Schools White Paper shows lack of ambition and narrow focus on targets

Commenting on the Schools White Paper, published today (28 March 2022) Helen Osgood, National Officer with Voice Community – Community Union’s education and early years section – said:

“We are disappointed by the lack of ambition for a rounded, creative curriculum. The Government is talking the language of the past – focusing on narrow academic targets and inspection – not the future.

“The Government should be talking about a radical reassessment of how we fund, deliver and assess the whole curriculum.

“The Government’s rhetoric sets schools up to fail communities’ expectations, as most schools (by the Government’s own admission) already provide 32.5 hour opening each week.  We are concerned that people will interpret this as meaning 32.5 hours of teaching, which would not leave any time in teachers’ contract for parent meetings, training or providing additional support outside of classroom time.

“Academic exams are not the best outcome for all children, and we should be asking whether GCSEs are still needed, now that students now continue in education or training until 18 – not tinkering with targets.

“We need to hear more about support – support for pupils and staff, including for their mental health and wellbeing.

“Despite the Government’s pretence that the pandemic is over, thousands of children and staff are missing school because of COVID. We need to hear more about properly funded support for recovery.

“We need to hear more about support for pupils who are not best suited to an academic, exam-focused curriculum, and support for those who have special educational needs and disabilities. We hope that tomorrow’s Green Paper will shed some light on the plans for pupils with SEND, together with the funding necessary to ensure that every child has access to the education they deserve.

“We need to hear how the Government thinks the early years sector, so often overlooked, fit into the education and development journey and can be nurtured, supported and funded.”

“As schools face a recruitment and retention crisis, we need to hear more about support for exhausted staff, with more funding and time for wellbeing support, training and career development, and more time for planning, preparation and assessment away from the classroom.

“We are disappointed that there is no support for recruiting and especially retaining quality staff into all sectors, and that there is little to no funding to support the initiatives announced in in the White Paper, as funding has already been allocated. 

“I am also concerned that the new teachers that the paper describes won’t benefit from the experience of teachers who have worked in the profession for a number of years, as statistics show us that  41.3% of new teachers leave the profession within the first five years, leaving a void of the experienced teachers needed to mentor the new starters.

“More needs to be done for the retention of teachers within the profession. This White Paper was a chance to do that, but it remains largely silent on the retention issue.”

It its report The Future of Education, Voice Community’s recommendations included:

  • recovery, not catch-up, through dialogue, funding, and expectations;
  • mental health support needs to be provided for students and staff;
  • more support staff in the classroom combined with effective use of support staff;
  • increase in funding targeted towards disadvantaged learners;
  • increase the pupil premium and special needs funding, and make both sets of funding more reactive;
  • value the creative subjects;
  • encourage greater engagement with parents/carers and the local community to embed and enrich learning;
  • increased PPA [planning, preparation and assessment] time for all school staff and added flexibility, including the ability to take it at home; and
  • value support staff through pay, conditions, and career development.

Recommendations for the early years included:

  • value the sector with appropriate training, qualifications, and funding;
  • ensure a fair wage is paid to every worker in the sector;
  • fix the “free entitlement” so it is truly free and works for both early years settings and parents;
  • career development for workers in early years;
  • focus on social skills and mental wellbeing; and
  • return to learning through play.

Further information (Department for Education (DfE))

Schools White Paper news release (28 March 2022)

Opportunity for all: Schools White Paper (28 March 2022)

If you are a member of Community and need help or advice, please contact us at or on 0800 389 6332.

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