This policy was passed by Left Unity’s national conference on 14-15 November 2014.
Framework Policy Statement on Education
Pre-amble – The problem with the current system
Education is under threat internationally from the values and practices of free market capitalism. This varies across the UK, but is most severe in England’s education system which pits school against school, parent against parent, the wealthy against the poor, and child against child, all under the myth of ‘choice’. The choice only really applies to some families and is linked to the idea of league tables and “winners and losers”.
These values are endemic in society and the education system is only one means of driving them forwards.
This driving force is a result of the competitive nature of capitalism itself i.e. the false notion that we must concentrate on the highest fliers in an academic sense or die a death in the struggle to survive in the global market.
Some of the major effects within the Education System are:
The chronic under- funding, and misuse of funding, of an essential service (Britain is ranked 54th in the world in terms of its education spending as a share of GDP).
The narrowing down and central control of the curriculum at the cost of the joy in creativity and self directed learning.
The relentless recourse to testing, labeling and ranking of both pupils and their teachers. League tables have forced schools to concentrate on examination results or risk take-over or closure.
The lifelong sense of failure engendered in children who are being asked to perform academically before they are developmentally ready.
The exclusion of less academically able children because they will bring down the schools results in the national league tables. A disproportionate number of these permanent and fixed term exclusions, legal and illegal, are of disabled children, children with ‘SEN ‘, and those who are male and black.
Young people who excel at non-academic subjects being seen as second class, or ‘failures’, reinforcing classism.
The undermining of hard won gains in good inclusive practice, including for children with high-level support needs who find they are being pushed back into segregated provision or even left with no provision at all.
The social divisiveness of independent schools, or schools which are not part of mainstream Community provision including Academies, Free Schools, Special Schools and Faith Schools
The privatization and centralization of educational provision leading to the loss of democratic planning and control through elected Local Authorities
The loss of excellent Authority Wide Services and specialist support teams.
Left Unity Statement of Principles – One System for All
Education is a fundamental human right. It empowers and informs individuals and allows them to develop to their full potential. It is also a source of creativity, innovation, understanding, discovery and design that are of immeasurable value to society as a whole. It is therefore a prerequisite for any genuinely democratic society.
In order to bring this vision into practice we support the principle of lifelong learning: that learning and the development of understanding is a process that takes place throughout life to the benefit of the individual and society at large. Such learning and the development of understanding should follow the interests, questioning and desires of individuals and groups. This takes place in everyday experience as well as in organised settings.
The role of the state is to facilitate this process by funding and otherwise enabling the provision of education pathways, systems of flexible accreditation and early years foundational skills that enable people to become confident, independent and able to make a contribution to the advancement of learning in their chosen areas of study. The state should ensure that the resource of electronically available knowledge and learning is not dominated by the interests of profit seeking organisations and remains an open and available for the public good. Moreover, the state has to ensure that electronic resources are a supplement and not a substitute for learning relations between students and tutors.
Lifelong learning covers all institutional support from home, early years, compulsory, further and higher education as well as other support as required.
As a start this policy proposal deals with early years and school provision and it is recognised that further development is required to fulfil the wider aims.
It is essential for the long term future of humanity and to some extent all of life on earth, that we raise young people who are in touch with their own humanity, that of other people, the natural world upon which we depend, and who are able to think for themselves, work cooperatively and direct their own learning. It is also a crucial element that any new education system must be based on promoting happiness and well being in students, as part of our fight for a better world.
We believe in the principle of a public, universal, transparent and locally accountable system of education, in which all young people are equally valued, regardless of social background or supposed potential. Education should no longer be dependent on money, class or influence and every family must have access to high-quality neighborhood schools. Therefore Left Unity proposes a radically different system of schooling – not simply a return to the comprehensive system of before, but a truly universal, democratic and inspirational education system that caters for the needs of every learner.
Be provided free at the point of delivery.
Be a place where all pupils feel welcomed and valued.
Be an integral part of the local community, fostering shared cultural values and aspirations.
Provide a range of learning challenges through a variety of teaching styles and learning experiences designed to help pupils of all abilities to become autonomous learners, who can arrive at their own view of the world, take control of their own lives and be active global citizens.
Attend to the emotional development, well being and health of all children
Ensure fair and open access to a good inclusive local school for all children regardless of their special needs and circumstances, using a transparent admissions process without recourse to testing or selection.
Employ governance and management systems based on principles of local democratic accountability and a spirit of mutual respect, co-operation and partnership between parents, staff, governors and the elected representatives of the local community.
Continue its benefits into adult life through free and accessible Further and Higher Education.
Left Unity Policy on Education
State Education needs to be adequately funded and free at the point of use up to and including university level. On this basis:
1. Left Unity will decide our funding policy in relation to our overall economic policy which would direct a far larger proportion of our common wealth to our common ‘goods’, including education.
2. All Academy and Free School Funding Agreements will be rescinded.
3. Academies and Free Schools, removed from the control of private organisations, will be fully integrated within a single, statutory model of school governance, and funded by Local Authorities according to a national formula.
4. LAs will act as the admissions authority and seek to establish a balanced intake in all schools
About a third of state-funded schools are now “faith” establishments, and in some areas they are the only schools available. New “faith” schools are opening all the time, thanks mainly to the current Government’s free schools programme, whilst up to two thirds of all young people in Britain do not follow any organized religion.
According to research by the British Humanist Association religious schools are the most racially segregated, suggesting that the majority of state-funded Sikh, Muslim and Hindu schools have no “white British” pupils.
Left Unity believes that this trend is exacerbating racism, and can only further dangerous divisions within society. The purpose of education is to help all young people develop their powers of critical thinking and that the education system should therefore be secular.
5. Left Unity would withdraw State Funding from schools or colleges which exclusively promote any one religious belief system, including Christianity, or require such establishments to have an open, secular enrollment.
At the same time Left Unity believes that education about religions in an increasingly diverse school system serving a multi-cultural society is of great importance. ‘Faith’ is sometimes deeply related to identity, culture and politics.
As such we would include the study of diverse religious traditions as part of the appropriate curricula: History, Geography, Economics, Philosophy, etc
LU believes that private schools are divisive institutions, forming the bedrock of the British Class System, resulting in the elitism and privilege of a small minority of people at the cost of the majority. LU will therefore:
6. End the charitable status of fee-charging schools.
Staff who work in the education sector have chosen to employ their talents for the benefit of young people and in most cases, regard this as a vocation rather than just a job. We believe this dedication should be recognised by ensuring fair pay and good quality terms and conditions for all education staff. LU will ensure that:
8. Pay will be determined through national negotiations and not on a ‘performance’ basis. We support equal pay and conditions of service across the entire spectrum of teaching institutions including the chronically underpaid sector of Early Years,
9. We will preserve and improve the public-sector pension schemes which apply to permanent and supply teachers and Support Staff.
We will return to locally funded supply pools of teachers.
10. Professional training for teachers will be extended, with an emphasis on inclusive teaching.
11. The key leadership role of Higher Education Institutions will be established in initial and further teacher training.
Planning and Governance
12. All state-funded schools will operate under the local authority umbrella, which will include trade union and teaching association representatives, and will be responsible for planning the overall provision in their area ranging from providing a sufficiency of school places and Admissions Policies to School Transport.
13. The LA would need to resource and engage with the following Forums established by LU:
Local Education Forums
Bodies which brings together parents, local residents and community organisations with staff and school students in a local learning community.
An Authority-Wide Education Forum
A place at the level of the local authority as a whole where representatives of parents, teachers, support staff, other professionals, school governors, and members of the local community can come together to discuss and take positions on key issues of education policy and practice. It would include elected representatives of the Local Education Forums.
LU will listen to and learn from the many early years professionals who have come together in campaigns such as the ‘Save Childhood Movement’ motivated by the increasing concern about the developmentally inappropriate pressure put on young children by the drive to compete in the current economic system. In accord with our overarching statement LU will promote:
14. Children’s centers providing family support, adult education, specialist services such as therapeutic play and health services from conception to school age.
15. Programmes that help children develop relationships and communication skills.
16. Full or part time State Nursery School Education up to the age of 6 with emphasis on play-based learning and outdoor activities.
17. High ratios of adults to children, led by qualified teachers. Schools will be inclusive, and progressive pedagogies will be evaluated and encouraged.
Much research and creativity needs to be directed by Left Unity as to the details of secondary and further education. For example we will explore the benefits of the work of the Human Scale Education Movement which has successfully created small, friendly schools within existing schools for secondary aged pupils. These help build community and empowerment amongst young people and better relationships with their teachers. Our policy will be built around the basic agreed framework of values outlined in our Statement of Principles:
18. We will not divide academic from ‘non academic’ study at any age, but rather aim to provide a broad and diverse curriculum with increasing opportunities for specialisms for those pupils who wish to develop a particular interest, aptitude or talent.
19. We will study and develop evaluation systems, including public examinations, which will reflect the achievements of all. This study will include a re-examination of the principles of the 2004 Tomlinson Report which recommended an over-arching and modular assessment system for ages 14-19.
20. All young people will be entitled to free, Inclusive Field Trips and School Journeys
Further and Higher (Life-Long) Education
Everyone will be entitled to:
21. A voluntary year of funded voluntary service, in the UK or overseas.
22. Up to six years free Further and Higher Education to include a living grant
Left Unity does not believe in an all encompassing, state controlled curriculum, but does however believe we need a core entitlement curriculum around which teachers can teach flexibly, and which has room for development and innovation. We will:
23. Replace the National Curriculum with an advisory Core Curriculum and consult widely amongst professionals, parents and pupils on a replacement curriculum.
24. End constant assessment, testing and grading of students and replace with a nationally agreed set of assessment tools that move beyond booklet examinations and give all students and teachers a range of ways to express their progress.
25. Reinstate and upgrade the Arts, recognising their crucial importance for the development of creativity and thinking skills, and for their therapeutic potential for children who are suffering trauma, loss or communication difficulties
Pupils with Additional Needs *see Appendix 1
The struggle for Inclusive education has been at the heart of the Disability Movement for over 25 years. It also goes to the heart of the values of comprehensive education and the socialist agenda.
Our policy in Left Unity towards this inherited dual system will be embedded within our wider policies, particularly the disbanding of the competitive National League Tables and associated Testing in favour of a collaborative system based on mutual support and planned provision for all. This will remove the pressure to exclude children who do not perform well enough.
We recognize that new and more effective strategies need to be developed to help both pupils and staff with issues of violence or inappropriate behaviours in school regardless of whether they arise from impairment or distress.
We recognise also that many problems which lead to learning or behavioural difficulties at school are caused by social inequality, such as poverty and homelessness, which can only be addressed by better economic and social policies, not through education alone.
26. All schools will have an open admission policy towards any local child who wishes to attend, without prejudice or discrimination, and will be expected to operate with the guidelines of the Equalities Act, making ‘reasonable adjustments’ where necessary.
27. Mainstream schools will be funded to support the expected range of needs in any general population, and will be further funded to support children with high level support needs through a Statement, or the new Health and Social Care Plan. Any financial disincentives to admit pupils with Special Educational Needs will be removed.
28. Local Authorities will reinstate and develop their peripatetic support services, making specialist expert advice and support available to all schools free of charge. This will include the Educational Psychology Service, Behaviour Support Teams, the Visually Impaired and Hearing Impaired services, physiotherapists, speech and language therapists, technology advisors, and advisory teachers.
29. Teachers and children will be supported by well-trained Teaching Assistants who have job security and a career path if desired.
30. Statutory Teacher Training will take into account the expectation of inclusive classrooms, include modules on Disability History and Equality, and will promote and develop best practice in mixed-ability teaching. .
31. We will plan a gradual but timetabled, phasing out of Special Schools and Colleges, taking into account the fact that many such placements are made for social rather than educational reasons, and will require much greater levels of family support to be put in place.
32. We will ratify the UN Convention of Rights of Disabled Persons, Article 24, which guarantees the right to an inclusive education for all.
Accountability and Monitoring
33. Pupils, schools and teachers will not be ranked against each other but institutions as a whole will be evaluated against a nationally accepted framework of good practice and young people’s rights.
34. Ofsted will be dissolved and replaced by a rigorous but constructive accountability framework under the democratic authority of trade unions and teaching associations.
35. The new Inspection Service will be fully versed in good inclusive practice, able to monitor its quality and offer advice and support to help make improvements. The achievements of all children will be celebrated equally.
Careers Advice and Support
36. LU will build much more support for young school leavers of the kind once offered by the Youth Service, the Careers Advice Service and Connexions.
We recognize that supplementary schools can play an important part in transmitting the traditions and cultures of specific communities within the wider secular culture of Britain and our policies would not preclude such schools, funded by religious bodies and parents, to co-exist outside of the school week. (e.g. Saturday Schools or Forest schools)
Supporting Current Campaigns
37. LU will support all current and future campaigns which are in accord with our Statement of Principles and will help move the Education System in the direction of our developing policy. This would include ‘Unhurried Pathways’ (Early Childhood Action) ‘The Primary Charter’,(NUT, (+) ,Socialist Teachers Association) ‘Picking Up The Pieces’ (CASE) and the ‘Manifesto for Inclusive Education’ (Alliance for Inclusive Education), Anti Academies Alliance
Inclusive Education is a struggle founded on the belief that social relationships are at least as important as academic achievement for a future life of meaning and purpose. Segregated ‘Special’ schools, inevitably break the relationships between disabled and so called ‘normal’ young people, to the impoverishment of all.
The roots of segregated provision are buried in the murky past of Eugenics. The working class were understood to be of inferior genetic stock to that of their rulers, leading to a weaker intellect, low and fixed IQ, weaker minds and bodies, and weaker morals with inherent criminal tendencies. It was a pseudo-scientific theory to support the elitism of the owning class, who invented it all. These false ideas still underpin the classism and elitism endemic in our current system.
One modern day incarnation of Eugenics is hidden behind a mask of respectability and ‘kindness’ called the Medical Model of Disability and Behaviour. This identifies the impairments themselves as the problem needing to be fixed, requiring an army of well paid and respected professionals to try and make such children more ‘normal’. The underlying motive is financial – to make such people less dependent on the State as adults. This model leaves society itself unchanged – i.e. able to pursue its capitalist agenda.
Since 1981 and the Warnock Report which resulted in individual support being made available to disabled children in mainstream schools, enormous progress has been made in the field of inclusive education. Although best practice is still patchy and somewhat dependent on a committed Head Teacher to lead the way for her/his school, there is now much documented evidence that inclusion works. Many young disabled adults are living supported lives in the mainstream, of a quality which was deemed impossible in the past. The current generation of young non-disabled people are far less prejudiced towards disabled people who may now be their friends and colleagues.
Left Unity will explore the creation of a new position within schools and colleges called ‘The Inclusion Assistant’ who give individual support to children and young people with High Level Support Needs including those who are non-verbal or who depend on technology to live, learn and communicate. The skills involved in this role will be recognised and rewarded financially. Their training will involve the Disability Movement as well as individual families and the children themselves.
Education, Equality and Care
Children should also be encouraged within the education system and by specially trained teachers, to be considerate of others, to be caring in their relationships with others, and to be community conscious.
The recent period (since the Thatcher era) has seen an emphasis on individuality to the detriment of people’s commitment to and responsibility for their fellow human beings and their communities.
The education system should become an important means of re-introducing into our society the ideas of care and compassion, through classroom discussions and examples being led by suitably trained teaching staff.
That inclusive age-appropriate sex and relationship education should be delivered by specially trained teachers to children and young people throughout their time in schools and colleges. This needs to address the commercialisation of sex in pornography and the wider culture and the objectification of people particularly women and girls. It should provide opportunities for pupils to critically engage with these issues and to understand consent and the pitfalls of social media and trends such as sexting. This is vital in the context where young women in particular are being subjected to unprecedented levels of sexual bullying and where rape remains a live issue. These issues should also be an integral part of the mainstream curriculum where relevant (eg history, literature, the arts, science…).
That all those working in education should be given regular training to enable them to respond appropriately to bullying including that based on racism, islamaphobia, misogyny, homophobia, biphobia, transphobia and humiliation of those with physical or mental impairments.
That it is also important that all those working in education are covered by policies protecting them from discrimination on the grounds above and that appropriate action is taken against perpetrators of such discrimination be they other workers, governors, students, parents or others
That the celebration of events such Black History Month (http://www.blackhistorymonth.org.uk/), Roma Gypsy Traveller History Month (http://grthm.natt.org.uk/} Disability History Month (http://ukdisabilityhistorymonth.com/), LGBT History Month (http://lgbthistorymonth.org.uk/), Women’s’ History Month (http://www.alternativearts.co.uk/womens-history-month/4581216304), International Women’s Day (http://www.internationalwomensday.com/) and International Workers’ Day should be important parts of the education year in schools and colleges.
Left Unity is active in movements and campaigns across the left, working to create an alternative to the main political parties.
Events and protests from around the movement, and local Left Unity meetings.
Saturday 25th November
Trump: Nuclear Apocalypse or New Cold War?
Leeds Swarthmore Centre at 2pm with Kate Hudson, General Secretary, CND. The threat of nuclear war is at its highest level since the Cold War. What can socialists do to stop it? facebook here
Saturday 25th November
Discussing Catalan self-determination
South London Left Unity discussion, also talking about the future of the left outside the Labour Party: 1- 4pm, Camberwell Library, Camberwell Green London SE5 7AL. All welcome.
Saturday 2 December
Latin America Conference 2017
TUC Congress House London at 9.15am: With countries across Latin America facing a resurgent right and the threat of intervention from Trump, this year’s Latin America Conference will be the most crucial yet. More info here
Sign up to the Left Unity email newsletter.
Get the latest Left Unity resources.