Kevin Fear: Keep politics out of education

Nottingham Post, 16/02/15, HMC member Kevin Fear, head teacher at Nottingham High School, would like politicians to stop getting involved in education matters.

As we approach the General Election in May our newspapers are full of discussion of different policies, and our politicians are eager to persuade us that their way of running the country is so much better than those of their opponents.

As someone involved in education this dismays me. There is no doubt at all that the education of our children would be so much better if the politicians left well alone.

There are many reasons for this. Politicians inevitably have short-term goals in mind. They are always looking towards the next election, so tend to tinker with education on a whim.

They feel that it enhances their electoral prospects if exam results rise, and so over many years we have seen grade-inflation. Now this has gone too far they are clamouring to show how they will toughen up standards.

Education ministers have introduced hundreds of new initiatives and head teachers are forever wading through further guidance from the Department for Education. Yet, how much time is taken to evaluate the success of each measure? What thought has gone into the new idea, where has it been trialed over time? What lessons have been learned?

Governments also interfere in other ways. It was recently announced that iGCSEs are not to be included in their League Tables. Those head teachers in the state sector who believe that these internationally-recognised qualifications are best for their students are now forced to abandon this, and the teachers will again have to spend time both choosing a new specification and then preparing for it.

Similarly the proposed changes to AS and A2 examinations have been very rushed and go against what many would see as the huge benefits of the current system.

I would argue that there should be a body independent of government which could guide schools in best practice. Inspection should become a way of sharing what works well rather than a series of judgments designed to find fault.

As the head of an independent school I enjoy much more freedom than my state school peers, and it is no doubt because of this that British independent schools are seen to be the best in the world.

When we wish to introduce something new we can spend time researching it, we can look for good practice elsewhere and learn from it, and we can take our time to introduce it properly.

Far too much education policy in recent years has been driven by politicians desperate to respond to a tabloid headline rather than by considering what is best for our children.

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