SBM blog: 2016 will be the summer of the pundits

Opinion piece

We did it. We made it to the end of term. What a ride it has been this year. After the shock result of the referendum and the changes to the government front bench, we might hope the onset of the summer holidays will give us some respite from change for the next six weeks. I am not sure this will be the case.

Matthew Clements-Wheeler
Matthew Clements-WheelerIt is true that the recent political Game of Thrones has created something of a policy hiatus. The confident, irrefutable march towards compulsory multi-academisation has faltered, the long awaited second consultation on the national funding formula has been pushed back to the autumn. Speculation is rife that the new Ministry for Leaving the EU will weaken the ability of other departments to implement change.
It seems also seems that the new Secretary of State, Justine Greening, is not minded to rush to implement the policy proposals of her predecessors. She appears to understand the size and the scope of the decisions sitting in her in tray and seems to be taking stock of the situation. Proposals for a national funding formula, the academisation agenda, primary assessment and teacher recruitment/retention issues all need sober consideration. The next six weeks will provide much needed time for this.
However, for those of us who work in schools, I suspect this summer will not provide the usual break from major announcements and policy initiatives. They might not come from the DfE and Justine Greening’s team, but from elsewhere. With so much at stake, 2016 will be the summer of the pundits, the bloggers and the lobbyists.
Social media, blogging and online professional networks have made policy-makers of us all. Rather than resting and preparing for the new academic year, I think the summer will see a raft of policy ideas and opposing issues promoted and picked apart in discussions across cyberspace as practitioners seek to make their views heard alongside those of the larger, more traditional groupings of teaching unions, professional bodies and political parties. Those with strong views about the issues in education want to make sure the new Secretary of State gets to hear them.
The debate has already started around the timetable for the national funding formula. Rather than rushing headlong into the second consultation phase for the national funding formula, Justine Greening has confirmed this will be delayed until the autumn, with implementation deferred until 2018-19. Potential winners and losers have reacted very differently to the new timetable; understandably SBMs from schools in the poorest funded F40 authorities, backed by ASCL and the NAHT have called for interim relief funding whilst leaders working in relatively well-funded areas have breathed a collective sigh of relief.
Other equally thorny issues are up for debate this summer, teacher recruitment, compulsory multi-academisation and the potential future expansion of grammar schools are all on the table. All of these issues polarise the debate and get feelings running high. As arguments rage over the summer, how many of us will still be talking to each other by the time the Justine Greening is ready add her voice to the debate in September?

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