Shadow education secretary Bridget Phillipson has said the government should not “micro-manage” the books teachers use in classrooms.
Speaking at NAHT’s annual headteachers’ conference in Telford, she said there was an ‘irony’ that the government was seeking to remove politics from the classroom while telling teachers which books to teach .
“I think we need a curriculum that inspires and supports every young person…I think kids should expect to see their lives, their communities, their experiences reflected in that,” he said. she declared.
“I think it’s not for secretaries of state to dictate which books should or shouldn’t be taught in a school. I think you all have the expertise and professionalism to do that,” he said. -she adds.
Speaking after her address to school leaders, Ms Phillipson said she did not believe ‘it is not the role of the Secretary of State to micromanage the books teachers choose to teach in the classroom and that “government attention will be better focused on what is within their immediate control, such as putting in place an appropriate children’s recovery plan that allows all of our children to catch up on that lost learning.”
“Too often ministers seem obsessed with smaller issues that… don’t reflect the concerns of most parents,” she said.
Earlier this month, Nadhim Zahawi said children were not “snowflakes” and should be allowed to read books containing racial slurs.
Mr Zahawi warned against creating “fake filters” for students, saying “those in positions of responsibility should be teaching young minds how to think, not what to think”.
Speaking to the Telegraph’s Chopper’s Politics podcast, the Education Secretary was asked whether children should be able to read racial slurs such as those contained in Harper Lee’s To Kill A Mockingbird.
He replied: “Totally. I think it’s really important for kids to be able to be curious…to figure out where this stuff came from, rather than (where you) create these kind of fake filters for them.”
The government’s guidelines on political impartiality in schools, published in February, suggested that British Empire teaching should be presented “in a balanced way”.
Reform plans for Ofsted
Addressing conference delegates, Ms Phillipson also explained how Labor plans to reform Ofsted.
She said it was time for ‘Ofsted to turn a corner’, and said there should be ‘a clearer focus on schools that need support to improve’.
She said schools needed inspections “where the intensity of the experience is reasonable and proportionate, which direct headteachers and teachers to the support they need to improve, which consider of the general context of schools and recognize when progress is being made, and who celebrate what is great as well as identify what is not.”
The comments were similar to those made at the National Education Union conference earlier this month.
At the event, Ms Phillipson’s remarks angered some delegates, who began shouting that Ofsted was ‘not welcome’.
White paper “devoid of ideas”
Speaking about the white paper and the SEND review, Ms Phillipson said they were “starved for ideas”.
“Why has the government presented a white paper, so shockingly devoid of ideas, so hollow, so thin?” she asked.
And she added: ‘Why has the government’s special needs education and disability review been delayed for so long and why has it taken them so long to even acknowledge the problems they have? same created?”
Speaking of the White Paper’s flagship policy – to ensure that all schools are part of or set to join a ‘strong’ multi-academy trust by 2030 – Ms Phillipson said if she was education secretary she would focus on other issues – such as teacher retention – and “not tinkering with structures”.
Heads boss ‘disappointed’ with Zahawi’s absence
Meanwhile, NAHT General Secretary Paul Whiteman has expressed anger that Education Secretary Mr Zahawi has not decided to make an appearance at the Telford conference in person on Friday, when he was attending a separate event for local curators less than five miles away.
He said: “We are very disappointed that the Secretary of State could not find the time to come and speak with school leaders this weekend. Following the publication of the government’s white paper, this represents a serious missed opportunity to hear directly from those it will ultimately rely on to implement the reforms proposed by the government.”
A spokesman for the Department of Education said: “Mr Zahawi had a long-standing commitment organized by the Constituency Office which predated his appointment as Education Secretary, which he rightly honored title.”
“He recorded a video message to play at the event to thank NAHT for their support in helping the government implement its ambitious plans to help every child get a good education.
“The Secretary of State spoke in person at the NAHT conference in October, and he meets fortnightly with the association’s leadership.
“Any suggestion that NAHTs are treated with anything other than the utmost respect by the Secretary of State is clearly incorrect and disappointing.”