichael MP, chairman of the Education Select

Members of the Headteachers' Roundtable meeting Neil Carmichael MP, chairman of the Education Select Committee. Binks Neate-Evans, headteacher of West Earlham Infant School, back row, third from left. Duncan Spalding, headteacher of Aylsham High School, back row, far right. Credit: Headteachers' Roundtable - Credit: Archant

In the national education debate, 2016 has been a year of two halves.

Up to June, the message from the government was 'academies, academies, academies'; since Theresa May entered Downing Street, it has sounded more like 'grammar schools, grammar schools, grammar schools'.

These big issues which grab the headlines have largely been driven by politics, but in recent years an increasingly important, but less noticed, trend has seen teachers trying to wrest the initiative from politicians, and give it to the professionals.

It has the same origins in social media as the informal TeachMeet events, where teachers gather in their own time to share ideas, and the ResearchED conferences, where teachers discuss the latest developments in educational research.

The most structured example is the Headteachers' Roundtable, a think-tank formed in 2012 to influence national education policy makers, and which now includes two Norfolk heads in its core group – Duncan Spalding at Aylsham High, and Binks Neate-Evans at West Earlham Infants.

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Last week, it published its alternative to the government's Green Paper.

In his introduction, Roundtable chairman Stephen Tierney said: 'The days of political diktat, from on high, followed by crushing and multiplying accountability measures have to stop; the damage is becoming too great.'

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Among its proposals, it wants a new Ofsted Quality Mark for schools, policies across government departments that focus on supporting children from disadvantaged backgrounds, a national Parent Support Strategy to help 'all parents to create an optimal home learning environment for under fives', a single centralised entry route for people who want to become teachers, and a 10-year plan for all schools to join a wider Partnership Trust – including, but not limited to, academy trusts.

Some of the ideas will be seen as controversial, others as common sense, but the fact that the professionals are raising their voices can only enrich the debate about education in our country.

Click here to read the alternative Green Paper.

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