Left wing lobby group launches an Inquiry and appoints an Advisory Council


The left wing lobby group Compass, headed by Neal Lawson, has launched an Inquiry into   education. Compass articulates and promotes the views of the ‘democratic left’.  Compass says it wants:

‘to explore the importance of education both in the past, present and how it is building and developing for the future. As education is the most important thing a society can provide, we want to view a new model of education, which is why we have established this inquiry.’

An Advisory Council of around 40 leading experts and interested parties in the education field (not all left wing, by the way, although one wonders how practical a 40 strong Advisory Board is going to be)) will meet at three key moments within the Inquiry over its 12 months existence to shape and direct its work. The Advisory Council  is chaired by Dame Jane Roberts – a distinguished thinker and policy practitioner. Below is the Council list-:

The Council:

Chair: Dame Jane Roberts

Sir Alasdair MacDonald – Former Headteacher of Morpeth School

Alex Kenny – Teacher, Stepney Green Maths & Computing College, Tower Hamlets, London

Anna Prescott – StudentVoice

Anne Swift – Head teacher, Gladstone Road Infant School, Scarborough

Baljeet Ghale – Former NUT President

Prof Becky Francis – Professor of Education and Social Justice, Kings College London

Ben Lucas – Director, 2020 Public Services Trust, RSA

Colin Richards – Emeritus Professor University of Cumbria and former senior HMI

David Butler OBE – Executive President PTA UK

Prof. Sir Eric Thomas – Vice Chancellor, Universtiy of Bristol

Emma Knights – Chief Executive, National Governors’ Association

Prof Diane Reay – Professor of Education, Cambridge University

Fiona Millar – Journalist and campaigner on education and parenting issues

Geethika Jayatilaka – Director, Parent Gym and Governor, Brecknock Primary School, Camden, London

Hazel Danson – Teacher, Clough Head Junior & Infant School, Huddersfield

Hilary Emery – Chief Executive, National Children’s Bureau

Hilary Cottam – Principle Partner, Participle

Huw Evans – Principal, Coleg Llandrillo Cymru, Colwyn Bay, North Wales

Prof John Howson – Managing Director,

Dr Jonathan Carr-West – Chief Executive, LGIU

Judith Blake – Deputy Leader and Lead Executive Member Children’s Services, Leeds Council

Kate Frood – Head teacher, Eleanor Palmer Primary School, Camden, London

Prof Ken Spours – Professor of Education, IoE

Luke Shore – StudentVoice

Martin Pratt – Corporate Director for Children and Learning, Luton Borough Council

Mervyn Wilson – Chief Executive and Princpal, Co-operative Colleg

Prof Miriam E David – Professor Emerita of Education, Institute of Education, University of London,

Neil Carberry – Director, Employment and Skills, CBI

Pam Tatlow – Chief Executive, million+

Pasi Sahlberg – Director General, Centre for International Mobility and Cooperation, Finland

Pat Glass MP – Education Select Committee Member

Paul Cottrell – National Head of Public Policy, UCU

Pauline Trudell – Vice President, National Campaign for Real Nursery Education

Peter Downes – Cambridgeshire Councillor and Vice President, Liberal Democrat Education Association

Peter John – Leader, Southwark Council and London Councils’ Executive Member for Children’s Services and Skills and Employment

Dr Phil Cross – Head teacher, Hurlingham and Chelsea School, Hammersmith, London

Rachel Roberts – Director, Phoenix Education Trust

Sir Rod Aldridge – Chair, The Aldridge Foundation

Tim Brighouse – Former Schools Commissioner for London

Tom Wilson – Director, Unionlearn, TUC

Toni Pearce – President, NUS

Warwick Mansell – Education Journalist

Sir William Atkinson- Former Headteacher Phoenix High School

Education for the Good Society, a Compass publication written by Professor Ken Spours of the IOE, is part of the  Good Society project of Compass- Direction for  the Democratic Left. Compass contrasts its views  to ‘ Cameron’s  privatising, anti-state Big Society’ vision ’. The concept of the Good Society it says ‘is rooted in equality, democracy,  sustainability and well-being, providing a vision  and path of transformation capable of drawing  support across different groups in an increasingly fragmented society’. Compass’ inclusive approach is worthy, and education reform is pretty short on consensus at the moment.  But it is perceived as championing  a left leaning agenda , so that could limit its influence and impact.  Surely our biggest problem is that politics, hard-nosed ,polemical , polarised ,raw  and personal  is  firmly embedded in our education landscape .Wouldn’t it be great if,   our politicians,  think tanks, academics ,teachers, trade unionists  and officials  agreed on what outcomes we want from  the education  system and our schools? We could  then  follow  Finlands example  in jointly pursuing a transformative  reform agenda, and, imagine this , stakeholders forming up behind shared objectives? Finland had its big arguments, exhausted itself,agreed a truce and  then worked together.

Ken Spours suggests that the renewal of the comprehensive ideal will require a new type of educational politics based on a values-led approach. Spours writes ‘We have  to now make critical choices– either education  can be about the reproduction of the divided and unsustainable consumerist society in which  we presently live, or it can begin to reflect the  thinking of a future condition in which sustainability in all its senses becomes a guiding principle’.

At the heart   of the Compass approach is an unqualified commitment to comprehensive education and a perception that the democratic left have been marginalised from the key political debates, including on education. Neal Lawson’s task, as he sees it, is to put this right, although a good starting point would be to cut out  the waffle and get to the point a little quicker.  (see Spours  quote above.)


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