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Friday, 23 March, 2001, 13:01 GMT
Heads demand end to teacher crisis
John Dunford at the conference
John Dunford: "Clear vision"
Solving the teacher shortage is top of the agenda at the annual conference of the Secondary Heads Association (SHA) in Newport, south Wales.

With the Education Secretary, David Blunkett, and the leaders of the Conservative and Liberal Democrat parties all scheduled to address delegates, SHA will be keen to establish which party can match up to the association's vision for secondary schools and colleges in the run-up to a general election.

Solving the teacher supply crisis comes top of our priorities

Union leader John Dunford
The association says the difficulty of recruiting and retaining teachers is the main problem facing secondary school and college leaders throughout the UK.

General secretary, John Dunford, said: "The association has set out a clear vision for schools under the new government. Solving the teacher supply crisis comes top of our priorities."

"SHA members at the conference will be looking hard at the way in which policies of the three main political parties match up to the association's manifesto of aspirations."

The appropriate policies must be devised to ensure the recruitment - and retention - of a "high quality teaching force".

Pay and conditions

The association wants to see short- and long-term solutions, with better pay and working conditions and a higher status for the profession.

There must also be a reduction in the number of administrative tasks which divert teachers from teaching.

The number of new government initiatives was singled out for criticism.

The SHA manifesto also points to the need for well-funded professional development for teachers and school and college leaders.

There should be a revised inspection system for schools, where external inspectors' views were backed up with school self-assessment.

And league tables based on "raw examination results" were not a reliable indicator as to the performance of a school, the association said.

Instead, SHA argues for a "value-added" measurement of performance, showing how much a school improves pupils' attainment from when they join it.

'Realistic targets'

New, "realistic" targets must be set to improve the performance of youngsters - at the moment, SHA argues, there are far too many targets for secondary schools.

And a structured post-14 curriculum should be introduced, in which pupils build up a portfolio of qualifications.

"Academic and vocational courses need to be rationalised into a unified system of qualifications from the age of 14, so that examinations, such as GCSE and A-levels, are no longer age-related and fit in with an enhanced facility for lifelong learning," the manifesto says.

Disruptive pupils

While stressing that all children have the right to an education, the SHA manifesto says schools must be able to provide a stable community for its pupils.

Some policies, which aimed to promote social inclusion, have created difficulties for schools, partly because of poor funding, SHA says.

"The exclusion from school of disruptive pupils has become too difficult, with inadequate alternative provision for them and too little recognition of the needs of the majority of pupils," the manifesto says.

Equitable funding

The association urges politicians to consider fairer funding of schools.

"The funding system for schools lacks equity and transparency. It creates major inequalities between different schools with similar intakes," the SHA manifesto says.

Additional cash should be targeted at schools and colleges which cater for pupils with differing levels of disadvantage.

Specialist status

All secondary schools should be given the opportunity to obtain specialist status, for example, majoring in sport, technology, languages, music or dance.

But SHA highlights the dangers of creating a "hierarchy of schools in each neighbourhood" and says policies on school structure should avoid diviseness and excessive competition between schools.

"SHA members want a school system which provides for diversity within schools, rather than creating greater diversity between them," Mr Dunford said.

SHA also wants to see a more clearly defined role for local education authorities, which, the association believes, are an important intermediate between central government and schools.

Finally, it says the new government needs to recognise the importance of schools in the future as learning centres in the community as a whole.

See also:

15 Sep 00 | UK Education
06 Mar 01 | UK Education
12 Feb 01 | UK Education
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