Tom Richmond: Time for a school break '“ from political meddling

ANOTHER Education Secretary '“ and another shake-up that has the potential to alienate dispirited teachers and perplex parents and pupils alike if it has insufficient purpose.

Damian Hinds is the new Education Secretary.
Damian Hinds is the new Education Secretary.

Damian Hinds has announced proposals to scrap the system of two standards to hold schools to account for their performance and replace them with a new single measure.

“We must have a system that does more than just deal with failure,” he said. “But we will do so in the right way, and there will be a single, transparent data trigger for schools to be offered support – which we will consult on.”

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I don’t dispute the Minister’s intentions – and I respect his measured tone which is building on the approach undertaken by his predecessor Justine Greening.

There are still too many schools not meeting the requisite standard of attainment – and early intervention is crucial if under-performance, once identified, is to be addressed.

This is not just about poor-performing schools in deprived areas – even those with the best of reputations in the most exclusive towns can always be looking to do better.

Yet, given the Education Select Committee headed by Robert Halfon MP is looking into the viability of a 10-year funding settlement for schools, I hope any shake-up in scrutiny lasts for a decade.

Why? Teachers, parents and pupils need continuity. There’s been too much change for change’s sake by ‘here today and gone tomorrow’ politicians trying to justify their existence – and this mindset only altered when Ms Greening, from Rotherham, became Education Secretary in July 2016. That’s why her successor should include his political opponents in his forthcoming consultation and set out to try to build an inspection and oversight policy that is backed by all parties for the foreseeable future.

If this happens, it will not only have more credibility but it will mean greater focus can then be given to recruiting – and then retaining – teachers of the 
right calibre to inspire children.

AMBER Rudd may have been emollient when she addressed Prime Minister’s Questions days after resigning as Home Secretary, but I suspect she won’t stay quiet on the backbenches for long.

In her resignation letter to Theresa May, the Remainer supporter wrote: “I will continue to support the Home Office ministerial team whenever possible on all these matters.”

‘Whenever possible’? What could she possibly mean? Call it a hunch, but I sense a politician plotting for future manoeuvres.

DON’T read too much into the reported Lib Dem revival in last week’s local elections.

One of their candidates standing in the Leeds ward where I live listed Selby as their postal address. That’s 35 miles away.

Two points. First, the Lib Dems have always prided themselves on being a local party. Second, this ward adjuncts the Leeds North West constituency where Greg Mulholland was the MP from 2015 until last year. As such, the party still has a lot of lost ground to make up.

TALKING of the local elections, there were no crumbs of comfort for the Tories – or Labour.

Theresa May’s party is still not making inroads in the Northern cities. Without councillors in cities such as Sheffield and Manchester, it has little hope of building the grassroots support that will help win Parliamentary seats.

Conversely, I see Labour lost two councillors in Pudsey where the party’s prospective MP Jane Aitchison has insulted everyone from Prince Charles to Waitrose shoppers. People are beginning to see through the Corbynista extremists.

THE West Yorkshire Combined Authority now wants a business development executive on up to £34,344 a year.

It appears to be quite an important job – helping attract new investors, and therefore jobs, to the area. And the I read the job spec: “Draws up new and better ways of targeting and meeting customer needs that are translated into action plans and oversees the implementation to ensure deadlines are met.”

To me, this is public-sector shorthand for being a glorified skivvy. And I soon see why. The poor person getting the job will report to a “Business Development Team Leader/Sector Manager as required” and work alongside “the Business Development Team Leader/Deputy Head of Inward Investment”.

Just what do all these people do?

THANK you to Halifax MP Holly Lynch for raising last week’s column about Transport Secretary Chris Grayling at Prime Minister’s Questions. Though Theresa May predictably ignored the question about broken election promises over rail improvements, the PM is now in no doubt about this region’s misgivings about a Minister who remains as unreliable as the Pacer trains here.

NOT that I drink the rubbish, but it would have been a dereliction of duty to ignore an email that began ‘We’ve got a bottle of Prosecco waiting for you’.

Cheers! Imagine my ire when I opened the missive to read: “Tom, enjoy a bottle of Prosecco for just £15 every Friday!”

A sly stunt that means Leeds-based Bar & Kitchen LS1 won’t be getting my custom in future.

NOW the Tour de Yorkshire has passed, how about a bit more urgency when it comes to repairing the deeper – and more dangerous – potholes on those roads that did not feature on the bike race route and have, therefore, been denied urgent attention?

Time for everyone to lobby their local council chief executive and leader, I think.