Commenting on the Leader of the Opposition’s speech to Labour Party Conference, Dr Mary Bousted, joint general secretary of the National Education Union, said:
"Labour have understood that any Government serious about education needs both a strategy to reduce child poverty and a strategy on boosting schools' capacity to serve every local child.
"We also know that excellent education needs to recruit and retain well-qualified teachers, support staff and leaders. Education staff also need a pay rise and to be paid fairly, reversing the unprecedented real terms pay cuts of the 10 years which have in turn contributed to the teacher shortages facing schools. Currently a third of teachers leave the profession within five years; so it is right that Labour plans to increase recruitment. If, however, they are serious about also increasing opportunities for continual professional learning for those already in the profession, the plan must also address the amount and intensity of workload faced by teachers.
"Unfortunately, it is Ofsted that drives unnecessary workload. There is little evidence that it accurately reflects the quality of education a school provides, and its judgements appear to be systematically biased against schools in deprived areas. Ofsted is not the agency that can drive an effective strategy for school improvement, and this discredited body needs to be replaced rather than reformed.
"Any attempt to support schools which are struggling needs to be based on addressing the challenges on the ground – stabilising staff retention, reducing class size, and funding for proper collaboration between local schools, in place of competition.
"Coming out of Covid, this is the time for innovative ideas and proper evaluation of what's needed. In education we've got to build collaboration and co-operation across the education service to retain and motivate staff and ensure all young people can get on. Getting the right funding for education recovery and child mental health remains a big issue.
"We want any Government to work in partnership with the education profession and to understand the expertise in the profession. School improvement comes from talking with the profession about the barriers facing young people – which include a lack of funding, poverty, gaps in SEND services and rising class sizes.”