In a curious echo of where the Tories are now, we then attacked the government for its failures on literacy and numeracy – standards were much lower then – and positioned Labour as the party of higher standards. Blunkett had made this his goal in his first statement as shadow education secretary. And he quickly embraced performance tables, testing and Ofsted inspections as the means to that end. Standards not structures became his catchphrase.
Last year, as Labour set about creating city academies and trust schools, Tony Blair told the annual Specialist Schools and Academies Trust conference: "Over time, I shifted from saying 'it's standards not structures' to realising that school structures could affect standards." More recently, we have had the new schools' secretary Ed Balls promise that he would "focus our efforts not on structures but on standards in the classroom," while announcing plans to speed up Blair's academies programme.
Now that the Tories have ditched selection and embraced academies, such debate as there is between the parties is over how to lift standards in primary and secondary schools. But that is because the structural change is being put in place and has cross-party support.
Thursday, 27 September 2007
Standards and structures
I have a column in this morning's Independent on the standards v structures debate in education. Here's an extract: