Five areas of education the Tories have made worse

The government's education record is appalling, yet they are determined to continue with the doomed academy programme


The figures speak for themselves: 36 per cent of the schools that were rated ‘inadequate’ by Ofsted in 2012/13 had previously been rated ‘good’ or ‘outstanding’. There are 1.6 million children in England currently being educated in schools rated less than ‘good’. Here are some of the ways that the Conservatives have failed the education system:

1. Quality and supply of teachers

Currently around 400,000 children are being taught by unqualified teachers. This is after the government changed the law in 2012 to mean that ‘independent schools and free schools can already hire brilliant people who have not got qualified teacher status.’

The move was intended to give schools greater flexibility, but Labour argue that to raise standards in schools the focus must be on improving the quality of teaching; for this reason they will reinstate the teacher requirements that Cameron scrapped.

The government has also missed its teacher training target for three years in a row, and a record number of teachers – almost 50,000 – left the profession last year. This means that a teacher shortage crisis is now imminent.

2.  Oversight

As Left Foot Forward reported last week, the Public Accounts Committee have accused the Department of Education of having ‘significant gaps’ in their knowledge of school performance. For this reason, they are failing to intervene quickly enough when schools are failing; a lack of sufficient oversight has also been blamed for Birmingham’s ‘Trojan Horse’ scandal.

3. The attainment gap

In 2010, the Conservative Manifesto promised to ‘close the attainment gap between the richest and poorest’, but last week school league tables showed that the gap in attainment between disadvantaged children and their peers has widened for the second year running. Just one in three disadvantaged children (those eligible for free school meals) obtained five A* to C grades at GCSE, compared to 60.5 per cent of all students.

4. Free schools 

In September Cameron said that the creation of Free Schools would ‘drive up standards’. However, one third of those inspected so far have been rated ‘inadequate’ or ‘requires improvement’ by Ofsted, a much worse outlook than for all state-funded schools.

5. Class sizes

Since 2010, the number of infants being taught in classes of over 30 has risen by 200 per cent, hitting 93,665.

According to Labour:

“By focusing on pet-project Free Schools rather than the need for more primary school places, this government has created a crisis in school places, which is causing class sizes to soar and threatening standards.”

Commenting ahead of the prime minister’s speech today Kevin Courtney, deputy general secretary of the NUT, said:

“How much more evidence does the government need before it admits that its academy and free school programme has failed? It has failed on standards, failed on transparency, failed on accountability and failed to secure the trust of the public.

“It is a disgrace that the Government has allowed such a situation to develop and is turning a deaf ear to the serious concerns raised by such a wide range of people.

“It should turn its attention to the growing problem of insufficient school places, the drop in the number of applicants to train as a teacher and the fact that the number of teachers leaving the profession each year is at a 10-year high and has increased by 25 per cent since 2010.

“It is very clear that the academies and free schools programme has nothing to do with standards but everything to do with a privatisation agenda.

Ruby Stockham is a staff writer at Left Foot Forward. Follow her on Twitter

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12 Responses to “Five areas of education the Tories have made worse”

  1. Russell Haggar

    A good article . Just thought I’d mention I think you have a typo under Point 1 Labour are that …should be Labour argue that?

  2. Mike B

    The flawed government policy of ‘free’ schools and academies has been around for long enough to generate proper evidence based scrutiny. From what I have seen this has not shown the policy to be a success. Yet when are we to hear from any of the main stream media a proper analysis of the strengths/weaknesses of it. From my years in education it appeared that the most effective academies were those that maintained a strong link with the local authorities. In effect many were almost the same as LEA schools. As for the free schools I think they should go the same way as that other Tory flagship policy of the nineties the Grant Maintained schools and be scrapped. There is a long running emphasis in Conservative Party thinking that tries to reduce locally democratic accountability. This particularly shows when it comes to schools policy.

  3. Henry Page

    Dear Ruby

    With the greatest respect, you have missed one of the areas out: Special Educational Needs provision.

    I am currently attempting to get my Local Authority (LA) to send my child to a special school. My son has social and emotional difficulties as well as visual and auditory processing disorder which makes literacy and numeracy difficult.

    Halfway through my son’s case the government withdrew Legal Aid and instead offered Legal Help. This means that all you get for the most part is a raft of legal centres that have taken this work on but don’t have the detailed expertise that SEN solicitors have, Legal Help will not pay for expert witness attendance at the tribunal – what sort of help is that?

    I have been arguing with my LA for THREE YEARS now. I have had an Educational Psychologist tell me that the LA don’t send children to a particular school when they do. When I told her she said ‘oh, well they must have gone to the tribunal for that to happen’. My child’s school submitted an incorrect sample of my son’s work to the Appeal Panel as they supplied the panel with written work that he could not have done alone, when the panel had asked for a sample of his independent written work.

    It has been a nightmare to be honest and for what? To try and get my son, who has emotional and social difficulties, learning difficulties and a working memory problem, an education that is appropriate to his needs. If my son were physically disabled he would have to have a level playing field BY LAW, but because he has a mental disability means that he and those that care about him can be given the run around without anyone batting an eyelid.

    Bring back full Legal Aid for these children – they deserve it!

  4. JohnRich

    Gove will be looked back on as the best reforming Education Minsiter since Butler and his 1944 Act.

  5. steroflex

    Written from Australia: the problem in the free world is that any child can report any teacher (usually male) for sexcrime/ violent behaviour/ inappropriate thought, and be believed. The teacher has to be suspended and indeed often this can go on for a year. I think we have all seen the case of the head who, falsely accused, waited a year for justice. Nothing, of course, was done to the little cherub who reported him.
    Teachers know the boot is on the foot of their pupils who are now forced to sit in class until their late teens when they ought to be out working. Haven’t you seen Breaking Bad?
    Until this problem is dealt with, Primary Schools will consist entirely of women and Secondary Schools will go the same way too. That will be disastrous for a number of reasons – especially for working class boys. Schools need a balanced staff.
    The LibCons have no policy on all this as far as I can see: what does the Labour Party plan to do about it?

  6. steroflex

    I tried to start a free school. Silly me! I thought you could choose the staff, the place, the Head, the curriculum and the pupils. I also thought you could choose the ethos. What a hope! All done from the caring and sharing Mr Isaacs and rubber stamped by Mrs Gupta at Westminster. He never actually visited us, but he knew everything.

  7. Leon Wolfeson

    So to you, “best” means “does the most amount of damage”. I see.

    You’re churning out kids who have one skill – rote memorisation. Universities are going to be calling for four-year degrees soon, since we’re wasting FAR too much time teaching basic skills like group work and research.

    And Gove’s blight will make things far worse. Not to mention slashing the breadth of study which is going to bite the UK so badly in the backside.

  8. Kenny Carwash

    Incorrect. In about a year’s time, he’ll be exposed for the egomaniacal charlatan he is as his lack of joined-up policymaking leaves secondary education in chaos.

  9. Antieduspiv

    Add to these failings the privatisation of local authority education (academy chains) and a further weakening of local democracy, increasing reports from all over England of instances of financial mismanagement in academies (check Anti Academies Alliance website) and the introduction of selection by the back door (academies are their own admissions authorities, reported in The Independent recently), not to mention the protection of academy chains’ business interests from Ofsted scrutiny by Gove appointee Lord Nash (himself a director of a chain). In addition, there is every chance that the 1944 Butler act will be axed, so local authorities will have no mandatory responsibility to provide all children with some form of education. In addition this could trash SEN provision and support, usually provided by LAs, even in areas where academies predominate.

  10. Leon Wolfeson

    You expected to have a free hand with the Tories moralist/stateist approach? Sorry, but…heh.

  11. write my essay online

    Well, those things that needs to be present and be implemented in a school. Proper implementation on these things can boost their probability in helping their students effectively in terms of learning in providing them the knowledge that they need.

  12. Steve Locke

    I think they have made more than 5 areas worse!

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