Global update: Political fallout will reach education

Change, as they say, is inevitable. But as we go through power shifts at the highest tiers of government, we owe it to our children to ensure this doesn’t adversely impact their education.

It is interesting to note that the changes to the leadership and correspondingly the policy of the governments in the countries in which we improve our schools continues to be in a state of flux. In our last global update, Mike Dubeau, Director General of the Western Quebec School Board, reported how he was progressing in establishing an effective working relationship with the new Minister of Education for the English sector in Quebec. Meanwhile Mats Rosenkvist, CEO of Successful Schools Sweden, reported that education was to be a hot topic in the forthcoming Swedish elections. In this post, we hear how changes to the political landscape in Jersey and the United Kingdom could impact our education systems.

Jersey

Our correspondent in Jersey, Jenny Posner, the newly appointed Headteacher of the Samarès School, a 250 mixed pupil, reception to year six primary school on the island, writes that a significant number of new politicians joined the States Assembly following the recent Jersey Government elections.

Articles in the local media reported that there has been an increase in the diversity of the elected States members, including a rise to 43 per cent of the elected candidates being women. These include the first female Chief Minister in Jersey, Deputy Kristina Moore, who was elected on July 5.  The Minister for Children and Education did not stand in this election and another female Minister was appointed. Deputy Inna Gardiner was voted in at the beginning of July 2022.

Currently, there is a Government programme for primary schools, where all Year 5 children in Jersey visit the States Chamber to learn about the process of Government. This includes the children conducting a live debate in the States Chamber.

Jersey Children’s Day was celebrated on July 3, which is a ‘day to remember the past and look forward to the future.’ Jersey Children’s Day was created around recommendations from the Jersey Care Inquiry. Unlike the previous two years when Covid restrictions applied, this year thousands of people attended events at two local parks, with free activities, games and music. Local schools created totem poles which were displayed at the event, promoting the UN convention for the Rights of the Child.

The Education Reform Programme continues to move at pace. The first Language Policy for all Government schools and colleges has recently been launched as part of the major reform of Jersey’s education system. This highlights support for learners with English as an additional language (EAL) as an area for improvement. You can watch more by clicking here.

England

In the United Kingdom, Boris Johnson has resigned as Prime MInister and currently the Conservative party is going through the process of electing a replacement leader.  As responsibility for education is delegated to the four countries which make up Great Britain, this only impacts the leadership of education in England.

In the lead-up to his resignation, there was considerable political upheaval with the then incumbent Secretary of State for Education, Nadhim Zahawi, becoming the Chancellor of the Exchequer on July 5. However, less than 48 hours later he publicly called for Boris Johnson to resign. He had led the Department for Education since 2021, having previously successfully led the government’s drive to acquire sufficient vaccines to stem the spread of Covid.

He was replaced as Secretary of State for Education by James Cleverly MP on July 7. He was previously Minister of State (Minister for Europe and North America) in the Foreign, Commonwealth & Development Office (FCDO) from February 8 to July 7. In addition, at a parochial level we were pleased to invite him to speak on several occasions to students and staff at Ravens Wood School.

The leadership contest is to be concluded within the next few days and though education policy, apart from a call from some to increase the number of grammar schools and thus selection has not played a major role in the contest it is unlikely that business as usual will be the outcome.


It is worth repeating that all of this political change in personnel, which more often than not is followed with a change in policy as they put their stamp on things, is in stark contrast to the long-term approach most often required to generate improvement in our schools.

We are supported in this observation by the Kinsey Report on education titled: How the world’s most improved school systems keep getting better, published November 1, 2010 and authored by Michael Barber, Chinezi Chijioke, and Mona Mourshed. In this, they reported that their long-term research spanning 5-7 years found that consistent strategic leadership was an essential characteristic of improved school systems.

Sir Micheal Barber, whilst Chief Adviser to the Secretary of State for Education on School Standards (1997-2001), was an early supporter of our work and later, as the founder and first head of the Prime Minister’s Delivery Unit under Tony Blair, he supported the foundation of London Challenge, which spurned our work on Teaching Schools.

We would like to thank all our correspondents and in particular Jenny Posner for their contributions. With only our colleagues in England and Wales still to commence their summer holidays, most of our readers are hopefully having a well-earned rest with the remainder about to join them.

Take care and stay safe.

George

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