John Dunford Election Blog, Tuesday 4 May

This blog is reposted here from John’s 2010 election blog for ASCL.

There was a lot more heat than light in the debate between the three main party education spokesmen on yesterday’s Daily Politics Show. With all three talking at once at times, Andrew Neil said “I now know what it’s like to be a teacher. Speak when you are spoken to.”

There were no real answers, so we still don’t know how the Conservatives intend to afford their ‘free’ schools, nor how Labour would reduce the degree of centralisation of policy. We did learn that all three believed in both school uniform and the preservation of A levels, although David Laws, in giving a one-word answer as requested, didn’t make clear that this would be part of the general diploma, as advocated by ASCL.

ASCL was mentioned twice – by Michael Gove in support of wider powers of search, and by Ed Balls in opposition to the abolition of appeals panels.

Sweden was mentioned more times than England, with rival reports being quoted about the success or otherwise of the Swedish system, including a piece by the leader of the Social Democratic party in Sweden that had appeared in the Guardian that day,

All were agreed that the persistent question of the gap between the educational achievement of the haves and the have-nots is the critical issue to address, but the hustings format does not permit speakers to go into the depth necessary to provide satisfactory answers to such questions.

Nor does it allow time for policy to be articulated with the passion shown by Gordon Brown in his speech yesterday to the Citizens UK Forum at Central Hall Westminster, Off the leash he is a formidable and passionate speaker and his commitment to social justice shines through. If he had been able to show this side of himself in the televised debates, the election campaign might have been very different.

ASCL members learnt a lot more about the education policies of the three parties by having three separate sessions at its annual conference and not a single hustings session.

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