From education to employment

Edexcel MD discusses a potential Tory education reform

Jerry Jarvis is managing director of Edexcel

As we draw ever closer to an inevitable general election next year you can expect a stream of crowd-pleasing initiatives and policies to be launched. The Conservatives, however, face the difficult dilemma of reforming education under funding restraints caused by the recession.

Despite this, David Cameron has declared a passion for education. “It is a complete passion of mine and something that is a huge priority for an incoming Conservative Government to get right,” he told The Daily Telegraph in February. He has also indicated that his first Queen’s Speech would include an Education Bill on school standards. With the Swedish school model being mentioned so many times in Conservative speeches over recent months, it will surely feature somewhere in an early reform Paper.

In August, Michael Gove stated: “A Conservative Government will create a free online library of all exam papers and scripts so there is full transparency and academic scrutiny of our exam system.” He is not clear how this will ensure standards however, or who is going to do the significant amount of work involved in collating materials all the way back to Victorian times.What is clear, is that the Conservatives are going to make standards one of their educational priorities. Mr Gove has already openly ridiculed many supposed past exam questions, and will want to be seen to be tough on standards. It remains to be seen what role, if any, the regulator Ofqual will play in his plans, or whether it will be piled on the ‘bonfire of quangos’. Interestingly, the Conservatives have suggested creating an independent body to ensure school tests are amongst “the most rigorous in the world”.

Other priorities the Conservatives have muted include giving teachers greater disciplining powers. Ensuring that every school is setting and streaming pupils and tailoring teaching to need. As well as reforming literacy and numeracy so that no child leaves school illiterate; and restoring prestige to the teaching profession, with hints about the need for better training and support.

These initiatives are all very noble, but are also very ambitious, they will take some time to implement and will involve working with many people in the education industry who historically might not have had a relationship with the Conservatives. With the Party currently ahead in the polls, and victory looking increasingly likely, the education community will undoubtedly be watching and waiting to see how their plans develop.

Jerry Jarvis is managing director of Edexcel, the UK’s largest awarding body

Read other FE News articles by Jerry Jarvis:

Edexcel’s Jerry Jarvis speaks results

Government bodies must have clear remits if the system is to work, warns Edexcel

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