What should be top priority for the new education secretary?

Old School Desk

Justine Greening, the new education secretary, is now in charge of universities as well as schools.

What should be top of her to-do list?

Henry Emoni

Maths teacher, Essex

The biggest issue facing teachers is cuts to funding. I used to have teaching assistants in some of my classes to support students with special needs and additional needs – that’s gone now in most of my lessons, because of the cuts. I’m a maths teacher and in the past year we’ve lost a couple of [maths] teachers but we’ve only been able to replace one. It leads to bigger classes, which means kids aren’t getting the best deal, and it leads to ridiculous workloads because where you were having to mark 28 books you’re now marking 33. It adds up. My school used to teach music, but last year it was off the curriculum because they’re trying to save money. Why have a music teacher if music isn’t rated any longer? When it comes to the league tables, it’s all about maths and English so the arts subjects have been cut.

Koen Lamberts

Vice-chancellor, York University

The UK gets nearly 16% of the total European research funding pot, which is a very large share, so if you were to remove that from the country without replacing it that would threaten the strength of Britain’s research base. But it’s not just about the money, it’s about not losing the connection – the very strong connection – that we have with teams around Europe. Obviously [given that universities have been moved under the DfE] there might be new opportunities for an integrated approach to widening participation. You cannot expect universities to resolve all the issues that have built up through young people’s lives at the age of 18. That is genuinely too late. Universities can do a lot – and they already do a lot – but what you do find is the equalising effect of higher education is not as strong as you would hope.

Becky Francis

Director of UCL Institute of Education

We need to sort out how our school system operates. At the moment, not only is it a two-tier system of academies and local authority maintained schools – which is complicated in its own right – but schools are finding themselves accountable in slightly conflicting ways to multiple organisations. There are lots of bodies with conflicting jobs: there’s the remit of the DfE and regional schools commissioners (RSCs) in accountability for academies, local authorities working with maintained schools, Ofsted working with local authorities and schools across the board, including academies, but not necessarily working seamlessly – and often having a slightly overlapping remit with RSCs. Meanwhile, you’ve got the chief inspector of schools and the national schools commissioner both with slightly overlapping agendas and so on. And academies complaining that they may have an Ofsted visit one week and then an RSC visit the next, and getting mixed messages.

Richard Evans

President of Wolfson College and regius professor emeritus of history, Cambridge University, and provost of Gresham College, London

I would like Greening to press the new home secretary to remove students from the immigration statistics. Students are not immigrants – and already, before Brexit, and much more since, we’ve had a reputation of being unfriendly towards students from abroad. We also need to attract the best researchers and teachers from all over the world.

It’s great that universities have been transferred back from the Department for Business, Innovation and Skills to the DfE. I thought it was a philistine decision to simply treat universities as income-generating institutions.

Keziah Featherstone

Headteacher, Bridge Learning Campus, Bristol

She could do with taking a step back and thinking – what will actually be best for children, teachers and parents? What you’ve got is a profession that is exhausted, battered and demoralised, and this has come from an awful lot of changes from the DfE that were supposed to improve standards for children. What they’re actually doing is moving the goalposts, not even on the same pitch but to a different pitch in a different place.

In primary, we’ve had changes in the curriculum, changes in Sats, changes in baseline assessment, changes in phonics and where the borderline is going to be. My year 6 classes are taught by assistant headteachers and other senior leaders, these are people with a lot of experience who are really good and totally dedicated, and they’re saying: “I’ve got no idea, I’m wandering around in the dark.” And they wonder why people don’t want to come into the profession?

Powered by Guardian.co.ukThis article was written by Rebecca Ratcliffe, for The Guardian on Monday 25th July 2016 07.30 Europe/London

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