Plan fails to sort education debate

The government may have been bold in setting out a five-year plan
for education, but there are three major disappointments in the

The first is that there is still a debate as to whether or not
joined-up working is the best way forward. For large parts of the
education plan it seems as though the working together lobby has
won the argument, but then come references to freedom, autonomy and

There only seems to be two real alternatives. You either see the
answer to raising standards through organisations and agencies
working together and collaborating, or you go for a market where
the good drives out the bad. My money is on collaboration. You can
continue building city academies and giving schools control over
their budgets, but improvements in learning owe more to the
involvement of parents, good health and well-being than to
classroom teaching. Of course, we need high quality in the
classroom, but it counts for nothing if children are not receiving
support outside the school environment.

My second disappointment links to the first – the strategy doesn’t
have enough about extended schools. Extended schools are the most
exciting development in the sector to date, but in order for them
to work they need to be resourced and supported to the same level
as the Sure Start initiative. If the government fails to capitalise
on extended schools and maintain support to children and young
people, the work carried out during the early years will be

The third disappointment relates to the greater freedom being given
to secondary schools. I will never be convinced that schools can go
it alone. Schools need the local education authority. Fine, give
the schools three-year budgets, but acknowledge that some services
have to be delivered by LEAs. Also, some initiatives may not
succeed if left to individual institutions. Experience suggests
that if a school is asked to choose between an initiative with
parents and employing an extra teacher they will opt for the

There are also other concerns such as the role the voluntary sector
will play in supporting initiatives. Overall, I am pleased to see
the introduction of the five-year strategy, but it is full of
unresolved issues.

Phil Street is chief executive of ContinYou, a charity
dedicated to learning.

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