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What Should Bridget Phillipson Focus on in Her First 100 Days as Education Secretary?









Bridget Phillipson, the newly appointed Education Secretary, brings a unique perspective to her role. Born in Gateshead in 1983, she is one of the youngest to hold this position at 40 years old. She was educated in state schools and received free school meals as a pupil. As an Oxford graduate and MP since 2010, Phillipson's experience in local government and charity work, combined with her personal educational journey, could shape a positive vision for education. From her personal experiences, let's hope she is someone who understands the problems, will listen to educators and the issues they face, and make some very brave decisions that will make the positive changes our education system needs.

 

Key Issues for the New Education Minister to Tackle in the First 100 Days

 

1. Ofsted Reform

One of the most pressing issues for Bridget Phillipson is the reform of Ofsted. The current inspection system has faced significant criticism for its high-stakes nature and the stress it places on school staff. A recent survey found that 73% of staff thought inspections were not fit for purpose, and 71% believed inspections negatively impact their mental health and wellbeing. Phillipson should prioritise rebuilding trust between Ofsted and the educational community by implementing changes recommended by the Education Committee and ensuring greater transparency and support for schools during inspections.

 

2. Funding

School funding remains a critical concern. While the core school's budget in England is set to be about £60 billion in 2024-25, this figure does not fully account for the rising costs faced by schools, which outpace general inflation. A recent report by the National Foundation for Educational Research (NFER) highlighted that experienced teachers' pay was 11% lower in real terms in 2023/24 compared to 2010/11, despite the 6.5% increase. Phillipson must address this funding shortfall to ensure schools can meet their operational needs without compromising on quality.

 

3. Teacher Workload, Mental Well-being, and Recruitment Crisis

The teaching profession is facing a severe crisis. The latest NFER report predicts that secondary recruitment will miss its target by about 40% in 2024, with 10 out of 17 secondary subjects likely to have shortfalls. Additionally, 78% of teachers report that their workload levels are significant, with 10% stating that high workload is a perpetual problem. Phillipson should prioritise initiatives that reduce administrative burdens on teachers and provide robust mental health support, as 88% of teachers and leaders report experiencing stress in their work. In response to these challenges, Phillipson has already announced a recruitment drive to secure 6,500 new teachers, financed by raising taxes on public schools. This initiative aims to address the shortage and bring fresh talent into the profession. However, while recruiting new teachers is crucial, the key to solving the problem lies in retaining the highly experienced teachers we already have. Phillipson must focus on creating conditions that encourage these valuable educators to remain in the profession, ensuring a stable and knowledgeable workforce for the future.

 

 

4. Curriculum Reform

The current curriculum must evolve to meet the demands of the modern world. A recent report by the Education Committee has called for an urgent review of the curriculum to expand financial education. With the advent of AI and increasing calls for financial literacy education, Phillipson has the opportunity to spearhead a curriculum review that ensures students are equipped with relevant skills for the future.

 

5. Behaviour Management in Secondary Schools

Behavioural issues, particularly in secondary schools, are a growing concern. Recent data shows that only 49% of teachers rated pupil behaviour as 'very good' or 'good' compared to 58% in 2022. Phillipson should work with educational leaders to develop and implement policies that address behavioural problems, providing support and training for teachers to manage classrooms effectively.

 

6. Pay and Conditions for Support Staff

Support staff play a vital role in the functioning of schools, yet their pay and conditions often do not reflect their contributions. The latest pay offer for support staff includes an increase of £1,290 (pro rata for part-time employees) on all NJC pay points. However, this equates to just a 5.77% increase for the lowest paid, which may not be sufficient given the current cost of living crisis. Phillipson should advocate for fair compensation and better working conditions to ensure that support staff are valued and supported in their roles.

 

Conclusion

Bridget Phillipson's first 100 days as Education Secretary will be pivotal in setting the tone for her role. By addressing these key issues, she can make significant strides in improving the education system. Changes which are essential for ensuring a better future for students and educators alike, and for creating a more equitable and effective educational landscape.

 

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