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Rose Tremlett
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Whiteman: We should be thinking about beyond recovery

Today (Saturday 25 September) Paul Whiteman, general secretary of the UK’s largest school leadership union will warn delegates at the Labour Party Conference that young people deserve better than the current scope of plans for “education recovery”.

Mr Whiteman will say: “There has been intense debate about ‘education recovery’ in recent months: what form it should take, what pupils have missed out on, and what it will cost. What worries me about this is how narrow that discussion sounds when you think of what young people will really need from schools and colleges in the coming months and years.”

Mr Whiteman will be speaking at an event which asks: “How do we fund and deliver an education system and recovery plan that fully supports children and young people?”

Mr Whiteman is expected to say: “We need a much more ambitious plan for education in the next decade; more ambitious than any party has yet put forward. As someone who represents school leaders, knowing how much they have given during this crisis, and how difficult circumstances were in many ways even before the pandemic, what I’ve heard so far from policymakers is very meek.

“‘Recovery’ implies a return to what we had before, which is simply not good enough. The world has changed and will continue to change at a startling pace. We need to equip young people with the skills to navigate what is in front of them. We should be talking about building a system that is stronger and fairer than the one we know.

“I see a generation of ambitious young people, full of hope and demanding of change. The question is, who among those wishing to govern our country is going to be bold enough to propose something truly ambitious and world-beating?”

NAHT, from its position representing leaders in the majority of schools in England, has put forward an ‘Education Recovery Blueprint’ which urges policy makers to focus on seven key areas:

  • Prioritising Early Years funding and support
  • Improving support for mental health and wellbeing
  • Investing in the teaching profession
  • Providing targeted academic support for pupils who need it
  • Expanding extra-curricular provision
  • Investing in technology
  • Removing unnecessary accountability and bureaucracy.
First published 25 September 2021