Who is Brigid Phillipson?

Posted in: Comment, News and Updates

Thanks to NAEE for the link to the Labour Party's ideas on schools, underwhelming though they are.  They read like the jottings of an intern sitting in one of Ed & Bridget's decaf coffee breaks.

A lot of hope is being vested in Bridget Phillipson as the next Secretary of State for Education.  I've written before about her illustrious (and not quite so illustrious) predecessors.  How will she sit in this pantheon?  Well, I'd say that the signs are not all that great.  This is what Wikipedia says about her:

As shadow secretary of state for education, Phillipson has set out Labour's plans for reform of the childcare and wider education systems, starting with plans for funded breakfast clubs for every primary school child in every school in England.   She has called for reform of Ofsted, the inspectorate of school standards in England, to move away from simplistic one-word summary overall judgements, for imposing VAT on private schools to fund thousands more teachers in England's schools, a full curriculum and assessment review, including a focus on weaving speaking and listening skills through the curriculum, new incentives to retain teachers in the classroom, two weeks' worth of compulsory work experience for all young people, and improved access to careers guidance and mental health in schools.

She has also spoken and written extensively about the particular importance of childcare for children, parents and families, and the need for a system that stretches from the end of parental leave to the end of primary school.   She has confirmed that the next Labour government will not abolish tuition fees altogether, and has called for far-reaching changes to the skills system in England, including the creation of a new body to be called 'Skills England', devolution of skills and adult education budgets, and greater flexibility with the existing Apprenticeship Levy.

Oddly, this looks remarkably like what's written on the Labour Party website but it can't be the last word on what's to come.

Is Bridget a canvas primed for others to draw on – DfE civil servants, teacher unions, Labour's party machine – or a dark horse with a deep mine of well-hidden convictions and ideas?  Only she knows.

Will she have the courage to defend the good bits of recent education reforms, and resist siren voices on her Left who want to use the system for their own ends?  Will she stand up to those who care little for student academic achievement, and to religious bigots who prey on pupils and teachers alike?  Will she champion those at the rough end of a system that has consistently let them down at every turn?  Will she ensure that MATs are more democratically accountable?  And will she xxxx (please fill in the blank)?

And what, if anything, will she do about climate education, climate teacher education, and retro-fitting the school estate?  Does anyone know?  Does she know?  Time will tell.

In last Week's New Statesman, John Gray wrote:

"The little we know of what [Labour plans] to do in office involves a further devolution of authority to institutions led by technocrats and lawyers.  Behind the scenes, Tony Blair is promoting a model of governance in which democracy figures as an inconvenient afterthought."

This will surely apply to schools as well and will be unlikely to benefit students.

Posted in: Comment, News and Updates


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