As you begin your role as Secretary of State for Education within this new government, ATL welcomes the opportunity to continue to share with you the wealth of experience and professionalism that our members have across all phases of education. ATL represents 170,000 dedicated and ambitious professionals who share a vision for a world class education system.
As a new government forms we want to take the opportunity to say that education matters. We want to work with you in your role developing and implementing education policy which will raise educational standards and promote teaching positively. ATL has a vision for an education system fit for the 21st century and workable alternatives to current policy, developed through our members' experiences in schools and colleges, such as our vision for school inspection.
These are difficult times for education. Our children and young people are under increasing pressure, caused primarily by intensive testing, and yet neither employers nor universities are convinced that this is preparing them for life after school. We are seeing the results of this pressure on children's mental health and well-being.
I believe that you will face a number of key challenges in your role.
The greatest of these will be the crisis in teacher recruitment. Children's education will suffer if we do not have enough qualified, experienced teachers.
Unfortunately, teachers are leaving the profession in droves, at a time when more children are entering the school system. As Secretary of State you will need to quickly get a grip on the training routes for teachers, as well as working towards making teaching a profession that people want to join. I recommend that you carry out a thorough evaluation of the School Direct programme which has failed to recruit trainee teachers and failed to provide high quality training in too many instances. I urge you to halt the decline in university-based teacher training courses which are high quality and, evidence shows, are markedly more successful in meeting their recruitment targets.
We know that excessive workload is a key reason for teachers leaving the profession. The Workload Challenge under the previous government identified the causes of increasing workload, and you will very quickly need to revisit those findings. Now is the time for you as the Secretary of State to talk to us to establish ways in which we can tackle unnecessary workload and make teaching a more attractive, rewarding profession. I am very pleased that you have already committed yourself to continuing your efforts to challenge the workload issue and look forward to further discussions on this most pressing professional problem.
One of the key causes of increased workload has been the ever-more punitive inspection system. ATL has consistently made the reasoned argument that fundamental change is needed to Ofsted, and our views have commanded widespread consensus from a range of commentators and education professionals. But we have gone further, and made very clear our proposals for a new, peer-led, supportive and rigorous system. As you consider ways to implement your Manifesto commitment to further reduce the burden of Ofsted inspections, I invite you to read our vision for inspection, and to discuss with us how we could work together to make this a reality.
Our members believe that an entitlement to high quality training appropriate to their current career stage and professional aspirations is the best way to achieve a self-sustaining education system which will provide the most effective education for children and young people. ATL is strongly committed to professional development for all education staff, as we demonstrate through our own successful CPD programme. I urge you to review the National College for Teaching and Leadership, which has failed in its role and remit, and needs radical revision of its aims, purpose and organisation.
I recognise that you will be operating within severe budgetary constraints. I am extremely concerned about the impact this will have on schools which have already been cut to the bone.
Above all teachers want to be treated as professionals. They want the autonomy to be able to determine their own work and the safe environment to try out innovative approaches to teaching.
We can meet the challenges facing the education sector better together because our members have, over the course of the coalition government's term of office, shared their knowledge with ATL about how coalition education policies impacted on students' experience and the profession's status.
I hope that you agree that we can meet these challenges better by working together. I will seek to arrange an early meeting with you.
Mary Bousted, ATL general secretary
You can also download a PDF of the letter here.