School heads call for slow-down in pace of change

Pupils in class Schools in England have seen fast-paced changes under Mr Gove

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Many parents think their children's education is being harmed by the pace and extent of change in England's schools, a survey suggests.

The poll for the National Association of Head Teachers indicates 73% of parents oppose schools being pressured to implement initiatives rapidly.

The NAHT, which is holding its annual conference in Birmingham, is calling for the pace of change to be slowed.

The government said teachers had more control thanks to its reforms.

Education Secretary Michael Gove says he makes no apology for the pace of change.

The poll of 1,018 parents of school-age children in England, Wales and Northern Ireland also suggests most would prefer politicians to leave choices over education to the teachers.

'At the same time'

The union's general secretary Russell Hobby said most school leaders recognised the need for reform but wanted it to be planned well in advance, focused on the areas of greatest need and scheduled sensibly throughout a parliamentary term.

"Government initiatives would get more support and better implementation if they appeared to be better planned," he said.

"By autumn this year, schools will have introduced new safeguarding advice in staff recruitment, ensured their practices are complying with new freedom of information policies, made decisions on new pay policies, adopted new codes of practice for special needs pupils, introduced an entire new curriculum, redesigned assessment and ensured that every primary school is ready to offer free school meals to infants regardless of existing kitchen facilities.

"Many will also be building new classrooms to meet pupil demand or keeping up with Ofsted's changing guidelines. Some of these new initiatives are sensible ideas, but all at the same time?"

NAHT members are also calling for a future government to create an Office of Education Responsibility to ensure any reforms are thoroughly thought-through and checked against evidence about what works.

Mr Hobby added: "A stable five-year plan of action, with a few key reforms each year, would win wider support and would result in far greater impact."

'Right choices'

A Department for Education spokeswoman said: "We agree that politicians should trust the profession to make the right choices for pupils. That is why our academies and free schools programme is taking away power from politicians and giving it to heads and teachers who know the children's names.

"Thanks to our reforms, teachers now have more control over what goes on in the classroom and much greater powers to ensure good behaviour and tough discipline."

The DfE questioned some of the figures, suggesting that they may have relied on "leading questions".

The spokeswoman also pointed out that the survey included respondents from Wales and Northern Ireland where education policy is devolved so these respondents would have drawn their opinions from policy made by the devolved governments.

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