Dear Secretary of State
Director of Education, diocese of
I WARMLY welcome your reappointment as Secretary of State for
Education. I am looking forward to seeing how you develop your
position, and to the leadership you will bring to an increasingly
fragmented schools system.
I have noted your commitment to giving all children and young
people an excellent education. This is, of course, motherhood and
apple pie, and no educationist would dissent from this
Of greater interest to me is how you will ensure that all
children have an entitlement to a great education.
You clearly want all those working in the education profession
to be successful and to prosper, and you have made it clear that
you will intervene in inadequate or "coasting" schools that do not
have the capacity to improve. I await the detail of this policy. As
a diocesan director of education, I want to understand how this
will make an impact on the 5000 Church of England schools across
With regard to your flagship aca demies programme, inherited
from Labour, quite frankly there has previously been too much
inconsistency in the application of policy, and ministers and
officials have made it up as they have gone along. We need a
proper, and agreed, regulatory and policy framework for academies
and free schools, and greater transparency about how decisions are
taken by regional schools commissioners and ministers.
As far as Church of England schools are concerned, I want you to
work with us, and to understand fully the distinctive contribution
that our schools make to the well-being of society - not just as a
relic from the past (as some of your officials believe), but as a
living tradition that gives meaning and structure to young people's
There is a rumour that the next Education Act will contain
provisions to overrule diocesan boards of education if they impede
your desire for structural change. If that is the case, then I
think the provision is based on a misunderstanding. The Church's
concern is to ensure that all children are happy and successful,
and fulfil their God-given potential, but we do not subscribe to a
narrow or doctrinaire technocratic view of education as having a
primarily economic purpose.
I therefore ask you to recognise the need to ensure that church
governance arrangements in academies and free schools are not
subject to the vagaries of chance, and that we do not end up with
secularisation by neglect or stealth, because the church character
of academies is not securely articulated in the governance and
voting arrangements of multi-academy trusts.
I am worried about the "Trojan horse through the back door": the
gradual erosion, over time, of church ethos in our academies
because the majority of non-church directors in some "mixed-mode"
multi-academy trusts do not understand or value the church
Like many of my colleagues, I am worried about the future of
small rural schools. Even if two or three of these collaborate,
they might still have fewer pupils than a one-form-entry primary
school (210 pupils). Some serious consideration needs to be given
at the national level to the funding and organisation of schools in
the countryside, so that we do not end up with very young children
having to travel miles to school.
So much of education policy is driven by metropolitan
assumptions. We need a proper debate about the future of small
schools, as well as a discussion about the implications of
"austerity" for the funding of all schools.
Above all, I hope that you will place education above ideology.
Free schools are not needed in areas where there are surplus
places. And I hope that you will recognise the importance of
professionally taught religious education in all schools, and
resource this appropriately.
Extremism will be defeated by education and enlightenment. All
the Christian Churches will support you and your cabinet colleagues
in building a truly inclusive society in which we can celebrate,
and understand, the different traditions that make us
Head teacher of St Mary and St Giles C of E Primary School,
MY SCHOOL has 235 children. It has been judged Outstanding by
both OFSTED and SIAMS [Statutory Inspection of Anglican and
Methodist Schools]. I have many years' headship experience, and I
am excited and enthusiastic about my job.
We follow Psalm 127 in believing that "Every child is a gift
from God" who should be loved, treasured, and nurtured accordingly.
So I have some requests for you, as you undertake responsibility
for schools for the next five years.
My first plea is that we should recognise children for who they
are, just as much as for what they can achieve. Attainment and
progress are important, but so, too, are character, social
awareness, and kindness. We must not over-emphasise the importance
of those things that are easier to measure, and ignore those
aspects of education that encourage good citizenship.
We need less emphasis on tests, and a wider understanding of
assessment. This presupposes a government that is prepared to
accept that it cannot manage everything, and trusts and respects
My second plea is that your agenda allows teachers to teach. The
child's parents have ultimate responsibility for their care and
upbringing, and, while we care deeply about every child entrusted
to us, we are not in a position to solve all of society's ills. The
last Government did much to reduce over-prescription. Your workload
reforms were a welcome start. We need a government that will not
put additional burdens on schools without also deciding what
burdens can now be removed.
Third, we need good-quality teachers, and enough of them.
Although my school is fully staffed, and we contribute to School
Direct [practical training based in a school], we are aware of a
growing problem in the supply of teachers.
This is the most urgent of my pleas. If we can train and appoint
the right teachers, and retain them in the profession, then the
future of our schools and education system as a whole will be
strong, and you will have left a legacy that far outlasts your term
Vice-Chancellor of Liverpool Hope University, a member of the
Cathedrals Group of church-affiliated universities
WHATEVER we may have thought about the way higher education is
now funded in England, we are where we are; and the distinctive
features of British higher education which made it an exemplar to
other countries over the past 100 years must not be diminished in
It must remain possible to provide the very best higher
education for every British citizen at whatever British university
he or she may enroll. The wisest within the new Government must
prevail over those who seek to limit this inclusive vision to
narrower ideological goals.
It is their responsibility to end the tendency by governments
(from both sides of the House) to seek merely administrative
solutions to the pressing educational and cultural challenges that
we face as a nation. We must restore a culture of high pursuit and
deep learning, in place of one where league tables and targets have
encouraged compliance, not excellence. ("Not everything that can be
counted counts, and not everything that counts can be counted" -
William Bruce Cameron.)
It must be within our abilities to rebuild the integrity of
relationships that existed between student and teacher, in place of
a culture where students are encouraged to be "customers", driven
by surveys of "customer satisfaction" and litigation.
We must restore to teaching the respect and social standing it
deserves, for the sake of all our children, and to restore to
scholarship and serious enquiry something akin to a sense of
vocation. These would be convincing signs of a culture of
aspiration and excellence.
These objectives must surely be attainable for the benefit of
all British citizens, irrespective of their social background or
Head teacher of Bishop Ramsey C of E comprehensive Academy,
CONGRATULATIONS on your re-appointment. It was heartening to
read, in your post-election letter to the teaching profession, of
your undertaking to work hand in hand with us, and to receive your
commitment to a period of calm and stability. The profession will
benefit greatly from both.
There are, though, two particular changes that I would,
respectfully, request you consider early in this Parliament. First,
a change in the way schools are judged. OFSTED has become a blunt
instrument, which focuses too narrowly on particular data sets. It
needs to be reframed to measure how well schools do their core jobs
of enabling all their young people to reach their full potential
and giving them the knowledge, skills, and attributes they need to
succeed in modern Britain. It would be helpful for the profession
to be involved with policymakers in a discussion of what this might
The second change I would request is a fresh look at funding. I
write as head teacher of a successful 11-18 comprehensive Church of
England Academy - a National Teaching School with a large sixth
form and relatively few pupils from disadvantaged backgrounds.
Over the past four years, I have seen my school's core funding
slashed by half a million pounds, as resources have been diverted
away from sixth forms and towards deprived students. We need a fair
funding formula that reflects the needs of different students, but
still gives enough to schools in the suburbs and shire counties to
enable them to continue to provide a world-class education.