As discussed last week we certainly now have routine and rhythm in our working world. The summer break seems like such a long time ago. With the working days passing quickly, with the daylight getting shorter, with the weather being less predictable, it certainly feels autumnal at the moment.
Here in Rotherham we may not always want to turn our eyes towards Westminster – for a whole host of reasons. Yet this week the political upheaval of the Cabinet reshuffle has been felt in the Department for Education. Not only has the Secretary of State for Education, Gavin Williamson, been removed but, interestingly, the long-standing Minister for Schools and Standards, Nick Gibb (nine years in the post) has also been moved on. Whether we want to recognise it or not, those changes will have, very soon I would imagine, a significant impact upon the national government’s approach to education and, as a consequence, will have a profound impact upon how we work in schools and college.
Over the years, having watched the Secretary of State for Education come and go )I’m now on my seventh since I became a Head when I joined Oakwood it’s become clear to me that although in some cases the words do not change it is the tone and approach taken by the Secretary State for Education and/or Minister for Schools and Standards does and can have a profound impact upon how we work on a daily basis. It’s not necessarily the content of the policies; they are often open to some interpretation and there can be some influence applied to that content. It’s more about the tone of the Secretary of State and other ministers that has the most significant impact.
If we have a governmental team who believe in supporting education, schools and colleges; if we have politicians who talk in positive terms about teachers, other professionals and the work that we do; if we have leaders who recognise the talents and approach of the overwhelming majority of children and young people; we can build meaningful professional relationships which will result in an improved provision for all.
If we have national leaders who seem to take very little interest in or have knowledge of the state educational system; or see the role as an opportunity to make personal political capital by finding ways of attacking the teaching profession; or undermine the work and engagement of children and young people (‘lets’ tar them all with the same brush); or, to feed certain elements of our national press, suggest that everybody who lived through and went to school in the 1950s were better behaved, were brighter, were more polite …
I very much hope that our new Secretary of State for Education will be conscientious, consultative and committed to the state education system. The overwhelming majority of children and young people deserve that; the teaching profession deserves that; the other colleagues and professionals who work in schools and college deserve that; the wider community deserves that. The educational system will reflect the pronouncements and tone issued or set by the team in Westminster. I hope that our new Secretary of State and our new Education Minister Will take the opportunity to build bridges, rather than find opportunities to knock them down.
‘You win by working hard, making tough decisions and building coalitions.’ John Engler