Laws calls for a period of 'stability' in education

By Katherine Sellgren
BBC News education reporter in Manchester

image copyrightPA
image captionDavid Laws said schools needed stability after so much policy upheaval

A "significant period of stability" in schools should follow the coalition government's wide-ranging changes, says schools minister David Laws.

Under the coalition, England's schools face tougher inspections, changes to A-levels and GCSEs and a new curriculum.

Mr Laws said he and Education Secretary Michael Gove were now "very focused on delivery and implementation".

Speaking to teachers, Mr Laws said "excessive politicisation" in education should be avoided.

Addressing the annual conference of the Association of Teachers and Lecturers (ATL) in Manchester, Mr Laws, a Liberal Democrat, defended the coalition's programme of change.

He said that when a new government came into power after another had been in power for a long time, policy change was inevitable.

But he said all parties should now allow time for changes to take effect.


"Some politicians seek consensus, and others prefer their 'dividing lines'.

"They search out controversy and seek to perpetuate it.

"I think that consensus, and the policy stability that can come with consensus, is something worth pursuing, provided it is on the basis of effective policies which work."

He went on: "I accept that there is a balance to be struck between governments having the right to introduce new policies for which they have a democratic mandate, and the need to avoid an excessive politicisation of key aspects of education policy.

"I believe that after the significant changes in curricula, qualifications and systems of accountability, there is a very strong rationale for a significant period of stability to allow these changes to bed in.

"I hope that whatever the outcome of the May 2015 general election, parties will focus in these areas on implementation rather than further change. I certainly intend that my party should set out a commitment to much greater policy stability in our manifesto."

Some of his comments were interpreted by union delegates as a criticism of Mr Gove.

In her response to Mr Laws, general secretary of the ATL, Mary Bousted, said: "I know you seek consensus, unlike someone you work closely with, who has a preference for dividing lines."

But speaking to journalists after his speech, Mr Laws denied his comments were aimed at Mr Gove and insisted his coalition colleague had done a lot to take politics out of education.

"I think he [Mr Gove] has done some very good things to help depoliticise education," he said.

Qualified teachers

Mr Laws also told the ATL conference that teacher qualifications was one area where the coalition had differing views.

The Conservatives have made it possible for academies and free schools to appoint teaching staff who do not have qualified teacher status (QTS), but Mr Laws promised to make QTS a priority in the Liberal Democrat manifesto next year.

"My own view is that all teachers in all state funded schools should have QTS, or be working towards QTS.

"Teaching is, in my party's view, not just about subject knowledge but about knowledge of how to teach well."

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